We just returned from a wonderful family event in New York, seeing cousins I haven’t seen in far too long and also spending time with our Matthew and Frances. My husband and I were treated to Frances’ cooking and now we know first-hand why Matthew is so proud. Frances made brunch and we feasted on shakshuka, mango cucumber salad, homemade hummus and tahini cookies. My goodness it was delicious! Not only was this weekend a family affair but it also began the festival of Shavuot. Shavuot is when we commemorate the Jewish People receiving the ten commandments at Sinai. I remember celebrating in Israel on the kibbutz I was living on back in 1974. The young boys and girls danced in the wheat fields and it was very picturesque and evocative. I doubt that happens much, if at all, anymore but it is an image that has remained with me even though it took place over 40 years ago.
It is traditional to eat dairy meals on Shavuot and there are several different reasons given – everything from Israel being the land of milk and honey to laws of kashrut and gamatria (numerology.) Whatever the reason, it is a good time to make this delicious Spinach Pie. And you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it. Serve it with a simple salad of Persian cucumbers, fennel and ripe tomatoes and crusty bread. You will never miss the meat.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
16 ounces of fresh spinach
1.5 Tablespoons EVOO
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter OR 2 Tablespoons of additional EVOO
2 cups finely chopped onions (I used a mixture of red and yellow onions)
1 generous teaspoon minced garlic
2 bunches chopped scallions (white and light green parts only)
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
15 ounces whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmesan, romano or asiago cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 bunch chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste (Or use Aleppo pepper if you have it!)
Approximately 20 sheets of thawed phyllo dough
Approximately 1 stick melted unsalted butter or 1/2 cup EVOO
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wash, drain well and chop spinach. If using baby spinach, there is no need to chop the spinach.
- Lightly beat the egg and yolk in a large bowl. Add the cheeses, dill, parsley, nutmeg, pine nuts, salt and pepper.
- Melt the 2 Tablespoons of butter and the EVOO in the skillet and sauté the onions, garlic and scallions until wilted. Do not allow the mixture to brown. Allow to cool slightly and add it to the egg and cheese mixture.
- Sauté the spinach until it is wilted in the pan that had the onion mixture. I did not need to add any additional oil. If the spinach is very wet, place it in a fine-meshed strainer over a bowl and allow it to drain. Once it has cooled, press out as much liquid as possible either with your hands or by using the back of a spoon against the mesh. My spinach didn’t require this last step because I hadn’t added any additional oil or water.
- Mix everything well to distribute the seasonings, spinach and onions.
- Use a rectangular baking dish (approximately 9 x 13). Brush the bottom of the pan with either EVOO or melted butter and lay out 2 sheets of phyllo dough. Brush them with EVOO or butter and continue layering one to two sheets at a time until you have about 8 sheets. Then pour half of the spinach cheese mixture over the dough. Repeat the process and layer the remaining mixture. Top with 6 to 8 layers of phyllo dough that have been brushed with EVOO or melted butter. Don’t be stingy – this is what makes it flaky and golden. Refer to my baklava recipe for working with phyllo.
- After the spinach pie is ready for the oven, take a very sharp knife and cut down into the layers for the size piece that you want. I was able to get 12 pieces from this size pan.
- Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for approximately one hour or until golden brown.