Sometimes the best recipes are also the easiest to prepare. The ones that use few ingredients and take almost no skill, e.g. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—salty sweet, filling, and a youngster could make it. On the other hand, sometimes the best recipes are those that have you constantly worrying, call for ingredients you are terrified to use, and require every pot, pan, and surface of your kitchen and dining room to prepare. THOSE recipes are the Chuck Norris of cuisine (and remember…Chuck Norris makes onions cry!!!). To make spanakopita (I always thought) you follow one of those recipes.
So what is my most irrational ingredient-fear? Using phyllo dough. Even though I am lucky enough to have a big fat Greek stepfamily filled with amazing women who get down and dirty with this crazy thin dough, I have always been somewhat terrified to use it. Let alone go all out to make a delicious pastry like spanakopita. I don’t really understand it myself, but I guess after reading numerous recipes that use it, I had concluded that it would certainly dry out and fall apart.
But it is so versatile! And vegan! So when I saw it today at the grocery store I said, “Phyllo…you’re goin’ down! I am going to buy you, then fashion you into delicious morsels of fiber-filled flavor ‘splosions.”
People gave me disapproving looks for yelling at this frozen food, but what of it?
The non-vegan version of this dish (which is traditionally with feta and pine nuts) is served at nearly every holiday in our Greek-American family, and prepared in gargantuan quantities for unlimited pastry gorging. What’s best is that it can be saved in the fridge for days (if it lasts that long) and just keeps getting better.
This vegan version replaces the feta and pine nuts with tofu, cashews, and a touch of vegan yeast. The taste is incredible—delicious comfort food even Chuck Norris would snuggle up with.
Minted Vegan Spanakopita
20 sheets of phyllo (2 boxes for me)
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
3 onions, finely chopped
10 cloves garlic
1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped
1 block of tofu
1 Tbsp Miso paste
2 cups of frozen spinach
1 cup raw cashews
1 small bunch of mint
1 heaping spoon of vegan yeast
salt and pepper
Before getting started, thaw the spinach and place in a colander. Put a plate on top of the spinach and add some weights to press the water out. Let it sit for at least one hour. Too much water will make the spanakopita less crispy after it’s baked.
While the spinach drains, sauté the onion, 5 cloves of garlic, and the scallions in 1 Tbsp olive oil until golden. Next, add the drained, crumbled tofu to the pan and cook until all the water is evaporated (about 5 minutes). Stir in the miso paste until completely mixed, then turn off the heat.
In a separate pan, roast the cashews on low heat until just browned (about 5 minutes). Chop them up and add them to the tofu mixture.
When the spinach is dry, add it to the pan with the tofu and onion mixture. Add the zest and juice of the lemon. Chop the remaining garlic and mint, then add to the pan as well. Add the vegan yeast to the mix. This is the filling for the spanakopita, so season generously with salt and pepper.
Now time to assemble the triangles. On a cutting board, lay out one sheet of phyllo and brush generously with olive oil. Place a second sheet directly on top of the first sheet, then brush again with olive oil. Cut the dough into two long strips. Now you can add ~1/4 cup of the filling to the dough strip, and roll it into a triangle (watch the video here).
Brush all your beautiful triangles with additional olive oil before popping them into a 350F oven for 20 minutes.
Great job! Just whip up this super easy dip to complete your amazing vegan greek-ness
Creamy Yogurt dip
1 cup soy yogurt or vegan sour cream
1 tsp powdered garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp dill
touch of paprika
Mix everything in a bowl, and eat with the spanakopita.