I love Greek food but outside of Greece I find that its quality is hit or miss. When we lived in Virginia one of my favorite annual events was the Greek Festival hosted by the local Greek community. It was right in our neighborhood so we were able to walk to it to enjoy the delicious foods that was all homemade. Here in Belgium the Greek community hosts a similar event each June and we always attend to enjoy the food, music and dancing. Of course nothing rivals the amazing Greek foods we’ve had when we’ve actually been in Greece. Whether on the islands or the far northern reaches of the country, the food from local tavernas has been the best I’ve ever eaten. It is classic, comforting and unpretentious.
Inevitably, whenever I have a really good Greek meal I come home with the intent of replicating the food myself. I’ve learned that the key to the best replications is to use genuine ingredients that actually come from Greece. Case in point is this spanakopita which I’ve adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest cookbook. Spanakopita is a classic Greek dish and is always my test of whether a restaurant is good. If the spanakopita is good chances are the other dishes are as well. With its flaky crust and generous dose of spinach, leeks and feta cheese, this version is just like the ones I’ve eaten in Greece.
2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed and minced
4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 cup fresh dill, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
12 sheets phyllo dough
1 egg white, lightly beaten
- Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat.
- Add the spinach and saute, stirring regularly, until the leaves begin to wilt. This should take about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the leeks and continue to saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly brush a 12 inch baking dish with olive oil. Set aside.
- Place the spinach and leek mixture in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the parsley, rosemary, dill and thyme.
- Add the eggs and feta cheese then season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well until everything is combined.
- Brushing olive oil between each sheet, layer 7 phyllo sheets in the prepared baking dish, placing them so that they overlap each other.
- Scrape the filling onto the top sheet of phyllo then fold all of the sheets over the filling.
- Layer with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing with olive oil between each layer.
- Stuff the edges of the phyllo into the edge of the dish.
- Brush the top of the pie with the egg whites then using a sharp knife, cut 5 to 6 slits into the top of the spanakopita.
- Place in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.