Eats: Preparing food the Greek way

Recipe: Spanakopita

Ingredients:
1 bag spinach
1 leek
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup feta cheese
1 bunch parsley
Black pepper
1 package phyllo dough
Butter

Take the spinach, wash it very well and leave it to dry. Take the leek and the parsley, wash and cut it finely. When the spinach is dry, separate the leaves with your hands without damaging them. Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl. Roll out the phyllo dough, placing three sheets on top of each other. Make sure that you have buttered each sheet before putting one on top of the other. Cut the three sheets in half, the long way. Place two spoonfuls of the filling on the corner of the dough and start folding it like a triangle, similar to the way one would fold a flag. When you have finished with all the filling, put the triangles in the oven at 350 degrees until brown.

LEWISTON — Too few people swoon over the sights and aromas of Greek food, of freshly baked phyllo dough, extra virgin olive oil, seasoned lamb and melting crumbles of feta cheese. It's a culinary problem Niky Karamousadakis wants to remedy.

"I always like to give a little sample," said Karamousadakis, who opened Niky's restaurant with her husband, Manolis, on Dec. 6, in the former Bocce's  Grill at 30 Lowell St., near Central Maine Medical Center. "People are hesitant to order stuff they don't know. They ask, 'What's in it?  What does it taste like?'

"Our hope is that people come back because they like our food," she said.

She is also planning to hold monthly cooking classes aimed at teaching some Greek dishes, perhaps including staples served at her restaurant like pastichio, mousaka and spanakopita.The latter dish is one of Greek cuisine's most well known, a kind of spinach pie.

Karamousadakis' chef, Ashley Groves of Durham, gave the Sun Journal a primer on making spanakopita Niky's way.

Part of the taste comes from the spinach itself: fresh and broken. Leaves are gently pulled apart but they are not chopped, which would leave them mushy, Groves said.

The leaves are seasoned with salt and pepper, leeks and a sprinkle of spices that Niky declines to share.

"The spanakopita will be good without them, but that's not the way my mother made it," Karamousadakis said.

Imported olive oil is added, followed by medium to large crumbles of feta cheese.

The mixture is then wrapped in phyllo dough.

The paper-thin dough is the same base ingredient used in baklava, the honey-nut pastry dessert that may be Greece's most popular export.

Typically, spanakopita is made like a casserole with the layers of dough holding the dish together. It is then served in squares, like shepherd's pie.

"My spanikopita comes in triangles, which is a little different," Karamousadakis said. "People are used to the square pieces you get out of the pan, but I like to do it individually. It makes the phyllo more flaky and more fulfilling."

Groves carefully unrolled the phyllo dough, gently exposing a sheet. She brushed the dough and topped it with another sheet until three were stacked on top of each other. She cut the sheet into three strips, then mounded one end with her spinach mixture.

She assembled her pie, folding the pastry like a soldier with a flag. 

In the oven, the dough turned a golden brown, and the feta melted among the spinach leaves.

For Karamousadakis, the aroma takes her back to her trips to Greece as a girl and the pies, she said.

The finished pies tasted more sinful than an entree and more practical than a dessert.

"It would be easier for us to make them the regular way in a long pan, but it wouldn't be this good," she said. "It's more gourmet."

dhartill@sunjournal.com

Spanakopita (spinach pie) from Niky's in Lewiston
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Spanakopita (spinach pie) from Niky's in Lewiston

Spanakopita (spinach pie) from Niky's in Lewiston
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Niky's chef Ashley Groves rolls a mixture of spinach, onions, cheese and other ingredients in the filling with filo (or also spelled fillo or phyllo) dough at the Lewiston restaurant

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Comments

KATHRYN PENDLETON's picture

Great place!

Was there last Monday. Terrific people and the food was worth going back to try other,not so familiar, items on the menu. Great addition to L/A with very affordable prices!

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