vgnwtch (vgnwtch) wrote in vegancooking,

Lenten Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)

During Lent in both the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches, it's traditional to do away with all dairy products, which is handy. Donna Klein's The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Dishes from the Healthiest Region Under the Sun contains a lovely recipe, which I think may well become a favourite in our house:

2lbs spinach with stems discarded, washed, or 1 10oz bags fresh washed spinach leaves (I used 2 10oz packets of frozen spinach)
4 tbsp + 1/4 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion (6-8oz), chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed fennel seeds (I whizzed some through the coffee grinder I use for herbs)
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leafed parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill (I used 1 tbsp dried dill)
1 tbsp all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I used an approximate amount of ground nutmeg)
12 sheets phyllo [fillo] dough, thawed

* If using fresh spinach, blanch leaves for 2-3 minutes, put in colander under running cold water and drain. Squeeze out excess water; I simply defrosted and squeezed the frozen packets.
* In large skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil and add onion and garlic to cook until softened (aprox. 10 mins)
* Add chopped spinach and fennel and lightly season with salt and pepper; increase heat to medium and cook until excess moisture evaporates
* Add parsely, dill, flour, sugar, and nutmeg, and cook a few minutes more, stirring and seasoning to taste
* Set aside to cool.
* Heat oven to 375F (190C)
* Grease 10" pan
* Working quicly, arrange 1 sheet dough in the pan, pressing lightly against bottom and sides, allowing excess dough to drape over sides
* Except for overhanging dough, brush remaining dough with with 1/2 tsp of remaining oil
* Layer and oil 5 more sheets of dough, placing each sheet slightly crosswise to the one below
* When 6th layer is in place, spoon filling into pie, spreading to make an even covering
* Repeat dough layering until 6 layers are placed on top of the filling
* Trim off excess dough with kitchen shears or scissors, leaving about 1 1/2" dough overhanging
* Brush overhanging dough with water, then roll inwards to form a border around the rim of the pie, and brush this with a little oil
* Bake 35-40 mins, until golden brown

My notes on phyllo dough:

I had never used phyllo before, mainly out of cowardice, but the time had come to put aside the terrors and deal with it. When I unrolled the dough, it was obvious that several layers were entirely stuck together. What I should have done was wet a tea towel and placed it over the dough for a couple of minutes, until it regained its moistness and pliability. What I did was panic and just chuck the first several layers into the pan as one single layer of dough. The remaining layers were fine, as they'd retained their pliability, so I was able to layer and oil as instructed. When it came to rolling up the dough, the under layers had absorbed some of the oil and were a little more pliable, so rolling was not a problem, though trimming was a bit of a mess. From now on, I shall be sure to dampen a towel if the dough is not immediately pliable.
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