Courtesy of The New York Times Cooking
Buttery, bright and herbaceous, this recipe is a faster take on the Greek spinach and feta pie and far less effort than forming individual triangular spanakopita pastries. A combination of stovetop cooking and oven baking ensures that the filling stays moist while the crust gets crisp. First, the spinach is cooked down in a mixture of butter, garlic and leeks until it wilts enough to release any moisture. Then, the filling is prepared, and the spanakopita assembled in the skillet. Give the phyllo a head start on the stovetop, then transfer to the oven so the spinach filling cooks through at the same time the phyllo becomes flaky. The timing may be precise for the cooking, but you can eat it whenever you want: This spanakopita is just as good at room temperature as it is warm.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 2 medium leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds), white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (about 3 cups)
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 ½ pounds fresh baby spinach
- ¾ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus 2 teaspoons juice (from 1 large lemon)
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 6 ounces fresh Greek sheep’s-milk feta in brine, drained and crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups feta)
- 8 sheets phyllo dough of any size (see Tip), thawed, laid flat on a sheet pan and loosely covered with a towel
- In a large (preferably 10-inch) cast-iron skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add one large handful of spinach at a time, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and stir until wilted, until you’ve added and seasoned all of the spinach and the mixture is thoroughly combined, about 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool.
- Arrange an oven rack in the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the parsley, dill, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Working with about 1 cup at a time, transfer the spinach mixture to a fine-mesh strainer or sieve set in the sink and press the mixture to remove as much liquid as possible, then add to the parsley mixture. Stir to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Feta is salty, so season very lightly with salt here.) Stir in the eggs, then gently fold in the feta, doing your best to leave the larger chunks intact.
3. Prepare the phyllo crust: Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel. In a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter; set aside. Brush the bottom and sides of the skillet with melted butter. Working quickly with one phyllo sheet at a time, lightly brush the top of one sheet with butter, then lay it in the skillet, buttered-side up, with an overhang on all sides. Gently press it in to eliminate any large air bubbles between the phyllo and the pan. Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets, rotating each sheet in a different direction as you add it.
4. Spoon the spinach-feta mixture into the skillet, spreading in an even layer. Working with one tip of overhanging phyllo dough at a time, starting with the top layer first, lift it over the spinach-feta mixture and toward the center of the pan, loosely crinkling it as you go. Repeat with all of the phyllo sheets, then lightly brush the exposed surface of the phyllo with butter. (You should have a circle of uncovered spinach-feta mixture in the center, surrounded by a ring of crinkled phyllo dough.)
5. Cook over medium heat on the stovetop for about 5 minutes to crisp the bottom crust. Transfer to middle rack of the oven, and bake until phyllo is golden and the filling is warmed, 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Remove from oven, and let sit 10 minutes to cool and firm up. Sprinkle small sprigs of parsley and dill over the spinach-feta mixture, if desired. Slice into 6 to 8 wedges to serve. The spanakopita can be served warm or at room temperature.
Tip: Phyllo sheet sizes may vary by brand, but any size will work here. Any overhanging phyllo will be scrunched up to form the top crust.