Makes:About 20 servings as a starter
This version of the Greek spinach pie called spanakopita, known as banitsa in Bulgarian, layers everything on a single baking sheet rather than requiring the shaping and folding of individual pies. A filling of spinach, feta cheese, and egg is mixed together and layered between buttered sheets of phyllo dough. Then the pie is baked in the oven until the phyllo is puffed and golden. Watch Baba Luba make it herself in the latest episode of CHOW’s Cooking with Grandma video series.
Special equipment: You will need a pastry brush for this recipe.
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen spinach, thawed
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup margarine
8 ounces Greek feta
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 poundsphyllo sheets (12 by 17 inches), thawed in the refrigerator
Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Using both hands, squeeze out as much liquid from the spinach as possible. (Excess liquid will make the banitsa soggy.) Place in a large bowl.
Melt the butter and margarine in a small saucepan over low heat; set aside.
Rinse the feta under cold water. Cut it into small dice, then mash it lightly with the back of a fork to crumble it further. Add it to the bowl of spinach. Add the eggs and stir to combine.
Place the phyllo on a work surface. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with the reserved butter mixture. Working quickly so as not to dry out the phyllo, gently slide 2 sheets onto the baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon of the butter mixture. Repeat until you have 6 layers of phyllo.
Spread half of the spinach mixture evenly over the phyllo. Cover the spinach with 2 more sheets of phyllo and drizzle with a tablespoon of the butter mixture. Repeat until you have 4 layers of phyllo.
Spread the remaining spinach mixture evenly over the phyllo. Cover the spinach with 2 more sheets of phyllo and drizzle with a tablespoon of the butter mixture. Repeat until you have 5 layers of phyllo. Evenly brush the entire surface of the top layer with the remaining butter mixture. Push the edges down slightly to seal.
Bake for 15 minutes. Check the banitsa: If the top is golden brown already, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Continue to bake, checking occasionally to make sure the banitsa is not too brown, until puffed, flaky, and golden brown, about 15 to 30 minutes more. Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool slightly before cutting and serving.