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Spanakopita with Fresh Herbs and Wild Greens

Spanakopita with Fresh Herbs and Wild Greens

I am so excited to share this recipe – right out of my new cookbook, Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen, which will be out this June!

I chose to share this recipe because it takes full advantage of the abundance of wild foods available in the spring months – nettle, wood sorrel, dandelion greens and violet leaves, just to name a few!  As the season progresses, you can enjoy this with lamb’s quarters, galinsoga and many other so-called weeds.

This recipe freezes great.  Consider making an extra tray and freezing it for next time you need a meal or want to bring a meal to a friend!

 

Here is the recipe, word for word…Enjoy!

Spanakopita with Fresh Herbs and Wild Greens

When I was growing up, whenever someone had a baby or was sick, a community of family and friends would organize a schedule and bring meals to those who needed to be nourished. I remember when both my brothers were born, and later when my mom had cancer, being fed by this village. The food was a big help, but so was the joy, warmth, and support brought by these visitors. It was comforting to see familiar faces, to dote over new life, to watch people care for one another, and to be reminded of all the love we shared with our family and friends. On one such occasion, a friend brought spanakopita, delicious, mouthwatering bites of cooked greens and cheese wedged between crunchy sheets of dough. Later, when I got into herbs and wild foraging, spanakopita became one of the many traditional dishes that tempted me to eat my weeds.

Yield: 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion, leeks, scallions, or a combination
2 pounds greens, chopped into bite-size pieces
Salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1{1/2} cups crumbled feta cheese (about {1/2} pound)
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
{1/2} cup chopped fresh basil
{1/2} cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
{3/4} cup (1{1/2} sticks) butter, melted
1 (1-pound) package frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
Ground paprika, dried chives, dill seeds, or fennel seeds (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Warm the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the greens in several layers, salting lightly as you go. I use a large soup pot because 2 pounds of greens is a lot, and it usually fills the whole pot. Put the lid on and cook over medium-low heat, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until the greens have cooked down to about one-quarter of their original volume. Put the greens in a colander to drain and set aside to cool. I like to set the colander over a pan and collect the drippings; they are flavorful and nutritious and can be used like broth in your cooking.
  3. Combine the eggs with the cottage cheese, feta, garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano, and season generously with pepper. Once the greens have drained and cooled, stir them into the mixture.
  4. With a pastry brush, grease the inside of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with some of the melted butter. Lay a sheet of phyllo dough in the dish so that only half of it covers the bottom of the pan, with the extra hanging over one of the long ends of the pan. Brush the half of the sheet that’s in the pan with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top, again with only half the sheet covering the bottom of the pan, setting it exactly on top of the first sheet, and brush with butter. Continue this process until you have laid out and buttered 8 sheets, then repeat with another 8 sheets, only with the extra spilling out over the opposite side of the pan.
  5. Add the filling, spreading it out evenly to the edges of the pan. Fold the pieces of phyllo dough over the top, alternating between sides, brushing each layer with butter. Layer any remaining phyllo dough on top, folding each piece to fit the pan and brushing with butter between each layer. Continue layering the phyllo dough until you run out of space in the pan, phyllo dough, or butter! Dust the top with paprika, dried chives, and dill or fennel seeds, if desired.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Cut into pieces and serve hot (although it is also yummy cold).

Green Substitutions

For this dish I like to combine wild greens like dandelion, nettle, galinsoga, lamb’s-quarters, and sorrel with cultivated greens like spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and tatsoi, but you can use whatever you have available. If you do not have fresh herbs, you can substitute 1 tablespoon each of dried basil, parsley, and oregano for the fresh herbs.
Photography  © by Keller + Keller Photography, from Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen © by Brittany Wood Nickerson, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

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