Spanikopita

2013-01-24
The inspiration for this dish: nostalgia.  As much as Taylor and I enjoy eating Paleo, there are some dishes that will just never align with those parameters and that’s okay!  Certainly, if you have a gluten or milk allergy, you will be unable to enjoy this recipe and I apologize!  For my family, an occasional indulgence is not only acceptable, but part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Part of being healthy is being happy and enjoying what you are eating.  I will never post a recipe that I do not completely love.  In the case of Spanikopita the filo dough, spinach, feta and cream cheese are not just ingredients.  Their composition is a connection to my family, past and present, and tradition that I intend to pass on.  I don’t have children yet, but if someone out there makes this and their family or friends enjoy it, then a piece of my family love is shared.

All my family dishes, especially the Greek ones, are adapted with extreme care so as not to disrupt the tradition or the food memory.  I did not alter or omit any ingredients in this recipe, but the composition is slightly different because I put it together.  This is actually the first family recipe that I attempted on my own.  Even though I’ve watched my Mom make it a hundred times I was intimidated.  I made it for Taylor’s family, and his Grandparents (who have traveled all over the world) said it was the best Spanikopita they’ve ever had.  I cannot take full credit for that.  My relatives laid the groundwork, I simply composed the ingredients.

Even though this dish is not Paleo, that does not mean it cannot be done in a healthy way.  Unintentionally, I’ve made this recipe with one less stick of butter.  I don’t even consider myself light-handed with buttering the filo dough.  I coat it completely, and go all the way to the corners.  The filo dough still ends up flaky and delicious.  I also made a point of buying the highest quality of ingredients: organic spinach, organic feta, organic free range eggs… etc.  I did not see organic cream cheese in the Commissary, but you may be able to find it your grocery store.  I implore you: do not try to use fat free cream cheese, or any crazy butter derivative.  If you want to truly enjoy this recipe (because you deserve it!) make it with full fat, quality ingredients.  It will be way more satisfying, trust me.  One square will be enough.

This recipe may seem like a lot of work, but the preparation is very simple and fun!  I always enlist the help of Taylor when it comes to buttering the filo dough.  This dish is a perfect opportunity to get your loved ones involved in the kitchen!   This is a family recipe after all… 🙂  Also, this is a great way to get your children to eat spinach.  My Mom used to layer the spinach and cheese mixture, and I would sometimes peel away the spinach and just eat the cheese (i.e., making my own personal tyropita).  By gently incorporating the spinach and cheese mixture together, you can avoid such picky eating.  Mixing the two components also makes assembly a snap.

Ingredients

  • 1 box filo dough (use one roll)
  • 2 sticks of organic unsalted butter, clarified (I used Horizons Organic Unsalted Butter)
  • 2 bags of baby spinach, stems removed
  • 1 (8oz) box of cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Cream Cheese)
  • 2 (6oz) containers of organic feta cheese (I used Organic Creamery Feta Cheese)
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Instructions

  • 1. Let filo dough, butter, and cream cheese come up to room temperature on the counter
  • 2. Preheat over to 350 degrees
  • 3. After stems have been removed from spinach, place on a large plate covered with paper towel and microwave for about 40 seconds on 50% power to slightly wilt leaves
  • 4. When cool enough to touch, squeeze out excess water using paper towel, then place in a large bowl
  • 5. In a medium bowl, gently beat eggs, then add feta cheese and mix well with a fork
  • 6. Using a butter knife, cut cream cheese into chunks then add to feta and egg mixture, incorporate evenly with a fork
  • 7. When all ingredients are evenly distributed, add to large bowl with spinach
  • 8. Gently incorporate the cheese and spinach evenly together, then set aside
  • 9. Unroll filo dough and leave it on the plastic it was rolled in
  • 10. Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil
  • 11. Microwave unsalted butter in a bowl until it is completely melted (if the butter is room temp, it should only take a few seconds)
  • 12. Remove the white foam (milk solids) from the top with a spoon to make it clarified butter
  • 13. Place 2 sheets of filo on the baking pan, then using a silicone brush, paint the surface completely with clarified butter
  • 14. Place 2 more sheets and repeat buttering process
  • 15. Repeat this process until you lay down the 9th and 10th sheets of filo dough
  • 16. After you place down the 10th sheet, take a large spoon and place the filling on the filo dough
  • 17. Gently spread the cheese and spinach mix evenly, careful not to go all the way to the edge of the filo dough
  • 18. Place 2 more pieces of filo dough, paint with butter, then repeat until all filo dough is gone
  • 19. After you paint the last layer of filo dough with clarified butter, take a sharp knife and cut it into pieces (careful not to cut all the way down to the pan)
  • 20. Place baking pan in oven and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown
  • 21. WIth a sharp knife or spatula, follow the lines that you’ve cut to free a piece of Spani
  • 22. Enjoy!