March 1st, 2013
Does the title of this post make sense to you? I couldn’t come up with a better way to describe this dish, a Greek spinach pie made with kale instead of spinach. I suppose I could have followed suit and called it “kale pie” but that sounds strange, don’t you think? Well, whatever you call this, it’s delicious, healthy and a rare kale dish that my kids will eat without batting any of their long, lovely eyelashes.
In fact, I used to make this (and regular spinach pie) often when my kids were babies because the filling makes such a great, flavorful puree for any age eater!
This is not exactly a weeknight meal. Well, it is once you’ve made it in advance; then it doesn’t get any easier. (Reheat. Serve. Done.) I like to make this on a weekend when we’ll eat some for dinner and leave the leftovers for another night early in the week. And even though you can’t throw this together in 20 minutes on a busy Wednesday night doesn’t mean that it isn’t easy to make. It is.
I tend to cook this over the course of a whole weekend day. I’ll clean and prep the kale in the morning, while the boys eat breakfast and I’m in the kitchen anyway. Then I’ll cook the kale down later in the morning, before we go out for the afternoon. That’s also when I take the phyllo dough out of my freezer to thaw.
Once back home, I assemble and bake. If we’ve been out all day, I do this in the evening and dinner is ready for the next night. (And there are still leftovers for another night.) If we’re home in time for this to be dinner, all the better.
The point is that while this has a few steps to it, it’s mostly hands off and quite forgiving.
The key to making kale a suitable substitute for for spinach in this traditional Greek dish is to cook it until it’s soft and tender. Once the texture is right, the dill, lemon and feta do the rest to transform earthy kale into the rich, tangy filling that makes spinach pie such a crowd pleaser.
The one thing I have’t mentioned yet is butter, the (not so?) secret ingredient that gives Greek spinach pie its signature rich and crispy phyllo dough crust. That’s right people: that shiny, slick phyllo is delicious because of butter. And lots of it.
I use very little butter to brush the phyllo in this recipe, at least comparatively speaking, and you can tell. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t delicious (I wouldn’t post the recipe this way if that was the case) but, if you follow this recipe as written, you’ll notice that the phyllo is on the edge of dry and flakes off quite easily. This is not a sacrifice to us and it keeps the recipe in the realm of healthy. If you want something more traditional and aren’t concerned about using lots of butter, increase the amount called for to brush the phyllo (i.e., 4 tablespoons) by as much as you want (up to 8-10 tablespoons wouldn’t be unheard of).
Kale “Spinach” Pie
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*
7 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more as desired (see note in post about the 4 tablespoons of butter that I use to brush the phyllo)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 large bunch of kale, cleaned, trimmed and shredded (about 10 loosely packed cups)
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped scallions (about 6 scallions)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 1/2 a pound)
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 16-oz package phyllo, defrosted according to package instructions (you’ll only need about 1/2 of the package)
1. Preheat oven to 35o degrees. In a large dutch oven or pot set over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of butter along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add onions and cook until fragrant and translucent. Turn heat to low, add one more tablespoon of butter and allow to melt.
2. As soon as the butter has melted, add about 1/2 of the shredded kale. Stir to coat with butter and oil and allow to wilt. Once there is room in the pot, add the remaining shredded kale. Stir to coat again and allow the remaining kale to wilt.
3. Add dill, scallions, lemon juice, water, salt and remaining tablespoon of olive oil to pot; stir to combine. Cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the kale is tender. Once it is, uncover the pot, return heat to medium and and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the liquid cooks off. Once it does, remove from heat and transfer kale to a large bowl; allow to cool. Mix kale with crumbled feta and cottage cheese. Taste and adjust salt as desired.
4. In the meantime, melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom of a 9″ baking dish (oval, round or square—whatever your preference). Line with about 7 pieces of phyllo dough. Add filling and top with 2 pieces of phyllo, allowing extra to hang over the edges of your dish, and brush top with butter. Layer on two more pieces of phyllo and brush top with butter. Add 2 last layers and, once again, brush with butter (making sure to leave a little).
5. Using kitchen shears, trim extra phyllo so that there is only about 1″ of overhang around the entire perimeter of your baking dish. Starting anywhere, roll hanging phyllo in towards the baking dish to create a crust; keep rolling all around the baking dish, tucking the phyllo as necessary to keep in it place. (Don’t worry about making this perfect!) Use remaining butter to brush the rolled edges of the crust. Place in oven and bake for about 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into the pie. Serve warm.
*Note: To share this with very beginner eaters, puree cooked, cooled filling to desired consistency.