FEAR OF FILO? TAKE THE PLUNGE WITH SPANAKOPITA

by Jan 15, 2021

My version of Spanakopita is probably not true to the classic Greek version. But then, as I have mentioned before, I feel recipes are jumping off points for creating food that fits you, your family, and your lifestyle.  When I first became aware of filo dough, I didn’t know how to spell it or pronounce it; I thought it rhymed with pillow. But no matter the spelling, phyllo, filo, or fillo are all pronounced as “fee-low”.

These little triangular packets have been enjoyed and loved by my family and friends for many years.  When I first started making them, in order to entice my children to enjoy “green things”, I added more cheese than I do now.  I stirred in parmesan cheese and a bit more feta, and they loved the salty cheesiness.  There were no “Yuck, what is this green stuff?!” questions or comments because they loved the buttery flakiness of the phyllo dough and contrasting soft filling. If you have some little ones in your household who like to avoid green vegetables, use the greater amount of cheese and be sure to include the parmesan in the filling. 

I often make these ahead, freeze them unbaked, then bring them out to bake when I need them. Or I make them a day ahead, and keep them in the refrigerator, covered, until baking time.

Some people worry about handling phyllo dough.  Remember these four things about phyllo dough and you won’t have any problem working with it:  

  1. Frozen filo dough is very brittle and will crack if mishandled, so keep the package flat. Do not shove it into your grocery bag or into a too-small-spot in the freezer/refrigerator.
  2. Plan ahead and thaw the dough in the refrigerator. You can keep unopened, thawed phyllo in the fridge for up to a month.
  3. Assemble all the ingredients before unwrapping the phyllo to keep the dough from drying out.
  4. Once opened, keep the dough covered with a cloth.
  5. If you tear a piece of phyllo by mistake, don’t worry. You can patch pieces together with butter or oil and no one will ever know.

I have often read that you should cover the dough with a damp (not wet) cloth. When I started using phyllo, I dutifully moistened a cloth kitchen towel, wrung it out, and placed it on top of the phyllo.  Sometimes I had a mushy mess because they layers melted into each other. 

Then I tried covering the dough with plastic wrap or waxed paper and then the damp towel.  I didn’t like having to take off two layers to get to the dough.  And besides, sometimes the bottom layer shifted, and I still had damp dough sticking together.

Now I just cover the phyllo with a dry kitchen towel and work at a steady pace. I don’t hurry, and I make sure I have enough space for the covered dough, butter/oil, filling. Then I just get to work and plod along until finished. 

  1. Remove the dough from the wrapping and unroll it.
  2. Place it on a clean, dry surface.
  3. Place a dry kitchen towel over top.
  4. Fold the towel back.
  5. Take out two or three layers (whatever the recipe says).
  6. Put the towel back over top.
  7. Lay out one piece of phyllo, butter or oil it.
  8. Put another layer on top.
  9. Use a pizza cutter to cut the phyllo in fourths lengthwise.
  10. Add filling.
  11. Flip the top edge over to make a triangle; keep rolling and folding over as if folding a flag.
  12. Brush tops with butter; refrigerate, freeze or bake as directed.

SPANAKOPITA

  • 1 Pound Phyllo Dough
  • 1 Package Frozen Chopped Spinach (10 Oz.), thawed
  • 6 -8 Ounces Feta Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder or 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Large Egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 -3/4 pounds Butter, melted

Drain spinach; squeeze spinach in kitchen towel to extract any additional moisture.  Stir together with cheese, onion powder, and egg.  Unroll phyllo dough, keeping unused portion covered with a kitchen cloth.  Lay one sheet out, brush with butter and place second sheet over top, also brushing with butter.  Cut dough lengthwise into 4 strips.  Place one teaspoon filling at one end.  Fold the corner up over to form a triangle.  Continue folding in a triangle shape (as if folding a flag) until entire strip is folded.  Brush end with butter to secure.  Repeat with all filling and dough.  Brush any additional butter over top.  May be frozen or refrigerated (covered) at this point.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 15-20minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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