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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