Is it possible to make spanakopita quickly?
July 17, 2006
CONCORD, N.H. – Spanakopita from scratch to finish in under an hour?
It didn’t seem likely. Most recipes for this savory “pie” (made from layer upon layer of feta cheese, chopped spinach and parchment-thin phyllo dough) take more than an hour of assembly and baking.
I wanted something a little more weeknight-friendly. I’d recently been impressed by a technique that shaved time off a meat loaf recipe by baking it in muffin tins, rather than as a slower-cooking loaf. Should work for spanakopita, too.
It did, though I learned a few lessons over the course of half-a-dozen batches.
For my first attempt, I lined the muffin tins with phyllo, then heaped in the filling, capping it with several more sheets of phyllo.
It wasn’t a success. Traditional spanakopita has many layers of dough and filling. The lack of phyllo layered throughout the cheese and spinach produced a goopy, soggy mess. This was easily fixed.
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I also learned that while standard muffin tins work, oversized tins are even better. The spanakopita still cooks quickly, but the assembly is a little easier and one “muffin” is large enough to make a meal.
This recipe makes enough for four oversized cups, or about six standard muffin tins.
(Start to finish 45 minutes,
Olive oil cooking spray
10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
11Ú2 cups (about 1Ú2 pound) crumbled feta cheese
3Ú4 cup cottage cheese
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1Ú4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dill seed
1Ú4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Twenty 9-by-14-inch sheets phyllo dough
Preheat oven to 400 F. Liberally spray the muffin tins with olive oil. Set aside.
Place the spinach in a kitchen towel, wrap tightly and twist it over the sink to remove excess water. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and finely chop.
In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cheeses, onion, eggs, parsley, lemon juice, dill seed, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
Unfold the phyllo sheets on a dry counter, leaving them stacked. Using a large knife or pastry scraper, cut the sheets into halves vertically.
Gently press two or three pieces of the phyllo into each muffin cup. The edges of the dough should fold outward over the sides.
Lightly spray the phyllo with olive oil.
Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture in each cup. Press another two pieces of phyllo into each cup over the spinach. Lightly spray the phyllo with oil.
Continue layering spinach mixture and phyllo, lightly spraying each with oil. Finish with a spoonful of spinach mixture, then fold the edges of phyllo over the top.
Spray each cup again with olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges of dough are lightly browned.
If the phyllo browns too quickly, cover pan with foil.
Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.