Friday, September 12, 2008

Fear of Phyllo


I vowed years ago, after a completely botched attempt that I would never EVER again try to cook with phyllo dough. When I say botched .....I mean botched! I can't remember what I was trying to make but I do remember that after much frustration and colorful expletives, the whole lot ended up in the trash can. But, never say never!

My friend Savanna (and my personal resource for Greek food) has assured me over and over that it's not that hard and she will show me how to handle it. But there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Her advice? Butter, lots and lots and LOTS of butter and keep the phyllo moist by placing a damp towel over it. Sounds messy and like a lot of work.

My friend Sandy finally convinced me to give it a try for her when I visited this summer. Actually, she sort of tricked me. She began telling me about this "spinach pie" her Hungarian neighbor made and that I should try it. So we went to her to get the recipe and that is when I realized it was know ...stuff made with PHYLLO! She assured me that "its not hard at all" I skeptically looked over the recipe. The first thing I noticed is that instead of using butter, she used butter flavored pan spray. The second was that this was made as a casserole which means no cutting or folding of the phyllo (traditionally Spanakopita is made into individual triangles). Hmmm... OK, I will take the challenge!

So, I have made this twice now. The first time I followed her recipe exactly and had a nice finished dish; though, a little bland for my taste. In her defense. English is not her first language and she never uses a "recipe" so it is quite possible that though she painstakingly wrote out a recipe for me, that something was missed or lost in the translation. She also talked a lot about finding "good feta"and I used the brand I found in the grocery store which may be a lot less flavorful than what she uses.

My second attempt I was more confident and I researched some different recipes and of course added my own twist to it. So, I don't claim that this is authentic Greek or Hungarian. But it is pretty tasty. I do think at some point I will try it with the butter thing because when I asked my friend Savanna what she thought about it and if it tasted like it should. She said her only advice would be to "use more butter".

The things you want to remember before starting this recipe is to keep the phyllo moist. Though it seems painfully tedious you must keep it covered with a damp towel. I recommend taking what you will use for each layer out from under the towel at a time (about 6 sheets). The other is plan to use nearly a whole can of butter spray for this dish. The alternative is using melted butter (not sure how much but I am guessing at least a whole stick possibly more) and brushing it on the layers with a pastry brush. .

2-10 oz Pkgs Frozen chopped spinach
1 pkg phyllo dough(comes 2 pkgs to a box)
1 TBS Olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic,minced
1 lb crumbled feta cheese
1/2 Parmesan cheese (no powdered stuff)
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best)
4 eggs,beaten

1 can butter flavored pan spray

Thaw phyllo (in sealed pkg) for about 30 min. on counter. Thaw spinach (or defrost in microwave). Squeeze spinach dry as possible in a clean kitchen towel.

In a large skillet heat oil. Add onions and saute for 1 minute. Add garlic and saute an additional minute. Turn off heat. Stir in spinach, feta, parmesan and sundried tomatoes. Add beaten eggs, lemon, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x13 glass casserole dish with pan spray.

Open phyllo dough and unfold onto counter. Cover with damp kitchen towel. Remove 6 sheets of phyllo and place on top of towel.

Place 1 layer of phyllo dough in dish. Spray phyllo evenly and completely with pan spray(don't forget edges). Repeat with 5 remaining sheets. Spread half of spinach mixture on top of phyllo.

Repeat 6 sheet phyllo layer, repeat spinach layer and finish with additional 6 sheet phyllo layer.

Bake for 40-45 min until top is golden brown. Let cool for about 15 min before cutting into squares. May be served slightly warm or at room temperature. This is best served immediately for a nice crispy texture. It may be refrigerated and reheated in microwave for a few seconds. It will still be tasty but will lose the crunch.



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