2006-2-Spanakopita-4.jpgOn a recent visit to the terrific midtown Greek Restaurant Avra, Gothamist was reacquainted with an old favorite: spanakopita. Avra’s spinach pie is perfectly crispy and flakey, with real spinach flavor and a nice zing from the feta cheese. It’s nothing like the warmed-over version you find in most gyro shops, and we liked it so much that last night, we made it at home.

The basic components of spanakopita are layers of buttered phyllo dough, sauteed spinach, and feta cheese. Some versions feature such additions as sauteed onions, parsley, or dill. It's a dish that is known and loved worldwide. The easiest method to prepare spanakopita is family style: you layer the phyllo and filling in a pan, as you would with baklava or lasagna. But for something a bit more special, especially if you want to serve it as an appetizer, you can fold strips of phyllo around the filling to create little squares or triangles. Making the filling is easy, but working with the phyllo—paper-thin and easy to tear—is a bit more labor-intensive. But with a tidbit this elegant and delicious, you really don’t need to make anything else for a cocktail party.

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 lb baby spinach (Gothamist would recommend frozen here—just as tasty and much less pricey)
½ lb feta, crumbled (scant 2 cups)
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ lb phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen (found in the frozen section of most supermarkets)

Preparation:

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook spinach, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, about 10 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then coarsely chop. Transfer to a bowl and stir in feta, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Melt remaining 1 stick butter in a small saucepan, then cool.

Cover phyllo stack with 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and then a dampened kitchen towel.

Take 1 phyllo sheet from stack and arrange on a work surface with a long side nearest you (keeping remaining sheets covered) and brush sparingly with some butter. Top with another phyllo sheet and brush with more butter. Cut buttered phyllo stack crosswise into 6 (roughly 12- by 2 3/4-inch) strips.

Put a heaping teaspoon of filling near 1 corner of a strip on end nearest you, then fold corner of phyllo over to enclose filling and form a triangle. Continue folding strip (like a flag), maintaining triangle shape. Put triangle, seam side down, on a large baking sheet and brush top with butter. Make more triangles in same manner, using all of phyllo.

Bake triangles in middle of oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Makes about 30 triangles.

Avra Estiatorio, 141 E. 48th St., Tel: 212-759-8550