Growing up, one of my favorite Middle Eastern treats was my momma’s spinach pies or as you all know it spanakopita. This isn’t your typical Greek spanakopita, it has an Iraqi flare with a little more cheese and a whole lot of flavor. You will love it just as much, if not better!
As I got older, I had become more fond of Middle Eastern food, more so from my Iraqi roots. After moving to DC, I quickly became aware that restaurant Middle Eastern food is not the same as a home cooked meal (Or more like feast). I started to miss my mom’s food. A LOT…
Until my husband told me “You should get the recipes from your mom and try to make the food your self.” Hmmm Okay! I call my mom and ask for some recipes… Well they weren’t so much as actual recipes but more like her version of “I’ll just add what I think tastes good.” I think I know where I get it from now… 😀
This is how our conversation went
“Add a handful of spinach but not a full handful and not an empty handful”
“Put the salt in your palm and thats how much you need.”
-But my palms are not the same size, what do you means “thats how much” I need? 😦
“Just use a cup”
-What kind of cup?
“Whatever cup you have”
-BUT MY CUPS ARE NOT THE SAME SIZE!
….”Well, figure it out, you remember what my food taste like right?”
Thanks Mom… >:-(
So, after that I had to fend for myself and started to experiment in the kitchen… Yeah I know, what’s new right?
Make sure your phyllo dough is fully thawed in the refrigerator overnight. Or else it will be crumbly when you work with. There is no other way around it, trust me, being the lazy person I am, I tried to find other ways. Make sure you are working with the phyllo dough at room temperature and keep the phyllo dough covered. Good phyllo dough does not flake at room temperature. If it does then that means your phyllo dough is bad.
Fold it like you are folding a flag.
After a few experiments I was finally able to conquer my mom’s Middle Eastern spanakopita recipe. I tasted and tasted and tasted until finally I got the perfect recipe. Usually after tasting my food a few times I end up not eating the final result anymore, but when I tasted the end result, I couldn’t stop. It was so good and felt like I was back home in San Diego with my mom.
Thank you mom! 😉
bil-hanā’ wa ash-shifā’
may you have your meal with gladness and health
Middle Eastern Spanakopita
Yields: 10-15 triangles
15-20 sheets of phyllo dough, room temperature (1 package)
3 cups FRESH Spinach, chopped
1/3 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sumac (middle eastern spice)
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, try to get low sodium
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, try to get low sodium as well (You can also use a Middle Eastern white cheese, which is the preferred type of cheese)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
1/2-1 cup extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing
1 medium egg
No salt since the queso fresco and feta cheese have a lot of salt.
Preheat oven to 350 ºF
Cut the package of phyllo dough in half to create about 30-40 half sheets of phyllo dough. Cover and set aside, to bring to room temperature. Make sure your phyllo dough was thawed in the refrigerator.
For the filling, add a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for a couple of minutes until onion is softened. Add garlic and parsley and sauté. Add spinach 1 cup at a time and sauté until the spinach starts to wilt. Add pepper, sumac, lemon juice and scallions. Turn off heat and add your spinach mixture to a bowl to cool down.
Once spinach mixture has cooled down, add your cheeses to the spinach and mix. Beat the egg in a separate bowl and add to spinach mixture.
Take one phyllo sheet from stack and arrange on a work surface with a long side nearest you (keeping remaining sheets covered) and brush with olive oil. Top with another phyllo sheet and brush with more olive oil.
Put a heaping tablespoon of filling near one corner of a strip on end nearest you, then fold corner of phyllo over to enclose filling and form a triable. Continue folding strip (like a flag), maintaining triangle shape. Put triangle, seam down, on a large baking sheet lined with parchment and brush top with olive oil. Make more triangles in the same manner, using all of phyllo.
Bake triangles in the middle of the oven until golden brown, 20-25 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool slightly.