My first introduction to spanakopita, the Greek pastry filled with a deeply savoury spinach filling, was around the holiday season, circa 1990s. The bites were packaged in an hors d’oeuvre selection, sold in tidy folded triangles along with spring rolls, mini quiche and sausage pastries. And they were always my favourite of the bunch.
Each item from the appetizer selection came individually quick-frozen in the same box, and it was my job to line them up on the baking sheets for reheating. Timing was key; they were placed in the oven 30 minutes before the arrival of guests, which perfumed the house with an aroma I still associate with Christmastime.
When I started gaining independence in the kitchen, though still with the guidance of my mom, I was around 12 years old, eager to try my hand at something beyond the banana muffins I could finally make by myself. A Spinach Dill Pie recipe from Martha Stewart – which I most definitely saw in the Living magazine as this was before the time recipes were so easily searchable online – caught my eye. So, my mom and I made it for Sunday dinner in lieu of the regular pork roast and potatoes we had most weeks.
The spinach pie felt finicky, fussy and hard to me at the time, but it was a dinnertime success, and a small kitchen achievement I haven’t forgotten.
This tart tells the same story as Martha’s pie, but takes a new direction with its scruffy, freeform appearance inspired by the glam cover shot on the August 2017 issue of Food & Wine magazine.
Squares be served with a salad for brunch, lunch or dinner, as part of a large spread as a side dish, as a savoury snack or with something cool to drink at cocktail hour. I’ve swapped spanakopita’s archetypal spinach with kale, as I find kale easier to work with in terms of getting the moisture out – this means a crust that shatters instead of collapses due to sogginess. The filling is bound with yogurt and eggs, adding substance, tang and a mellowing component to offset the irony greens.
Light, familiar and a truly exceptional way to eat green vegetables.
Kale & Yogurt Spanakopita Phyllo Tart
8 sheets phyllo pastry (regular, whole wheat or gluten-free), thawed
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
160g (6 packed cups) kale, destemmed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill or 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup whole milk plain yogurt (Balkan-style or Greek), more for serving
lemon wedges, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and dampen a clean kitchen towel. Brush a bit of oil on parchment. Unwrap phyllo and keep covered as you work with the dampened towel (don’t skip this or you’ll risk the dough becoming dry and brittle).
2. Working one at a time, add a sheet of phyllo, cover remaining dough with a damp towel. Using a pastry brush, brush a thin layer of oil evenly over phyllo. Repeat with remaining covered phyllo dough. Roll scruffy sides into the centre of the tart to create a 1-inch border. Brush top piece of phyllo and border with oil.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan and bake for 8 to 12 minutes longer, until evenly golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheet.
1. In a large high-sided skillet or large sauté pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic, reduce heat to medium-low and sauté until translucent and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar, followed by kale, salt, dill, nutmeg and pepper. Cook until kale is dark green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer kale mixture to a medium bowl and set aside to cool completely.
2. Once kale mixture is cool, mix in beaten egg and yogurt until full combined.
Assembly and Serving:
1. Lower oven heat to 350ºF. Evenly spoon kale mixture over cooled tart (inside the border you’ve created). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until filling is firm. Slice and serve warm or room temperature with lemon for seasoning and yogurt for dolloping.