I found this recipe sitting among a large stack of Cooks Illustrated magazines. As usual, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted a spanakopita to be: crisp with a well-seasoned filling. Until stumbling upon this recipe, my spanakopita filling always seemed a bit bland and I wasn’t quite sure how to fix it. CI’s addition of mint, yogurt, and nutmeg is really nice. Those folks tend to take things to a whole new level. This recipe is incredibly easy to make, too!
If you’re like me, you avoided Greek food for many years after that week-long ouzo bender that ended with us waking up in the labyrinth at Knossos being chased by the Minotaur.
What’s more, ouzo is gross. Who ever said, “If only we could get rocked on 80-proof black licorice, then learn that while we were blitzed, our smartarse sculptor friends made statues out of us, only naked, and with no arms and tiny junk.” The Greeks did, that’s who.
So you can imagine my reluctance to try spanakopita. Well, I’m happy to report that it’s FANTASTIC. Absolutely no ouzo, but plenty of healthy spinach, feta, lemon juice, and filo dough (as in, “Filo it under ‘F’ for freakin’ delicious”). Not only was my spanakopita experience a taste awakening, but it was also happily free of both Minotaurs and nude statues.
PRO TIP: If you don’t want to make Bleu Legume’s recipe, and can’t find spanakopita in stores or restaurants, remember that the Romans were famous for changing the names of Greek things. So just as Zeus became Jupiter and Aphrodite became Venus, so spanakopita lives on today in many parts of the world as “flaky feta spinach sliders¹.”
¹ Epicitus’s Enchiridion, circa 125 AD
- 16 ounce frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
- 12 ounce feta, crumbled
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 4 medium scallions, thinnly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, minced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh dill, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 pound phyllo (14" x 9") thawed
- 1 - 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
- Pre-heat oven to 425F.
- Cook the spinach in the microwave until it's just warmed through, about 2 - 3 minutes. Place the spinach in a strainer, pressing down on the spinach to release as much of the liquid as possible. Mix the drained spinach and all other filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
- Line a 9 x 13 rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with parchment paper. Brush the parchment with butter and lay down the first sheet of phyllo. Brush the phyllo with butter, and layer on another sheet of phyllo. Repeat buttering and layering with 10 total layers of phyllo.
- Spread the spinach mixture over the phyllo, leaving a 1/4" border on all sides. Cover spinach mixture with 6 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter and sprinkling each with Pecorino cheese. Finish layering the remaining sheets of phyllo on top, brushing each just with butter before layering the next.
- Starting from the center and working outward, use palms of your hands to compress the layers and press out any air pockets.
- Use a sharp knife to score the top three layers of phyllo into 24 equal pieces.
- Bake until phyllo is golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet 10 minutes to 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.
I love these more than can be described in words. Everything about them is magic: the intoxicating scents of smoked tea and star anise that meander through the entire house, the beautiful marbling, even the shells are gorgeous. And this is all before they’re ready to eat. It is an almost torturous wait…
This recipe uses Lapsang Souchong tea which is smoked. It is phenomenal. I refer to it as the single malt scotch of teas. If you don’t have it on hand or can’t find it, use any black tea. The eggs will still be delicious. Even tea bags will work — use 4.
Chinese Tea Eggs (Cha Ye Dan)
- 12 large eggs
- 4 1/2 cups of water -- enough to cover eggs
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Lapsang Souchong tea leaves (8 grams)
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken roughly into pieces
- 3 star anise
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Using a medium saucepan, add eggs and water -- just enough water to cover the eggs. Bring to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes.Remove from heat.
- Remove eggs from water, leaving the cooking water in the saucepan.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the water that remains in the saucepan.
- Crack eggs gently with the back of a spoon or dull edge of a knife. Don't crack them so much that the shell falls off, but crack them enough to allow the liquid to seep through. It takes a little practice. If the shell does fall off in places, the marbling might be disrupted but they will still taste amazing!
- Place the eggs back into the pot with the now-seasoned water. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour.
- Remove from heat and allow eggs to steep overnight.
- After their overnight soak, remove the eggs from liquid.
- Serve with additional soy sauce, if desired.
Football season is upon us and this snack takes less than five minutes to throw together. Adjust the heat by using more or less jalapeno. Try it as a topping for scrambled eggs or breakfast burrito — if you can keep it around that long.
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