Spanakopita Gets a Southern Twist Thanks to Collard Greens & Jalapeños

Best served family-style.

December 17, 2018

We've partnered with Bosch, makers of high quality home appliances like the induction slide-in range, to share recipes, tips, and videos that highlight the little details that make a dish truly delicious. The following is an interview with Alon Shaya, as told to Food52.

My earliest memory in the kitchen was cooking with my grandmother, and her roasting peppers and eggplants over an open flame. I remember walking into the house and smelling the aroma of the peppers and the eggplants, and just falling in love with food right away.

Photo by Rocky Luten

I was born in Israel, grew up in Philadelphia, and now I live in the South. I've also lived in Italy, where I apprenticed. So my food reflects all of these different moments in my life; that's why you’ll see Italian food, Southern food, Israeli food all coming together—not always on one plate, but throughout the things that I love to cook.

I pull influences from where I've lived and what I've been impressed and inspired by. So it's kind of like this rolling history that lives within me, that I can always pull from and come up with a dish or idea for a dinner that I want to put on, whether it’s at home or at one of my two restaurants: Saba in New Orleans, and Safta in Denver.

A Bosch convection oven helps ensure the spanakopita cooks nice and evenly. Photo by Dave Katz

Take this spanakopita, for example: It’s rooted in a recipe I used to make with my mother and grandmother, but was also inspired by my time living in the South. In the winter when I go to the markets there, there are mustard greens and collard greens all throughout the market. But I always end up buying so much that it's sometimes hard to know what to do with it all—and I don’t want it to just sit in the refrigerator and get all wilted.

I wanted to take the greens and cook them in a way that’s similar to something my mother might make, like a spanakopita with spinach. I figured, why don't I use all these beautiful mustards and collards to create that same recipe, and utilize the produce that's nice and fresh where I live? So I put together this collard and mustard spanakopita, and it's been a huge hit ever since.

When I was developing this dish, I really wanted the spanakopita to pop in flavor, so we added a little lemon zest and lemon juice to the recipe to give it that extra punch. The jalapeño is in there because it’s kind of a Southern tradition to serve jalapeño vinegar with your stewed greens. Those little kicks of flavor work together with the creaminess of the feta, while the soft greens are accompanied by the crunch of the nuts and the crispy pastry, and they all come together to create a lot of different textures and flavors in the dish.

I typically serve it family-style on a table with a lot of vegetables and other dishes, but I also love serving a warm slice next to a salad. It’s a very comforting dish.

the difference is in the details

When making this spanakopita at home, follow these tips and tricks to make sure it comes out just right:

Don’t let the phyllo dough dry out.

A special trick for pulling off this dish is to keep a towel over the phyllo dough so it doesn't get too dry. It can be very hard to work with phyllo when it dries out and starts to break apart, so you really want to keep it nice and soft by preventing it from drying out in the air. Follow this tip and the whole process will go much more smoothly.

Don’t skimp on the butter.

To get a really crispy, flaky texture, brush every layer of the phyllo dough with melted butter, which will also give it a beautiful golden brown color, too.

For a crispy crust, score it diagonally

Score the crust with diagonal slits so that you get all these really crispy edges on the pastry; wherever the knife touches the pastry becomes crispier. I like to do this to get the highest crisp factor possible.

Don’t worry if the phyllo dough rips

Don’t worry about ripping the phyllo dough—it’s inevitable, and there are so many layers that no one will notice. Just make sure that you save an intact piece for the top layer.

Make sure the dough cooks nice and evenly

With phyllo dough, you have to be very careful because if the temperature of your oven isn't well calibrated it can burn very easily. When cooking, keep a close eye on the crust and rotate the baking dish halfway through to make sure it comes out a beautiful golden brown. (If cooking on convection, lower the temperature by 25ºF.)

Serve it right out of the oven

I always serve this spanakopita warm right out of the oven. I'll let it cool down for about 20 minutes, and then serve it just with a cake spatula, and pass it around the table.

We're firm believers in the fact that little things can make a big impact. The quality and freshness of ingredients can take a simple dish from good to great. And home appliances that are reliable and intuitive—like the induction slide-in range we used to make this dish—can streamline getting dinner on the table, making your entire week less stressful. We've partnered with Bosch to celebrate these small but vital boosts in our day-to-day lives, with recipes, videos, and more.

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Alon Shaya is the founder of Pomegranate Hospitality, and Executive Chef of Saba in New Orleans and Safta in Denver.

1 Comment

HalfPint December 19, 2018
This looks wonderful. Checks all the boxes :)