I woke up feeling a bit giddy this morning.
It’s not just that it’s Friday, or that the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect, though all of that could explain it easily enough. I think it was because I knew I’d get to spend the first part of my morning writing here, hanging out with you, and participating in my very first Let’s Lunch! That’s a nice way to end the week, don’t you think?
For those of you who don’t know about it already, the Let’s Lunch group hosts a virtual potluck lunch once a month. The group chooses a lunch theme and then the participants post their interpretation of that theme on their blogs on the same appointed day. I know! Isn’t that cool?!
The theme for this month’s lunch is “pie”, sweet or savory (or both).
Sometime right around the time the theme was chosen, M and I were messing around with making goat-milk feta, so it didn’t take me long to settle on making a spinach pie with feta. Our fridge was bursting with feta and the farm stand was bursting with spinach and scallions.
I wanted to make this spinach pie a bit “goaty”, so I added some home-made chevre to the recipe on top of the goat-milk feta. I don’t think it affected the flavor much (not as much as I’d hoped), but it did make the filling extra creamy and luscious. If you don’t like goat flavor, by all means, use sheep- or cow- milk feta and omit the chevre. Or try adding a few ounces of crème fraiche, marscapone or other soft, spreadable cheese to get that creamy texture.
The process for making spanakopita is mostly very simple: wilt the spinach either by stirring in a hot pan or blanching briefly in boiling water (you can even use a package of defrosted, chopped frozen spinach if you’re in a pinch); saute the scallions in a little olive oil for a few minutes to bring out the fragrant flavors; then mix the greens (spinach, scallions, chopped dill, chopped parsley) together with the cheeses, a couple of lightly-beaten eggs, a little salt and a touch of nutmeg or any other spices you like.
The one semi-tricky part of making spanakopita is handling the phyllo, but as I keep re-learning, the best way to deal with phyllo (and most other things) is to be patient with yourself and just relax about it all.
There are all sorts of tips out there for handling phyllo to keep it from drying out, and for working really quickly, and for getting really smooth layers. All I can say is that when I relax and don’t worry about it, it works out just fine. If it rips, so what? A typical package comes with many more sheets than you’ll need for one pie; don’t stress about tossing a few if you have to. Anyway, once you layer the sheets down and brush with olive oil, cover it with spinach and cheese, and bake it, it all comes out flaky and delicious, rips or no rips. That said, I included a link in the recipe (at the end of this post) for a video that shows one way to handle the phyllo with ease.
I had originally planned to just make the one pie, but it’s rhubarb season around here and I couldn’t resist making my favorite rhubarb crisp recipe, which is so easy and perfect, I really could make it every night while the rhubarb lasts.
This is a rhubarb-only crisp, but you can certainly add strawberries if you like. I used to make it with strawberries, but once, when our rhubarb crop exceeded our strawberry balance, I tried the rhubarb on its own and discovered that I loved it that way.
You can assemble this crisp while the spanakopita is baking, then throw it in the oven when the spanakopita comes out and you’ll have a warm, fresh crisp ready for dessert.
For this recipe (in detail at the end of this post), all you need to do is wash, dry and chop the rhubarb into small pieces, and toss it with some sugar; in a separate bowl, mix up the topping (flour, brown sugar, ground ginger, butter).
Assemble the crisp by putting the sugared rhubarb in a baking dish (or in ramekins, as I did), sprinkling on the topping, and then baking for about 40 minutes.
Because we are crazy goat people, I topped mine with a little goat-milk gelato, but the crisp is just fine on its own. It makes a pretty nice breakfast, too.
Thank you, Let’s Lunch friends, for inviting me into your group and giving me a great excuse to make pie! I love the idea of this group. The only flaw I see in the concept is that the lunch is virtual. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all meet on a tree-shaded hillside on a warm summer day, lay all our pies out on long wooden tables, and taste a slice of each in person while we gossiped, sipped wine, and watched the children and dogs play? *sigh*
For now, readers, you can join in the virtual lunch by making your own pie. For inspiration, take a look at the pies my fellow Lunchers have made for today:
Pilaf pie with chicken, sultanas and sweet spices ~ from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Japanese curry pot pie ~ from Cheryl at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Lime custard n curd pie ~ from Charissa at Zest Bakery
Nutella hand pies ~ from Cathy at Showfood Chef
Dirt pie with compost cookie crust ~ from Linda at Free Range Cookies
Pecan pie ~ from Rashda at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Summer chicken pot pie ~ from Denise at Chez Us
Three Recipe Lemon Meringue pie ~ from Mai at Cooking in the Fruit Bowl
Maine Summer Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Lemon/Lime Ice cream
~ from Caitlin at Caitlin Shetterly
Chicken Pot Pie ~ from Danielle at Beyond the Plate
Chinese sausage and roasted sweet potato hand pies ~ from Emma at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Berry-Lemonade Icebox Pie ~ from Steff at The Kitchen Trials
(Adapted from “Greek Spinach & Feta Pie”, by Susanna Hoffman, Fine Cooking Magazine)
- 2 pounds fresh spinach, washed, dried, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus approx. 1/3 cup for brushing on phyllo
- 1 bunch scallions (approx 3 oz.), white and light-green parts only, trimmed and finely chopped
- 10 oz. crumbled feta cheese OR 7 ounces crumbled goats’ milk feta cheese and 3 ounces chevre
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- Frozen phyllo dough sheets (9×14-inch), thawed and at room temperature
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 375°F.
- Wilt spinach by heating a large saute pan over medium-high heat, adding a few handfuls of spinach at a time, and cook while tossing gently with tongs. Continue adding handfuls of spinach until all of the spinach is wilted and bright green, about 3-5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the spinach to a colander set in a sink. Let the spinach drain and cool slightly, then use your hands or the spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Wipe the pan dry with a paper towel, then heat the 3 Tbs olive oil in the pan over medium heat.
- Add the scallions and cook until they are soft, about four minutes.
- Add the spinach to the scallions, mix, and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl and let cool for five minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients (cheeses, eggs, dill, parsley, nutmeg, and salt) and mix thoroughly.
- Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with olive oil.
- Line the bottom and sides of the pan with several sheets of phyllo, brushing olive oil on each sheet of phyllo before placing the next one on top. For a nice demonstration of how to line the pan with phyllo, see this video on YouTube.
- Spread the filling evenly over the phyllo.
- Repeat the oiling and layering of several more phyllo sheets to cover the top of the pie.
- Brush the top of the last sheet with olive oil
- Bake the spanakopita until the top crust is puffed up and golden, about 40 minutes.
- Let cool before cutting with a sharp knife.
(Adapted from “An American Place”, by Larry Forgione)
For the filling
- 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed, washed, dried, and cut into 1/3-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup sugar
For the topping
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Place the rhubarb pieces in a bowl, add the sugar, and toss well. Let sit for 20 minutes, until the rhubarb starts to release some liquid.
- While you wait for the rhubarb, combine all the topping ingredients in a small bowl and gently mix with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Divide the rhubarb mixture evenly into eight 1 1/2 x 3–inch diameter ramekins.
- Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit-filled ramekins.
- Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet for easy transfer to/from the oven.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.