March 2011 Archives

Spinach and Nettles Spanakopita (crustless)

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spanakopita 2.jpgThe egg rose to the top there making this look more like a quiche.  I believe this happened because my greens were still a little too wet.  It's not at all like a quiche.  When making it in a pie dish this didn't happen.

I have eaten a lot of spanakopita in my life.  I'm just saying this right now so you will understand that I know what it tastes like.  I wanted to make a crustless version of spanakopita and shared this ambition with my mother who at once let me know that without the crust it simply can't be spanakopita.  I argued that what makes a spanakopita spanakopita isn't the crust but the filling of spinach and feta and onions and dill. 

After some fruitless brangling over this it was revealed that my mom just doesn't see the point of spanakopita without the crust because she loves the crust.  I got the distinct feeling that if I put a plain wilted spinach leaf on a succulent nest of golden filo she would accept it as the real deal.  I'm not a dab hand at working with filo so I made a spanakopita with a buttery pate brisee for her.  She did agree that the filling was exquisite and tasted exactly like spanakopita.

Next I made it without a crust and she saw the point of it after all. 

Just as I was experimenting with this recipe spring happened.  With early spring in Oregon comes nettles season!  I don't love the taste of stinging nettles.  Lots of people rave about it but I think it tastes like sea weed, that's one of the few vegetables I truly can't tolerate.  I'm motivated to keep trying to find ways to use nettles because of their dense nutritional content.  Nettles have been eaten in early spring by people for hundreds of years (possibly forever, but definitely for hundreds) in soups and teas.  At the end of winter people who didn't have access to luscious produce from Chile were really in need of a boost to their steady diet of dried/stewed meats and root vegetables. 

At last I have found the recipe to use them in where the taste doesn't come through but I get the benefit of the the nutrition.  I added two cups of dried nettles to the spinach (and chard when I don't have enough spinach) and it still tastes exactly like traditional spanakopita.  After I go on my first foraging hunt for fresh nettles I will make this again and report to you how much fresh to add to this recipe if you can get your mitts on it.

If you like your spanakopita with a crust you can just use this recipe as your filling.

My mom couldn't stop eating it.  Cause it's that good.  Argument solved. 

pot of spinach 2.jpgTwo pounds of spinach seems like a lot.  Until it's all cooked.  This big pot full becomes insignificant.

dry nettles 2.jpgIt's nettle season right now in some places and I ought to have made this recipe with fresh nettles so I could tell you how much to use if you have fresh on hand.  However, I haven't gotten out to forage yet so I'm using what I dried from last year.  Notice that I haven't crushed my dried nettles nor have I tamped them down.

squeezed cooked greens 2.jpgSee how little it looks?  Still, divided in six this is one heck of a good serving of greens!

Spinach and Nettles Spanakopita (crustless)

Serves 6 - 8 if made in a pie dish
Serves 4 in 8oz ramekins


2  lbs spinach (or mix of spinach and chard)
2 cups dried nettles
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
30 grinds of pepper
8 oz feta (crumbled)
2 eggs
1 tbsp butter (for greasing the baking dish)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and stem your fresh greens (especially if you use some chard).  Bring the water to boil in a large pot and add all your greens and dried nettle to it.  Boil the greens (be sure to stir them well so the nettles get immersed) until tender (about ten minutes). 

Drain the greens in a colander (and save the boiling water for use as soup stock for later).  When the greens are cool enough to handle squeeze all the water out of them that you can.  Chop and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan.  Add the onions and saute until translucent.

In a medium sized bowl whisk the eggs, dill, salt, and pepper with a fork until well mixed.  Add the greens, onion, and feta and stir again until completely mixed.  Spoon into a buttered pie dish or buttered ramekins and bake for 40 minutes. 

spanakopita diff view 2.jpg

Recipe Notes:  (Oh, you thought there were plenty of notes in the beginning?)  I like this best cooked in the pie dish.  Alternatively you could use a square baking dish and cut it in squares.  You could make this with any greens that cook up really tender, so what I'm saying is PLEASE DON'T USE KALE.  Traditional spanakopita is all spinach (hence the name "spinach pie") but I made this twice with a mix of spinach and chard (because I didn't have enough spinach) and it was just as good.  You could, if you're a big fan of kelp flavor, do this dish entirely with nettles. 

This recipe is gluten free.

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Russian Pot Pie

cooked Russian 2.jpg
This is the perfect dish to serve after a hard day chasing yak on the tundra!

Eastern Europe isn't especially famous for its vegetarian food.  Occasionally I like to check out Russian, Ukranian, and Croatian cook books from the library.  Most of them were written and photographed so long ago that the photographs are somewhat dreary.  Still, I am attracted to the culture (and culture clashes), the food, and the architecture of Eastern Europe. 

I did research about Ukranian and Russian food while writing my first (unpublished) novel "Jane Doe" and was fascinated by solyanka, a soup with pickles in it.  I feel sure I will one day make a meatless version of it.

This dish was inspired by a recipe I tried first many years ago from the cookbook "Vegetarian Epicure" by Anna Thomas.  I don't even have the book anymore and don't remember how she made it or exactly what was in it but what I got from her recipe for a Russian style pie was the combination of marjoram, cabbage, and mushrooms with hard boiled eggs.  I have been making different versions of this combination for a long time and finally decided to make it into pot pies and change the marjoram to dill.

I don't have a pie crust recipe prepared for you but if you don't already have your own favorite try this Simply Recipes pate brisee, it's almost the same as the one I use.  You need enough pie dough for one crust and you'll need 6 8 oz ramekins or other single serving dishes if you want to make the pot pies.  If you don't want little pies you can make this as one single big pie.

Russian Pot Pie

makes 6 pot pies


Enough pie dough for one crust, portioned into 6 pieces
6 hard boiled eggs

1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 lb button mushrooms, sliced
1 head cabbage, chopped small
1/2 cup water (appx)
1 1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
30 grinds fresh pepper
16 oz sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on med/high, add the onions and cook until they just start to become translucent.  Add all the mushrooms and cook until they are completely soft.  Add the cabbage, dill, salt, pepper, and the water and put the lid on the pan, removing every couple of minutes to stir and make sure the pan hasn't gone dry.  If the cabbage isn't tender yet but is starting to brown, add a little more water. 

When the cabbage is tender turn the heat down to low and add the sour cream, stirring it in well.  When heated through, remove from heat.

Put your ramekins on a baking sheet to catch any overflowing juices from the pies.  Fill each ramekin halfway with the cabbage and mushrooms.  Slice and layer a hard boiled egg into it.  Fill to the top with more mushroom and cabbage.  You should have enough to fill all six to a rounded mound, but if not, that's okay.  It will vary depending on the size of your cabbage.

Roll out the six pieces of dough into circles just a little bit bigger than the circumference of the ramekins.  Lay the dough on top of each one pushing the edges against the edge of each dish to seal it shut.  Use a small sharp knife to make little slashes in the dough to let the steam out while cooking.

Bake in the oven until the crusts are turning golden (about 45 minutes).

Recipe Notes:
  I've made this with marjoram instead of dill and loved it both ways.  I have also made it without the sour cream which Philip and I loved but my mom thought it was too dry.  As I've mentioned before, I use a light sour cream but only because Tillamook makes a really flavorful one. 

This could be vegan if you use a vegan crust, leave out the egg, and don't use the sour cream.  That might not sound good to some people but what is most important in this dish is the cabbage, mushrooms, and seasonings- it's really good right from the pan so I encourage my vegan friends to come up with their own version.  If you wanted it to have some protein I would add some white beans which won't take away from the other flavors but would make it more hearty. 

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Recent Comments

  • angelina: We ate it up very fast! read more
  • Tarrant: oh my-this sounds appealling read more
  • Aimee: Oh, YUM. read more
  • angelina: For crying out loud, Angela, get on the vegan version read more
  • little big: I totally have that book! And the part II that read more
  • Angela (Cottage Magpie): Oh, that sounds gooooood! My favorite soup in all the read more
  • meigan1cameron: "White Bean And Basil Salad Recipe" is my one the read more
  • Karmyn R: I would not have thought to put squash with black read more
  • angelina: Allison- greet and compliment the snowdrops for me, will you? read more
  • Laura: Hi! This looks great, I always love your recipes! I read more