During my senior year of high school, I got my first laptop. By today’s standards, it was slow and it was heavy. It hardly had any memory and it couldn’t even play a movie. But it had an ethernet port, and so, it had potential.
When I got to college, Firestone library was only a few hundred yards from my dorm room. But on a cold, wind-swept winter day, its collection and online database couldn’t have seemed farther. Fortunately, with a few keystrokes, and mouse clicks, its newspaper articles and scholarly journals were within reach. From the university network, I could also stream my Russian language files and download my French politics assignment. Early into freshman year, my laptop had become the epicenter of my college education.
Ten years later, my laptop remains a source for learning. And if cooking is my new major, then each recipe is a new paper topic, ready for research.
For spanakopita, the recipe instructed me to roll the phyllo dough up diagonally, “as if folding a flag.” Unfortunately, I don’t often fold flags. I didn’t even know anyone who did. And without the benefit of the Internet, I might still be staring at my dough. But a quick search of YouTube revealed the exact technique, and offered me the confidence to fold my phyllo. In my kitchen classroom, YouTube was now the lending library.
Recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.
PREP TIME: 40 minutes
COOK TIME: 30 minutes
YIELD: 12 to 14 Spanakopita
WHAT TO GRAB:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Plain dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (less depending on the type of feta)
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cups small-diced feta (about 12 ounces) (try goat’s milk feta)
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
24 to 28 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cook the pine nuts in a dry, medium sauté pan, over low heat, for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pine nuts, and heat the oil in the pan over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook for another 2 minutes, or until the scallions are wilted but still green.
3. Meanwhile, gently squeeze the water out of the spinach and place it in a large bowl. If the spinach is still cold, you can run it under hot water and then strain the water out. When the onion and scallions are done, add them to the spinach. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan, 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs, the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Gently fold in the feta and pine nuts.
4. Place one sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. With a wide brush, lightly butter the dough and sprinkle it with about a teaspoon of bread crumbs. You do not need to brush the entire sheet and you can use your hands to scatter the breadcrumbs. Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough directly on top of the first. Butter and breadcrumb this second layer, and repeat with two more layers of phyllo dough.
5. Once you have four layers of neatly stacked phyllo dough, cut the sheets in half, vertically. Place 1/3 cup of the spinach-feta filling at the bottom of each sheet and roll the phyllo up diagonally to make a triangle (as if folding a flag). Fold the triangle of phyllo over straight, then diagonally, continuing the pattern until you reach the end of the sheet and the filling is completely enclosed Continue assembling the phyllo layers and folding the filling until there is no more filling.
6. Place the triangles on a baking sheet. Lightly brush the tops with the melted butter, and sprinkle with a pinch of the sea salt. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the phyllo is browned and crisp. Serve hot!!
*Phyllo dough will become soggy in the microwave. On the off-chance you have leftovers, reheat the spanakopita in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.