27 December, 2012

Spinach, Feta, and Fresh Mint Pastries

Filo dough it one of the greatest things, if you ask me.

So flaky, so shapeable to savory or sweet recipes.

I was looking for a most delicious appetizer to serve for a holiday meal, and this was a winner.  
This is pretty much a recipe for Spanakopita, a classic Greek pastry.  I do love Greek food, and these little flaky triangles can be made 3 (yes 3!) days in advance.  (Cover, refrigerate, and bake as directed when ready)
If you've never worked with filo dough before, I must say it requires a bit of patience, understanding, and finesse.  These thinner-than-paper sheets can get the best of you if you're in a rush, so set aside some time and read through the instructions carefully first.

I don't want to scare you off, I actually find filo dough very easy to work with, but some unfamiliar with it and pressed for time... well.. they wind up of that TV show Snapped. 
The secret is lots of butter and keeping the filo dough moist.  When not using the pile of filo dough, you must place a damp rag on top to keep the moisture in.  If you don't the sheets crack and are flaky and IMPOSSIBLE to handle. 

Follow those steps and it'll be a breeze.  

Spinach, Feta, and Fresh Mint Pastries

Makes 30 triangles

1 1/2 lbs spinach, tough stems removed
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 lb filo dough (20 sheets), thawed if frozen
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a large stockpot, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the spinach, and saute until wilted.  Pour into a colander and let cool.  Squeeze out as much liquid as you can and place on cutting board.  Chop spinach and place in a large bowl.  Add all cheese, eggs, mint, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well. 

Preheat oven to 375.

Lightly butter a baking sheet.  Have the melted and cooled butter in a bowl or pot, and the spinach mixture in a bowl nearby. Cut the filo dough lengthwise into thirds, so you have 3 long strips.  Get a rag moist and cover the filo until ready to use.  Place a large piece of parchment paper on your countertop.  Using a pastry brush, coat the parchment paper with a layer of butter.  Remove one of the 3 stacks of filo dough from underneath the rag.  Place one piece of the paper thin filo dough on your buttered parchment paper.  Use the pastry brush to cover that piece with butter, paying special attention to the edges and corners. Place another sheet of filo directly on top, and coat with butter. In the top corner of the filo sheet, place a teaspoon of the spinach mixture.  Fold one corner over the the filling on the diagonal to form a triangle.  Fold down again, keeping the triangle shape.  Continue folding until you've reached the bottom and you have a triangle shaped pastry.  Place on baking sheet and repeat.  Don't worry if a sheet rips, the butter will reattach it.  

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Can be served hot, warm, or at room temp.

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