Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spinach Pie (Byrek Mi Spinaq) ~ 5.25.11

{my first albanian spinach pie- the edges got a bit crispy, but not a problem, just cut them off!}

So, maybe I've talked about my love for a show on the Hallmark channel called Mad Hungry. Lucinda Scala Quinn, a dear friend of Martha's, hosts this amazing little show. that I DVR everyday. What is it about this show that I love? Maybe it's the presentation, the approachable recipes, the unique flavors she presents, the excitement of guests in the kitchen (love the Albanian recipes show!) or Calder, her son, joining her in the kitchen. Well, it's all of these. Lucinda presents recipes in a simple, straightforward manner. You feel like you're in the kitchen with her and you cannot wait to see what she's cooking on the next show. 
Add to all of that, the fact that my 4 year olds LOVE the show-- especially, Zach. They say things like "mmmm, can you make that sometime?" and "can we watch "the" cooking show?" I know just the one that they're talking about.

 Check this out- she has a cookbook (or two)- thanks Lucinda!

Yet, maybe the best part is that so many of these recipes are REAL, passed down from family and then shared with us. I think that's the part I can relate to the most (that and Lucinda's love for salty pork products ;)). I love hearing the stories behind recipes and seeing the family cooking together- loved when her brother came on and made deep dish pizza dough and light and fluffy meatballs. After that show aired, I knew exactly what I was making for dinner THAT weekend (look for those recipes to come Friday)!

On this particular episode, Lucinda invited her son's friend, Milot, to come into the kitchen and share his family's Albanian Spinach Pie (Byrek Mi Spinaq). I knew I had to make it asap. I even had all the ingredients in my fridge! I had just bought 3 bags of spinach on sale that week and just needed a little yogurt and whipped butter to make this recipe. I even had the phyllo dough in the freezer leftover from the last Spanokopita I had made. Perfect reason to make this recipe and they made it look doable on a weeknight!

Oh and if you're like me and are a bit fearful of working with filo I say, pshaaaw! DO NOT be afraid! It couldn't be simpler, as long as you watch to keep it covered so it doesn't dry out while you work! It's extremely forgiving: read- even if it does try out, just butter it up and piece the broken pieces together, it's all good in the end.

My kids LOVE this recipe, so there's a little butter involved, at least they're eating spinach!!
Now, onto the recipe:

Spinach Pie
(adapted from Mad Hungry, May 2011)

1 8 oz container of whipped butter
1/2 cup canola oil
3 bunches of spinach, stemmed and chopped (I used 3 bags)
1/2 small onion, chopped as fine as you like it
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs of butter and oil mixture, as per directions
20 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed if frozen (I made it with 1/2 of a box of filo and it worked out just fine- that's what I had on hand!)
optional: a little feta- not true to the Albanian version, but I had a little to use up- so in it went!

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degreees
2. Combine butter and canola oil in a saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Stir to combine. Reserve two tablespoons for the filling
3. For the filling: In a VERY large bowl (get out the biggest one you have), combine the spinach, onion, egg, sour cream, yogurt, salt and 2 Tbs of butter/oil mixture and mix it all well- use your hands if needed. Set aside
4. Using a large rimmed sheet pan, butter the bottom and sides of the baking sheet and lay down 2 sheets of phyllo so that the edges overlap in the middle. Brush with butter. Continue this process for 9 more sheets of phyllo making sure to butter each sheet and the parts that overlap- the butter helps everything to adhere and get flaky and delicious!
[ As a side note, the recipe says to use one sheet, but it barely covered the bottom of the baking sheet, so I adapted and laid the sheets side by side. Once you unroll your phyllo and size up your sheetpan, you'll have an idea of how you need to lay out the phyllo, too]

5. After your 10th sheet is laid down on the baking sheet, top the buttered phyllo with your spinach mixture. Even it out with a spatula. Repeat the phyllo layering process with 10 more sheets of phyllo- don't forget to butter every layer. Butter, butter, butter!
6. Turn up the edges to seal- folding them over towards the top is just fine. Nothing fancy. Think RUSTIC.

7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until top is golden brown. Use a knife to check the bottom to make sure it, too, is nice and crispy. Let cool for 15 minutes (if you can wait!). Slice however you like and serve.
The spinach filling really cooks down!

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