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Spanakopita a savory combination of spinach, feta and phyllo

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch
Spanakopita, or Greek spinach pie, is a savory dish made with herbs, feta and delicate phyllo dough.

Sometimes food is the only language you need for communication. A few weeks ago I was sitting in the waiting room of the dentist’s office. Two little girls were running around and talking animatedly to their grandmother in a foreign language. I was pretty certain they were speaking Greek.

The grandmother looked in my direction and said something to one of her granddaughters. The little girl served as translator and asked if I liked Greek food.

I looked toward the grandmother and told her that I loved Greek food and often made

spanakopita. Although the grandmother spoke no English, with gestures she asked if I made my own phyllo dough. I laughed and shook my head in the negative. She pointed to herself and nodded in the affirmative.

Before our mime conversation could continue further, the dental assistant called my name. I was sad that I couldn’t continue the conversation and learn her cooking secrets.

Spanakopita, or Greek spinach pie, is a savory combination of spinach, herbs, and feta cheese, layered between delicate buttery phyllo dough.

Unless you are a Greek grandmother, most people buy the phyllo dough ready-made.

Phyllo dough comes frozen in a box that usually contains two packages, one of which is sufficient to make a spanakopita.

Because each sheet is paper thin, it is best to thaw out the dough in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out of the refrigerator one hour beforehand. When working with the dough, cover the unused sheets with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

You can use fresh spinach in place of the frozen, but it will greatly increase the preparation time. When buying feta, avoid the pre-crumbled type, as it is coated in cellulose and has an off taste.

Spanokopita freezes well, but it is best to reheat it in the oven rather than a microwave.

Spanakopita

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

20 ounces frozen chopped spinach

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

4 eggs, beaten

10 tablespoons butter, melted

20 sheets phyllo dough

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. When hot, add the onions and cook until they are clear. Add the frozen spinach, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes or until the spinach has thawed. Then stir in the dill, parsley and salt, and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid in the skillet has evaporated. Stir occasionally.

Transfer the spinach to a bowl. When cool, mix in the milk, feta cheese and eggs. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

With a pastry brush, coat the bottom and sides of a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with melted butter. Line the dish with a sheet of phyllo and then brush the entire surface with melted butter. Repeat this process until you have used 10 sheets of phyllo in all.

Spread the spinach mixture into the dish. Cover with the remaining 10 sheets of phyllo, following the same procedure as above. Brush the top layer with melted butter and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before cutting.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.