Cooking Class: Greek Spanakopita– Layered Phyllo Pie with Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Feta with Jennifer Abadi

Cooking Class: Greek Spanakopita– Layered Phyllo Pie with Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Feta with Jennifer Abadi


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Everyone who loves Greek food knows spanakopita — a flaky pie stuffed with spinach and salty feta cheese in-between thin layers of buttery phyllo dough. But just how and why did this savory pastry become nearly synonymous with Greek cuisine? Learn how to prepare and impress your guests with this delicious, and much-loved, flaky stuffed pastry.

There is both scholarly and political debate as to where and how the first spanakopita originated and developed. One popular theory is that the Greek version was influenced by the Turkish ispanakli tepsi böreği, a spinach-stuffed pastry made from layers of thin dough (yufka) once prepared in the royal kitchens of the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. It is believed that while under Ottoman rule the Greeks adopted and adapted this basic recipe by adding their own sheep’s milk feta cheese and horta or wild greens (such as dill, mint, and chard) to the spinach to create hortapita or “greens pie.”

Today, variations of stuffed and thin-layered pastries are prepared under a variety of names throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. During the Greek Orthodox/Christian period of Lent preceding Easter, non-dairy/vegan versions (spanakopita nistisimi) are often prepared that leave out the cheese and eggs. During Passover, certain Greek-Jewish communities prepare a non-dairy spinach pie with a crust made of matzah meal in place of the wheat-based phyllo dough. In Syria and Lebanon, small triangular-shaped pies made out of a thin dough called warka are stuffed with spinach and lemon then folded and baked. In the Balkans, a Bulgarian pie called banitsa is made by pouring a mixture of yogurt, eggs, and feta cheese over rolled layers of phyllo dough and baked. And in North Africa, thin round pieces of dough made with semolina called brik are stuffed with various fillings, folded into triangles, and deep-fried until crispy.

Led by Sephardic and Middle Eastern food instructor, Syrian cookbook author, and recipe preserver Jennifer Abadi, this interactive hands-on seminar will teach you how to make this traditional Greek-style pastry that will impress any guest. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of varying types of this cherished food and how it lives on in Mediterranean communities today.

Below are the items you’ll want to participate in this class. We will email attendees the full recipe with measurements and instructions prior to the class, so that you can pre-measure ingredients before joining.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil or canola oil (1 cup)
  • Yellow onions (2 cups)
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves (1 pound)
  • Red or Green Swiss chard leaves (1 pound)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Eggs 
  • Parmesan cheese (1 cup)
  • Feta (1.5 cups)
  • Dill weed (½ cup)
  • Flat-leaf parsley (½ cup)
  • Phyllo dough (1-pound box, thawed)
  • Unsalted butter (2.5 sticks)
  • Sesame seeds (optional)

Special equipment

We don’t list every item you’ll need here (e.g., standard items like knives, bowls, cutting boards). But we do our best to identify items that may not be in every kitchen, and alternatives where possible.

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 9x13x2-inch baking pan
  • Pastry brush or folded paper towel
  • Large skillet
  • Kitchen towel

Jennifer Abadi is a native New Yorker, born, bred and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She is half Sephardic (Aleppo, Syria) and half Ashkenazic (Riga, Latvia). She is a researcher, developer, and preserver of Judeo-Arabic and Sephardic recipes and food customs, focusing on the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and North Africa. She is the author of two cookbooks: "Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe" and "A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen." Jennifer teaches cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and at the Jewish Community Center Manhattan (JCC), as well as privately. Jennifer has been providing Jewish Food & Culture tours on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for Context Travel since 2012."

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 2 reviews
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(2)
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B
B.
Excellent Class

What a great class! I can now make one of my favorite dishes I order in restaurants. Jennifer was a very good instructor. She answered all questions patiently and kindly. She was easy to follow and very clear with what to do. In addition, we learned about the dish and it origins and variations.

K
K.

Good pace and easy to follow

Customer Reviews

Based on 2 reviews
100%
(2)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
B
B.
Excellent Class

What a great class! I can now make one of my favorite dishes I order in restaurants. Jennifer was a very good instructor. She answered all questions patiently and kindly. She was easy to follow and very clear with what to do. In addition, we learned about the dish and it origins and variations.

K
K.

Good pace and easy to follow