Quarantine Spanakopita

By Maria Diamantis

When I was a student at the McGill Music faculty, my colleague asked me do you like to bake? I replied with a question, do I like to eat? She then said, I guess we (operatic singers) all love to eat.. let’s face it, the most popular blogs, shows, articles, etc. are mostly all about food and recipes! Well, I chose to do an article, totally inspired by this quarantine. Normally before this isolation, I couldn’t and wouldn’t bother with baking. Of course, having a Greek mother, she would never understand why I couldn’t find the time to bake anything. Picture a Greek mother questioning her daughter:” I don’t understand why you don’t bake, it’s not difficult!”
Well guess what mom, now I have the time! But then the next question was: Do I have all the ingredients? The other day, I was craving a very popular Greek food, Spanakopita [Spinach-pie] (technically, according to the ingredients found in this food, it is called Spanakotiropita [Spinach Cheese-pie], but who wants to pronounce all of that?
So, I made a checklist: Spinach (duh), dill, onions, hey I even have chopped leeks in my freezer! Chicory (found it in the vegetable drawer, so anything goes, anything leafy is a great addition or substitution) Feta Cheese (phew), Olive oil and finally Phyllo dough…Uh oh! None of that!
Ok it’s not going to happen, forget it, I’m not running out to the grocery store…again…Do I really need to wait in line for my turn, wear a mask, get disinfected and the worst of it all, is that interrogation! “I don’t have the symptoms, nope I didn’t travel abroad, NO!! I wasn’t exposed to anyone who has covid”, all this time answering with muffled no’s whilst my glasses fogging up from my mask.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for all these precautions taken!
This is when I dug into the pantry, and opened the container of flour, donated by my mother of course, being Greek, she has everything in stock…and a rolling pin! Yay, I’m ready to make my own Phyllo dough. It turned out delish!
Here’s the recipe:
First, Make the dough:
• 2-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
• 1/2 tspn salt
• 2/3 cup warm water
• 1 tsp dry yeast added to the water (wait 10 minutes for it to activate)
• 1/8 cup olive oil (for basting and sauteing)
• 1 tbspn red wine vinegar
• Makes apx 2 sheets (12 inches x 10 inches) each, once rolled up, it becomes 10 inches x 3 inches
Simply add flour to a mixing bowl and form a small well in the centre of the bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, combine them well with your hand and knead into a ball. Leave it aside to rest
Make the filling:
Ingredients:
• 2 onions, chopped
• 1 spring onion, finely chopped (optional)
• 500g spinach, washed and roughly chopped (18 ounces)
• 200g feta cheese, crumbled (7 ounces)
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1/4 cup rice, or any other grain to absorb moisture , like quinoa, or bulgur wheat
• 1–2 tbsps fresh dill, chopped (optional)
• salt and pepper to taste
Instructions for the filling:
To prepare the filling for this spanakopita recipe, sauté the onions in some olive oil until softened .Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted. Cool it in a bowl, then squeeze out any excess liquid( this is why you need the grains for extra protection, you don’t want a soggy Spanakopita ) and mix in the feta, egg, spring onion and season. Set aside
Back to the dough.
Cut the dough into 2 halves. Roll out each ball with a floured rolling pin to achieve the given dimensions. Then add the filling like you would make a wrap, or enchilada, fold each side and roll up. Baste with olive oil.
Place in a greased pan, puncture each “enchilada “several times to let the steam escape, bake in a preheated oven to 365 degrees Fahrenheit for 1hr or until crisp.