Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spanakopita Triangles

My friend Mira (who just had a baby girl) makes a mean spanakopita. She layers a spinach/feta mixture between phyllo dough, bakes it, and serves it in lasagna-like pieces. When I tried my hand at this Greek dish, I decided to wrap the filling in double phyllo sheets, producing packets more akin to samosas. These flaky and flavorful triangles can be served as appetizers, or paired with a salad as part of a light dinner.

Spanakopita is Greek for spinach pie, and its secret ingredient is nutmeg, which is added to the spinach/feta mixture. Nutmeg is the nut of an evergreen tree native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia. Mace, a more delicate spice, is made from the lacy covering of the nutmeg seed.

Nutmeg was traded in the Middle Ages by Arabs who were active in Indian Ocean trade. It was later traded by the Portuguese and then the Dutch, who in exchange for British control of New Amsterdam (now New York), took control of the Banda Islands. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British took control of the islands and transplanted nutmeg trees to their colonies in Zanzibar and Grenada. A stylized nutmeg remains a symbol on the flag of Grenada. Indonesia and Grenada continue to dominate worldwide nutmeg production.

Makes 36 triangles (serves 6-8 as an appetizer)

Ingredients2 x 10 ounce frozen chopped spinach, thawed overnight in the fridge
4 green onions, green and white parts sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups crumbled feta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
1 to 2 sticks (1/2 cup to 1 cup) unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces phyllo pastry dough (9 x 14 inch sheets), thawed overnight in the fridge

Directions1. In a colander, squeeze thawed spinach to remove as much moisture as possible. The spinach will be clumped, so pull it apart once the water is removed.
2. In a large bowl mix spinach, green onions, olive oil, feta cheese and Parmesan. Mix well and continue to pull apart the dense spinach.
3. Season with nutmeg, basil, oregano, pepper and chili powder. Mix well and set aside.
4. Melt one stick of butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Once melted, unpack and unroll the phyllo sheets. Cover the sheets with a damp (not wet) towel to keep them from drying out. You will have to work quickly once the phyllo is unwrapped.
5. Place one sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface (a cutting board works well) and brush liberally with butter. Place another sheet on top and brush with butter. Cut the sheets into strips that are approximately 3 inches wide and 9 inches long.
6. Make sure the strips are laid out vertically. At the end of one strip place 1 to 2 tablespoons of spinach mixture. Fold one corner in to fully cover the spinach (thus forming a triangle tip). Now fold over the section containing spinach twice, making sure to keep the mixture from falling out. Brush all visible surfaces with butter before folding once more. Fold the remaining phyllo over and use additional butter to seal the triangle. Melt more butter if necessary. The above photos show this process step-by-step.
7. Place triangles (seal on the bottom) on two parchment or foil-lined baking sheets. Cover with a damp towel until ready to bake.
8. Repeat with other strips of phyllo and then with all phyllo sheets.
9. Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated in a toaster oven or oven (do not use a microwave as triangles will become soggy). Alternately, unbaked triangles can be frozen immediately and baked when needed (bake from frozen, do not thaw first).


Dee & Chai said...

Love Spanakopitas! Thanks for posting this one- your post reminded us of this now!

Anonymous said...

Yesterday was Greek Orthodox Easter and my stepfather, Nick, made the spanakopita triangles that you featured in your treat a week blog on Friday. The recipe turned out wonderfully and impressed even Nick, a hard-core Greek cookery traditionalist. We agreed that the cumin adds a lovely, subtle flavor.

Anonymous said...

I have now made these 3 times - and will continue to do so. awesome recipe!!