Spanakopita Strudel

Spanakopita is a traditional Greek dish that is made by stuffing pastry dough (usually filo) with a spinach and feta mixture. The dish has always appealed to me because I love spinach but the feta usually scared me away. I can handle feta in small doses in salad but too much of it is overwhelming. Something inspired me to make this for the Melave Malka in strudel form as opposed to the traditional triangular pockets and when I made the mixture I started to get nervous that the feta would just be too overpowering. So, I was so pleasantly surprised when it was such a big hit and that when I tasted it myself the feta just blended in so well with the spinach and was tamed a little by the pastry and all together made a spectacularly delicious strudel. I know some people are scared to work with filo so for those of you that fall into that category you can just use puff pastry but I think you lose something by not having those beautiful thin and crispy layers of dough. Filo is actually much less intimidating then it seems, it just requires a gentle hand and a wet cloth to keep the layers moist as you go but otherwise I find it to be quite forgiving  because I think the little cracks in the dough just add to its visual appeal. So I say give it a try and this dish would be a great beginners filo project. Enjoy!

8 sheets filo dough
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
28 oz or 800 grams frozen leaf spinach, drained and chopped
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs 

Saute the onion with garlic and season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and mix. Let the mixture cool and then mix in the cream cheese, feta and bread crumbs. The mixture should NOT be loose so add more bread crumbs if it is. Taste the mixture and season if need be. Lay one sheet of filo down on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover the rest with a damp paper towel while you work. Brush the filo with some melted butter and top with another layer. Repeat until you have used 4 layers. Place half of the mixture down the long side of the dough leaving about an inch at each end for folding. Fold the top and bottom over the mixture and then roll, burrito style until the dough is finished. Brush the top with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Bake at 350 until golden- about half an hour. 


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