Batsaria (Phyllo-less Spanakopita)

By • December 31, 2013 • 61 Comments



Author Notes: When my great-grandparents emigrated from Greece to America at the turn of the last century, they brought with them four sons and four daughters, including a newborn little girl they named Eleftheria, or "Freedom." They also brought with them, as immigrants do, the recipes that would help make them feel at home in their new country. Not written-down recipes -- but dishes made from their hearts, their hands, and their heads. They came to settle in Washington, DC from the city of Ioannina in the northwest of Greece, a city known for its fine silversmiths, its university, and (I was always told) its good cooks. This is our family recipe for a spinach pie called "batsaria" (baht-sahr-YA), the lesser-known cousin of spanakopita. If you love spanakopita but don't like to fiddle with filo dough, this one's for you! I brought a pan to our recent DC Food52 holiday party and cookie swap, and those who tasted it (and even took some home for supper) encouraged me to submit it to this contest. cookbookchick

Food52 Review: Cookbookchic's version of spinach pie is one of the best I've ever had. Loads of spinach and a light crust make for a great meal! The garlic is indeed key -- I had never included it in any version I'd made before, but I'll never omit it again. My only regret is that I didn't have Bulgarian feta, which I think would have cut some of the saltiness in the recipe. The filling is so good that I envision using it again soon in a stuffed pizza or calzone. This one is truly a keeper!inpatskitchen

Serves 12

For the spinach mixture

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (6 ounces)
  • 2 bags fresh (not baby) spinach, approximately 1 pound each
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch scallions (or two, if the scallions are skinny), the white parts and some of the green, chopped
  • 4 to 8 cloves garlic (depending on your love of garlic), peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese (Greek or Bulgarian tastes best)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal brand)
  • A few turns of freshly ground pepper
  • 4 eggs

For the batter

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (I use canola)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups water (from the cold side of your spigot)
  1. Melt butter in a small pot, skimming off foam and discarding it. Set aside.
  2. Take out the largest bowl you have, or a soup kettle if you don't have a big bowl. Roughly chop the spinach, stems and all. Wash and dry the chopped spinach in a salad spinner. Dump the spinach into the big bowl or pot.
  3. Add the onion, scallions, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to the spinach. Mix well. Crumble in the feta and mix again, gently. Set aside while you make the batter.
  4. Note: I think proper salting is key to the outcome of this dish. If you aren't afraid of raw eggs, take a little taste, but with the saltiness of the feta, I have now found that 1 tablespoon of kosher salt is about right for this amount of spinach. Also, one time I forgot to put in the garlic and the result was flat and unsatisfying; the garlic really is the key flavor combo in this dish.
  5. Measure the 3 cups of flour, salt, and baking powder into another bowl. (This one doesn't have to be so large.). Make a well in the center of the flour. Into the well, put the oil, the unbeaten egg, and the water. Mix together until smooth, but don't overmix. The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter.
  6. Spread some of the melted butter in the bottom of a roasting pan. I use my 11 x 14 All Clad lasagna pan. The size of the pan will determine the thickness of the finished batsaria. I like mine thick-ish, while my mother liked hers very thin, almost cracker-like. Spread some of the batter thinly on top of the butter.
  7. Beat the 4 eggs until they're light and airy, then add them to the spinach mixture, stirring gently. My Aunt Elizabeth (she who was named Freedom in Greek) said that adding the well-beaten eggs at the last minute is one of the secrets to a good outcome for this dish. Spoon the spinach mixture into the baking pan, spreading it as evenly as you can.
  8. Now spoon the rest of the batter onto the top of the spinach. There will not be enough to cover the spinach, but you don't want it to. Glop it here and there, leaving areas of spinach exposed. Sprinkle the rest of the butter over the top of the spinach and the batter. (Don't try doubling the batter to get more complete coverage -- I did it once and the end result was way too bready.)
  9. Bake at 350° F until golden brown, about 50 minutes to an hour.. The aroma as it bakes is heavenly! Let the batsaria cool a bit before you cut it into squares or rectangles to serve. It is delicious warm, but like so many Mediterranean foods, it is also good at room temperature. Leftovers are wonderful reheated or cold.

Tags: casserole, greek, spinach pie

Comments (61) Questions (0)

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4 months ago Robin

I love this recipe! I had a ton of spinach in the house so it was perfect timing. I have to admit I ate it at all different times of the day- morning, noon and night. Sometimes heated up sometimes cold, sometimes just heated enough to take the chill off. Love, love love!

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4 months ago cookbookchick

Thank you, Robin, what a great compliment -- love times three! We also eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, cold or warm. I'm so happy you love it so much!

Stringio

5 months ago Antigoni Sander McCloud

cookbookchick, they LOVED it! Like all good Greek's I made a couple of additions, adding lemon juice and fresh dill to it, but otherwise followed your recipe exactly and they were blown away! Thank you for this great new recipe to add to the Greek heritage collection!!!

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5 months ago cookbookchick

Antigoni, you made my day!! Thanks for the update and the six thumbs-up from your Greek moms! I'll have to try your additions. I, too, like to tinker with recipes, good Greek girl that I am! ;-)

Stringio

5 months ago Antigoni Sander McCloud

I will keep you posted!

Stringio

5 months ago Antigoni Sander McCloud

I am making this dish this weekend for 6 Greek Mom's! Can't wait to see what the think! Thanks for the new idea for Spanskopita!

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5 months ago cookbookchick

Antigoni -- I love your name! Six Greek moms? Seriously qualified critics! Please let me know how they like it.

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6 months ago bistrobistro

Oh yes!!!!!! That is one delicious recipe! I am still waiting for it to cool off but had to get a few forkfuls in. So delicious that it will be a weekly regular. Super easy and soooooo darn tasty! :)

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5 months ago cookbookchick

I'm so happy you like it!

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6 months ago Randi

Sounds great. Spinach Pie is one of the few foods I though irreplaceable now that I have to eat Gluten Free. I will try this with cup4cup Gluten Free flour.

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4 months ago sangeist

Randi, any luck using GF flour in this recipe?

Bowie_with_great_hair

4 months ago strozyk

Gluten free flour will work fine in this. Cup for cup may be a bit gummy (not my fave - I think Shauna Ahern and Dr. Jean Layton have totally-worth-making blends, and I'm partial to chia/psyllium instead if xanthan) but it should be fine. If you have a scale, maybe not how much up you use. Weight makes such a difference when subbing in GF flours.

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6 months ago healthierkitchen

Just want to be sure cbc, the spinach goes into the baking pan unooked and cooks down while in the oven?

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6 months ago cookbookchick

Hi Wendy! Yes, it goes in raw and cooks down in the oven.

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6 months ago healthierkitchen

Thanks. Making this tomorrow!

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6 months ago Diane

I made this tonight. I had a terrible lapse in judgement and only made a half batch. Absolutely delicious, and yes, it will perfume your house beautifully as it cooks! My husband is already asking me to make it again.

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6 months ago Lo

Any thoughts on what to do with leftover batter?
I made a full size batter recipe, and only a half size spinach mixture, now I have leftover batter that I would really like to make into something else.
By the way, this is DELICIOUS!

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6 months ago cookbookchick

I'm so happy to hear you like it! I've never had leftover batter, but maybe you could sizzle up some oil in a skillet, cast iron if you have one, pour it in and make sort of a flatbread?

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6 months ago Lo

Great thinking, you've inspired me to make samosa pancakes!

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6 months ago paula katz

I reduced the butter by a third and the salt in the spinach by a half, and it was delicious. A bit cumbersome working with that much spinach when it's raw, but the salt broke it down enough that I could get it in my lasagna pan. Will make again for sure. Thank you!

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6 months ago andrea

Any ballpark idea on how long this needs to bake? Looks fabulous and can't wait to try it!

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6 months ago cookbookchick

You know, I should have given an estimate. Thanks for the reminder! It usually takes approximately 50 minutes to an hour.

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6 months ago andrea

In the oven now.....thank you!

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6 months ago Maimsie

Thank you, cook book chick! This recipe is fabulous. I've made it already and it's a big hit with everyone. Even my grandchildren who just can't get enough. Love it!

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6 months ago cookbookchick

Wow!! Thanks for your comment! My grandchildren love it, too!

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6 months ago Am9

I thought the point of this recipe was no dough...?

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6 months ago cookbookchick

No PHYLLO (or filo) dough -- you know, those layers and layers of paper thin dough that can be so fiddly to work with? The kind you see in baklava, for instance? Instead, there is a batter the consistency of pancake batter that you simply mix up in a bowl.

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6 months ago bonniedalyan

Sounds so good, I can't wait to try it! Any thoughts on how this might be if made with olive oil? I really don't like the taste of butter.

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6 months ago cookbookchick

I think it will be fine with olive oil instead of butter, especially if you don't like the taste of butter. Use olive oil in the batter, too.

Alexia

6 months ago alexia schmidt

My family's batsaria involves a 10x15 sheet pan, heated in the oven, with a layer of olive oil on top until it shimmers. Then, add the spinach cheese mixture and a thin pancake-like batter with more olive oil on top. It bakes up very thin, less than an inch. And crispy around the edges, soft in the middle. And we use whatever greens are available too!

Thanks, cookbookchick for reminding me about this recipe! I think I will be making one this weekend. :)

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6 months ago cookbookchick

You're so welcome! My mom always made hers very thin, as you describe. Maybe that's the way it's made in Greece? I do like mine thicker. Interestingly, there is a recipe with video in last Sunday's NY Times magazine (the article is dated January 19) -- it's a greens pie demonstrated by Diane Kochilas. In the video, she says no thicker than "this" and holds up her ring and middle fingers together. Check it out!

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6 months ago Tinaindenver

Looks great, but even cutting the butter in half seems like too much to be healthy. Has anyone tried it with less butter?

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6 months ago cookbookchick

If butter is a health issue for you, you could make it with olive oil as bonniedalyan wants to do.

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6 months ago Keesje

I am defo going to try this but as I'm wheat free maybe with buckwheat or rice flour. And also can I make it with frozen spinach?

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6 months ago cookbookchick

I always prefer fresh spinach in this dish, but you could use fa few packages of frozen. You will have to thaw it -- in a colander where it can drain --and then wring the liquid out of it with your hands. And maybe after that, also give it a good spin in a salad spinner. In other words, get as much of the water out of it as you can before you mix it with the other ingredients. It's hard to say how much frozen spinach to use -- that will depend on the size of your pan and how thick or thin you want the finished Batsaria. One trick my mother used (that I find unnecessary with fresh spinach that's been dried in a salad spinner) is to mix in a bit of uncooked rice to absorb some of the water, say 1/4 cup.

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6 months ago Marilena Leavitt

This is the first time I comment on Food52…… Ioannina is the town in NW Greece where I was born too, so I am very familiar with this version of spanakopita and it is indeed delicious! I can't wait to try your version.
Thank you for posting a recipe from a less-known part of Greece!

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6 months ago cookbookchick

I am so happy to hear from you, Marilena, and happy that my recipe is bringing some attention to Ioannina. Thank you for commenting!

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6 months ago mauigirlcooks

I can't wait to try this! Spinach has been rather pricey at our farmer's market lately, so will probably try it with the beautiful Swiss chard we get. Yum!

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6 months ago cookbookchick

That sounds like a delicious variation, mauigirlcooks -- please let me know how it turns out!

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6 months ago Maimsie

I've found that the best place to get spinach is at Costco. Huge bags for under $6.

Alexia

6 months ago alexia schmidt

What part of Greece is your family from? My Yiayia is from Ioannina and this is how my family eats spanakopita, it's my favorite ever!

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6 months ago cookbookchick

Alexia, my yiayia (who we called Nana) and her family came from Ioannina, too! (See my header notes at the top of the recipe.) How wonderful to hear from you! I'd love to chat a bit more with you about our common heritage. I'll message you through Food52.

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6 months ago fearlessem

This sounds great, and I'm really intrigued. But is a stick and a half of butter really necessary? Reading the recipe, I can't quite figure out what function it is serving (other than of course making this both more delicious and more fattening?) Could I cut the butter way back and still have a good result?

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6 months ago cookbookchick

Yes, you certainly could cut back on the butter. I'd suggest brushing the bottom of the pan with melted butter -- that will minimize the butter there -- then drizzling a small amount over the top after you've assembled the dish to add a bit more buttery goodness. Try halving the amount of butter, 6 tablespoons instead of the 12 in a stick and a half. I'm sure it will still be delicious. Please let me know if you do make it how you like it!