Sometimes it seems as though some of my favorite recipes are either born out of impatience with an original recipe (I have to do allllll these steps? Really?) or sheer disaster that arises from an ingredient or process that blindsides me with its idiosyncrasies. A good example of this is phyllo– I’ve worked with it before, and knew, just knew that it required a lot of attention, adequate defrosting, the right level of moisture, etc. And yet! And yet, when I was getting ready to put together the Cook’s Illustrated version of a spanakopita pie, complete with authentic phyllo, I ignored everything that I knew. Who can say why this happened, but in the end I was left with a delicious filling…and disintegrating phyllo.
Here, though, is where my genius mother came to the rescue! “Why not just put a pie crust under it?” I tell you, the woman is a superhero. The following recipe is the closest thing to a perfected version of the spanakopita-style tart that resulted from her idea, with a few more tweaks to the original (already pretty perfect) Cook’s Illustrated recipe.
8 oz crumbled feta cheese
4 oz grated aged Myzithra cheese [If you can’t find it, sub a bit more feta.]
8-10 oz ricotta cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1-2 tbs dried dill [I’ve always used dried, but I think that fresh dill would be nice as well– maybe even better! If using fresh dill, use about 1/3 cup.]
juice from 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and dried [Really, really squeeze all the moisture that you can out of the spinach. You don’t want to end up with a sad, soggy little tart.]
For the crust, I have (shamefully, yes) used store-bought pie crust (I recommend Trader Joe’s all-butter), but I’ve also made and used a double-batch of Orangette’s pie crust (with delicious results). So, really, it’s up to you. All that filling has to have something to sit on!
Mix all ingredients except spinach in a large bowl. Add spinach and stir until uniform.
Roll out the pie crust into a large rectangle (about the size of whatever sheet pan you’re using) and place it on an ungreased sheet pan.
Spread the filling over the crust– you can go pretty close to the edges, as there will be little to no spreading or leakage.
Bake in a 425-degree oven for about 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown.