by Cat, Aug 2007 (Photo, right, by Cat)
- See also: 1. Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie); 2. Middle Eastern Meza Menu; 3. Savory Tarts, Pies Menu; 4. EthnicFoods Menu; 5. Wheat/Spelt Yogurt Pie Crust; 6. Soaking & sprouting grains;
- Other Sites: Greg Patent’s Greek Greens Pie (6), which uses a mixture of greens and a pastry crust.
The spinach pies of Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and other Middle-Eastern countries are all a bit different from each other, but they all have the basic ingredients in common: spinach, feta cheese, and pine nuts inside a crust. Where they differ is in added ingredients, spices, herbs and the type of crust. This recipe is not as rich as the Greek recipe.
Nicholas Restaurant (4) in Portland Oregon (where I used to live), is a wonderful restaurant where I first has the Lebanese Spinach Pie. They shape their pie in a square (rather than a circle as in my photo above), and which is also my preference as it holds more filling per pie. However, the circle shape is easier to eat at a party.
Lebanese Spinach Pie
This recipe is based on a recipe in Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. The Yogurt pie crust may sound a bit weird, but the flavor is perfect with the spinach seasoning. For this recipe, use the Yogurt Crust version I for the best flavor – it is more tart (from more yogurt), and thus complements the spinach well. I’ve also used this crust for individual Mince Meat Pies during the holiday season (with real fermented meat), to rave reviews.
Yogurt pie crust is an example of using soaked grains, which, like sprouting, increases the bioavailability of the grain’s nutrients. It can be made with wheat (or Kamut), or spelt. Spelt is a bit tricky because it is soluble in the liquid yogurt, making a softer dough unless you use more spelt, less liquid, or add some coconut flour to absorb excess moisture.
When I’m short on time, I buy Organic baby spinach, pre-washed and sold in clear container; two 5-oz containers (total 10 oz) will make about 3 cups wilted spinach (or one container for a half-recipe). Baby spinach stems are so tender and the leaves so small that you don’t need to tear them.
Although freshly grated nutmeg is best, packaged or bulk ground nutmeg will do (but you may need more). If you don’t like nutmeg, try ground fennel seeds instead.
Scout out real Greek, Bulgarian or Romanian Feta for this recipe. These are usually made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. It should be sold in blocks and kept in a salt brine. American feta from cows milk just doesn’t have enough flavor. If you can’t find good feta in a local store, it is usually available at igourmet.com (3) (type ‘feta’ in the search field, and you’ll get lots of choices). I like their Dodoni Greek Feta.
I recommend presoaking, then toasting the pine nuts (aka crispy pine nuts) before adding to the pie mixture. I also recommend grinding them in a mortar after drying/roasting them, to make digestion easier.
This makes 8 – 10 individual pocket tarts. I wrap extra baked tarts in natural waxed paper, then place on a washed meat tray, slide into a sealable bag, and freeze for later use.
Ingredients & Equipment
- Crust: Day-before prep:
- 1 recipe Yogurt Pie Crust I (Wheat or Spelt)
- ½ cup crispy or toasted pine nuts, ground (see box, below for how to make them)
- Spinach filling:
- 3 cups washed, chopped/torn and cooked spinach, squeezed dry (in a pinch, you can use frozen chopped spinach, mostly thawed, then cooked, and squeezed dry). If using fresh spinach, it helps to rub with salt to pull out the moisture, then tear rather than chop, as in the Spanakopita recipe. NOTE: two 5-oz containers Organic fresh, pre-washed baby spinach will do the trick.
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of nutmeg (or more, to taste)
- 2 cups Greek or Romanian Feta cheese, crumbled
- melted butter
- unbleached white flour (to dust pastry cloth for rolling out dough.
- small bowl
- cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan
- mortar and pestle
- large bowl
- rolling pin and surface
- Day before (need to rest overnight):
- Prepare Yogurt Pie Crust I (Wheat or Spelt).
- Prepare crispy pine nuts (see box, below) and grind them in a mortar.
- Next day: Wash spinach, trimming stems, then drain (if using baby spinach you may not need to trim the stems). Sprinkle heavily with salt, and rub it into the leaves with your hands, tearing the leaves into small pieces. This also releases most of the moisture in the leaves, reducing the bulk to a quarter of its former bulk. Rinse off salt thoroughly and drain again. Alternately, chop, rinse and drain, but this doesn’t remove as much moisture.
- Cook spinach just until thoroughly wilted; remove from pan to colander and allow to cool enough to handle; squeeze dry
- Mix spinach with onion, garlic, pine nuts, nutmeg, and salt & pepper to taste. I really like a lot of nutmeg, at least a teaspoon, but not all people like that much.
- Stir in crumbled feta.
- Assembly: Divide dough into 8 to 10 1-inch balls and coat balls in flour. Roll into rounds.
- Place a scoop of spinach filling on each round of dough.
- Using your finger, run a bit of cold water around the edges of the dough.
- Fold edges up to form a 3- or 4-sided pastry, almost meeting at a point in the center (leave a hole at center for air to escape). Seal edges by pinching them together. The edges will make a 3- or 4-pointed star pattern. Alternately, you can fold the edges over the filling (as you would for a rustic pic), leaving a 1″ diameter opening in the center.
- Place on well-greased cookie sheets/jelly-roll pans, and brush with melted butter.
- Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes or until golden.
- Remove from oven and cool on a rack for a few minutes before serving. I like them best a little warmer than room temperature.
- Cool to room temperature before freezing extras.
- NOTE: You can also make this as a 2-crust pie in a 10-inch pie pan, but they are much better as individual tarts. You can also use traditional pie crust, but the yogurt dough tastes better with the seasoned spinach.