As we ring in the new year I was reminded of my very good friend and neighbor from a past chapter of my life. Their family is part Polish and part Greek. We grew very close over the years and I was always invited to partake in their family dinners and parties. Greek New Year was and still is always a BIG deal!
Everything homemade starting with hummus, tarama as we call it (aka- Taramosalata) https://www.greekboston.com/food/appetizers/taramosalata-recipe/, loads of fresh pita bread,
fresh tzatziki, chunks of the freshest feta, mountains of olives and Greek meatballs served at room temperature - packed with garlic and mint. Then for the "main" course if you weren't full already! Garlic marinated roasted leg of lamb, moussaka, Greek rice, Greek salad, pastitsio and always - always Spanakopita. Their family tradition for New Year's was to bake a wrapped quarter into the spanakopita which we would refer to as the "pita" and whomever received the serving with the quarter would have good luck for the year. Ours was always made casserole style as we were always feeding a crowd. If time allows you could always make these into the triangles for appetizers, however for our family event, we always served it with the main course.
Other versions of this Greek tradition bake the quarter into a cake called Vasilopita and is a New Year’s Day cake in Greece, which contains a hidden coin or trinket, giving good luck to the lucky diner who finds it. On New Year’s Day Greek families cut the vasilopita to bless their house and bring good luck for the New Year. Ef̱tychisméno to néo étos! –Happy New Year
I memorized our family recipe after making it together countless times, in fact this is the first time I have ever written it out as I always go off memory! Following is my recipe which I am partial to as it always reminds me of the fun times shared with these amazing people. I am also including a standard recipe so you can see the variations. I have seen recipes using frozen spinach but I always go for fresh as I know this recipe turns out consistently every time I make it, so why mess with a good thing?! Whichever recipe you may decide to try, it's a wonderful comfort food that is packed with spinach and you can feel good about eating your "veggies". It also reheats nicely, preferably in the oven as it will crisp up beautifully as it were just made fresh for the first time. I always make extra for leftovers! Try this for your next weeknight family dinner or special event! Opa!
We always made it with these proportions as it was enough to feed 15-20 people and usually some leftovers. You can easily cut the recipe down for the amount you need. I recently just made it for four people in a small 8x6 baking dish.
Spanakopita Recipe, taken from GreekBoston.Com
Mix first 5 ingredients above in large bowl.
Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add spinach; saute until wilted and juices evaporate (about 3 minutes.) Transfer spinach to strainer over bottom of prepared dish.
For Spanakopita Triangles:
Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and cut the filo into 3 by 11 inch strips. Place a small spoonful of spinach filling 1 inch from the end of the pastry. Fold the end over the filling to form a triangle. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
For Spanakopita in a 9 x 13 pan
For this version, you will not be cutting the phyllo into strips. Leave the sheets intact. Place a sheet of phyllo on the baking dish. Brush with butter. Repeat this 7 more times so that there are 8 sheets of phyllo on the bottom.
Pour the spinach mixture into the baking dish and spread the mixture with a wooden spoon so that it is evenly distributed. Place a sheet of phyllo over the top and brush with butter. Repeat 7 more times so that there are 8 total sheets of phyllo at the top.
Tuck in the sides of the phyllo. Brush the top thoroughly with butter, or pour the rest of the better over the top if there isn’t too much left. Cut two long slits across the center lengthwise to make for easy cutting.
Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake until cooked all the way through and the phyllo is golden brown. This should take 50-60 minutes total.
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