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
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.