Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Manly Mike's Spinach Pie

Hey everyone!  Manly Mike is back ;)  This time with a Greek Favorite....and as you know, I'm a Greek gal and I love my Greek food.  Mike, however, is not Greek at all, so when he announced that he was bringing Spinach Pie as his contribution to our NYE dinner, I thought "wow, now that takes some guts to bring Spinach Pie to a Greek girls house".  I actually didn't just think it, I said it out loud to Mike, and I think his exact words in response were "well, Jen, you've got a point". :)  But, it was too late!  He was committed and I have to say he looked nervous upon serving it.  But, it was tasty and flaky and golden brown and the party goers loved it.  This thing was so gorgeous we took like 40 paparazzi pics of it when it made it's debut from the oven.  But again, not only was it gorgeous, it was truly tasty.  Mom!  This is not a Greek Spinach Pie, it's a different interpretation, but it's very reminiscent of the Greek version and has it's own personality.  Greek folks, just ignore the cottage cheese and cream cheese. It'll be alright, breathe deeply into a paper bag and try this recipe Manly Mike's will love the American twist.

It should be said that the blog owner does not agree with any of the forthcoming statements about any Food Network stars as listed in Mike's blog post.  I personally aspire to be the most conceited chef on the Food Network and would love to travel around the country schooling people on their signature dishes.  It would be a dream come true. Thank you. ;-)

Manly Mike's Spinach Pie

Spring is on the way, which means the family Easter party is right around the corner.  Are you tired of the same ole’ same ole’ family dishes?  Do you wish that Aunt Gertrude would bring something other than her green bean casserole?  Maybe Uncle Joe’s baked beans, a long family staple, are getting boring?  Grandma’s cheesy potatoes are…wait scratch that…cheesy potatoes are always welcome.  Are you continually insulted that your family only asks you to bring the pop and maybe a bottle of wine because they have no faith in your cooking abilities?  Well, have I got a dish for you!

It is a personal dish, and if I’ve learned one thing from the Food Channel, it’s that audiences like a good connection with the host, blogger, etc.  I, for one, get extremely bored at this point.  I could care less if Aarti Party’s mom used to make her this curry whenever she skinned her knee, or if Paula Dean tells a story about how she used to rub butter on her kids’ chests to fight their colds. I have no interest in hearing Bobby Flay explain how he went from the scrawny geek in high school to the most conceited chef on television (he has a whole show devoted to how he can cook your signature dish better than you).  And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ve terribly misread my audience.

Wow, I got off the subject and I’m two paragraphs in and I still have said what this dish is – it is my Dad’s spinach pie…wait, wait, don’t click the back button just yet, stay with me. I know spinach isn’t for everyone, but the irony bitter taste is sautéed right out, and in it’s place is a lot of creamy goodness with a satisfying crunch of the phyllo dough.  And I know I just explained that I tend to get bored when chef's or bloggers start reminiscing about childhood food memories, but my sister and I always looked forward to Christmas, because that was the time that my Dad would make this dish and it holds lots of great memories for me.  Ok, there, I've done it.  I've connected with you. Anyway, I’ve helped him in the past, but this past year, I finally gave it go on my own. 

This isn’t the traditional spinach pie that you would find in a Greektown restaurant, as our blog’s Greek hostess pointed out.  I’m ok with that and so was she, and the difference is the cottage and cream cheeses added to the filling.  It’s not that complex, but there is a little labor involved with the phyllo dough, but it is all worth in the end.

1 frozen package of phyllo dough (defrost according to the directions)
1 lb of fresh spinach, cleaned of thick stems
8 oz. feta cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. cottage cheese
1 small/medium chopped onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 Tbl fresh dill (or ½ Tbl of dried dill) – add more if you like dill, which I do
1 Tbl dried basil
1 stick of melted butter (or ¾ stick of butter with olive oil added)

1.      Saute the onion until it just starts to turn brown, add the garlic.  Set aside.
2.      Wilt the spinach by adding a little water the pan, cover on low heat).  As soon as it is wilted, drain the water.
3.      In a separate bowl, stir together the three cheese, onion mixture, and spinach.  The heat of the spinach and onion helps the cheese blend together.  No salt is necessary as the feta has enough of it.
4.      Stir in the dill and basil to taste.
5.      Prepare the phyllo:
a.       Find a pan that fits the phyllo.
b.      Use a baster brush to butter the bottom of the pan, then add one phyllo leaf at a time, buttering each on lightly.
c.       Use about half the phyllo leaves for the bottom (usually around 12 or so)
d.      Add the spinach mixture and spread evenly
e.       Add the second layer of phyllo continuing to butter after each leaf. 
f.       Gently cut the phyllo into serving size squares using a sharp knife, going almost through the bottom layer, it won’t hurt if you go all the way through)

6. Cover and bake at about 325 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and cook another 15 minutes.  You want the top layer to brown, but not dry out.  I had to use the broiler for the last 3-4 minutes.

This will be a great Easter dish. Christos Anesti :)  Enjoy! -Jen


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