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Spanakopita with Kale (Kale-akopita)

January 17, 2013

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and KalePin it!

If I had all the time and money in the world, I would:

1) Travel (and eat)
2) Cook (and eat) (and share)

Of course I’d do other things, too– like read books, do yoga (level 1, forever!), and study language flashcards– but the first two account for most of my daydreaming, maybe because they are the most limited by logistics, money, and time.

Ingredients for Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

Part of all that cooking would be to perfect as many recipes as I could for all the things I love to eat, maybe focusing on the foods of certain parts of the world at a time. India might come first, then Thailand, then there would probably be a tricky eight-way toss-up between Japan, Korea, Turkey, Italy, Singapore/Malaysia, Vietnam, Morocco, and Greece… (I’ll stop now before that list gets any longer.)

I wish I had the time– and the patience– to try out a thousand different little tweaks and adaptations for every recipe. Not just to see what works best, but also to absorb the techniques until they’ve become second nature; to see what I like best, and how my tastes change in the process.

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

I do some of this already, but completely haphazardly; usually I’m not trying to master a whole cuisine, but to fulfill a specific craving– and to put a delicious version of that something on the table on the first (or second) try.

For me, this rarely involves following a recipe to the teaspoon. I’m more of a guesstimate*, taste-test, and adapt kind of home cook.

Ingredients for Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

If you are a non-strict-recipe-follower like I am (or if you’d like to become one), then the way I see it, you have three options:

You can start with one recipe (and change it up as you’re cooking); you can start by speed-reading about fifteen different recipes (then combining all the best bits of advice in your head and shoving them all aside); or you can start with no recipe at all and just rely on your inventiveness.

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

I think recipe adaptations are part of the fun; they are part of learning to cook. Sometimes born out of pure necessity, they can result in strokes of genius (or disaster).

Since I first fell for kale, I’ve wanted to substitute it for spinach in every possible edible situation. (And let’s hope that most situations involving spinach are edible ones…)

Kale! Destined for Kale-akopita

In this case, Joy the Baker beat me to it. (Joy the Baker– if you’re somehow just hearing about this now– is the loveliest of cooking blogs and an excellent place to spend hours entertained by food photos, life stories, and recipes that are just begging to be made TONIGHT.)

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

With one little photo posted back in May, she sparked an immediate need for me to make some kale-akopita (this was my second time making it– with way fewer leeks than the first time, as requested by my onion-opposed girlfriend).

Joy the Baker also invented the word “kale-akopita” though with my penchant for word make-uppery, I’d like to think that I also totally would have come up with that.

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and KalePin it!

The idea is all hers though. And the recipe is Linda McCartney’s, adapted by me.

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

It calls for both spinach and kale, because, why not? And– assuming you even remotely follow the recipe– it tastes pretty darn amazing for dinner, lunch, breakfast, or brunch.

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

* Embarrassingly nerdy fact about me: I took second place (back in middle school) in a statewide Science Olympiad competition for the event of “Metric Guesstimation.”

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Spanakopita with Kale (Kale-akopita)
(Adapted from Linda McCartney’s World of Vegetarian Cooking)

(Serves 6-8 as a main dish, 16 as a side dish or appetizer)

~ 1 large bunch kale
~ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 leek, sliced in thin rounds
~ 3-4 scallions, sliced in thin rounds
~ 10-12 oz. feta cheese
~ 3 eggs, beaten
~ ¼ cup milk
~ 1 tsp. chopped dill
~ ½ tsp. ground cumin
~ ½ tsp. oregano
~ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
~ dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
~ sea salt and black pepper
~ 8 oz. spinach, roughly chopped
~ ½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and optionally chopped
~ up to 1 lb. phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the fridge, then brought to room temperature
~ up to 8 Tbsp. butter (or substitute olive oil)

How to make it:

1. Rinse, de-stem, and roughly chop the kale. Don’t bother to pat it dry; toss the kale leaves into a large stockpot with a lid. Add 1 Tsbp. of the olive oil, and ¼ cup water to the kale. Cover and cook over low heat– stirring several times– for 10 minutes, or until the leaves are soft and dark green. Remove from the heat. (Once cooled, chop more finely if desired.)

2. Add the remaining Tbsp. of olive oil to a skillet, and saute the leeks for 5 minutes, or until soft, then add the scallions and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Sauteeing scallions and leeks for Spanakopita            Feta Cheese for Spanakopita

3. In a large bowl, crumble and mash the feta cheese with a fork. Add the eggs, milk, and spices to the feta cheese and mix well. Then stir in the leeks, scallions, cooked kale, chopped spinach, and toasted pine nuts. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

4. Melt the butter (a whole stick for all 16 sheets of phyllo dough, or less if using fewer sheets). Brush the bottom and edges of a 9×9-inch square baking dish with butter (or olive oil), then begin layering in the phyllo dough sheets, brushing generously with butter in between sheets (and on top of the last sheet).

I used about 6 sheets of phyllo on the bottom– then added half the filling, 4 sheets in the center before adding the rest of the filling, and another 6 sheets on top. (You could also skip the sheets in the center, and use only half a package of phyllo dough, total.)

Tip: Don’t worry about the extra phyllo that hangs outside the edges of the baking dish. If you rotate every other rectangle as you are layering them in, then you can simply fold these flaps of dough back in over the center after adding the kale-spinach filling. Just save several whole sheets to smooth over the top. (You can either tuck the edges of these top sheets into the sides of the baking dish, or trim the edges with scissors.) Or make a wider, less tall kale-akopita in a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and KaleSpanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

5. Bake in the center of the oven at 375 for 40-45 minutes, until the top of the phyllo dough is crispy and golden. Let cool before slicing with a sharp knife.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and Kale

Spanakopita - Baked Phyllo Dough with Spinach, Feta, and KalePin it!

Related recipe posts:
> Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, Lemon, and Radishes
> Kale Curry with Homemade Paneer (Saag Paneer with Kale)
> Spinach Cheese Mini Quiches in Phyllo Cups (or Spinach Cheese Squares)

44 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2013 9:31 am

    I love so many things that you have revealed in this post. (Congratulations on the excellent metric guesstimation!) I agree that traveling & enjoying the world’s food is tops. I am of the read-15-recipes-and-follow-none persuasion. And I heartily agree with combining kale and spinach (although honestly, the spinach is only allowed in for the nice color; I prefer kale’s flavor and texture). Mmm, kale-akopita. :)

    • January 17, 2013 9:48 am

      Thanks, Emmy! :)

      The read-15-recipes-and-follow-none method is the one I usually follow, too– even though I wrote about it in this post where I used the adapt-one-recipe method instead.

      And I didn’t even think about the color being a reason to include spinach! To be honest, I mainly used spinach because if I’d used only kale, it would have taken up a crazy amount of volume– pre-cooking– which would have required two or more stockpots-worth of steaming, so using some spinach was just easier. (And even though some spanakopita recipes call for steaming the spinach first, I figured you could just add it raw, and I was right.) But an all-kale version might be even tastier…

  2. January 17, 2013 11:19 am

    Oh wow, I got so hungry looking at this! I’m a big fan of spankopita, and never thought to try it with kale.

  3. January 17, 2013 11:45 am

    Your kale variation looks absolutely divine :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  4. January 17, 2013 12:45 pm

    Great recipe! I think we may like it better with the kale..

    And is “metric guesstimation” like the “metric alphabet”?

    • January 17, 2013 5:09 pm

      So I just had to google “metric alphabet.” :) Is that an SNL thing? Too bad I can’t find the actual video anywhere… But no, it was just as boring as it sounds actually– lots of holding objects in our hands, guessing how many grams they weighed and then double-checking it with a scale.

      Glad you like the kale-akopita idea!

      • January 17, 2013 5:20 pm

        It was a very old SNL thing, so hard to get the video w/out buying it. You can find the audio online to get the idea..still funny….

  5. January 17, 2013 1:18 pm

    I love all those flaky layers in the phyllo dough!! I love kale in kale chips, but can’t get into the raw stuff for some reason? Mmm…I’m drooling over the combo of all those veggies, feta, and pine nuts!

    I was a science nerd too, we won the Hawaii science bowl in high school and got to go to D.C. to compete in the national science bowl…I have a frisbee as proof and since my husband found it, he will never let me live it down ;)

    • January 17, 2013 5:12 pm

      Yay, former science nerds turned food bloggers unite! :)

      Raw kale can definitely have a bitter taste (and tough texture– even if you take the time to massage it with olive oil), but sauteed/steamed kale (and kale chips) are SO good. And yep, you can’t go wrong with it here– all slathered in feta cheese and baked between phyllo. It’s a great way to eat your vegetables!

  6. January 18, 2013 1:24 am

    MMMMM! A grand & very delicious recipe! The endresult says it all: divine food!

  7. January 18, 2013 4:24 am

    As a greek, I approve! This looks yummy.

  8. January 18, 2013 2:26 pm

    Yummy! This looks wonderful Allison! Love the name (and the contents too of course) – I adore working with Phyllo pastry – so easy and it always impresses :) Delicious!

  9. January 19, 2013 2:13 pm

    What a great idea! It looks absolutely amazingly delicious :-) I must try this – thank you for sharing!

  10. January 19, 2013 7:28 pm

    Like many of your other followers, I really like this post! I just couldn’t stop reading with such a great opening line “If I had all the money and time in the world, I would:….” :) Great post!

  11. January 20, 2013 9:35 pm

    I would do just the same if I have the money, travel, cook and eat! hahaha….This kale akopita looks divine. I love the recipes and inspirations from Joy the Baker as well. Good pick! ;)

  12. January 21, 2013 2:55 am

    That looks so good!

  13. January 23, 2013 3:24 am

    Such a lovely twist to spanakopita and out Turkish spinach & feta pie, loved your version, looks so delicious! shared at my FB page:) x Ozlem

  14. January 23, 2013 1:03 pm

    So grateful for the spanakopita recipe! My husband and I love Greek food so I will be making this one up for Valentine’s Day I do believe <3!!

  15. January 23, 2013 2:59 pm

    This is an interesting take on Spanikopita! My mom has an amazing recipe for it the traditional way with spinach, I best this would taste great

    • January 23, 2013 5:59 pm

      Thanks! I’d love to hear your mom’s recipe for a traditional version too, if you ever feel like posting it on your blog… :)

      • January 24, 2013 5:02 pm

        I’ve been thinking about doing something with it lately, I will definitely be making a post when I do!

  16. January 27, 2013 6:55 am

    Yummy! Allison this looks delicious. I like phyllo pastry. I tried many of your recipes and I want to try this too :)

    • January 29, 2013 9:47 pm

      Thank you! That’s so nice to hear! :)

      And I love using phyllo dough too (in fact, I can’t believe how many recipes I’ve posted already that use it! I think there are about four already…?).

  17. January 27, 2013 12:27 pm

    Oh this is BRILLIANT!! I am obsessed with spanakopita, but come summer months when all you’re getting from the garden is kale, kale, and more kale, this would be a great option for using it up in delicious fashion. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • January 29, 2013 9:49 pm

      Thanks, Erina! I am jealous of your garden! Even though I joined a CSA last summer, there was not as much kale as I was hoping… (it might be better if I signed up for a spring share instead of a summer one). Anyway, I hope you get to try making your own kale-akopita soon!

  18. Nami | Just One Cookbook permalink
    January 27, 2013 8:09 pm

    I have the same Phyllo dough in the freezer waiting for me to use. I love that you used healthy kale in this. I think my kids may actually enjoy eating with phyllo if I make this!

    • January 29, 2013 9:51 pm

      Yay, this might be the perfect strategy for you to help your kids eat lots of leafy greens! (Especially if you don’t let them see the large volume/quantity of kale before it’s cooked down, because it gets much much smaller after cooking it…) If you get a chance to make it, I’d love to hear whether your kids enjoyed it or not. :)

  19. February 1, 2013 10:38 am

    haha “Kale-akopita.” I needed that belly laugh today, thank you! And i TOTALLY agree, Joy the Baker rocks and shes totally endearing, gotta love her honesty and her quite obvious skills in the kitchen!

    • February 2, 2013 11:15 am

      Ever since the first time I made this, I’ve been going around talking about either Spanakopita or Kale-akopita as if they’re both actual words and perfectly standard recipes that everyone knows about! I guess I’ve practically forgotten “kale-akopita” is not a real word! :)

      And yes, I love Joy the Baker’s site not only for her recipes and photos but also for her writing style! She is so free and open with her writing– I think that’s harder to do than it seems!

  20. February 18, 2013 1:28 pm

    I love everything about this!


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