Spinach seemed like a good vegetable to go with my Greek Easter Feast. I have been wanting to try to make spanakopita, but for several reasons I have hesitated. First of all, Jan generally does not like dishes made with fillo (actually she does, but all the butter used to make it flaky doesn’t like her). Also, the two ways of making this dish gave me problems. Struggling with the thin sheets of buttered fillo to make little triangles seemed too fussy. The second way, as a pie, buries all that buttered fillo under the spinach so that it never gets flaky What is the point? There has to be another way.
Fate steps in. In reading the Wikipedia entry on spanakopita it mentions that in the Greek islands they make this dish with dough made of flour and water to make a crunchy shell. Basically this is a simple pasta. Last week I also watched an episode of Triple D, where a chef used an Asian egg roll wrap to make cannelloni. Instead of trying to fill partially cooked cannelloni, she piped it onto the wraps and then rolled it up. I had finally found another way.
Spanakopita in its simplest form is oil, spinach, onion, cheese, egg (to bind it altogether), and maybe a few spices to enhance the flavor. Wrap all this in dough and then bake it. I looked at many recipes and almost no one makes spanakopita in its simplest form. Some recipes called for as much as a cup of olive oil or a stick of butter. Others swamped the spinach in masses of green onions or leeks. Still others bury it under mounds of cheese. I wanted a balance of ingredients, but I wanted the spinach to be the star of the dish.
This meal turned into a bit of an Iron Chef thing. My lamb marinade, lemon rice and Greek mushrooms all had lemon in them. On her own Jan had decided to make a lemon bundt cake. Only this dish did not have lemon in it. I was thinking about replacing the lemon in one of the dishes with sherry vinegar to mix it up a little. And gee, the zest was just sitting there. The long and short of it is a pinch just kind of fell in as I was sautéing. My bad.
1 lb. fresh baby spinach (or ¾ lb. frozen)
½ cup green onions, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg, fresh grated
1/8 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbs. panko (bread crumbs)
½+ cup crumbled feta
7-8 Asian egg roll wraps
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1. Blanch the spinach, bring a large pot of water to a boil and then put in the spinach (fresh or frozen) for two minutes. Drain the spinach and then put it in ice cold water. Drain again and the take fistfuls of the wet spinach and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. This process leaves you with little sausages of spinach. Chop these into fine shreds.
2. Sauté the onions, and garlic in the olive oil for 2 minutes in a medium skillet.
3. Add the spinach, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and sauté for two minutes more, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Tip: You do not want the mixture completely dry, but it should not be soaking wet.
4. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool completely.
5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs slightly and then stir in the spinach mixture, panko, and feta until they are well combined.
6. Asian eggroll wraps are very thin sheets of pasta (not as thin as fillo, but still thin) and they come frozen. Take them out to defrost 25 minutes before using. For this recipe I separated half of the sheets, by sticking a knife down the middle of the stack, and kept the rest frozen for another meal.
7. Lightly Pam a baking dish.
8. Put the spinach mixture in a quart plastic bag. Seal the top and cut one corner off the bottom so that the hole formed is about ¾ of an inch in diameter (about half an inch in from the point of the corner).
9. Lay one eggroll wrap down and pipe a log of spinach mix about 1/3 of the way across the wrap.
10. Lift the short side of the wrap over the spinach and then continue until you have a snug roll.
Tip: The spinach should fill the role to the ends, but not be sticking out. Add or remove spinach as necessary.
11. When all of your wraps are filled, carefully cut each one in half and lay them in the baking dish. Do not crowd the dish.
12. Brush the tops with the butter and bake for 20-23 minutes at 400°F, until the tops of wraps are browned.
13. Garnish with a bit of crumbled feta.