Years ago, my last roommate and I threw a small holiday party where we prepared ethnic dishes from our motherlands. Dan is Greek and one of his delicious contributions was spanikopita. I remembered that they were incredible, but seemed like an awful lot of work. You had to squeeze spinach! And apparently phyllo is a very delicate ingredient, vulnerable to the drying properties of air. Jeez. Anyway, it's taken me many years to psych myself up to the challenge. But here I am.
Aside from the phyllo situation, spanikopita is refreshingly straightforward to prepare. Wilt spinach with some onions! Squeeze it!! Add crumbled feta and some other stuff! Piece of cake. The mixture that remains seems like it would be delicious as is. But since it had a raw egg in it I didn't test this theory.
The next step, of course, was to bring out this week's daunting compulsory ingredient: phyllo. As Jamie mentioned, phyllo (sometimes spelled filo - weird) is frozen. A stack comes rolled up in a plastic pack to protect it from the drying air. Once you open the pouch, you have to keep the stack covered with a damp tea towel.
The recipe calls for two sheets to be stacked, each brushed with melted butter. And I don't want to discourage anyone, but if you do this for 8 servings you end up going through an entire stick of butter. That really blew me away. Anyway, once your buttered filos are ready, you glob some of the filling onto the bottom center of the rectangle and fold the sides in. Voila! A filo tube ready to be flag-folded up and - eek! - buttered at every turn. The finished products are cool-looking, shiny triangles that take to freezing well, so I placed them straight onto a cookie sheet in the freezer.
I kept the last two out (the very last one was mini) and popped them into the oven. It was not until they came out that I realized something had gone awry: spanikopitas aren't puffy! WTF. And even though I bet I could've used even more spinach, the flavor was pretty solid.
If I had to guess what went wrong, I'd say maybe each triangle needed only one sheet of phyllo. I mean, you fold it into itself so many times you get plenty of layers. I think the additional sheet provided more space for air to get in and puff it up. This is just a guess, though. I'm no scientist.
Anyway, try cooking some spanikopitas! They keep well and are not nearly as scary to make as you think.