Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spinach and Feta Spanakopita Strudel

Spanakopita is one of my favourite appetizers — the tangy combination of spinach, feta and dill is a near perfect flavour combination. However, phyllo pastry can be a real challenge when faced with hand folding bazillions of the little Greek triangles before the delicate pastry dries up before your eyes. 

I recall watching the The Barefoot Contessa on the food channel one evening and Ina Garten was making one long rolled Spanakopita! Inspired by her ingenuity, I grabbed a pen and paper and quickly scribbled down the essentials of her recipe. The following day, I bought the ingredients and following my chicken-scratch notes, made Ina's strudel-style Spanakopita. 

Amazingly, it turned out brilliantly! Flaky, delicious and so much easier to make than the traditional triangles, I doubled the quantity and made it again for an out-of-town family Christmas party. I brought them on a baking sheet, uncooked and wrapped in cling film. Scoring the top of the pastry before cooking makes slicing the strudel into bite size rounds, very easy. Half and hour in the oven and out they came, golden brown and smelling unbelievably good. Too good perhaps, because they were all gone in no time at all!

Spanakopita Strudel
Inspired by a recipe by Ina Garten

1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch chopped scallions, white and green parts

2 10-oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
7 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
40 sheets (1 box) frozen phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
Tzatziki, for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the scallions. Cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a bowl. Add the scallions, dill, eggs, feta, salt, and pepper and mix together.

Keep the phyllo dough sheets covered with a damp kitchen towel. Unfold 1 sheet of the phyllo dough. Brush the sheet with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Repeat the process by laying a second sheet of phyllo dough over the first sheet, brush it with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs until all 10 sheets have been used. Spoon ¾ cup of the spinach mixture into a sausage shape along one edge of the phyllo dough. Roll it up. Place it on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down. 
Brush the top with butter and score the roll into 1-inch rounds. Repeat until all the pastry and filling has been used.

Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden and browned. Slice the Spanakopita on a diagonal, in 1" slices, using the score marks as a guide. Serve slices warm, filling side up, with a bowl of Tzatziki on the side for dipping!