For Meatless Friday, try Catherine A. Hamilton's version of a favorite Greek dish.
Editor's note: As today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is not a Meatless Friday. This meatless dish would make a wonderful appetizer for a feast-day meal.
When my husband and I traveled to Greece, I ate more than my share of spanakopita, even though I was thinking about calories and trying to keep off extra weight. To my surprise, when we returned home I hadn’t gained a pound!
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I began thinking about boosting our immune systems. I searched for recipes rich in foods that might help my family and me fight against viral infection. I found two articles, “10 Magical Greek Foods and Herbs to Boost Your Immune System” and “16 Foods That Boost and Improve Your Immune System.” Extra virgin olive oil, marjoram, spinach, and egg are the stuff spanakopita is made of, and the rest is now a part of my culinary history.
My inspiration for this new twist in Spanakopita — where phyllo sheets are individually rolled with alternating spinach and cheese fillings — was a woman I follow on Instagram, @marysgramm. She’s a practicing Greek Orthodox, and I watched her create meatless Friday spanakopita on an Instagram video. The problem was, her recipes are all in Greek — and metric. Yikes!
I was determined to make my own spectacular version of Spanakopita, and I wanted the process to be fast and easy enough that I could make it as often as I liked. So to the test kitchen I went!
Spinach and Cheese Spanakopita
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep time: 30 min.
Cooking time: 30-40 min.
1/2 16 oz. pkg. Athens brand Phyllo dough sheets, thawed (Leave in closed plastic wrapper until prep time.)
1-1/2 12 oz. bags frozen spinach, thawed and drained (Use a colander, covered with a dish towel or doubled cheese cloth, and place it in the sink in the morning.)
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 .5 oz. pkg. fresh basil leaves, cut or snipped in strips to create chiffonade
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper (or to taste)
2 TBS virgin olive oil to sauté onion
1/2 c. or 7 oz. feta cheese crumbles (1 small container)
1/2 c. grated Monterrey jack or pepper jack
1/2 c. or 4 oz. grated Swiss cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 TBS chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
2 TBS chopped Kalamata olives
1/2 c. virgin olive oil for brushing on phyllo sheets
- Flip the colander to empty the thawed, drained spinach onto its towel or cloth, and wring all the water out of the spinach. (Or squeeze water out by hand, one handful at a time.)
- Remove one roll (half a package) of phyllo dough from freezer to thaw in the refrigerator. (You can place it in the refrigerator the night before to insure it will be completely thawed by prep time.)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C).
- Spray cooking oil (olive oil spray if you have it) into a 10-inch round tart, quiche, or pie dish (or 10 x 10 inch square baking pan) and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium-large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and garlic until soft, careful not to burn. Stir in spinach, basil chiffonade, and salt. Continue to sauté until mixed. Remove from heat and place in medium bowl on the counter to cool.
- In a second medium bowl, add the three cheeses, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and beaten egg. Mix thoroughly with fork and set beside spinach mixture.
- Open phyllo dough and roll out package on a pastry cloth or silicone mat.
- Brush the top sheet lightly with olive oil and lay in bottom of prepared baking dish. Lightly brush the next phyllo sheet with olive oil and lay in the opposite direction on top of first sheet. Repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the sides of the dish or pan.
- Using a soup spoon, portion out one scoop of spinach mixture at a time onto the top edge of phyllo sheet, as shown.
Brush the remainder of the sheet lightly with oil, and roll up. Place the roll snugly against one side of the baking dish.
Repeat the process with cheese mixture for the next sheet. Brush with oil, roll up, and place snugly next to the first roll.
Continue alternating spinach rolls and cheese rolls until dish is full.
- Brush oil on the remaining four sheets of phyllo dough, one at a time, and arrange them over the top of the rolls in alternating directions in the same way as the bottom layer was done.
- Fold the top and bottom sheet layers together, tucking the overhanging dough into the dish to seal in the filling. You can use a spoon handle to tuck the sheets evenly as shown. Brush the top with oil.
- Place in in preheated oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut sharp, serrated knife and serve. Leftovers freeze, or reheat nicely in microwave.
Copyright 2020 Catherine A. Hamilton
Images copyright 2020 Catherine A. Hamilton. All rights reserved.
About the author: Catherine A. Hamilton, a Catholic freelance writer, member of Catholic Writers Guild, and Benedictine Oblate, has a chapter in Dr. Richard Lukas’s recent book Forgotten Survivors - Polish Christians Remember the Nazi Occupation. Hamilton’s stories, articles, and poems have appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sarasota Herald Tribune, The Oregonian, The Chicago Polish Daily, The Catholic Sentinel, and Brainstorm Magazine. Her debut novel Victoria’s War was published in June 2020 by Plain View Press.
About the Author
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