Moosewood's Spanakopita

Spanakopita: spinach, cheese, and filo dough flakiness. I love it. It's the kind of thing I could eat for lunch and dinner- on the very same day. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, spinach pie would be in the running. I think you get the picture. I'm pretty serious about this dish. I've made spanakopita  (Greek spinach pie) many times before and I thought my go-to recipe was really good. That is, before I tasted this Moosewood recipe, which is pretty much perfect.
The first time I had this Moosewood version was at a going-away party some friends threw for us right before we left Brooklyn. The gathering took place in a penthouse apartment overlooking Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park. The views were spectacular and you could see the city skyline and the harbor from the roof deck. There were lots of friends sharing stories and yes, I shed a few tears that night. It was a wonderful way to spend the evening- and it was bittersweet to be leaving such great people, but also really exciting to be relocating and trying something new in Denver, Colorado.

The food at the party was incredible. There was pasta, cheese plates, salads and our friend Beth made this spinach pie. The meal was capped off with an amazing devil's food cake soaked with salted caramel, layered with whipped chocolate ganache and frosted with a classic French buttercream (holy delicious!) made by friend Kathryn of Cooking Inside the Box. But I'm not really a baker so I knew there was no way I was going to be able to replicate the perfection of the aforementioned cake.  I was confident, however, that I could make the spinach pie, so I asked for the recipe.

This pie is not hard to make, but chopping 2 1/2 pounds of spinach does take some time. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I now routinely use frozen organic spinach in this recipe.

You can buy good quality frozen filo dough (phyllo dough) at most supermarkets in the frozen section near the pastry shells- just don't forget to take it out of the freezer when you start prepping. It must be completely thawed otherwise it will break and flake and, well, just become a mess. You want the sheets to be malleable and intact.  

This dish can be made a day or two in advance. Keep it uncooked, covered and refrigerated until you want to serve it. Then put it in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 45 minutes.

Enjoy this recipe. And trust me, this spanakopita is worthy of the (Greek) Gods...

(Courtesy of The Moosewood Cookbook, adapted ever-so-slightly)
Yields: About 8 servings
2 Tbs olive oil 
2 cups minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2.5 lbs fresh spinach, stemmed and finely chopped (or 2.5 lbs frozen organic spinach)
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs flour
2 to 3 cups (packed) crumbled feta cheese (about 1 lb)
1 1/4 cup cottage or pot cheese
Black pepper, to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil, for the filo
1 lb filo pastry leaves (approx. 20 leaves) -- thoroughly defrosted 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Oil a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.

Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, salt, and herbs, and sautรฉ for about 5 minutes, or until the onion softens. Add spinach, turn up the heat, and cook, stirring, until the spinach wilts (5 to 8 minutes). Stir in the garlic.
Sprinkle in the flour, stir, and cook over medium heat 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Mix in the cheeses. Taste to correct seasonings, adding lots of black pepper (and some salt).

Place a sheet of filo in the oiled pan, letting the pastry edges climb up the sides. Brush lightly with oil, and add another sheet. Keep going until you have a pile of 8 oiled sheets. Add half the filling, spreading it to the edges, then repeat with 8 more sheets of oiled filo, followed by the remaining filling. Layer the rest of the filo over the filling, brushing oil in between. Oil the top, tuck in the edges, and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until golden and crispy. Cut into squares and serve hot or warm. 

{Note: After making this recipe several times, I think the best results were obtained when the pie was baked for 30 minutes COVERED and then an additional 5 minutes UNCOVERED. The filling was much creamier and the top was not quite as dark. I recommend doing it this way.}