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.
She says: Folks, this one is super simple to make. It’s also super inexpensive, super healthy, and super tasty.
Since lentils and rice have different cooking times, we’re going to partially partially cook the lentils before adding them to the onions and rice.
The deep fried onion topping is a nice, crispy addition. But, if you are short on time or even if you just want to save the calories and fuss, feel free to leave them out. This dish will be just as delicious!
He says: Although his accomplishment was unfairly overshadowed by Sir Edmund Hillary in the mid-’50s, sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the first person to summit Mt. Mujadara without the use of supplemental oxygen. And while the mountain continues to claim lives (as depicted most famously in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Tabbouleh), thousands gather at its base camps each year to test their mettle against Mujadara’s steep basmati slopes and unforgiving onion-scented winds.
Mujadara – Lentils, Rice, and Caramelized Onion
For the Mujadara:
- 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
- 4-5 medium onions, about 1 1/4 pounds, diced
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 cup basmati rice or coarse grind bulgur
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Sour cream or plain yogurt, for garnish
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
For the Fried Onions
- 1 medium onion
- 1/3 cup flour
- oil for frying
For the Mujadara:
- In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until caramelized, stirring occasionally to ensure they don't burn -- about 20-25 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, add 4 cups water with lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat
- When onions are caramelized, add lentils (and the remaining liquid), rice (or bulgur), and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the rice (or bulgur) are tender, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning. Add a bit of additional water if necessary.
For the fried onions
- In a small saucepan, heat about two inches of oil over high heat.
- Cut onion in half, from pole to pole. Slice onion into thin half-moon shapes.
- In a medium bowl, add the sliced onion and toss to separate the onion rings. Add flour and toss to coat.
- Fry the onions in batches, stirring a couple times to ensure even browning. When onions are golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
She Says: I like making these because the recipe is four-ingredient simple and non-fussy. Prep is easy because the potatoes don’t need to be peeled.
For best results, use fresh parsley; it makes a world of difference over the dried stuff. And do not use a non-stick skillet because you want the potatoes to get crispy and brown in spots. While the recipe calls for small, red potatoes, Yukon gold, fingerling, or petite potatoes would work equally well.
He Says: There have been many famous spuds throughout history: NBA point guard Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb, Bud Lite mascot Spuds MacKenzie, and early Soviet satellite Spudnik (which was built entirely from potatoes, and which distilled itself into ultra-flammable vodka to reach escape velocity). And although Bleu Legume’s parsley spuds aren’t a household name yet, they’re rising stars. I’d suggest getting their rookie card — it’ll be worth something someday.
- 2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Clean potatoes and boil until tender, about 20 minutes.
- Cut potatoes in half.
- Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes, cut side down. Cook until brown, about 5 - 10 minutes. Stir, and brown for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Sprinkle salt and parsley over potatoes.
Simply put: caramelized onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Though the recipe has no traditional Indian spices, I call it a chutney because it seems closer to that than a relish.
This can be used in a multitude of ways. Serve it alongside scrambled eggs, grilled swordfish, or roasted chicken. Use it as a filling for omelettes. Spread it on toast. It could even be mixed in with some pasta and topped with chopped basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Use it as a topping for focaccia. Spread it on a breakfast sandwich or add it to grilled cheese…
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, either diced or thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 29-ounce can diced tomatoes (or 2 pounds fresh)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.
- Add onions and cook until softened, about 10 minutes
- Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in brown sugar. Continue to cook onions until they become caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add tomatoes and salt. Increase heat to medium. Cook until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Near my husband’s workplace is a little place called Pita Land. It’s located in Brookline and is my primary source for beans and lentils (among other things) when making recipes such as ful medames and this lentil soup.
It’s simple, nutritious, and packed with flavor. Make a batch for weekday lunches. Or, serve for dinner as a comforting end to a hectic day.
Continue reading Middle Eastern Lentil Soup
“If this is what vegetarianism meant in most of the places that practice it in the West, I’d be at least half as much less of a **** about the subject,” — Anthony Bourdain
Continue reading Dal Makhani (lentils and butter)