Spanakopita with Kale (Kale-akopita)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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.)
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.
The idea is all hers though. And the recipe is Linda McCartney’s, adapted by me.
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.
* 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.
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.
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)
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)