Friday recipe: mini spanakopitas

One of the events I look forward to most is Des Moines’ Greek Food Fair, a wonderful tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. Held at the church, 35th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, the first weekend in June, the two-day festival offers a plethora of super-scrumptious Greek specialties, from gyros and moussaka (layers of eggplant, potatoes and other vegetables) to keftedes (Greek meatballs), pastries and baklava ice cream sundaes.

Yum. Give me a moment to wipe the drool off my chin. Okay, I’m good. Also good is that my long-anticipated favorite event begins tomorrow at 11 a.m., continuing until 8 p.m. and then again on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can purchase a complete Greek meal or a la carte items, or do the smarter thing – go for both.

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner and Melanie J. Clarke,
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner and Melanie J. Clarke,

One of my favorites at the fair is spanakopita, a tasty dish that layers spinach in tender layers of phyllo dough. I could eat an entire pan, although I wouldn’t, because that would mean I wouldn’t have room for a big triangle of honey-drenched baklava. The Greek Food Fair requires one to be strategic about such things.

If you can’t make the fair this year, try Cooking Light’s version of spanakopita. The preparation and assembly involved are well worth it, especially during this season of plentiful fresh spinach.

  • Mini spanakopitas (makes 20)
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 cups chopped green onions (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Another egg white
  • 5 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place spinach in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Place over medium heat; cook until spinach wilts. Place spinach in a colander, pressing until barely moist. Combine the spinach and cheeses in a bowl; set aside.

Heat the two teaspoons of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green onions; sauté for two minutes or until soft. Stir in the green onions, dill, lemon juice, salt, pepper and the two lightly beaten egg whites into spinach mixture.

Combine one tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of salt and the other egg white in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Working with one phyllo sheet at a time, covering the other sheets to keep them from drying out, cut each sheet lengthwise into four strips; lightly brush with the egg white and oil mixture. Spoon about one tablespoon of the spinach mixture onto one end of each strip. Fold one corner of the opposite end over the mixture, forming a triangle; keep folding back and forth into a triangle to the end of each strip.

Place triangles, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

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