Our diet has a heavy Mediterranean accent — not because we consciously chose to follow the heart-healthy culinary traditions of the Mediterranean, but because we love dishes that feature tons of fresh vegetables, garlic, a bit of olive oil and moderate quantities of cheese or eggs. Our second “good food” post features a tasty, easy-to-make Spanikopita, now a regular entrée in our evening meals. Under the flaky, golden phyllo dough crust lies a wealth of vitamins, minerals and protein. A serving of Spanikopita features a generous portion of spinach, which is rich in iron, vitamin K, beta carotene, folate and manganese. This classic Greek dish includes more greens in the form of cilantro or Italian parsley. The onions and garlic in Spanikopita provide the allyl sulfur compounds that promote cardiovascular health and gives these foods their pungent flavor. We use two to three times as much garlic as the original recipe calls for. Eric has tried a few different improvisations on the basic ingredients and they were all equally tasty.
This Spanikopita recipe contains eggs and cheese for protein, and all of the cheeses we use have lowfat or even nonfat varieties. Although we don’t go overboard on eggs, we don’t lie awake worrying about them, either. Eric’s running idol Amby Burfoot, a 1968 Boston Marathon winner and lifelong vegetarian, attests to the health benefits of eggs. A 2011 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that there was no relationship between egg consumption and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in a group of Mediterranean participants.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 – 1 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large bunch green onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley or cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups ricotta or lowfat cottage cheese
6 ounces crumbled feta or extra sharp white cheddar cheese
20 sheets of ready-made phyllo pastry, defrosted
1/4 cup olive oil
Prepare all ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley (or cilantro), pepper and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix eggs, ricotta, and feta/sharp white cheddar. Stir in spinach mixture.
Lightly oil a 9 x 13″ baking pan.
Lay each sheet of phyllo dough in baking pan, brushing each sheet with olive oil.
10 sheets phyllo – make sure it hangs over all sides of pan
All spinach filling
Fold dough over filling to seal it in and brush top with olive oil 10 sheets phyllo – tuck all in at top and brush top with olive oil
Bake in preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.
Photographs copyright Eric Havelock-Bailie, 2012