Spanakopita

I have a friend that loves Greek food, I mean LOVE and she is Italian. I remember making individual triangle spanakopitas, from none other than Ina Garten, for a school project and a friend of ours did not want to eat it so he threw it out. Needless to say, she was quite sad about it. So this is for you Lauren!
If you happen to live in New York and travel to Astoria, where Greek food is prominent, you should check out Titan foods. It’s a Greek supermarket with every Greek food imaginable.

Spanakopita
Adapted from Food.com
The recipe for this spanakopita is different than that one I made before because I made it into a large pie, phyllo dough, filling, phyllo dough. I learned that this is the true way it is made from an authentic Greek person and from reading multiple recipes.
I took a shortcut when oiling the phyllo dough. I used cooking spray instead of brushing on extra virgin olive oil since it was so much easier. I also, (you don’t have to do this) added panko bread crumbs in between the layers with the olive oil to help separate the layers.

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All the lovely ingredients. Sadly the lighting was bad so I needed to use flash and I really don’t like to use flash.
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Spinach mixture with feta cheese!
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Spreading out the ingredients on the of the bottom layer of phyllo dough.
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Covering the filling with the remaining phyllo dough and sprinkling a little panko in between the layers.
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Look the flaky golden brown goodness!
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Yum! the spinach and feta cheese!
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Pastry :
1 lb country-style phyllo pastry (if you can’t get that, regular phyllo pastry will do)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Spinach Filling :
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs spinach, cleaned, tough stems removed (you can use frozen spinach)
6 spring onions, cleaned, sliced in 1/4 inch lengths
1 leek, white and tender part of green, cleaned, sliced in 1/4 inch lengths (if very large, slice leek in half lengthwise before slicing)
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
3/4 cup fresh dill, minced
1/2 – 1 lb (1-2 cups) feta cheese, crumbled
3 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions and leek until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and saute until the leaves have wilted. Then remove the spinach mixture from the pan and drain out the water.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool somewhat. When cool enough to handle, finely chop the spinach and place in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Lightly oil a 12 inch in diameter, metal baking pan (you can use a larger baking pan – you will just have a thinner pie, but don’t use a smaller one), or a 10 x 15 inch rectangular baking pan.

Add dill and feta cheese to the spinach. Add salt and pepper to taste (careful with the salt – the feta will add quite a bit of its own). Pour the eggs over and give a stir to combine well.

Open up the phyllo pastry and place on a work surface. If using the country style pastry proceed, if using the thinner phyllo; cover with a damp cloth. (Continue to cover the pastry sheets with the damp cloth each time you remove one as you prepare the pie.).

Layer the phyllo in the pan, allowing the edges to hang over the sides of the pan, brushing each phyllo layer generously with olive oil.
Use up half the phyllo sheets (about 10 sheets) to make the bottom pastry layer, allowing excess pastry to drape over edge of pan.

Put the spinach mixture in and press the top down gently to smooth filling. Tuck in the pastry draping over the edges.
Repeat layering with the remaining phyllo, oiling each sheet generously.

Using a sharp knife, score the upper layers of pastry into the size pieces you will want to serve once the pie is baked- BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT THROUGH BOTTOM PASTRY.

Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for approximately 40-45 minutes until it is golden brown.
Cool till just warm. Cut into serving pieces and serve either just warm or at room temperature. .

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Pesto

I love the smell of basil and lemon! Making this pesto is simply the best way to incorporate those two ingredients. A very simple and easy recipe that can be used with pasta, shrimp, tomato & mozzarella, omelets, and well anything you want. Even better is that you can keep pesto for a long time in the freezer. Yum!
I saw this recipe on the food network a long time ago when Dave Lieberman was hosting his show and from then on I kept making this recipe over and over again.

Pesto
Adapted from Dave Lieberman
After making this recipe a million times I tweaked it to my preference such as not adding garlic, less extra virgin olive oil, switching nuts and the rest is all to your personal taste. The reason i switched nuts is because if you have bought pine nuts you know that it is more expensive than walnuts, almonds, etc. As for the oil, I felt that it was a bit much for me since the oil would float to the top when the pesto was resting; I know that is quite normal but that is just me, you can put more oil if you would like.
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Colorful ingredients going in the blender. If you have a large food processor, I think that it would be easier to get the pesto out rather than struggle with spoon trying to scoop out every last bit.
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Finished product.
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Nothing like pesto pasta. yum!
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5 big handfuls basil leaves (about 2 hefty bunches)
1/2 cup pine nuts or 3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Juice of 1 small lemon
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until pesto is thick and smooth.