What Can I Say, I’m Greek!
Growing up in a Greek family meant always having the most delicious food, both regularly at home and especially when the family all got together. When my parents decided to move us from Michigan to Arizona and finally to California, the Greek half of my family followed. You see, my mom is fully Greek and my dad is an honorary Greek.
If you’ve ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you are familiar with my family only on a smaller scale. My dad is the American boy who swept the Greek girl off her feet…even after my Papouli tried to talk him out of proposing to my mom. Yes, food is always at the forefront of every moment in a Greek’s life. My Papouli owned his own restaurant and a badass bar, too.
Even to this day, whenever I talk to my Yiayia or my mom on the phone the inevitable question comes up. “Have you eaten?” Food is what’s up for Greeks because when people are gathered around a great meal they’ll definitely be having a good time!
We Love Spanakopita
Whenever my family gets together, the Greek treats always come out. One of my all time favorite Greek foods is spanakopita. This savory Greek pastry filled with scallions, spinach, cheese, and herbs is a staple in my family’s household. Holidays rolling around? Make spanakopita. Headed over to a neighbors for cocktail hour? Make spanakopita. Wednesday night and you don’t know what to cook? Make spanakopita.
If you’ve ever been to a Greek restaurant, I can almost guarantee you had delicious spanakopita. Though I have to be honest, NOTHING beats homemade spanakopita. Must be all that added love. 😉 My mom traditionally makes spanakopita using phyllo dough, layering each sheet of phyllo with a wash of melted butter. The best part of this process is standing in the kitchen talking to her while tearing off pieces of phyllo dough and dipping them in the melted butter to enjoy right on the spot!
According to my mom who lived in Greece when she was young, in the homeland they like to make spanakopita using puff pastry rather than phyllo dough. Although I wouldn’t know because my family has been dragging ass on planning our trip to Greece for years. Literally, years! I’m the only traveler in this family.
So I decided to switch up my spanakopita game and make a version using puff pastry. I like to let my puff pastry come to room temperature before rolling out each puff pastry square. This creates a less puffy pastry that is still light and flaky. If you prefer a more puffed up spanakopita, which is equally delicious, cut and roll out your puff pastry squares right after taking the dough out of the freezer. Also, be sure to use fresh herbs because this makes all the difference for flavor. Sometimes I like to substitute arugula for half of the spinach if I happen to have it in the fridge because I love arugula’s peppery spice.
But What Wine, You Ask?
In my experience, Pinot Noir is consistently the perfect pairing for spanakopita. The red fruit and earthy flavor profile of this light red wine complements the rich buttery dough and the fresh herbs of this Greek pastry incredibly well. I think a Counnoise would work equally as well here because of this wine’s tendency toward earthy, herbaceous notes as well as hints of black and white pepper.
A savory Greek pastry filled with spinach, eggs, cheese, and herbs. This recipe utilizes puff pastry, but you could easily use the same filling for a version with phyllo dough instead.
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 cups crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1.5 lbs. baby spinach. Consider buying the pre-washed bags to save time on trimming spinach stems. You may substitute arugula or another leafy green for part of the spinach if you have it in the fridge.
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 17.3 oz package of puff pastry sheets
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add a batch of spinach and toss with tongs until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer spinach to a colander set over a bowl. Allow to drain. Repeat with the remaining spinach. You may add a tiny bit of oil as needed, but be careful not to over do it as you don't want to be left with oily spinach. This will make your pastry soggy.
Wipe the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil. Add the onion and scallions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, lightly beat 3 whole eggs. Season with a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and the grated nutmeg. Stir in the dill, parsley, and both cheeses.
Squeeze handfuls of the spinach to release as much liquid as possible; then separate the clumps with your fingers. Add the spinach and the onion mixture to the eggs and stir to combine.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Before unfolding, cut each puff pastry sheet into thirds crosswise. Unfold each third of pastry and cut each into thirds again.
Using a lightly floured work surface, roll half of the puff pastry pieces into a 4 inch square, and the other half into a 5 inch square. The larger squares will be used for the tops of the spanikopita.
Whisk the egg yolks together with 2 tsp. water in a small bowl. Lightly brush the borders of the 4-inch pastry squares with egg wash. Place 1/2 cup of filling or less if needed in the center of each pastry square. Spread filling flat, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the filling.
Place a 5-inch pastry square over each of the bottom halves with filling. Using the prongs of a fork, carefully crimp the edges of the top and bottom pastry squares together to create a seal.
Brush the top of each pastry with egg wash. Cut a small X as a steam vent on atop the center of each pastry. Brush the top of each pastry with the remaining egg wash and cut a small vent to allow steam to escape. Bake, swapping and rotating the baking sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until a knife inserted into the filling comes out clean and the pastry is puffed and deep golden, about 20 minutes.
Allow to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cut each square in half diagonally. Serve.
Letting the puff pastry come all the way to room temperature before cutting and rolling it out will result in a flatter cooked pastry. If you prefer a puffier pastry, cut and roll out the pastry dough shortly after the dough is taken out of the freezer or as thawed according to package directions.