Spanikopita

vegetarian

Another greek favorite: Spanikopita- a spinach and feta pastry, wrapped in layers of filo dough, brushed with olive oil and baked to a delicately crisp and savory perfection. Very delicious stuff.

This particular recipe combines my love of the bundt pan, the spanikopita itself and the most memorable scene from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In the particular scene I am referring to, a cultural collide creates the opportunity for a couple of reserved WASPS to attempt to introduce a family of boisterous and cloistered Greeks to the bundt-shape. It is a hilarious moment in an otherwise formulaic movie and comes unavoidably to mind whenever I pull out my bundt pan.

Spanikopita is most commonly made in a flat, lasagna-style pan, such as a 9 x 13 inch, but lends itself nicely to many different shape-preparations, such as triangle-pockets, rolled logs and the one I am posting here. If you have never worked with filo dough before, the most important thing to know is that you should keep a clean, damp kitchen towel on top of the pile of to-be-used sheets, so that they won’t dry out. Also, you will require a pastry brush (you can use a clean paint brush) for brushing the filo with olive oil.

The following recipe is an adaptation of several recipes I have used over the years. Because I do not eat cow’s milk cheeses, but don’t mind having a little sheep and goat’s milk cheese from time to time, I use sheep’s milk feta here. In place of the ricotta that is required in most spanikopita recipes, I used drained, pressed firm tofu. If you don’t mind cow’s milk you can replace the tofu with a part-skim ricotta. As far a vegan version goes, I have made the Veganiomicon recipe, but found that I just missed the feta too much to forgo it.

Ari’s Spanikopita

One Package of frozen filo dough (you will not need the whole thing, but if you wrap the remaining filo with plastic wrap very well, you can put it back the freezer for future use)

2 – 10 oz packages of frozen spinach

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic minced

1/3- 1/2 cup chopped dill (lightly packed)

1 lb firm tofu, drained and pressed between layers of paper towels, crumbled

1 1/4 -1 1/2 cups crumbled feta (I like bulgarian sheep’s milk feta from Russo’s)

Juice of 1/2 a lemon (opt)

Salt

White pepper

Olive oil

A few hours before you begin to make the spanikopita, take the frozen spinach and filo out of the freezer. Let the filo thaw on the counter and take the spinach out of the packages and put it in a colander, in the sink or over some towels. When the spinach has thawed and drained (sometimes I also squeeze it in a few paper towels just to be sure I have gotten most of the water out) you are ready to start cooking.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a standard-sized bundt pan.

In a wide, shallow pan, saute the onion in a tablepoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. When the onion begins to soften, add the minced garlic. Saute until onion is golden then add the drained spinach. Cook for a few minutes, draining out any large pools of excess water, then transfer to a large bowl. Crumble the tofu and ricotta into the spinach mixture and mix well. Add salt and white pepper to taste as well as the chopped dill (I also squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, but I like it extra tangy), stir well.

Unwrap the filo and place it, unrolled on the counter beneath a damp towel. Have a bowl with about 1/3 cup olive oil and a pastry brush by your side. Place approximately 9 sheets of filo into the pan, coating each one with olive oil and draping the excess over the outside of the pan. Have the sheets overlap so that whole inside of the pan (including the walls of the center tube) is covered. Fill with the spinach mixture and cover the top with the overhanging filo as well as 3 additional sheets — brushing each one with oil and tucking in the excess (taking care not to cover the center hole).

Bake for about one hour until the filo is very golden and crisp. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before running a thin knife around the edge, between the spanikopita and the pan, and then inverting to a plate.

Slice and enjoy!

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