Saloniki Spanakopita

Spanakopita_ intor single 2-3043

Hello, Everyone,

We’re dusting off the blog, cooking and photographing delicious things, writing, and working together again. Covid-19 has erased everything that formerly monopolized our professional lives – restaurants, client photography, mapping out bicycle trips and safaris.

Porto, Trade and the Saloniki restaurants are closed, with the exception of the Fenway Saloniki, which is serving take-out only.  Many of our staff have limited resources and are frightened about the future.  Jody’s way of coping with this is to clean, to organize, to compile and edit a growing list of Boston resources where people may find meals for their children and for themselves.  She’s also working with other restaurant leaders lobbying for government support for the long term and short-term emergency assistance for an industry that employs so many people a financial heartbeat away from disaster.  Numerous people have contacted us, asking of there’s a way they can help. I’ll have a link in our next post if you’d like to make a donation.

Jody is also back to cooking. “We’re doing the blog again,” she told me. I set down my copy of Samuel Pepys Diary. How could I object?

And our personal lives? Well, it’s not as though someone has nailed our door shut, painted a splashy red cross on the outside and posted a guard to make sure that neither Jody nor I escape for 40 days (a common response to “plague houses” in 17th century London). But our kids are marooned in Brooklyn, a short walk from each other in Bushwick and – no surprise – cooking up a storm to keep the boogieman away. We’re trying to stay as connected as possible, bending technology to our will – Zoom telephone calls and a friend of our son’s trying to set up a Minecraft server so we can play in the same realms.

What form should the blog take? Do you want recipes from a survival larder, e.g. How to make a wedding cake from three cans of brown bread and packet of matches?  Or would you like long braises, comfort food in times of stress?  We’re thinking a bit of both at the moment. Let us know.

Spanakopita is a Greek spinach pie; hortopita is the same thing, but made with other greens, traditionally wild ones, but you for this recipe you can either go with straight ahead spinach, or with a mix like we did. In either event, only a few ingredients, but lots of steps.

Whoa! THIS is what you choose for your first post??!! There’s a million fucking steps! What were you thinking??!! Give me something I can make while I’m fighting for kitchen table space with dueling laptops, a glitter-gun project and a pile of legos.

We made it because that’s what we had on hand – flour, feta, lots of greens, a leek and some garlic. The greens and the feta were leftover after Jody and her partners had given away everything else in their larders to their staff after closing the doors of their restaurants.  Future recipes with less steps are in the pipeline.

Everything will resume at some point, probably changed in form, just as the work that you used to do before social distancing became de rigeur will rise up again in your life. In the meantime, we stay connected by any means possible and we place one foot in front of the other, at least six feet away from the person in front of you.

One of the first Garum Factory posts talked about how cooking and photography enables us to put the world aside, to quell the chatter in our heads.  That’s even more important now than it was when we created The Garum Factory. And whether you’re a cook who recreates what you see here, or a reader whose greatest pleasure is to glide through the recipe visuals, we hope that our posts give you a mental kitchen break as well.

Enjoy. 

Ken

P.S. Quite a bit of the editing controls and commands of WordPress have changed in the three-and-a-half years since our last post. Some of our pages are badly out of date as well. I’m crossing my fingers that this piece doesn’t come out looking like a crafting on acid. I’ll get it together as time goes on.

Spanakopita-2044

Saloniki Spanakopita

DOUGH:

  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour + additional for rolling
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + additional for brushing the dough
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup water  

FILLING:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small leek, white part only, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach, or other soft greens, washed and trimmed of tough stems
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5.5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

MAKE THE DOUGH

  1. Put the dough ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer. 
  2. Mix, on medium speed, with the dough hook until smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes.
  3. Cut the dough into 8 equal portions, about 1.7 ounces, and roll into balls.
  4. Let rest, covered with plastic, about 30 minutes.

COOK THE GREENS

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and leeks, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.   Season with salt.
  2. Add the garlic and scallions and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add the spinach, cover, and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook until dry, about 5 minutes
  4. Add the herbs, salt and pepper and cook 3 minutes. 
  5. Cool.
  6. If the greens are wet, drain or they will make the pita pie soggy.
  7. Mix greens and cheese together.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  8. Separate into 8 even portions.

MAKE THE PIES

  1. Using a pasta machine, and extra flour, roll each dough ball into a very thin oval, about 6 x 10 inches.  On my KitchenAid pasta roller, I went to setting #6.  Sprinkle with flour.
  2. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, making 2 stacks of 4 with plenty of flour between them.  Any more and they may stick together.
  3. Lay out on the counter and stretch the dough until it is paper thin, about 7 X 13.  Don’t worry if it tears a little here and there. 
  4. Brush with extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Spoon about 2 ounces of the filling in a line evenly along the length (long edge) of the dough sheet, leaving 1½ inches uncovered on either end. 
  6. Roll up like a jellyroll.  Brush with oil.
  7. Roll into coil—not too tight–and tuck the end underneath.
  8. Brush with more olive oil.
  9. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
  10. Rest 5 minutes before serving.

Spanakopita ingredients _2V
All of the ingredients, except the greens.
Spanakopita-9817
The chopped/crumbled versions of the ingredients pictured above.
Spanacopita_hvh1
Spaankopita kneeding_4H-1
Spanakopita_portion dough_ 1v2h-1
Spanakopita_rolld dough balls and rest_2H-2
Greens hvh-2
Jody outside-2228
Greens and feta 2w-2
Mash the feta up with a fork. If the greens have a lot stems, cut through them a bench knife or snip with kitchen scissors
Spanakopita_VVV-1
Filling and rolling -6H-1
Spiraling pies_4H-3
Out of the oven_web-2517

Spanakopita_end single 1-2540

Jody Notes: 

The day after we closed Trade and Porto, we shared the contents of the walk-in with employees. Staff were invited to take everything home, from meatballs to kumquats (hmmm, not a big seller).  Another neglected item was a giant container of mixed greens—arugula, baby kale, lettuce, mint–so I filled a bag with them.  I also picked up some neglected diced feta.  It seems that even in times of uncertainty about the next meal, for many people there’s a limit to how heavily they want to depend on greens and feta.

Not me! I was destined to make Greek pies. The greens were a little stemmy, but the flavor was great! (In Ken’s photos you seem me chopping through them with a bench scraper and – my favorite – kitchen scissors.)

My knowledge of spanakopita has been a work in progress. Ever since working for a catering company in college I’d thought spanakopita were little frozen triangles of phyllo filled with spinach and feta, destined to be thawed and reheated at Waspy cocktail parties. My opinion changed when I began going to Greece to research food for our first Saloniki restaurant in 2015. In Thessaloniki and Athens we tasted exquisite phyllo hand pies with all kinds of fillings. Once I’d experienced the real thing, the mother and yiayia (grandmother) of my Greek-American business partner Eric Papachristos taught me to make phyllo dough by hand, to roll it with a dowel and form it into a multilayered 12-inch labor of lovely flakiness. Our Greek Saloniki chef Pantazis Deligiannis showed me a less labor-intensive route to spanakopita happiness, using a pasta machine to roll the dough, and then forming it into these beautiful snail-shaped spirals.

Pantazis also taught me that spanakopita means “spinach pie” in Greek – spinach is the only green in the filling. If you use other greens – Swiss Chard, dandelion greens, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, kale, arugula – then it’s called hortopita. Horta can means “weeds” or “wild greens,” depending on you’re gardening or foraging. Those of us who are in the city have limited access to truly wild greens, but we can still make hortopita by using a mixture of greens.  (Heartier greens have to be blanched in boiling salt water first, then drained dry.)

I love love making these pies.  Working my way through the steps fills me with happiness. With no end in sight of days in the house, you have nothing but time – use it to put a smile on your face and happiness in the stomachs of those at your table. 

xox,

Jody

49 thoughts

  1. Oh, it made me so happy to see you in my inbox today. I must have saved at least 13 emails from GF 1.0. Thank you. Be well.

    (I’m working from home, so my vote goes more to survival larder posts than long involved braisey ones)

  2. So great to see you back! I made the spatch-cocked chicken the other day. I was finally concerned that the site may come down, so I saved the recipe as a pdf. Now- I have new recipes to look forward to!
    No preference as to what you do next- a mix is fine.
    As to the website? the mobile version looks good. But on the laptop,

  3. sorry- hit send too soon. The mobile website has the buttons to be notified of new comments and posting via email. The laptop version does not. Am using a MacBook Pro, current OS; tried it in both Safari and Firefox.

  4. Hi Jody
    How wonderful of you to share this
    Thinking of you and know you will find hope and resilience in this challenging time
    Be well
    Stay well
    Lead well
    Warmly
    Bonni

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. How funny that you couldn’t give away the greens and feta. That probably would have been my first choice. Lovely recipe. Now- I just need to lay my hands on a pasta machine…

  6. Hooray! So great to see this. Jody as I mentioned to you back in the day, I would make something from The Garum Factory each weekend for my 90 year old parents-in-law. Right now, going to see them is the only reason I leave the house, and I can revive that ritual! Claudine and her mother read the blog and kibitz while I cook. Ken, your photography is still unmatched in the entire world of food!!

  7. where did you come from?!? I don’t have to go into my special ‘hold onto, never throw out’ files to find you?!! The comfort of familiar faces and trusted cooking companions! Thank you!!!!

    >

    • Hello, Nora. How are you? Very sweet. Jody and I work well together – the opportunity just doesn’t come up that often (we have to earn livings). I’m glad you enjoy the blog. As the scarecrow said, “I think it’s going to get much darker before it gets much brighter,” and we decided to jumpstart the blog to provide a ray of light.

  8. So nice to see your post-I have always enjoyed them. My heart goes out to you, your staff, and all those in the restaurant industry at this time.

    • Thank you, Tria. We’re trying to keep the lights on – for people’s souls and stomachs. If you check out today’s post (4/3/20), I put a brief entry at the bottom of the intro about what Jody’s team is doing for restaurant and medical people. Ken

  9. Thrilled to see you are back (love Spanakopita — might try it even without a pasta maker). I vote for cooking with whatever you have in the pantry and dry herb quantity if no fresh on hand. Thank you both! Be well and virtual hugs.

    • Hi, Rosemary – How are you guys holding up? Your wish is granted, by the way, check out this week’s post on Dried Fruit Tart, and thanks for the input. Tell Steve we said Hi. Ken

    • Beppe! I just read your recent post about Italy. This morning’s NYT made reference to Italy reopening despite 500 people a day still perishing. People here are going to be watching very closely over the next couple of months to see how things go. Good luck to you and Heather. Ken

  10. Finally had a chance to come here. These look really good. And reading Jody’s notes made me want to go back to Greece where I was about a year ago with my friend from Bergamo, Italy. Our plan this year was to go to Jamaica during the same period as last year but alas, not to be. Hope Jody’s restaurants will reopen soon and Ken’s photo gigs will start pouring in. Stay safe and well.

    • Thank you, Ayo. I was offered a job this last week, but I cannot take it. I’m afraid I’m going to be one of those lonely folks walking by myself with a mask until someone comes up with a vaccine. As for the restaurants, we don’t know what the future will bring. Restaurants are the economic canary in the coal mine – right now, I’m afraid, it doesn’t look good. Ken

  11. You two have made my WHOLE day with this blog post!!! This ones too hard for little Heidi. But I am making Oliver’s Stew tonight~ :)

  12. Made a version of this that was mighty tasty, considering we Macgyvered the filling with kale and goat cheese! May I suggest one addition in the directions? I had printed the recipe, and didn’t follow the photos. So didn’t realize we were making 8 of these on the individual sheets. Perhaps you could specify to take ONE sheet of the dough and stretch it out then fill and roll (in Make the Pies, steps 2 and 3). We just took took each stack of four sheets and stretched and filled. Yeah, a little doughy and big (we only had two), but they actually came out nice anyway!

  13. Thank you! I’m going to try some hand version of this tomorrow as I’m in a rented summer cottage with no mixer or pasta maker. Have everything else except the leeks. So we’ll see!

    Went to Greece on my honeymoon in 1984. Have wonderful memories of sun, tomatoes, the most delicious feta and especially the kindness of all.
    Stay well everyone.

    • I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I hope it came out well. Greece is wonderful, although having traveled there 3 times in the last three years has been a mixed experience – everything you loved about your honeymoon still exists, but the economy is dreadful, people are suffering and educated young people are leaving the country. Ken

      • 1984 was a long time ago and we were able to backpack around learning history and finding beauty along with the horror of war and starvation. I was young. But back to your recipe! The filling was so good we made it again, and had it cold as a salad last night.

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