“Popeye had it right.” So says Susan Bower, assistant director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles, quoted in this excellent Men’s Health Best Life article. Muscle builder, bolsterer of bone-density and cancer fighter, spinach is a wonder food.
And I like it. I do. Especially when it is drizzled with bacon drippings and topped with blue cheese, croutons and bacon. Which probably negates the healthful benefits of the leaf.
What’s a boy to do?
Well if you’re in the least ways Greek, you make spanakopita (which translates to “spinach in bread.”) Spinach pie is what you’ll often hear it called. And it’s easier to make than you think, as long as you don’t get too fancy with the phyllo dough…
Spanikopita is also healthier than you think. Eggs, onions, herbs, feta cheese, spinach, of course…. Then there’s that 1/2 pound of butter. But I think we can do away with some of it without sacrificing taste.
The Easy and Elegant Life Spanikopita.
(Serves four as a meal.)
1 tube/package of phyllo dough
Butter flavoured cooking spray
2 packages of frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted and drained/squeezed dry in a towel.
1 bunch of fresh dill
1 bunch of green onions or equivalent amount of red onion, chopped
Oregano (my grandmother’s secret ingredient!), about 2 teaspoons fresh or dried
1/2 pound of feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 stick of butter
1 pyrex casserole dish, I used a 2 QT size.
Spray the pyrex backing dish and line the bottom with a 1/4 of the phyllo, spray with butter flavouring again. Add another 1/4 of the dough, overlapping it to form the shape of a cross in the dish. That way all the sides are covered.
Melt butter in the microwave.
Beat the eggs and add everything else into the bowl. I used a food processor to chop everything, so the mixture was very easy to work with.
Mound half the mix into the dish. Top with 1/4 of the phyllo and spray with more butter spray, brush with a bit of real butter.
Top the middle layer of dough (I skipped this step and wish I hadn’t, the pie was very thick, but delicious) with more of the spinach mixture. Lay the remaining dough over this as a top layer and fold the sides of the phyllo from the bottom layer over the edges. Brush with melted butter. Prick with the tines of a fork or make small slits in the top layer to let steam escape. Cover with aluminum foil that has been similarly vented.
Bake at 400ºF for 20 minutes, remove foil and continue baking for 20 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Let cool and cut into squares to serve. Delicious warm or at room temperature, spanikopita is a wonderful light summer luncheon dish. Or serve it as an accompaniment to kebabs. Drink a chilled white wine (I had a white Bordeaux on hand — Baron de Mont-Plaisir, I think it was….)
Do not throw your plates on the ground, it’s touristy and inauthentic.