Oh, summer, how I longed for you! And finally, you came to Eastern Canada with all your colors, welcoming breeze, humming sounds, camping, wilderness and millions of the itsy-bitsy things.
Summer is the season I can live through with no bigger ambition than my next BBQ or a pool party and it’s been like that for years. Which is why, the timing could not have been any better than the last real week-end of sun when we had our first BBQ-pool party. First real hot, long due sunny day, after prolonged raining and pouring. With almost overwhelming number of ideas and inspirations for a nice alfresco getaway – I was almost lost in choices.
The BBQ party is usually all about grilled meat, which we’ve had plenty of: assortment of kebabs, rack of pork, chicken tzatziki drums – they were all good. But when I caught my breath to pause and see which dish was the biggest success, it happened that an oven baked homemade spinach pie, Spanakopita, stole the show. Once again, Chef Redzepi’s prophecy about 2014 being all about the veggies and packing on greens turned out to be true – and, yes, it was a humble freshly baked spinach pie stuffed with hot aromatic puree of greens, herbs and cheese that was a star of our soiree.
When those are real Greek people giving you kudos about your spinach pie, you better take a note and a good picture, because they do know a thing or two about Spanakopita. After all, this traditional savory pastry dish made of spinach, feta cheese and eggs wrapped in crusty dough, has been a Greek soul food for centuries. I must admit, it does taste great on a hot summer day and not only in the Greek islands.
Another party winner was a perfectly fluffy marble cake (Gâteau surprise
) Diane brought for the dessert – it was simply amazing so light and decadent at the same time. Thank you, Diane, I’ve savored the last sliver of it this morning with coffee – it was a super-delicious party reminder.
Saturday was really the first most beautiful summer day with plenty of sun; clear sky; cool summer wind; roses, daisies, poppies, irises, lupine, peonies – all opening at the same time; the bees buzzing and birds humming. This is our Canadian summer: everything in the nature suddenly rushes to bloom and seed almost screaming to complete the life circle in the short few months before going back into the long months of slumber.
We did a fair amount of hammocking, swimming and splashing. Our doggy joined the water ball play in urge to bust the damn ball, which she did eventually. (No biggie, Michael, I will get you a new one.)
And of course the food: nothing tastes better than a good food eaten outside in a great company! It was so nice and so deservedly relaxing, it now feels it might have been other people from a great summer outdoors sketch… But it was us and the fun was ours and the Greek savory pie did exist, although for no longer than 20 minutes. This gave me an idea to write this post and share some apps about the successful Spanakopita making.
Here are my tips for a great homemade Greek spinach pie, Spanakopita:
– A freshly chopped spinach would deliver the best results, but most of the time (I won’t lie) I use freshly frozen (thawed and drained) spinach to save time and effort. As long as you don’t let a pack of frozen spinach sitting in your freezer for months, I see no reason why not to go for this little convenience.
– Savory herbs add an amazing kick to the taste: freshly minced chives/scallions, oregano, dill, parsley slightly cooked in ghee or olive oil with the dash of nutmeg before mixing them with chopped spinach do make wonders to the taste of the pie. Feel free to use any extra of your favorite herbs like fresh thyme, basil or mint just to experiment for the taste you’d like to attain.
– The feta cheese I use most of the time is less salty than a standard feta cheese (I soak it in a milk or water overnight to drain out the excess salt. Sometimes, I use the mix of feta and ricotta or cottage cheese instead.
– Finally, I always use store bought puff pastry dough instead of phyllo dough, which, again, saves a lot of time and cuts on the amount of butter.
Quite often, I also use puff pastry dough making spinach puffs or turnovers with the same spinach filling – a superb companion to a bowl of soup or a cup of tea, not to mention the array of grilled things you can have them with.
And that’s basically it about my Spanakopita pie. I hope you, your guests or family will enjoy it like we did. Cheers to the happy summer times y’all!
SPINACH PIE SPANAKOPITA IN PUFF PASTRY
4 tbsp olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)
3 tbsp ghee or butter at room temperature for greasing the pan and brushing the top
¼ cup chives or scallions, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup dill, minced
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (optional) or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small pinch nutmeg
2 packages (10 oz each) frozen, thawed and well-pressed/drained spinach or 2 ½ – 3 lbs of fresh spinach, chopped
1 ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I also drain the excess salt in advance by soaking feta in milk or water)
4 eggs, lightly beaten (plus 1 egg for egg wash to brush the top)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (397 g) pack frozen puff pastry dough, thawed in the fridge overnight
Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the ghee or butter, or olive oil in the frying pan and add chives or scallions. Cook for 2 minutes until soft and add parsley, dill, oregano and nutmeg. Add spinach, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Add crumbled feta and eggs, mix well.
Brush the bottom of 8 by 8 (for the thicker crust) or 9 by 13 inches (for thinner crust) baking pan with melted ghee or butter. Roll out ¾ of the puff pastry to cover the bottom and sides of the dish. Brush with ghee or butter. Add the spinach filling and spread evenly to be flat. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top with the second dough sheet ½-inch thicker than the bottom sheet. Press the edges together with fork or fingers to seal. Brush with the rest of melted ghee or butter. Finish brushing the top with egg wash. Cut a few slits on top with the paring knife for the steam to get out. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until well-puffed and golden brown. Let the pie sit for about 10 minutes before cutting in pieces. Serve warm or at the room temperature.