A really good spinach pie is harder to make than it seems. The spinach and cheese must be balanced, neither overwhelming the other. The pie shouldn't be too rich or too watery, and the flavors should be bright, not too tangy or too washed out.
And that's just the filling! Filo crusts are fraught with danger and, as far as I'm concerned, a pain to work with at home. So I sidestep the issue by using puff pastry instead, which also allows me to fill and freeze the hand-pies before baking for storage.
I like my spinach pies with plenty of spinach and a blend of relatively mild cheeses. Go for a less assertive feta here, and if you can find it, manouri, a soft, meltable cheese made from the whey leftover from feta production. Nutmeg and lemon zest team up to add some verve to these pies, which are perfect for packing in lunch boxes or taking on picnics.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 ounces fresh spinach
- 1/4 pound mild feta cheese
- 1/4 pound manouri cheese
- Zest of one lemon, plus juice, if needed
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons dill, finly chopped
- Flour, for dusting
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
Heat oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven on medium-low, then add onion. Cook, with a pinch of salt, stirring often. When onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook one more minute.
Add spinach, tossing to coat with oil, and add another small pinch of salt. Cook until spinach is very tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes, then turn off heat and stir in cheese. Add lemon zest, nutmeg, and dill. Salt to taste, and add lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon at a time tasting until desired flavor is achieved. Set aside.
Heat oven to 400°F and adjust rack to middle position, then lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll puff pastry out into a 10- by 8-inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut the puff pastry into four smaller rectangles.
Dock the center of each rectangle lightly with a fork, leaving half an inch of space on each side. Spoon 1/4 of filling into each rectangle and fold over like a book. To seal edges, crimp by lightly pressing down on them with the back of the fork.
Bake hand pies on a parchment-lined sheet pan until pastry is well-browned, firm, and dry, about 30 minutes. Or freeze pies on sheet pan for several hours, then transfer to a zip-top bag for long-term storage. Serve hand pies warm or at room temperature.