Recipe from themediterraneandish.com
For the spinach and feta filling:
16 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, stems trimmed, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10.5 oz quality feta cheese, crumbled
2 tsp dried dill weed
Freshly-ground black pepper
For the crust:
1 16 oz package filo dough thawed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, more if needed
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Before you begin mixing the filling, be sure the spinach is very well drained, and squeeze out any excess liquid by hand.
To make the filling: in a mixing bowl, add the spinach and the remaining filling ingredients. Stir until all is well-combined.
Unroll the phyllo (filo) sheets and place them between two slightly damp kitchen cloths.
Prepare a 9 1/2” x 13” baking dish. Brush the bottom and sides of the dish with olive oil.
To assemble the spanakopita: Line the baking dish with two sheets of phyllo letting them cover the sides of the dish. Brush with olive oil. Add two more sheets in the same manner, and brush them with olive oil. Repeat until two-thirds of the phyllo is used up.
Now, evenly spread the spinach and feta filling over the phyllo crust. Top with two more sheets, and brush with olive oil.
Continue to layer the phyllo sheets, two-at-a-time, brushing with olive oil, until you have used up all the sheets. Brush the very top layer with olive oil, and sprinkle with just a few drops of water.
Fold the flaps or excess from the sides, you can crumble them a little. Brush the folded sides well with olive oil. Cut Spanakopita only part-way through into squares, or leave the cutting to later.
Bake in the 325 degrees F heated-oven for 1 hour, or until the phyllo crust is crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven. Finish cutting into squares and serve. Enjoy!
Finikia or Melomakarona
For the melomakarona:
1/2 cup fine semolina
4 cups flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tbsp cognac
1/3 cup sugar
1 flat tbsp powdered cinnamon
1/3 tsp nutmeg
1/3 tsp clove
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp baking soda
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable/sunflower oil
3 tbsp honey
zest of 2 oranges
For the syrup:
1 1/4 cup water
2 3/4 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
1 orange, cut in half
10 tbsp honey
1 2/3 cups chopped walnuts
powdered cinnamon (optional)
powdered clove (optional)
To prepare this melomakarona recipe, start by making the syrup first. In a pot add all the ingredients for the syrup, besides the honey and bring to the boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and remove from the stove. Stir in the honey and set aside to cool completely.
Prepare the dough for the melomakarona. In a bowl add the semolina, flour and baking powder and mix with a whisk to combine.
In another large bowl add the orange juice, the cognac, the sugar and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, vanilla) and mix. Add the baking soda and whisk immediately for 5-10 seconds until the ingredients combine and the baking soda dissolves and starts to foam. Pour in the bowl the water, the oil, the orange zest and honey and whisk to combine.
Now it’s time to combine the two mixtures. Add the mixed flour, semolina and baking powder (from step 2) in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients from step 3 and start kneading the dough for the melomakarona. Knead the dough for the melomakarona using your hands, until the ingredients combine and the dough is smooth and soft and slightly sticky. Be careful not to overwork the dough as they will become tough.
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F. Layer the bottom of four large baking trays with parchment paper and start shaping the melomakarona. Pinch a portion of dough about the size of a walnut (–1 ounce) and shape with your palms into a smooth oblong shape, like a small egg. Place on the baking tray, push lightly the top with a fork and pierce three times on top about half way through the dough. Continue with the rest of the dough.
Depending on how large on oven you have when your first two trays are ready you can start baking them. Place the baking trays with the melomakarona in the oven and bake for approx. 15-20 minutes, until the melomakarona are lightly and evenly browned and cooked through. If you’ve made them bigger, you’ll need to bump up the cooking time!!
When the melomakarona come out of the oven, dip them immediately in the cold syrup, flipping them with a slotted spoon to absorb the syrup for approximately 10-20 seconds, depending on how syrupy you like them. Remove the cookies using a slotted spoon, place on a platter and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
While you are dipping your first couple in the tray of syrup add the next two in the oven to bake. Don’t forget to set your timer!!
Store the melomakarona at room temperature in an airtight container.
Last week, for the second year, I attended the Greek Fest at Saint Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church.
Because we showed a little late on the final day, a lot of the dishes were sold out. But I was able to score four classic Greek dishes — two savory and two sweet.
Most people have had at least one of the savory dishes.
I purchased spanakopita, which is layers of filo dough surrounding spinach and feta cheese. Usually, it’s folded into triangles like those footballs we used to make in school out of notebook paper. Then it’s eaten with one’s hands. It’s a hugely popular street food in Greece. But this was made in large pans and then cut into slabs which makes it much easier to make the amounts they needed for the fest.
I got dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves. Dolmades have been one of The Kid’s favorite foods since preschool. We actually took them to kindergarten at The Kid’s insistence when it was our turn to bring snacks.
The grape leaves are usually stuffed with a lemony rice and then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice before being simmered. Often, they’re served with tzatziki, a dip made with yogurt and grated cucumber.
And then the sweets.
Last year I fell in love with finikia, a cake/cookie hybrid drenched in honey syrup and sprinkled with crushed walnuts.
And this year I bought some kataifi, very similar to baklava, but made with shredded filo dough.
The funny thing about Greek food for us?
The Kid abhors dill. But dolmades and tzatziki are chock full of dill. I am the opposite of a fan of walnuts. But I will eat finiki every day and twice on Sundays (literally — as I write this, it’s Sunday).
Thanks for your time.
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