So. I watched Ina Garten make this on The Barefoot Contessa the other day. It looked so yummy and so easy. After my first experience with Spanikopita today, I can say yes–yummy. Easy? Not so much. I should have caught on when trying to find the correct spelling and found three different spellings. It’s a food of mystery. One handed down from Greek Grannies to their Greek offspring, and I am NOT Greek.
I bought my phyllo dough at a grocery that probably doesn’t sell much of it, so maybe it was old. Maybe it had been thawed and refrozen. Maybe it was intended to be used on an episode of Punked. Whichever, this phyllo dough was the most difficult…um… “stuff” I’ve worked with in a while. The sheets stuck to each other. And tore. And little shards that tore off caught air and floated to the floor like fall leaves.
After my initial panic–stupidly, I had decided to make this “easy” appetizer for company tonight–I decided to forge ahead. “After it’s all baked and cut into appealing diagonal slices, no one will be able to tell that it isn’t constructed of perfectly positioned sheets,” I rationalized. So forge ahead I did, like the kitchen commando I am.
So, place a bandana around your head and maybe one around your thigh for a Rambo-esque attitude, and gather these ingredients:
- 1 box of phyllo dough–find in the frozen foods aisle–thawed
- 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 packages frozen spinach, thawed
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 8 oz crumbled feta cheese
- 2 TBSP fresh dill, chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 cup of unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs–I used Panko
Thaw the phyllo according to the directions on the package.
Oil a baking sheet, and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Dampen a clean kitchen towel to place over the phyllo sheets not being used at any one time.
Place a deep fry pan over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add chopped scallions and cook until softened–3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, place spinach that has been squeezed dry. Use your hands over a sink, squeeze as much water out as you can.
Add eggs, salt, pepper, dill, feta, and scallions in oil. Mix to combine.
Open and unwrap the phyllo. Peel off a single sheet (if you can!), place on a surface in front of you and cover the rest of the phyllo with the damp towel. Using a pastry brush, brush the surface with melted butter, then sprinkle with bread crumbs.
Add another sheet and repeat the butter and bread crumbs. Continue the pattern until you have 10 sheets stacked on top of each other. My box of phyllo had 20 sheets–enough to make two rolls–so I divided my filling in half, and spread it out along one long side of my phyllo stack and then rolled it up–careful the phyllo will want to tear.
(Notice how my top layer is actually made of pieces of a sheet of phyllo—argh!) Place the roll seam-side down on your oiled baking sheet and brush it with melted butter on all exposed sides. Repeat with the second half of your phyllo sheets and filling. Some of my sheets would NOT come apart, so I layered them on as if they were one sheet–which they were, sort of! When both rolls have been buttered, use a sharp knife to score diagonals in the rolls, about one inch apart. I used my thumb as a guideline. This will make them easier to cut when they’re baked.
Place the rolls in the oven and bake until golden brown and flaky–12-15 minutes. I turned my pan after 10 minutes to be sure both rolls were evenly browned. Cool on the baking sheet, on a rack until you can handle them and cut along score lines. Arrange on a platter and serve–warm or room temperature. Spanikopita will hold at room temperature for hours and be fine.
Look at them! They turned out pretty after all, and they were yummy! I will definitely try this again with a different phyllo dough. Essentially the recipe is simple. It was the uncooperative phyllo that spanked me. I was right about the fact that a “sheet” composed of small-ish pieces didn’t matter in the finished product. Your bottom sheet really does need to be as whole as you can manage or rolling will be disasterous!
I recorded this recipe as a failure due to the sometimes comical contortions required to even partially separate the phyllo sheets, but the final product was really quite successful.
Maybe if the next round of phyllo cooperates, I’ll get brave and try baklava! Yummy!