When I was kid, New Year’s Eve meant three things: a slew of movies from Blockbuster, Best Kosher cocktail hot dogs wrapped in cresent dough (a company that has since gone out of business), and my mom’s spinach cheese pie. Spinach cheese pie is, in reality, the Greek speciality Spanikopita (a mixture of spinach and feta cheese wrapped in flaky layers of phyllo dough), but that’s not what we called it in my house. Also, traditionally, Spanikopita is wrapped in individual pieces and ours was always prepared more like a casserole, with spinach-feta filling, and a phyllo dough floor and ceiling. The filling is simple: sautéed onions, dill, parsely, eggs, tons of frozen spinach, and an entire pound of feta cheese (if you’re not a huge fan of feta, you could cut it down a bit; of course, I did not do this).
I have no idea what made me think of Spanikopita last week, but on Wednesday morning at work, I found myself emailing my mom, requesting the recipe. She sent it to me almost immediately because she wasn’t working that day due to inclement weather in Detroit. I read it and it seemed simple enough; however, I should have known better considering we only ate it once a year. After compiling this recipe last Sunday, I can tell you from experience, it is indeed simple, but time consuming. The nice thing about Sundays is that you have the time to stand over your sink, squeezing the water out of handful after handful of frozen spinach, as the sensation of the cold radiates up the nerve running behind your forearm, up to your elbow. I’ll admit that part was not my favorite, but I did thoroughly enjoy brushing sheet after sheet of phyllo dough with melted butter. Any recipe that requires the use of a brush has inherent merit because that is such a satisfying act; when your medium is melted butter, this undoubtedly earns the recipe bonus points. Not only is that a satisfying process, but it results in a creation with a golden, crinkled top, kind of like an ancient scroll of sorts, but instead of being old, it tastes great. Thus, if you have a couple of hours on your hands, definitely make this recipe.
Spinach Cheese Pie
4 pkgs. frozen chopped spinach – thawed and squeezed of extra water
1 onion – finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 lb. feta cheese (may want to rinse brine to decrease salt)
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ tsp dried dill
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ lb. phyllo pastry leaves
½ cup butter, melted
- Saute onion in oil for 5 minutes, add spinach and simmer to remove excel moisture.
- Crumble cheese and mix in eggs, dill, and parsley. Combine with spinach mixture until blended.
- Line an oiled 11x14x2” pan (or a 13x9x2”pan) with 8 buttered sheets of phyllo.
- Pour in spinach cheese mixture and spread evenly.
- Top with 8-10 buttered sheets. Bake at 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.