spinach

Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

Vegan spanakopita (spinach-pie) with a crispy, homemade crust

Often I think of food as an anchor that holds my memories at the port of consciousness, protected from the ocean of oblivion, as there are several times that a specific food reminds me of moments and stories from the past. So strong is the connection of food and memory to me, that foods or ingredients associated with an unpleasant moment are not welcome in my kitchen and I do not eat them until a very tempting recipe or a chance to see them under a new, brighter angle – such as a cozy table with people I love or a journey – give me the incentive to retry them. These correlations between emotions – sensations – food is the reason why, when I share a recipe with you, I start by sharing a remembrance, a short story, filed concurrently with the specific food or dessert in my mnemonic library.

Although I could keep writing about memory and oblivion for the next few paragraphs, for the moment I will just share a memory concerning my relation to spinach-pie or spanakopita, a well-known traditional Greek food that everyone seems to like, during my childhood. Well as a child, my first reaction in front of a freshly baked, hot spinach-pie was to pinch my face, so much that several small creases were formed on my nose and around my eyes, to grit my teeth, to turn my head on the other side and with clear and loud voice to say “yuck” to anyone – usually an uncle or a grandma – who seemed to have a hard time comprehending my reaction. What if spanakopita today is one of my favorite dishes – especially this one I could eat it every day, for lunch and dinner for the next month; or that spinach was what made Popeye so strong. No matter how hungry I may was, I would not change my mind. I would never eat it simply because spanakopita was in the list of “yuck” foods. If this is not a reason not to eat spinach-pie one then what is?

Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

However today, although I find washing spinach boring, I prepare spinach pies frequently and I always smile with this funny irony, since now in the view of spinach-pie, my eyes open widely and my salivary glands become overactive – clear evidences that spanakopita has officially entered the “yum” foods list. What I enjoy most is its crust that, especially when homemade, is by itself a reason for a second and third portion. The recipe I am sharing today is an easy and delicious spanakopita (or spinach-pie if you prefer) recipe with a crispy, bread-like crust -maybe something between a tart crust and a scone- and a juicy spinach stuffing which is tender as cream and packed with the aromas of a green garden during winter (snow-free and relatively hot Greek winter of course!). Ideally, if you can find someone willing enough to wash the spinach, this pie takes minimal effort to prepare and it remains crispy and delicious even the next day.

Ingredients
(for a baking pan of 30 cm diameter)

for the dough

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose flour or whole wheat plus a little more for rolling out the dough

for the filling

  • 750 g fresh and tender spinach, chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped
  • 5-6 spring onions, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pepper

black-caraway and sesame seeds for sprinkling

Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Crust: Mix the olive oil, water and wine together with the baking powder and salt, and add the flour gradually, kneading for a few minutes until a soft, non-sticky dough forms. Cover with a towel and let it rest for at least half an hour.
2. For the filling: Mix all the ingredients with your hands so as to reduce their volume a little bit and let them stand for fifteen minutes while you are rolling out the dough.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 ° C and grease a 30 cm diameter baking pan. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger. Take the larger piece and on a floured surface roll out with a rolling pin a round sheet of 1 / 2-1 cm thickness. If the dough is sticky sprinkle with a little flour and continue rolling out. Line the pan with the dough sheet making sure it covers its sides. Sprinkle evenly the filling. Roll out the smaller piece of dough to the same thickness and cover the pie. Trim excess pastry and with wet fingers gently press the edges to seal.
4. Sprinkle some water on the pie and with a fork make several small holes on its surface. Sprinkle with caraway and sesame seeds and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until golden. Let it cool slightly and serve.

Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

Note: The dough should not be kneaded too much so as to become crispy and fluffy. If you prefer you can substitute wine with equal amount of orange juice.

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Γίγαντες πλακί, στο φούρνο με σπανάκι, κολοκύθα και πράσα - Baked giant beans with spinach, squash and leaks - Veganinathens.com

Colorful baked giant beans

Baked giant beans are one of the most common, traditional Greek recipes, made with white giant beans, tomato sauce, onions, celery, parsley and sometimes garlic and carrots. The method is simple and always works, as soon as you use fresh, good quality ingredients, especially beans. The beans are soaked overnight, the next day they are boiled until tender and they are drained and then mixed with the rest of the ingredients in a baking dish. The vegetables and aromatics should be sautéed first, to make a thick vegetable-tomato sauce. Then the beans are baked for 45-60 minutes until the sauce thickens and all the tastes and aromas are developed. This tasty dish is served as a starter or as “meze” in the taverns but in the Greek household it is usually serves as a main.

However, when I prepare giant beans, I like to add some taste and color by using vegetables such as butternut squash, red peppers, leaks and spinach. The subtle sweet taste of the squash and the leaks balances the sourness of the tomatoes and all the aromas and textures are combined perfectly creating a mouthwatering, hearty dish.

Γίγαντες πλακί, στο φούρνο με σπανάκι, κολοκύθα και πράσα - Baked giant beans with spinach, squash and leaks - Veganinathens.com

Ingredients
(5-6 persons)

  • 400 g giant beans dried, soaked in plenty of water for at least 12 hours
  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced
  • 500 g fresh spinach washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup celery chopped
  • ½ cup parsley chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 400 g butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes of 1 cm thick
  • 750 g ripe tomatoes chopped
  • 1 big red pepper diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Γίγαντες πλακί, στο φούρνο με σπανάκι, κολοκύθα και πράσα - Baked giant beans with spinach, squash and leaks - Vegan in Athens

Method

  1. Drain the beans and boil them in pure water until tender for 45-60 minutes. This time I cooked them in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes to save time. Season with salt just before cooking is complete.
  2. Wash, clean and dice the vegetables. In a big saucepan pour the olive oil and sauté the leeks and the garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add all the remaining ingredients together with 2 cups of broth (from beans), salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. In a baking pan add the giant beans drained together with the cooked vegetables and the sauce and mix.
  4. Bake in the oven at 200 οC for one hour until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

Γίγαντες πλακί, στο φούρνο με σπανάκι, κολοκύθα και πράσα - Baked giant beans with spinach, squash and leaks - Vegan in Athens

 

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