Greek Feast Part I: Spanakopita Two Ways

Spanakopita

Spanakopita--one of my favourites.

I am crazy about Greek food, and have been daydreaming about tzatiki, pitas, and feta-y things for a while. My personal favourite dish is spanakopita–flaky layers of crispy pastry wrapped around tangy greens and briny cheese–what’s not to love? Luke’s favourite is pastistio, the marvelous Greek variation of a lasagna. Long noodles layered with a warmly spiced meat sauce and coated in a creamy white sauce. So when Luke’s birthday approached, I jumped onto the idea of a Greek feast, and fortunately, he liked the idea too.

A Greek-themed dinner party comes together quite naturally. Nibbles before the dinner party are easily solved with tasty dips, fresh pitas wedges, sliced vegetables for dipping, and small dishes of olives scattered about. For the mains, I decided we would both be happy (and hopefully the guests as well) by a huge dish of pastistio, cut into small squares, a mountain of tiny triangles of spanakopita, and a large vibrant salad. 

 

The spanakopita…well, yes, I’m partial, but it’s one of my favourite things to make (and eat) under the sun. Divine. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of working with phyllo, if you haven’t done it before. It really is a simple ingredient to use. You can find it in any grocery store. Just defrost and keep the sheets you’re not working with covered with a damp tea towel so it doesn’t dry out, and it will yield fantastic, impressive results.

spanakopita prep

Little triangles are great for a party.

I was so enamoured with the tiny spanakopita triangles that a week later I made Luke and I a dinner-friendly variation. It is a bit healthier; since you’ll be eating larger amounts at once, I reduced the butter in the recipe. The first time I used beet greens and the second time I used rabe; both worked wonderfully. Grab any dark leafy greens that look good in the grocery store. So whether you’re entertaining or just want to make something healthy and delicious that makes great leftovers for lunches, spanakopita is a great pick.

I was going to include the recipe for the pastitio now, but this post is pretty huge so I think I’ll post it separately, very soon. It’s worth checking back for–trust me!

 

Spanakopita close up

It's not hard to make--promise.

Spanakopita Cocktail Triangles
Adapted from Canadian Living Holiday Cookbook, 2009

Tasy, delicious little bites perfect for your cocktail party. Tangy feta and cream cheese mingled with greens, dill, and lemon–delicious. They look pretty, too. You can make them in advance and freeze them, then bake right from frozen.

Yields 64 pieces

Ingredients
1 bag (10 oz / 284 g) spinach, trimmed
1 bunch dark leafy greens
12 oz feta, crumbled (about 2 1/2 cups)
8 oz light cream cheese, softened (1 package, 250 g)
1 egg
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 tsp ground marjoram
16 sheets phyllo pastry
3/4 cup salted butter, melted

Method
To make filling:
Steam greens until wilted; press out all liquid. Coarsely chop and set aside.

In bowl, beat feta with cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, dill, lemon zest, garlic, salt, pepper and marjoram. Stir in wilted greens; mix well.

To assemble:
Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a wooden or marble surface. Keep the rest under a damp tea towel so that it doesn’t dry out. Brush the phyllo with butter, then cut the sheet lengthwise into four strips.

Spoon 1 tbsp of the filling onto the bottom of each strip, then fold 1 corner of the phyllo over the filling to form a triangle. Fold up the triangle. Continue folding up the triangle until you’ve used the full strip of phyllo. Fold end flap over to stick shut (you might need to use a little butter to make it stick).

Place your finished triangle on a baking sheet and continue on with the rest of your phyllo and filling. When you’re done and you’ve made all the triangle, brush them again with butter and place in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees until golden about 18 minutes.

They’re best when you eat them fresh, but they’re still delicious a day later for a treat of lunch, if you have any left over!

Nutritional Facts
per 1 of 64 pieces: 63 calories; 5g fat; 3.2g carbs; 1.8g protein; 0.3g fibre


Spanakopita–Dinner-Friendly variation

This is based off of the mini triangles recipe above, but instead of separating the phyllo with all of that butter, I used cooking spray. No, there is nothing wrong with butter. I just wanted my dinner portions to have less of it, that’s all. Feel free, if you’re making the dinner-sized variety, to use the butter instead of cooking spray. You’ll also need less phyllo pastry. This is fabulous with a big salad, and is great to take for lunch the next day. It also freezes well. Honestly, you just can’t go wrong with this!

Yields 6 generous portions

Ingredients
1 bag (10 oz / 284 g) spinach, trimmed
1 bunch dark leafy greens
12 oz feta, crumbled (about 2 1/2 cups)
8 oz light cream cheese, softened (1 package, 250 g)
1 egg
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 tsp ground marjoram
10 sheets phyllo pastry
cooking spray

Method
To make filling:
Follow instructions for filling as above. I used onion in this variation; if you’d like to add it, just chop it up and mix it in with the filling.

To assemble:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.
Take one sheet of phyllo, and drape it in the dish. Coat with cooking spray. Repeat this step six more times (using 7 sheets of phyllo in all). Spoon in your filling and spread evenly around. Top with 3 more sheets of phyllo, coating with cooking spray.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is nice and golden. Cut into six squares, and enjoy.

Nutritional facts
Serving size: 1 of 6 portions (about 260g). 376 calories, 21 g fat, 30g carbs, 2 g fibre, 17 g protein


Comments

  1. I have never ventured into making spankopita because I always thought it would be too hard- but your recipe instructions are very nicely laid out and I will have to give it a try!

  2. I have to say that I like the triangle version because it's cute and small :-)

    The first time I had spanikopita was in my home ec class in 12th grade. A Greek woman who owns her own restaurant came in to show up how to make it- fun!

  3. Try it!

    I'm with you, Monica–I love the triangles. :)

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