LUCY BURDETTE: Do you have dishes you almost always order when you see them on a menu? One of my favorites is Spanakopita, otherwise known as Greek spinach-cheese pie.
We love a little tapas restaurant in Key West called Santiago's Bodega. You eat by ordering a selection of little plates for the table--I always hold out for their spanakopita as one of my choices. Hayley Snow and her mother ate here in DEATH IN FOUR COURSES--naturally one of the dishes they ordered was my favorite.
This recipe is a tiny bit of a hassle to make because of the filo pastry, but by no means impossible. And then when you're done, you have an entire casserole of the stuff, instead of one little triangle! Can you spell leftovers?
2 frozen packages chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
14 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
4 oz cottage cheese
1 bunch scallions, washed, chopped and sauteed in olive oil
1-2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
4 or 5 twists freshly-ground black pepper
4 eggs, beaten
1 package filo pastry, thawed in refrigerator
8 Tbsp butter, melted (1 stick)
3 Tbsp olive oil
The filo pastry can be found in a box in the frozen foods department. A day or two ahead of time, take one of the rolls of filo out of the freezer and move to the refrigerator to thaw. Also thaw your two packages of frozen spinach. When thawed, squeeze them completely dry (I use my hands for this.) Crumble your feta cheese into a big bowl and mix in the dry spinach and the cottage cheese. Next, chop and saute your scallions and add them, along with chopped dill and pepper to taste. Beat the eggs, add them to the bowl and mix everything well.
Now you are ready for assembly. Melt the butter and mix with the olive oil. In a 9 x 13 inch pan, lay out the first sheet of filo, being careful not to tear it. With a clean pastry brush, paint the filo with butter/oil mixture. Repeat until you have 10 layers. (Patience is a virtue here as it's very easy to tear the sheets. But don't panic, pat the pieces back in--no one will notice a few tears among all that flaky buttery goodness.) It's smart to cover the unused filo with a damp cloth while you work.
Once you have ten painted sheets, dump the spinach and cheese mixture into the pan and spread it evenly to the edges. Then repeat the process of buttering the next ten layers. You may cover this with plastic wrap and store in the fridge a day ahead. Preheat the oven to 350, then bake until risen and golden, about 45" to an hour. Cut into squares and serve with Greek salad. My husband proclaimed this the best spanakopita he's ever eaten:).
TOPPED CHEF will be on bookshelves on May 7 with more Key West adventures and food...In the meanwhile, you can preorder the book here.
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