Of all the standard party appetizers, spanakopita bites get me the most jazzed. I have a 6th sense for these delectable morsels circling the room at any soiree and will bolt mid sentence to accost any person bearing a tray of them. I crave them — for their taste and perhaps for the transportive quality to them. I am out! Without my kids! Eating tiny stuffed pastries! they seem to scream. Of course no spanakopita recipe could ever live up to the name without featuring phyllo dough, with its distinctive airy flakiness. Alas, for me, any recipe featuring phyllo dough is not weeknight fare (talk to me in 15 years when my children are grown). These spinach and feta stuffed pitas are not true spanakopita, but they offer all of the flavor in a fraction of the time. AND this recipe is one of the few ways I can get my kids (age 4 and 1.5) to consume a lot of greens in one sitting without much protest.
It is a very easy recipe. A rather shocking amount of fresh spinach and leeks (you could also use onion) cook down in butter for a few minutes. Mix the spinach mixture with greek yogurt, dill and feta, and your filling is done. That is it. I use fresh spinach here to avoid the cumbersome steps of defrosting and squeezing the moisture out of frozen spinach. After you stuff the whole wheat pita halves with the spinach filling, cook them in the same skillet you used to cook the spinach. I try to avoid dirtying more than one pot or pan on a weeknight whenever possible. The pita crisp up, encasing the spinach mixture in a delicious golden brown shell. Try to avoid overcrowding the pita in the skillet — you may have to work in batches. You want to get the pita golden brown and crispy, so take care that it is not browning too fast. If it is, simply lower the heat.
Slice the pita halves into triangles and serve with hummus or a dollop of greek yogurt. A quick greek salad is also a lovely accompaniment. Think: romaine + tomato + cucumber + feta + quick-pickled onion + kalamata olives + lemon + extra virgin olive oil + a sprinkle of dried oregano. Easy stuff. You can have this cheater’s spanakopita ready in 20 minutes — a weeknight win. Enjoy! Xo Maggie
p.s. for another kid-friendly, weeknight recipe, check out these Zucchini + Feta Fritters. I love feta cheese.Print
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
- 12 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped (3/4 lb)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (approx. half a lemon)
- 5 tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt, preferably full fat
- 1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 whole wheat pitas, halved
- For serving: hummus
- Heat 3 tbsp of the butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until fragrant and starting to soften. Add spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach has wilted but still retains some brightness — about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Turn off heat and transfer the spinach mixture to a mixing bowl. Wipe out the skillet (you will use it again).
- To the spinach mixture, add the greek yogurt, dill and feta cheese. Stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Gently spoon a bit of the spinach mixture into the pita halves — about 3 tbsp per pita. It’s okay if the pita tears a bit, because it will crisp up while frying and hold in the filling.
- Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter or oil in the same skillet you used to cook the spinach over medium heat. Carefully transfer the stuffed pita to the pan and cook until golden brown and slightly crispy — about 3-4 minutes per side. Work in batches if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter.
- Serve with hummus and greek yogurt.
Bonus points for serving with a quick Greek salad: romaine + tomato + cucumber + feta + quick-pickled onion + Kalamata olives + lemon + extra virgin olive oil + a sprinkle of dried oregano. Toss and serve.