Yum Peaceful Cooking: Spanakopita #GreekSummer #Giveaway

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spanakopita #GreekSummer #Giveaway

I'm taking a trip this summer. A virtual trip to Greece with Debbie Matenopoulos and I'm inviting you all to come along. 

I haven't been exposed to Greek food very much, which is the reason I totally jumped on the opportunity to review Debbie Matenopoulos's "It's All Greek To Me" cookbook. What better way to experience incredible foods from Greece than to make it in your own kitchen with the 'assistance' of someone who has Greek cooking in her blood. 

And there's a bonus! Debbie has added her own touch to her families traditional recipes. Not only to make them even more healthy but to also make them easier to prepare. 

You know what I have to say about that? Grab a refreshing drink, pull up a chair and let's hang out with Debbie while we enjoy a Greek summer. 

Really...if you were going to hang out with Debbie Matenopoulos, what would you say to her? I'd have to ask her about her cookbook, and food of course. And that's exactly what I did! Not that I got to really hang out with her, but I did get to ask her some questions, which she so graciously answered!

Me: "Who was your biggest inspiration when developing the recipes for It's All Greek to Me?"
Debbie: "My biggest inspiration for writing this cookbook was my mother. I have the fondest memories of spending time in the kitchen with her while she whipped up some amazing home cooked meals made from scratch.  She, along with my grandmother and aunts, taught me everything I know about cooking. My mom is still to this day the best cook I have ever met."

Me: "Which recipe has the most meaning to you and why?"
Debbie: "The recipe that has the most meaning to me in the book is the pastichio, which is basically Greek lasagna. The reason being it is really nostalgic for me. Growing up we would often have pastichio on Sundays.  My mom would spend all day preparing a big family style dish of pastichio and all of our family and friends would come over and enjoy Sunday dinner together.  Sunday dinner was always a big event in our home."

Me: "What is your earliest memory of cooking/preparing Greek food?"
Debbie: "My earliest memories of cooking are from when I was about 4 years old and are of me being in the kitchen with my mom. I was helping her stir the bechamel for the pastichio or moussaka over the stovetop to make sure it didn’t get too thick.  She would pull up a stool for me to stand on and make sure to let me know that my job was very important. She would tell me that getting the pastichio or moussaka exactly right all depended on me making sure I didn't let the bechamel thicken too much.  That responsibility made me feel so important and made me so proud when we all sat down to dinner. It truly made me feel like I was an integral part in making this delicious meal. I think that's when I fell in love with cooking."

Me: "If you were to choose a dish or meal from your cookbook, for someone who has never tried Greek food, what would it be and why?
Debbie: " I would recommend Prassopita.  It is feta cheese, Parmesan, and sautéed leek phyllo pie. It is flaky and puffy and absolutely scrumptious. It is one of my absolute favorite Greek dishes. It is more sophisticated than the typical spanakopita, which is a spinach, feta, and onion phyllo pie.  Spanakopita is delicious in its own right, but if I were to recommend something to someone that has never had Greek food it would have to be Prassopita. It's almost like a soufflé and is best eaten hot about 15 minutes after coming out of the oven."

Me: What message would you like to resonate with your readers/home cooks?
Debbie: "I would like the readers of this blog and the home cooks to not only enjoy the amazing flavors of the Mediterranean cuisine of my ancestors, but also the immeasurable health benefits.  And, I’d like them to enjoy this food with their family and loved ones, because after all, food is more than just food to Greeks. To Greeks, food represents love and family.  So here’s to you enjoying the deliciousness of this cookbook with your family!! ;)"

Omg...she is just too sweet!!

How would you like to have the opportunity to win a special gift to remind you of this "trip" ..... A copy of Debbie Matenopoulos's cookbook, It's All Greek To me! 

Details below...but lets get to cooking first!

Spanakopita (Spinach Feta Pie)
Serves 8 - 10

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for baking dish
1 bunch scallions, white and tender green parts, washed and thinly sliced
1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 pounds fresh spinach, coarse stems removed, washed in several changes of cold water, drained, and chopped
1 pound brine-packed Greek feta
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill
4 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (1-pound) package phyllo dough sheets (13 × 18 inches), thawed (see tip, page 112)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9 × 13-inch baking dish.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the scallions and the onion, and sauté until translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until just wilted. 

It looks like such a HUGE amount, until...it cooks down to next to nothing.

Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and transfer to a fine-mesh strainer. Cool slightly, then squeeze as much excess water as possible from the spinach, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

(seriously, you need to squeeze....this is almost 3 cups of liquid from the spinach!)

Crumble the feta into small pieces and add it to the spinach mixture. Add the dill and mix gently to combine. Add the eggs and pepper. Mix well to combine with impeccably clean hands or a silicone spatula.

Roll the phyllo dough out on a flat surface, working quickly and keeping it covered to prevent it from drying out. Place 2 phyllo sheets into the baking dish at a time, centering them and letting the edges hang over the sides. Brush the top sheet of each 2-sheet layer with a little of the remaining olive oil, but do not brush the overhanging edges. Continue in this manner until you have used 10 of the phyllo dough sheets.

Spread the spinach-feta mixture evenly over the phyllo dough layers in the prepared dish. Fold the overhanging phyllo dough over the filling, then continue to layer the phyllo dough, brushing each 2-sheet layer with olive oil, until you have used all of the dough. Trim the top layers of phyllo to fit the baking dish. Slowly pour the remaining olive oil on top, and spread evenly.

Before baking, using a large knife, very carefully score the pie into 8 to 10 pieces, cutting through the top layers just until you reach the filling. Precutting makes it much easier to serve, as the phyllo dough becomes crisp and very fragile after baking.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and flaky, watching carefully. Cool for 10 minutes, slice the precut pieces all the way through, and serve.

Debbie’s Tip: As noted earlier, as with most of the phyllo pies, spanakopita can be made with either melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil. I find the olive oil version to be a lighter, more healthful dish, but I also love to indulge in my mom’s decadent, traditional version once in a while. To make it Mom’s way, replace the olive oil used to brush the phyllo with 6 tablespoons of melted butter (see tip, page 112), add an extra egg, and use 11/2 pounds of feta instead of 1 pound. 

It’s over-the-top delicious!

Let me just tell you, I had a really hard time deciding which dish to make from the cookbook. So hard that I went to my fans on Facebook and asked them. What a wonderful choice! I absolutely love spanakopita! I even drizzled a little lemon juice over the top....wow! It's one of those dishes that even though you're full, you keep sneaking another bite. And you walk away saying...'Ok, I'm done!' And back you go for another one! 

Enter your chance to win a copy so you'll know first hand what I'm talking about...

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only. This giveaway will run from Wednesday, July 30, 2014 through Tuesday, August 5, 2014 (11:59 pm PT). The w inner will be notified within 48 hours of the close of the contest and given 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. 

I was not compensated for this post, however BenBella Books provided me a copy of "It's All Greek To Me" cookbook to review. They are also supplying a copy for the giveaway.  All opinions are my own.


  1. I am not sure if my comment went through or not? I love making pastitsio and would love to learn how to make more Greek food. I would put this cookbook to good use.

    1. Hi Patty! yes, your comment made it through...woo hoo!!! Good luck :)

  2. I remember when my neighbor Maria made us a plate of kourabiethes which are almond shortbread cookies. It took all the self control I could muster not to eat that whole plate by myself. She gave me the recipe and I've made them often since then.

    1. I'll have to try kourabiethes. I love almonds! (next to cashews, they're my favorite nut)

  3. I love a good Greek Salad, Grilled Octopus and the grape leaves stuffed with rice and yumminess. My best friend was Greek growing up and when her mom used to cook, I always loved visiting and tasting all her dishes....they certainly know how to throw a good party with good food.

    1. In this heat...a Greek Salad would be wonderful! :)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I love Gyros!!! My husband would love it if i ccoked him Greek food. If I win this cookbook you can come over and help me break in my new kitchen aid mixer.

  6. Your Spanakopita looks absolutely perfect! I'm not entering your giveaway (I already have my copy of Debbie's book), but I just wanted to stop by and tell you how stunning your dish is! Kudos to you!
    Renee - Kudos Kitchen

    1. Thank you Renee! It tasted wonderful and I just love Debbie's book :) Thank you for stopping by.

  7. I absolutely love gyros! My husband grew up eating Greek food all the time, he would really love if I won this! lol

  8. I love greek food!!!
    Your spanakopita looks awesome!!!

  9. Since I'm Armenian and we have so many dishes in common with Greeks, I'll have to go with Pastitsio - although you know how much I love Spanakopita, Stuffed Grape Leaves, etc. Yummm. Now you've got me thinking about the spinach. I've always used frozen. Wonder if it tastes any different with fresh. And you're right - the first time I made it, it was a disaster because I didn't squeeze out enough of the liquid!! Turned my phyllo to glue! :(


I apologize for having to use the word verification but you know how spammers are. All comments with links will be treated as spam. Thank you for visiting. I will do my best to return the visit.