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Friday
Mar252011

Spinach and Feta Pie, and Food Snobbery

Spinach and Feta Pie

Aside from being addicted to muffins, chocolate, the flavor combo of raspberry and lime, and well…lots of other foods, I’m also addicted to spinach and feta. Wrap it up in crispy, flaky phyllo, and I could eat it every single day. I’ve been in love with it since I was a kid. And lucky me, there’s a Greek Festival in my city that takes place during my birthday week every single year. Can you guess what I ask for? Yes! Spanakopita. You have to get there early, too. Seems it’s usually the first thing to sell out, so I’m not alone in my addiction. Luckily, Billy is a morning person--so he usually gets there first thing--and can live to tell about it. Those crowds are wild!

Before I go on, I’d like to address something that’s been bothering me lately. Food snobbery.

*Begin Rant* It’s everywhere, it seems. And let me clarify--I’m all for using whole foods and avoiding processed foods whenever possible. One step further-if you can use organic foods, that’s even better! But…that’s not always feasible. Ask the single mom of 3 kids that’s working two jobs to make ends meet why she isn’t buying (more expensive) organic foods. Ask her why she may take a couple of shortcuts (and used a processed item or two) when making dinner. I’ll bet she’d give you an earful of “why.” Ask the man who supports his family and just lost his job the same questions. Then maybe ask the people working like dogs all day long, and schlepping their kids around afterschool and evenings, why they don’t have the energy to plant a garden. While gardening is amazing and rewarding, it’s a LOT of work. There’s also an initial investment when you start a garden-you need plants or seeds, and all of the supplies that go along with that. Yeah, seeds are cheaper, but you still need planting supplies. Could be that maybe some people can’t afford that. It’s a sad but true fact. Then there are the folks that live in inner cities or apartments that don’t have any space for a garden at all. This article from my friend Lisa also explains this point very well.

So. This leads me to food world snobbery.

Have we gotten so snobby that one can’t even accept a spin on an original idea? We’d all be eating the same things if no one ever said “Hey, I like your idea! What if I change it up a little by adding this or that?” Why do some feel the need to knock you down because they think they know better? Isn’t it more tactful to say “Wow, that looks great! Maybe next time, you’d like to try it the way it’s done in (insert geographical location)--here’s my recipe for it.” It’s good to be adventurous and try new things. Adapting is good, folks.

Believe it or not, I was (very recently--like this week) accused of misrepresenting a culture’s street food on my blog. Seriously? Seriously. A few clicks and you can tell what recipe/post got someone’s pants in a wad. Wow. Uptight much? I even stated in the post (oops, now I’ve gone and given you the link!) that I couldn’t vouch for authenticity. And yet, this person jumped on it literally two seconds after I tweeted the post link. Yes-it was nearly the next tweet in Twitter’s timeline. Funny, because out of all the people I follow on Twitter, I knew that if anyone would say something, it would be this person. I was right! “Must have a list of links--at the ready! So I can set these poor, starving people straight!” Excuse me while I roll my eyes once again.

One of Julia Child’s favorite things was getting a hot dog from Costco. It’s true! Julia wasn’t a food snob. And yet--some food bloggers think they can scoff and condescend if you don’t meet their standards. The condescension is what gets me the most annoyed. I don’t need cheese from an ancient breed of exceptional goats that only reside in the farthest reaches of the smallest village in the highest peaks of the Swiss Alps. Trader Joe’s will do just fine. and in a pinch? I’ll go to the regular grocery store. Gasp! My chocolate doesn’t need to be handcrafted from the worn hands of an ancient chocolate master that grows cocoa beans on ancient blessed cocoa bean lands. I’m perfectly fine with Ghirardelli.

Get the pole out of you know where and lighten up, please. You may find life and eating to be more fun and fulfilling. You might also gain some new friends! Check out this article. The James Beard Foundation has added a humor category to it’s annual awards. Apparently some food writers think it cheapens culinary journalism. Excuse me?! How backward is it to think that humor is a bad thing? I’ll never understand that kind of thinking.

As far as the post that earned me the “misrepresenting a Greek street food” tweet--does everything need to be corrected to suit someone’s opinion of  how it should be? This person also said he had to “set me straight” in Greek cuisine. Really? Oh, thank you for gracing me with your golden touch. Not. In fact, don’t touch me at all. Is a Spinach and Feta pizza not a spin on Spanakopita? Some guy or girl making pizza somewhere probably said “Wow, spinach and feta is a classic combo--let’s try it on pizza!” And one of my favorite pizzas was born on that day.

These spins on classic dishes may not be perfect or authentic, but you know what? It’s good, home cooked food and it’s delicious and it’s appreciated by the family. So who cares if a food snob doesn’t like it? I don’t. Not anymore. They’re not sitting at my table. *End Rant*

Spinach and Feta Pie

Spinach and Feta Pie

a take on this recipe from BBC GoodFood
makes 2 pies, but you can cut it in half to make just 1

6 (10 oz) bags fresh spinach
2 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
5 eggs, beaten well
1 1/2 cups cooked, diced mushrooms
1 box frozen Phyllo dough
melted butter and olive oil, for brushing between dough layers

Heat the oven to 350. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add the spinach, covering with a few tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes, until wilted. Remove from pan and continue until you've used all of the spinach. Set in a colander to drain.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, again, working in batches, place the spinach in a clean tea towel, and squeeze out as much water as you can. There will be a lot, but get the spinach as dry as possible. Roughly chop the spinach and place it in a medium bowl.

To the spinach, add the feta, dill, lemon juice, eggs and mushrooms. Mix well, set aside.

You can do this in one larger pan or pie plates, but I use 2 (9 inch) cake pans. Follow the directions for using Phyllo that are on the box. Basically, you're going to layer in sheets of the dough, leaving some overhanging the sides of the pan. Continue going all around the pan a few times--so three turns of the pan = 3 layers of sheets. Use the olive oil whisked with the melted butter to brush between the layers. Make sure you've got enough butter set aside for this. Don't start the recipe with only half a stick of butter in the fridge. Plan on at least one, mixed with a fair amount of oil. I didn't measure, just eyeballed and added till I had enough.

Divide the filling between the two pans, and then fold up the edges of the overhanging dough to cover the filling. Add a couple more sheets of dough to the top if you need to. I just loosely dropped a couple sheets over the top of each pie. Brush the tops with the oil/butter mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes, until nicely golden brown on top.

  • A note about working with the Phyllo: I'm guessing some "experts" will say I'm wrong here, but yeah, it's a bit of a pain to work with. Every now and again I get a roll of it that simply won't cooperate. Follow the directions on the box as far as covering it with plastic and damp towels while you work. And if a few sheets fall apart? Don't sweat it! Just layer as best as you can, and fill in any spots with more dough. I think it's impossible to make Phyllo look bad after it's cooked. Any repairs that you make before baking won't show up when it's fully baked.
  • I like to serve this with a green salad, tossed with tomatoes, red onion, and cucumbers, along with this feta vinaigrette.
  • Now, of course you don’t need to make two pies. When I’m doing something like this dish that may be a bit of a pain (working with Phyllo, hehe) I like to make extra and get it all done at once. The cold leftovers are amazing, too! This makes great picnic food, as well.
  • Feel free to leave out the mushrooms if you like. I’ve also made this with the sundried tomatoes and that’s fantastic, too.
  • This would be a lovely addition to any holiday table. Easter will be here before you know it!

Enjoy! Even if it isn’t authentic, it’s damn good. Winking smile

Spinach and Feta Pie



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Reader Comments (36)

Thank you for the shout-out!

First, that spanikopita looks amazing. I could lick that off the screen right now as that is one of my many crack foods. I'll have to send you my standby recipe that uses a very easy homemade phyllo dough that is not what you think it is.

International, ethnic, regional foods are, like everything else, open to interpretation. We're not meant to make identical representations at home; rather, we are meant to make something that we enjoy, that may or may not remotely resemble the original. Indian food, for example, never tastes like anything you'd get over there; however, it tastes good, it's from scratch, you enjoyed it so who cares? All that matters is that you took an avid interest in another culture or location and turned it into something wonderful.

People are too easily led into the trap that is food snobbery. These people never truly enjoy the simplicity of a hot dog or a soft pretzel or a greasy piece of frighteningly cheap pizza. I often wonder if they're hungry all the time because they never actually enjoy their food, instead focusing on what is wrong with the dish in front of them.

This was a most excellent post. I love me a bit of sarcastic wit!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Thanks, Lisa-and you're welcome! "I often wonder if they're hungry all the time because they never actually enjoy their food, instead focusing on what is wrong with the dish in front of them." <--YES. You have to wonder. Criticize, or eat it with gusto and enjoy it for what it is?

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElle

I love spinach & feta pie and spinach & feta pizza even more! Forget about Peter, I was also surprised at how quick his response was. His loss ;-)

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Thanks, Kristen. ;)

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElle

First this is such a yummy dish! I love to take that filling & put it in small pie dough circle to make a hand pie, sort of a Greek meets MN pasty thing.

On the the rant. I say go ahead & mix up every cultures food all you want. Seriously, look at what we Americans consider Chinese, Indian or even a lot of Italian food. Are they traditional? No way, they are flavors of another cultured twisted to fit the tastes on your own. Does that make them wrong? If food tastes you & you like it, it isn't wrong.

I feel like everyone should eat the best food they can afford, non-processed, local, seasonal, even better but you know what, I eat a banana every morning & I don't see them growing in MN. & I'll readily admit to eating a McDonald's hamburger from time to time.

Sometimes it feels like no matter what you do there is always going to be someone out there who knows how to do it better & wants to make sure you know it.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkat

We just made Gyro last nite after seeing your post :P I used a mix of lamb/ground beef (still too lamb-y) for me, but my 1 year old loved it!

I'm in MA, where is this Greek Festival you speak of :)

And this Spinach and Feta pie has already been bookmarked. (and I plan on using frozen spinach, because its soo much cheaper. How un-foodie of me! :P)

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

I completely agree, Kathy! Even immigrants arriving in the US had to improvise and use what was available here in their traditional dishes. It's nothing new, so why it surprises and disgusts some people, I'll never know.

March 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterElle

My favorite example of non-snobbery is Jacques Pepin in the Fast Food My Way Cookbook (or maybe vol 2)....he makes a fruit pizza using a log of refrigerated sugar cookie dough, rolled out, as the crust. And he crushes up Durkee french fried onions and uses them to "bread" chicken for baking. If it's good enough for Jacques Pepin, it's good enough for me.

Also, I feel strongly that you can't make people feel bad about their choices, it'll make them lose interest in cooking. I don't know a single person who began cooking by preparing braised short ribs in red wine....they probably started with a casserole w/cream of mushroom soup. But they will probably evolve (and if they don't, that's their business). I recall during our Zaar days a few people were horrified by a new product....a frozen bag of meat, veggies & sauce, all ready to throw into the crockpot. I thought it was a good idea, because it would probably appeal to people who were currently living on fast food. This product could be the start of their becoming home cooks.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane

Jane, YES! So there you go, Jacques and Julia, neither of them food snobs. I remember that huge discussion, too! It at least could get a family around the table for a hot cooked meal, and not a burger and fries from the nearest joint. Definitely a good starting point and maybe a "Hey, that was good, maybe I can make it from scratch next time." Thanks so much for stopping by!

March 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterElle

Another spinach & feta addict here! Chiming in to say I'm drooling over that pie.

I'm also in agreement with you about changing things up. Isn't the beauty of blogging that we're all sharing what we've made and tweaked, and giving our feedback on what we love & don't love. Honestly, people - there's not much that's BRAND new under the sun. Just a lot of riffs on the same stuff. Nothing wrong with that.

My big complaint (which is probably the case here) are people who don't bother to actually READ a post before commenting. They often reveal their failings by making a comment that isn't even appropriate in the context of what is contained in the post. I'd much rather have LESS readers, but share my blog with people who really care about what I'm writing about, than have tons of readers who don't even bother finishing my posts...

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlo

I guess I'm Back-Asswards...I think a great cook is one who can make a delightful meal out of what's available. I'd eat at your table anytime, My Dear!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarissa

I couldn't agree with you more, regarding food snobbery. Unfortunately, whether the subject is food or politics or raising children, there's always a community of "purists" who believe that they know better than you do. I used to feel intimidated, but now I just kind of feel sorry for them. By their own impossibly high standards, they've shut themselves off from a veritable cornucopia of enriching experiences. Their loss.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRJ Flamingo

I am sorry.. I will only drink coffee made from hand picked beans by Juan Valdez himself..and I demand that it comes with a certificate of authenticity... I require all of my chocolate to b e created by the grandson of an Aztec priest who only makes truffles on a full moon when Venus and Jupiter are in direct opposition...
and I like to embellish and exaggerate quite a lot..it's a Texas thing..

On the other hand... the recipe for spinach and feta pie looks amazing.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermarye

Amen to this, sister. A BIG thumb's up from me...

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFeast on the Cheap

Holly--thanks for stopping by! It's the Glendi in Manchester, NH. Lots of fun!

lo-I have to agree with you on all of that! But in fact, this person *did* read the post. He said he gave me the link on Twitter and not on the post because, very ironically, I posted that I couldn't vouch for authenticity, so please no comments about how it was all wrong. He's just that arrogant, I guess.

Thank you, Marissa! I believe that, too. Improvising can make some beautiful food!

Renee, you what? You're right. It's kind of sad that some people are stuck in their own bubble.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElle

I could write a novella on how much food arrogance pisses me OFF, but I digress. Guess what? My idea of cooking at one time was opening a can of Chunky soup and putting it over Minute rice (yes, just like the commercial!), but then I learned that there is a whole other world out there involving food, mainly thanks to food blogs, and I eat drastically different now. If you get all preachy to someone about how they cook do you think it's going to help? Not a chance. That food isn't created with love it's created with pretentiousness and condescending attitude and those are seasonings I can certainly do without.

This pie looks ah-maaazing! If my husband didn't hate feta so much I'd be all over this. You've never seen a grown man contort his face in such a painful way at the mere mention of a stinky cheese!

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterApril in CT

First off, I liked your version of Greek Street Food. I get ideas from recipes and always change them to suit me or my family!! Like you said if we all made them the same how boring would that be? and if that's the case how come some well known "National" dishes vary so much from families and regions of that country. Like Brazil's national dish feijoada, or marinara sauce in Italy, or chili in America, or chai spice blend tea, in India and Asia, I could go on. But isn't that the fun of it adding your own twist? I do try to get locall ingredients and organic if I can, but like you said it's not always possible. I have a small family so it's a little easier, but boy do I feel guilty if I open a can of Campbell's soup to add to a casserole! It also scares me a little to have "Greek" or "Mexican" in the recipe title because of what some "purists" my say if it's not authentic! :(

I enjoy cooking and like finding new and different things. If my daughter and I see a fruit or vegetable that I we don't know what it is I'll get it just to try it. So we have fun discovering it and eating it they way we like it, and I blog about it, casual, try to add humor, to just your average people.

Second...I am glad you wrote this post, and I totally agree with you! I also I love feta and spinach together, and think this pie is awesome! I am going to try it. I like tomatoes with feta and spinach and have made a quiche with all three! hmmm...maybe I'll throw caution to the wind and add tomatoes :D

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLyndsey

Could not agree with you more. Someone raised hell on my strawberry cake kebobs this week (which only became makeshift "kebobs" because I failed the recipe) because technically kebobs are only "cooked meat." Please. People need to relax.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica @ How Sweet

This looks fantastic!

Great rant!! All your points are right on the spot. And what a lovely pie! :)

March 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

I read an article recently asking the question, "What is a foodie?" Many people (not foodies) consider them to be elitist snobs...quick to admonish or condemn if their standards aren't met. Wait...let me take a sip of my Lurisia water; fresh from Italy. :)

If that's the case I don't want to be a part of that elitism; the love of food, the sharing of traditions and the desire to make something your own should never be met with a notion that you are somehow 'not doing it right.' For whom?

Beyond that; where is the expectation of courtesy? Both the writer and other readers might enjoy a historical perspective if detailed in a way that doesn't condemn at the same time. Otherwise that's not just elitist; that's just plain rude.

March 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara | VinoLuciStyle

I have to say, the first thing that came to my mind when I saw that picture was spinach and feta pizza as that's the only way I'll eat spinach in the first place. I've heard some great things about Greek food but have never had a chance to try it myself. One of my Greek friends will be helping out at a local Greek festival so I'm hoping to spend the day learning more about their cuisine. Maybe I'll have a chance to try some spanakopita - if it doesn't sell out, of course.

As for your rant, I believe it is well deserved. Some people just place way too much importance on being "perfect" and trying reach some standard and ignore the purpose of good food - to provide a meal for yourself as well as those you care about. Food is love, delicious love that you eat.

March 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAleida

One of my favorite !! This is a wonderful pie, flavorful & delicate

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentera frog in the cottage

Hi Elle,

There are so many things I can write in response to this post, but first off I am under the impression that you spruced up some. The site looks fantastic!!

Although I once in a blue moon ravish a Hebrew National, by the time I have a second it does not have the same effect, and I find I could have slipped it. Due to severe allergies sometimes long ago we switched to organic diet when possible. It's hard since it is so much more expensive and it frustrates me terribly when people claim it is as cheap as other foods. They are obviously out of touch with reality. It will be nice to have subsidies?! for healthier food so it will be accessible to all.

I do as I mentioned above indulge in unhealthy foods once in awhile but ingeneral I don't believe in eliminations of certain foods, like fat (can be good for preserving) but believe strongly in moderation and well balanced life style. I am still struggling with that.

As to indignant comments and responses about the authenticity of a dish you feature on your site, I also recently had a comment about an Indonesian dish I featured on my site, how Westernized it was and how dare I not use a fish head. It is our space and you are right people need to lighten up. There are many reasons why we would change a recipe, on a whim, playfulness originality or some restrictions as say some family members might have say, allergies or certain preferences.

Ok, don't want to bore you with a super super lengthy comment, but great job on evoking a conversation and airing your thoughts.

Your friend,

Shulie

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfoodwanderings

WelI I, for one, loved your rant. Totally agree. I'm new to your blog and may have to try that Spinach and Feta pie. I'm on a spinach kick, too, right now and your recipe looks delish!

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKari

I would like to have one Greek Festival on my street too! Excuse me, but that pie is really inviting me to your table.
My favorite part of cooking is re-creating the recipes my way. It's nice to keep the cultural dishes untouchable, but that's why there are gastronomic fraternities for preserving the authenticity. At each one homes, creating is part of the cooking process. That was how, during history, the populations exchange ingredients and recipes. Otherwise, we'll be eating all the same old thing and never explore and find nothing new. How boring that would be? About the ingredients, every person has its own preferences, and when posted you can specify which ones you like and recommend, but that doesn't mean that your reader is going to follow exactly as it is. ;)

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthatshowiroll

Elle, I think your gyro looked great, in fact I made a similar version a few years back, and although it was not authentic, it sure hit my taste buds in all the right spots - and isn't that what is important. Most people probably think I am a food snob, in fact I often bitch about the importance of organics and local foods but I guess having the experiences I have had with other foods, is a basis for my choices. That is not to say that I won't eat other foods, but I do avoid them, if I can. Sometimes I can't - and well, that falls into my 20% category in the whole 80/20 a la Michael Pollan.

Thanks for explaining the plight of many Americans-eating healthy and organic can be very expensive and time consuming. Besides, isn't necessity the mother of invention? How many times have you come up with a new recipe that tastes great simply by using up what's in your cupboard or frig? This recipe looks great-can't wait to try it!!

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermary ann

Hurray, you are right about the snobbery BUT you are a true cook and can tweak recipes. I on the other hand am not - I HAVE to have a recipe. I may substitute but that is as adventurous as I get.

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Thank you so much, everyone, for your very thoughtful comments! I truly appreciate all of you taking the time to do so!

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElle

Down with food snobbery!! I love this post.

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatrina (Betty Ray)

I love your rant! The pie doesn't look to shabby either *drool*

April 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I'm late to the party but I just have to chime in...I agree with your rant, and I also think it's stupid to say if it's not made a certain way it isn't authentic. I'm Lebanese, and I can tell you right now, our way of making spinach pie is very different than the greek style...no feta, different spices, pine nuts (sometimes), the kind of pastry is different....and oh depending on which restaurant you go to, they make them differently, so you will detect different flavors. As long as it tastes good, who cares? And some restaurants will put their own spin on what is typically a classic dish--and some of those I prefer to the classic style.

FTR I love both versions :), it just seems to me that there are so many ways of making something, depending on your culture, your tastes....who is to say what is or isn't authentic? If it doesn't taste good to me, I don't eat it, simple as that :)

I'm definitely going to try your recipe, I just love spinach pie. If you are also a feta cheese freak like me, you should try tiropita too. It's the same kind of thing but it's strictly a cheese pie, usually made with milk and the spices are a bit different.

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarrie

Hi Elle:
As a fellow recipe writer/blogger, I wanted to tell you that I love your site. My best is from Vermont and everytime I come to your site, it makes me think of her and the feeling I get when I am in the New England area.

I made this recipe for my Bunco group last night and it was a hit.

As far as food snobbery, I might have been one. Working in NYC for 24 years I have spent a great deal of time in fine restaurants, but my real favorites were the holes in the walls. They made the best food. I love to cook and eat especially, but I think its just great when someone comes up with a new way to serve Spaghetti-O's. Keep up the good work, Lisa Montalva aka The Gourmet Mom

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Montalva

You go girl! Loved reading your rant and the fact that you're not afraid to tell it like it is! Your spinach and feta pie is one I'd be thrilled to make and eat. Hey wait, I can!!! Thanks for sharing your recipe. Print.

October 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRenee - Kudos Kitchen

Amen!!!

October 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKener

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