SPANIKOPITA: CHEF TALK and COOKING PROGRAM on Greek Layered Phyllo Pie with Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Feta
Everyone who loves Greek food knows spanakopita — a flaky pie stuffed with spinach and salty feta cheese in-between thin layers of buttery phyllo dough. But just how and why did this savory pastry become nearly synonymous with Greek cuisine?
There is both scholarly and political debate as to where and how the first spanakopita originated and developed. One popular theory is that the Greek version was influenced by the Turkish ispanakli tepsi böreği, a spinach-stuffed pastry made from layers of thin dough (yufka) once prepared in the royal kitchens of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. It is believed that while under Ottoman rule the Greeks adopted and adapted this basic recipe by adding their own sheep’s milk feta cheese and horta or wild greens (such as dill, mint, and chard) to the spinach to create hortapita or “greens pie.”
Today, variations of stuffed and thin-layered pastries are prepared under a variety of names throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. During the Greek Orthodox/Christian period of Lent preceding Easter, non-dairy/vegan versions (spanakopita nistisimi) are often prepared that leave out the cheese and eggs. During Passover, certain Greek-Jewish communities prepare a non-dairy spinach pie with a crust made of matzah meal in place of the wheat-based phyllo dough. In Syria and Lebanon, small triangular-shaped pies made out of a thin dough called warka are stuffed with spinach and lemon then folded and baked. In the Balkans a Bulgarian pie called banitsa is made by pouring a mixture of yogurt, eggs and feta cheese over rolled layers of phyllo dough and baked. And in North Africa, thin round pieces of dough made with semolina called brik are stuffed with various fillings, folded into triangles, and deep-fried until crispy.
In this interactive hands-on seminar Jennifer will teach you how to make this traditional Greek-style pastry that will impress any guest. You don’t have to be Greek to enjoy it!
Baby spinach leaves
Red or Green Swiss chard leaves
Sesame seeds (optional)
Flat leaf/Italian parsley
Vegetable or canola oil
Grated Parmesan cheese
Feta cheese1 pound phyllo dough (1-pound box)
Measuring cups and spoons
Large cutting board
9x13x2-inch baking pan
Pastry brush or folded paper towel
Large skillet and mixing spoon
Light clean kitchen towel