Making a pie on Pi Day, so original, I know. But hear me out. I decided to go the Greek route this year and try a savory spanakopita pie since the symbol for Pi is the Greek letter π. Pi is a bit of a mysterious concept to me, but I’m also no mathematician. Want to calculate the spherical volume of the universe? I sure don’t…but if I did, I would only need 39 digits past the decimal. Pi, on the other hand, can be calculated one trillion digits passed its decimal. One. Trillion. That’s pretty amazing, even to someone not so mathematically inclined as myself.
Anyway, point being: I wanted to do something different for Pi Day this year. I really don’t like making pies with ingredients that aren’t in season and I usually lean towards fruit pies. Spring is just a hard time to bake with fruit since it’s more of a vegetable friendly season. Rhubarb should be making an appearance any day now, but I sadly didn’t see it in my local grocery stores. Next best thing? Spinach. I have to confess, I don’t love cooked spinach by itself. It’s nothing personal, cooked spinach just doesn’t do it for me. In spanakopita though, I love it. Maybe it’s the phyllo dough…I am a bit of a phyllo dough fiend. Regardless, I could have seconds, thirds and fourths of this spinach-feta-phyllo-concoction.
So, here’s to celebrating math with pie…my kind of holiday!
useful gadgets: 9-inch springform pan
for the filling:
adapted from Everyday Food, May 2005
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
¾ cup feta
1 cup ricotta, cubed
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 16-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tsp dill
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
for the pie shell:
8 ounces phyllo dough, thawed
¼ cup butter
To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-heat and add the onions and garlic powder, stirring occasionally. Cook them until they’re translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chopped onions to a large bowl. Mix in the spinach, feta, ricotta, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, dill salt and pepper. When combined, fold in the eggs to coat the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
To make the pie shell, unroll the phyllo dough on a clean surface. Make sure it’s completely thawed, otherwise the phyllo will break into pieces and be very difficult to work with. Most phyllo dough comes in large rectangular sheets. While this isn’t ideal for a circular pan, you can arrange the rectangular pieces so they overlap and the overhanging corners point in opposite directions.
Coat the 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and lay the first sheet of phyllo in it. Use your hands to fit the phyllo to the pan and brush the top with some of the melted butter. Take the next sheet of phyllo and arrange it on top, but with the corners pointing a different direction so all the sides of the springform are eventually coated with phyllo. Brush the new top sheet with some butter again and repeat with another 4 sheets. To err on the side of caution, use more phyllo so the filling doesn’t leak and make sure to coat each with butter so they stick together. When you release the springform, the phyllo should be able to stand on its own and hold the filling like a pie dish. Spoon the filling into the pan so it’s about ½-inch from the top.
Take the leftover phyllo and cut it in small pieces to scatter on top of the filling. Trim any phyllo overhanging. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the pie is cooked all the way through.