Spinach Spanakopita Triangles & Tzatziki Dipping Sauce
Spanakopita are Phyllo Dough pastries filled with a spinach and feta cheese mixture. Phyllo dough itself is tissue paper thin raw dough made of flour and water. It comes packaged as a stack of maybe 25 sheets. It is of middle eastern in origin and popular in Turkish and Greek cuisine. Phyllo = Filo depending on the brand.
I love & crave Spanakopita, and must have them regularly. Needless to say, I HAD to learn how to make these at home, and they had to be at least as good or better that what I could buy. I’ve been making these for years now. They are fun to have, easy to hold and are requested my my kids regularly. Plus they have a bit of the fancy wow going for them since they look difficult to make at home.
Do not be daunted by the prospect of working with Phyllo dough. It is available in the frozen section of most markets. My favorite is Athens brand which comes in both fill sized sheets and handy half size sheets for ease of use and minimal waste. After you get the hang of working with Phyllo dough you will love the endless possibilities, both savory and sweet. Here is a good website to visit full of recipes and further information.
Kimberly Z. Fallon
2-½ lbs of washed ready to use fresh spinach
(Large stems removed if necessary)
1.C Feta Cheese Crumbled
6 cloves of fresh Garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package of Phyllo Dough, thawed.
* Swiss Chard, stems removed and thinly sliced may be added to spinach so long as there is more spinach than chard for a good spinach flavor.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spinach Filling Mixture:
In a large fry pan, sauté two cloves of pressed garlic in two table spoons of Olive oil for ~ 1 minute on medium-high heat. Add fresh spinach until it fills the pan, and sauté turning often with tongs. As the spinach cooks down, use kitchen scissors to cut up the spinach in the pan. Drive off as much water as possible but do not let it start sticking to the pan. Remove from pan to a colander. Repeat this process until all of the spinach is cooked, usually about three batches. Allow the spinach to cool, squeeze or press excessive liquid out of the spinach if necessary, but you can get it dry enough in the cooking process. The goal is still moist spinach but not at all wet. Toss with crumbled feta cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
Tip: This can be done the day before, or earlier in the day, which is what I do. Refrigerate if using at a later time.
It is important to be all set up to make the Spanakopita BEFORE you even open the dough because Phyllo is tissue- paper thin and dries out immediately becoming too brittle to work with. Clear a space on your counter to make the Spanakopita and brush that area liberally with olive oil. Beside this area, open the Phyllo Dough package, slide out the plastic wrapped dough and carefully remove the rolled sheets of Phyllo from the plastic. Un- roll the dough, work quickly, and very gently take three sheets at a time of Phyllo and lay them down on your well oiled counter space.
This will take a little getting used to if you have never handled Phyllo dough before, but it isn’t hard. Immediately cover with a lightweight damp but not wet cloth to prevent drying. I have even used several rung out wet paper towels to cover the dough to keep it moist.
Next, generously brush or spray your Phyllo on the counter with more olive oil. Don’t hold back on the oil, you need it to get the crispy rather than soggy finished product. Use a sharp knife to cut your dough into four equal strips perpendicular to the long side of the Phyllo sheets. . Working as quickly as possible, place a heaping tablespoon sized ball of spinach feta mixture right in the center bottom of each strip.
Use a sharp edge spatula, or a knife edge, to lift the layers of the Phyllo of the counter (they will be adhered there by olive oil) from the bottom left corner and fold to the right to form a triangle, then flip up keeping the triangle shape, then over left keeping edges straight, continue until the strip is completely folded up into a triangle shaped spinach filled pastry.
Use additional oil if necessary to “glue” any loose edges of Phyllo dough to smooth the edges. Repeat with the remaining strips and arrange on baking sheet (lined with a Silpat or parchment paper) such that the triangles fit together into squares equally spaced and next to each other.
When you fill the sheep pan or run out of spinach mixture, bake at 375 degrees for ~ 20 minutes. Remove from oven when golden brown and allow to cool. Left over Phyllo dough does not store well as it quickly becomes too brittle to use, so try to make sure you have enough filling to use as much of the dough up as possible each time.
For this particular meal I served a store bought Caesar salad dressing for the dip, favored by the kids, a brown rice, bulgar and lentil pilaf with Feta, sliced vine ripened tomatoes, chiffonade of fresh basil, and steak. The authentic and traditional dip for Spanakopita is a yogurt Tzatziki. When I go all out for traditional middle eastern fare with roasted lamb or Kebabs, eggplant, lentils.. Tzatziki is an absolute must. The recipe below is simple to make and can be adjusted for spiciness.
(yogurt-cucumber-mint dipping sauce for Spanakopita)
2 C. Plain Yogurt (drained in cheese cloth optional)
* Dairygold brand is hormone free, full of live pro-biotic cultures and contains 4 grams of fiber per serving.
½ cup seeded and diced cucumber.
~¼ C each of fresh chopped chives & mint (parsley and or cilantro optional in place of chives).
1-3 cloves of fresh garlic – pressed
Juice from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste.
Tip: You can use lemon pepper to taste as well if you have a good natural brand.
Dice the cucumber and set aside. Chop the fresh herbs and set aside. Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir in the cucumber. Stir in fresh herbs a little at a time, tasting as you go until you have a balance of flavors that satisfy.
Photography by Jacqui Fallon
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This entry was posted on Monday, May 17th, 2010 at 6:18 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.