Greek cooks love filling their exquisite filo pastry with vegetables, or other things, and making pies—known as Pitta in Greece. The only one that has gotten on to the American radar screen is the famous spinach-and-cheese-stuffed pie, called “spanakopitta” (but usually spelled with one “T” in the U.S.) At Greek-American restaurants, if you order it—as an appetizer, or as a side-dish, reflecting Cretan practice—you will probably get a triangle shaped cut from a pie of spanakopita. The dish, however, is also popular at American parties—where hosts and hostesses sometimes turn it into hors d’oeuvre finger food, stuffing the filling into filo in such a way as to make individual, triangular pieces (not unlike Indian samosas.) I have also seen, at parties, the large roll that’s in the following recipe: the spinach-stuffed layers of filo are simply rolled up into a large loaf and baked. This full roll looks absolutely golden-gorgeous when it comes out of the oven.
Yields: 2 rolls, good for 6 appetizer or 6 side-dish servings
1 1/2 lbs. spinach
2 tablespoons butter, plus at least 5 tablespoons melted butter for brushing filo
2 large bunches scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons finely minced dill
2 tablespoons olive oil
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
10 sheets filo pastry, defrosted if the filo was frozen
1. Wash the spinach. Place it in a large pot with whatever water is clinging to it. Place over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until the spinach has drastically reduced in volume (about 5 minutes.) Dump pot into colander, and let the spinach rest until it’s cool enough to handle (a few minutes).
2. Picking up clumps of spinach in your hands, squeeze most of the water out of the spinach. Place the squeezed spinach on a cutting board, and coarsely chop it. Reserve in large mixing bowl
3. Place the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the scallions are soft (about 15 minutes.)
4. Add sautéed scallions to spinach in bowl, along with Parmigiano-Reggiano, dill, olive oil and nutmeg. Stir well to blend completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Lay 10 sheets of filo pastry on the counter, keep them covered with a very lightly damp cloth. Have the melted butter and a good, soft pastry brush at hand.
6. Place 1 sheet on the counter, placing the cloth back on the other sheets. Position the sheet so that one of its short sides is directly in front of you. Brush the sheet all over with melted butter, using about a teaspoon and a half of butter for each one. Repeat with 4 more sheets, placing each new sheet exactly on top of the sheet under it. Scoop up half of the spinach mixture, and place it on the 5 stacked sheets, just above the lower edge that’s near you. Spread it out into a log that’s about 1 1/2″ from the lower border, 1 1/2″ from the left-hand border, and 1 1/2″ from the right-hand border.
7. Immediately begin to roll. Fold the left-hand edge of the pastry over the spinach log, making sure that the entire edge of the pastry from bottom to top is folded in (this fold will be about 1 1/2″.) Do the same thing on the right-hand side. Now, beginning from the short edge right in front of you, start rolling away from you. Keep the pastry tightly filled as you roll. When you reach the top (the short side that’s distant from you), you should have a tight roll. Brush a little butter along the seam, if necessary, to seal. Place on a jellyroll pan or a cookie sheet. Hold in refrigerator.
8. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
9. Repeat with 5 more sheets, more butter and the remaining half of the spinach mixture to make a second roll. Place second roll on the same sheet as the first.
10. Place the rolls in hot oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Check to make sure they’re not sticking or burning. Loosen each on the bottom with a spatula. Turn oven up to 400 degrees, and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove spanokopita from oven, and let them cool for a few minutes. Slice each roll into thirds, and serve immediately. They can also be held, and served, at room temperature.
Photos Via: BigStockPhoto