Yesterday was Pi Day! For years I have loved celebrating Pi Day with, at least, one Pi themed food item. I sometimes send fun little Pi Day texts and emails to my children and friends. You could say that I am a little bit nerdy. I come by it naturally as my father had a degree in Physics and loved all things math and science. He also loved to find fun in all things. I guess that’s why I find Pi Day so delightful. Because Pi itself is an irrational number, I chose to make a bit of an irrational pie this year. This year I made Spanakopita, Spinach Pie.
If you are not familiar with the Greek dish Spanakopita you should be. It’s a mixture of spinach and feta cheese, sautéed onion, garlic, and herbs layered into a crust of phyllo dough. Phyllo dough is so light and crisp and the filling is savory and delicious. I have been making this dish for more than 20 years and I am always delighted to eat it. The recipe I use is from The Moosewood Cookbook.
Working with phyllo is time consuming and can be tedious so I do not make this dish regularly. Phyllo is very delicate and tears easily. If done right, it turns into a golden pillow of crunchy crust. Oh, so good.
When I order this dish at a restaurant it seems the norm that it is served with Greek green beans. They are also quite tasty. I thought I would try my hand at making those, also. Based on the recipes I read I decided I would do a quick and easy version to serve with my Spanakopita. After a fairly long day I elected to make only one more tedious dish.
Daughter Number Four was intrigued by the smell of the filling as it cooked. She was also excited to see the pie I was making since I told her it was irrational. I went through the explanation of Pi with her, not sure how much a 7th grader knows about such things. When I finished my little lesson I said, “Pi is kind of like love: irrational and never ending.” She gave me a quick eye roll and a little hug. Maybe she gets it.
As the Spanakopita was baking and the green bean dish was coming together I enlisted D4’s help with one dish. I did not tell her what it was, but as soon as she started whisking the ingredients in the saucepan she said, “This is G’s pie”. G is what my mother’s grandchildren call her. I admitted to my youngest that she was in fact stirring the filling for the chocolate pie my mother makes. In actuality it is the recipe that her grandma used to make chocolate pie. It is a fairly straightforward cooked pudding type of pie filling. My mother’s grandma never put a topping on it, and no one in my family has either. This pie is always just the pie crust and the filling, preferably served while it’s still warm.
After I poured the filling into the pie shell I had made a few days earlier, I served dinner. Although the Greek green beans looked different than what I routinely serve everyone was willing to try them. They were good. The big winner, though, was definitely the Spanakopita. The flavors blend so perfectly and the crisp phyllo crust is delightful. The entire family approved.
What did you have for Pi Day? Did you make something delicious? Was your take on Pi Day rational or irrational? Any way you celebrated 3.14 I hope your love for pie, as mine, is never ending.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups minced onion
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 ½ pounds fresh spinach washed, stemmed, and finely chopped
- 5 medium cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 to 3 cups crumbled feta cheese packed (1 pound)
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- Black pepper to taste
- 1/3 to ½ cup olive for brushing phyllo
- 1 pound phyllo pastry dough approximately 20 sheets, defrosted and unwrapped just prior to using
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 baking dish.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, salt, and herbs and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until onion softens. Add spinach, turn up the heat, and cook, stirring until the spinach wilts (5-8 minutes). Stir in garlic.
Sprinkle in the flour, stir, and cook over medium heat about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Mix in the cheese and black pepper to taste.
Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the baking dish, letting the edges climb up the sides of the dish. Brush dough lightly with olive oil, and top with another sheet. Repeat with a total of 8 sheets of Phyllo. Add half the filling mixture, spreading it to the edges, then repeat with 8 more sheet of oiled phyllo. Spread the remainder of the filling over 2nd layer of Phyllo. Layer the remaining Phyllo over filling, brushing oil in between. Oil the top, tuck in the egew, and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes until golden and crispy.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut into squares (or triangles) and serve warm.