Traditional Spanakopita is a great comfort food, but your enjoyment comes at a price, which is often in the form of a lot of fat and unnecessary calories. I have seen recipes that call for, among other things, not one, not two, but three (!) sticks of butter and/or excessive amounts of cheese and olive oil. And those recipes are not feeding an army of hundreds; to the contrary, they typically only feed a few people…certainly not enough to justify such extremes. Those dishes are so bad for you that you can almost feel your arteries hardening as you eat them.
After getting frustrated that I could not eat this when I wanted to because of all of the unnecessary fat and calories, I thought that there had to be a better, healthier way to make this dish. I wanted to create a version that not only tastes just as good as those other recipes but also prominently features the true star of this dish, which is the spinach.
I use spinach on a regular basis in our eggs, soups, as a side dish, and even as a main course, because it is such a nutritious vegetable. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, C, B2, and folic acid, as well as a good source of minerals such as manganese, magnesium, and iron (you can find out more about this super vegetable from BBCGoodFood.com). In addition, spinach is also relatively inexpensive, which makes it both a nutritious and frugal option to serve as a vegetable at your table.
I make two different varieties of Spanakopita depending on what leafy green vegetables I have available in my garden or freezer. At this point in the year, I am usually out of the frozen Swiss chard and spinach that I put away from the prior season. So, for this recipe, I relied on frozen spinach as a base. I also exclude the butter and use only minimal amounts of olive oil and feta cheese.
I typically serve Spanakopita with Greek-style chicken (my recipe coming soon) or this fabulous Greek chicken meatball recipe that I found on Pinterest a few weeks ago.
- 3 - 10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup yellow onion, chopped
- ½ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- ½ tablespoon chopped mint
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 egg white (I use the equivalent in liquid egg white)
- 10 sheets phyllo dough
- Note: Phyllo dough dries out quickly so it is best to keep the dough refrigerated until you are ready to layer into the pan. You should work quickly in assembling the Spanakopita or you can lay a damp towel over the rest of the dough while you work.
- Thaw and drain 3 - 10 ounce packages of frozen spinach. Using a colander squeeze any excess water out of the spinach.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a pan. Over medium heat saute the chopped onion for 5 minutes until onions begin to look translucent. Add the drained spinach to the pan and saute for 3 minutes mixing onions into the mixture. Remove the spinach mixture from the heat and let cool.
- After spinach mixture is cool, add the chopped roasted red peppers, dill and mint into the spinach mixture. Next, add in the feta cheese and an egg white. Mix together using a spoon.
- Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a bowl. Brush surface of a 9x9 inch pan with olive oil.
- Working in a clockwise direction add two sheets of phyllo dough at a time to the pan by aligning three of the edges with the bottom surface of the pan and draping the remaining dough out over the edge of the pan. Brush that layer of phyllo dough with olive oil.
- Turn the pan clockwise and add two more sheets of phyllo dough in the same manner, as above. Then brush the layer with olive oil. Continue in this manner until dough is draped over all four edges of the pan as shown in this link. These two steps require a total of 8 sheets.
- Spoon spinach mixture into the pan and evenly spread over the phyllo dough.
- Layer 2 sheets of phyllo dough over the spinach mixture. Fold the dough from all four edges into the pan. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil.
- Bake in oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.