Its Sunday night and I am thinking of menus for lunch boxes for the week. I am more of a night owl and a frightfully lazy morning person. Given my somnolent morning disposition; unfussy, quick, easy-to-make lunches that can be prepped the previous night appeal hugely to me. This recipe for falls into that category.
These spinach pies are inspired by Spanakopita, the popular greek pastry. The pie crust takes the place of phyllo dough and the filling is very similar to the original recipe. I love using phyllo dough but layering those delicate thin layers of dough takes a little longer than I want to spend on a Sunday night or a weekday night.
This recipe comes together in about 30 minutes, maybe 45 minutes if you are new to working with dough. The spinach filling is a cinch to make, especially if you are using pre-washed and ready-to-use spinach.
While my filling is cooling, I work on the dough. On cool nights like today, I skip the step of resting the dough in the refrigerator and go straight to rolling it out. As you see in the pictures here, I am not fastidious about trimming edges off the dough once it has been rolled and ready for portioning out. Cut the rolled dough, place filling on one side of each rectangle, and fold over. I don’t even use a fork or egg wash to seal the edges – a bit of gentle pressure with floured hands will do the sealing. So what if a bit of filling spills out when these gorgeous pies are baking in the oven. That extra caramelization is something I can easily bear with.
The finished and sealed pies are then put away in the refrigerator to rest overnight. In the morning, I preheat the oven to 400 deg F and bake these rustic beauties until they are golden. Wait until they cool before you seal them in a lunch box. If you are packing these for a dear one, the recipient of the lunch box will text, email or call you to tell you how delicious lunch time was. If you are eating these for lunch, you will love yourself for taking the time to make them.
With all this talk of lunch boxes, please don’t file this recipe as a lunch box idea. It is perfectly suitable as an appetizer/snack or a main course for a vegetarian meal. You can also make these mini pies ahead and freeze them. Thaw a couple for about 5-10 minutes before popping them into a nice hot oven and enjoy a well deserved snack that feels like you bought it at the local deli.
Prep time: 30-45 minutes Resting time: 2 hrs or overnight Baking time: 25-30 minutes Makes 8 mini pies Ingredients for filling: 2 tbsp olive oil 4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly 6 oz spinach, chopped roughly 1/4 tsp red chili flakes 1/2 tsp dried oregano 1/8 tsp salt 2-3 tbsps crumbled feta cheese Ingredients for dough: 1.25 cups all purpose flour 1/4 tsp salt 4 tbsps unsalted butter, cut into small pats 4 - 6 tbsps ice cold water Method: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and when it sizzles and is lightly golden around the edges, add the chopped spinach and let cook until the moisture has completely evaporated. Stir in red chili flakes, dried oregano and salt. Remove from heat and let cool. When cooled, mix in the crumbled feta cheese and set aside. While the filling is cooling, combine flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Add water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Dust your working surface and rolling pin with flour and working quickly, roll the dough to a rectangle that is roughly 12 inches by 8 inches. Cut into 8 rectangles. Divide filling into 8 portions and place each portion on one half of each rectangle. Fold over at the center and gently pressed with floured hands to seal the edges. Place mini pies on a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate for 2 hrs or over night. Preheat oven to 425 deg F and bake on lower rack of oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.