Thursday, July 5, 2012

Feeding Friendship: Popeye Pie

Okay, it's really spanakopita, the Greek spinach pie.  You can make these into lovely appetizers by laboriously wrapping strips of phyllo around the filling to form cute little triangles. It's delicious, but it takes all day and I wanted an after-work dinner.  The ratio of crisp butteriness to hearty spinach filling is much lower in the pie than in  the appetizers, but the nutritional value is undoubtedly higher in the pie. One of the major attractions of this dish, for me, is that you can just as easily make two pans (and you should, because otherwise you will end up with leftover phyllo) and freeze one of them to eat later.  I've noticed that the vast majority of freezer meals found online are meat-based and we try to only eat meat once or twice per week.  

The major adjustments that I made to this recipe were to decrease the fat and increase the garlic.  Cutting back on the butter and oil mixture can be done by only brushing it on every 3rd layer of phyllo. I used frozen spinach in this recipe because 40 oz. of spinach is more than 25 cups and I didn't want to wrangle that much home from the farmer's market on my bike.  You could absolutely use fresh and wilt it down.  While the pie was in the oven, I made a quick Greek salad of cucumbers, olives, pear tomatoes, and feta dressed in red wine vinegar and olive oil seasoned with minced onion and oregano.  Νόστιμο!

Popeye Pie
adapted from
serves 4-6 per pan, makes 2 pans

40 oz. spinach, chopped (I used frozen)
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 large onions (about 6 cups), diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
4 eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz. cottage cheese
1 lb. phyllo pastry sheets, thawed

1. Saute onions in 2 tbsp.olive oil until lightly golden.  Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
2. If using frozen spinach, squeeze as much moisture out of thawed spinach as possible and then separate the clumps.
3. Stir in spinach and all herbs and spices.  into the onions and cook out all remaining moisture.
4. Remove the spinach mixture from the heat and taste for seasonings.  The flavoring should be assertive, but not too salty as the feta will add additional salt.
5. Once the mixture cools slightly, stir in the eggs and cheeses.
6. Combine remaining oil and butter.  Line one 9x13 pan with aluminum foil and lightly brush the bottom of both the foil-lined pan and the unlined pan with fat mixture. 
7. Cut the phyllo sheets to fit your pans and layer 1/4 of the sheets into each pan, brushing every 3rd layer with the oil/butter mix.  Divide the spinach mixture between the two pans and press firmly into a solid layer.  8. Top with remaining phyllo sheets, again brushing every 3rd layer with butter and oil.  Place both pans in the freezer for 10 minutes. 
9. Remove pies from freezer and cut only through the top layer of phyllo, dividing the pan into 6 sections.  This will make it easier to make clean cuts later.
10. Return the foil-lined pan to the freezer.  Once frozen solid, the foil will allow you to remove the spanakopita from the pan and freeze wrapped in plastic wrap.
11. Bake the room temperature pie at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until top layer of phyllo is browned.  Frozen pie can be returned to the pan and baked without thawing at 350 for 60-90 minutes.

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