Category Archives: phyllo

Spanakopita

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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.

SPANAKOPITA

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.

Serves 6

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The whole pie

Baked Brie En Croute (Two Ways)

 

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With puff pastry and fig preserves

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Wrapped in phyllo

 

Today’s recipe is a two for one special. One classic appetizer made two ways. Each is equally yummy so make whichever one you prefer or even better make both and compare them. Its totally decadent but then again, ’tis the season!

I love brie so this is easily my all time favorite appetizer. And what isn’t to love about warm and oozing brie encased in a crispy dough crust? It really doesn’t get any better than this. I tend to use the phyllo method if I can’t find a whole wheel of brie. You can buy two wedges then place them side by side to form a rectangle. When wrapped in the sheets of phyllo they make for a pretty presentation.

Like I said, I love both the flakey phyllo wrapped brie and the doughy puff pastry wrapped one. I tend to serve the phyllo version alongside fresh fruit and the puff pastry version topped with preserves. Fig preserves are my favorite sweet take but a spicy pepper jelly is also good. Regardless of which version you make, be sure to take the time to let the wrapped wheel of brie sit in the freezer for 20 minutes before baking. This will ensure that the cheese is warm and melted without being too oozy when it comes out of the oven.

BAKED BRIE EN CROUTE

1 –  8 ounce wheel of brie, rind intact

1 –  9 x 9 1/2 inch sheet puff pastry, defrosted according to package instructions

or

6 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted according to package instructions

1/3 cup fig preserves (for puff pastry version)

3 tablespoons melted butter (for phyllo version)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

To make the puff pastry wrapped version:

  • Place the pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Using a 12 inch pie plate as a guide, trim the dough into a neat circle.
  • Transfer the circle to a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Place the wheel of brie in the center of the dough and fold the edges towards the center of the cheese, crimping the edges into pleats as you go along.

To make the phyllo wrapped version:

  • Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the center of a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with a small amount of the melted butter.
  • Repeat until all of the phyllo sheets have been used.
  • Place the wheel of brie in the center of the phyllo sheets.
  • Fold the phyllo towards the center of the wheel, trimming the edges as necessary in order to form a neat package.
  • Turn the brie over so the seam side is down.

For both versions:

  • Place the wrapped brie and baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • When ready to proceed, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is brown and flakey.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 20 minutes before serving.
  • Transfer to a serving dish and top the puff pastry version with the preserves.

Yields: 10 appetizer sized portions.

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