When I was five years old, I took my very first trip to Greece with dreams of eating spanakopita three times a day and riding a pony on my grandfather’s farm. Neither dream turned out the way I expected – the pony was actually a donkey and there was no spanakopita to be found. I learned that Greece is too hot and arid in the summer months for the delicate leaves of the spinach plant to survive, and historically this rustic treat was only made during more temperate months. Today, you can find spanakopita throughout Greece year-round. Traditionally it is served as a mezé for parties or special occasions but is now also found in most bakeries and cafés to enjoy as a snack or for breakfast.
This recipe is my fresh take on a tried and true favorite and was born out of multiple desires – to make a lighter, healthier, gluten-free version of my exalted dish, and to reduce time spent cooking. It can be enjoyed as a luxurious lunch, a quick-fix weeknight dinner, or as a salad course for your next dinner party. Time saved in the kitchen can be better spent with friends and family over a communal meal in true Greek style!
- Generous handful fresh dill
- Generous handful fresh Italian parsley
- 5 scallions
- 1 large bunch or a 5-ounce package of fresh spinach (regular, wild or baby)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil (preferably Greek)
- 1 small lemon
- Optional: 8 ounces barrel-aged Greek feta, crumbled
- Wash and thoroughly dry all vegetables and herbs. Spinach is best dried in a salad spinner. Herbs can be pat-dried with a dishcloth or paper towel – be careful not to bruise them.
- Finely chop dill and parsley.
- Thinly slice the scallions. Use both white and green parts.
- If spinach has long or tough stems, discard the stems. Slice spinach into thin strips, between ¼ - ½ inch thick.
- Combine the spinach, herbs and scallions in a bowl. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, olive oil and the juice of the lemon. Toss well.
- Optional – top with crumbled feta.
Serve immediately. Makes 2-4 servings.
Tips and Options
- The key to this salad is the use of fresh herbs. Dried ones will not produce the desired fresh taste.
- If you do not have a lemon you can use vinegar as a substitute.
- Based on preference and seasonal availability you can experiment with the greens used – I often do half baby kale and half baby spinach.
- To make a variation even more reminiscent of traditional spinach pie serve the salad in homemade phyllo cups. I have yet to create or find a gluten-free phyllo that stands up to taste and durability tests but I am working on it! In the mean time, for non gluten-free diners here are the phyllo cup instructions:
- Lightly brush a regular or mini-muffin tin with olive oil and line the cups with several layers of phyllo – preferably whole wheat if you can find it. To get a sturdy cup the number of layers necessary will range from 4-8, depending on the thickness of your phyllo. Brush oil in between every couple of layers and on the top of the last layer. Bake the shells in the oven at 350°F until lightly browned (under 5 minutes). Serve salad in cooled cups.