Meatless Monday's - Greek Lasagna or Spanakopita

A recent blog within Cilantro Cooks noted the wonders of Lasagna.   This is a great comfort food and a wonderful dish you can also make ahead.  I have come to enjoy the usual Greek appetizer of Spanakopita and making...

A recent blog within Cilantro Cooks noted the wonders of Lasagna.   This is a great comfort food and a wonderful dish you can also make ahead.  I have come to enjoy the usual Greek appetizer of Spanakopita and making this as the entrée and pairing this with a salad or two and creating dinner.  In my quest for meatless, this also complies with this trend but it does add dairy to the mix.  One of my neighbors, Susana who is a fabulous cook, has also taught me some tricks on how to lighten up some of the original recipes by adding more layers of flavors.   She also introduced me to country style fillo dough, a thicker variety, that is wonderful and easier to use.  This is especially good to use in savory dishes.   I will admit I was originally shy of fillo dough, but have come to know that it is very forgiving especially as you are layering the goodness.  The top layer is the presentation layer, so take added care as you complete the dish.  Within most dishes  created with fillo, you can cover a multitude of sins within these layers of light dough and butter.

Country fillo dough is available within the freezer section of some high end grocery stores and specialty markets.  The long box looks much like that of the regular fillo dough.  It is one pound package, still requesting that it remains frozen or refrigerated.  These extra thick sheets are noted as #10.  I used half of the one pound of the box for this creation of Greek Lasagna.  This box contains approximately 8 -- 14” x 18” sheets.  (Mine included 10 sheets)  Thawing is best if left in the refrigerator overnight and then allowing the package to stand at room temperature for about 2 hours before using.  I pulled half of the sheets for immediate use, placing these on wax paper and covering with a damp towel to keep the dough from drying out.  I then re-wrapped the other half of the sheets and sealed in a plastic bag for my next creation.  I place this dough back in the box to keep from damaging this in my often crowded freezer and note the date.  I will use this second batch of dough within 2 months.   As noted above, the last two boxes of country fillo contained 10 sheets, so I used five in each recipe.

If you cannot find this country fillo, you still can use the regular variety.  Use two sheets of the regular fillo to the one sheet of country fillo.

Fresh Baked Spinach Pie
Fresh Baked Spinach Pie

Spanakopita – Spinach Pie or Greek Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds frozen spinach, I often use three 10 ounce packages is this is an easier find in the grocery store.  Thaw and drain this well in colander. Then tightly press this spinach through your hands to get all the moisture out.  You want a very tight spinach filling for best success.
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup spring onions, chopped.  If you so not have spring onions, chop a second onion for this recipe as a substitution
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, this can be omitted but it is a very nice addition of freshness to this dish
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated preferred
  • 8 ounces cottage cheese.  You can use large or small curd and low-fat options also work well here
  • 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, create a small crumble with this cheese for the best results
  • ½ cup Parmesan or Romano Cheese, grated
  • 6 eggs lightly beaten
  • Butter and/or olive oil for brush on the dough.  See below.

For brushing the fillo dough, yon can opt to use a combo of olive oil and butter or just butter.  I would suggest starting with ¼ cup of olive oil combined with ¼ cup of melted butter or 6 tablespoons of melted butter.  I have made this both ways and I prefer using only butter and cutting this back to 6 tablespoons.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Select a 9 x 13 x 2 glass or ceramic pan for the best results.  Butter the bottom and sides of the dish before beginning the layering process.
  3. As the first step, sauté the onion in some olive oil for about 10 minutes.  Then add the minced garlic and sauté for another 2 – 3 minutes and then add in the spring onions and sauté these for another 3 – 5 minutes. Cool this mixture is you are going to make this ahead.  If you intend to immediately bake, you can skip the cooling step.
  4. Mix the well-drained spinach with the onions and garlic, the fresh and dried herbs, the cheeses and the beaten eggs.  Given the cheeses, I tend to not salt this mixture but instead add about ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  Mix this filling well.
  5. 5. Remove the first sheet of fillo dough and line this in the 9x13x2 dish.  If you are using the country style fillo, this sheet will perfectly fold in half and create the first two layers of your “lasagna”.  Brush these sheets carefully with some melted butter and repeat this with another sheet, folding it in half and then brushing with butter and creating a bottom of this lasagna.
  6. To this crust that you have created, add about half of the combined spinach mixture.  Spread this evenly over this crust and this is your first layer.  It is important to create a strong bottom layer for this dish.
  7.  Then create another layer of fillo.  Buttering this carefully.   If you have five sheets, I would suggest making this second layer again a double layer and finishing this lasagna with the final sheet.   So, you will have two layers of spinach nestled within multiple layers of fillo.  You will finish this lasagna with a final layer of fillo.  Brushing this final layer with butter and creating a finished look tucking in any excess dough.
  8. For ease in cutting later, score the top layer with a sharp knife and make your cuts into squares before you bake.  Also, sprinkle a little cold water on top of the pastry dough to keep this from curling up.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until puffed and golden brown.  Best to allow this to rest about 5 – 10 minutes before you finish the cutting of the Spanakopita.  You can serve this immediately or at room temperature.

Enjoy this with a side green salad or a Panzanella Salad following the Greek theme adding black olives and feta cheese.

This is also an excellent appetizer.