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Easy and Delicious Spanakopita Recipe

Niki Rothman | Nov 2, 200506:13 PM     4

A few months ago someone posted a question about peoples' secret food obsessions. I wrote about how I routinely brought home to SF, and froze, huge amounts of spanakopitas from a Monterey Lebanese deli. Well, my spanakopita accessibility problems are over!
My friend Estelle Eskenazi, a Sephardic Jew, gave me an easy and so, so, delicious family recipe.
So I'm here to share the love...

Estelle's Spanakopita:
This makes a big lasagna-like thing that you'll cut up into servings after baking - so much easier than all that folding.
Have all ingredients prepped and laid out conveniently on a large counter before opening defrosted filo dough.
When you unfold the filo dough, cover it with a damp cloth.
Preheat oven to 375 - use center rack.
19 x 15" glass lasagna pan
Cooling racks.

2 bags frozen chopped spinach - squeeze out water.
(I'm not sure of the weight, but they're the ones you most commonly see in the supermarket, I'd say each bag probably equals at least 2 boxes)
4 extra large eggs
#1 real NYC style farmer's cheese (ricotta is fine)
1 large onion - minced
#1 feta cheese in small pea sized chunks(Belgian is best,any from a Greek deli is good, supermarket feta is not so good - grainy)
1/2 # kashkaval cheese in small pea sized chunks
(if you really can't find kashkaval - a wonderful cheese - substitute a very high quality muenster, jack or fontina - melty but not stringy, so not mozzarella)
Plenty of coarse ground black pepper, no need for salt.

For Filo Dough:
You will use a whole #1 box
Melt #1 butter - brush in pan, then expose your filo dough and lightly brush the top sheet.
Place in pan. Don't worry that sheet is too big, just let the edges come up around the sides. Repeat with second sheet. Then start alternating laying the sheets to the left and right so they come up around all four vertical sides. I don't think you have to liberally brush every single sheet but you'll still use the whole pound (I actually used a mix of 1 cup olive oil and 1/2 # butter - but that was my choice).
Believe it or not, that filo dough is actually quite forgiving, if it rips, and it will, just make a patch.
When you've used half the dough, spred in the filling with a rubber spatula and repeat the buttered dough layers on top. Brush the very top layer quite liberally with butter.

Bake for about 40 minutes, but check at 30 mins.
It's done when LIGHT golden brown (don't go to fully golden or filo gets slightly bitter, but is still OK).
Cheese should be melty at the center.

Unless you're having a big party, and will be using it all at once,
immediately cut into squares that you can lift out with a metal spatula onto wire racks to cool.
(Don't wait because moisture will condense-> soggy)
When fully cool, the squares can be wrapped individually and kept refrigerated for a week, or frozen.
To re-heat: defrost and heat servings, or cut into cocktail size squares, on a sheet of aluminum foil, in a toast-r-oven at 325 or 350 - about 15 minutes. Just watch you don't over-brown it.

Doing this recipe cured me of my fear of filo. You always hear it's so tricky - I'd say it's actually kind of fool proof.
My friend Estelle told me the Sephardic Jews also make this with different fillings.
1) Mashed potatoes, eggs, cheeses, onion.
2) Cooked eggplant, cheeses, onion, eggs.
3) Sweet: pumpkin, spices, eggs, sugar.

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