Healthy Dinner: Vegan Spanakopita Pie

March 23, 2016
I recently stumbled upon an article about a National Geographic explorer who set out to seek the secrets to longevity. What he discovered were regions in the world that have been labeled "Blue Zones," areas where people have been known to be unusually healthier, happier, and live longer than average. In order for a region to be deemed a Blue Zone, there must be virtually no heart disease, diabetes, or obesity present in the community. One of the countries included on this list is Greece. I am a Greek-food enthusiast, and I can understand why Greek cuisine has played a role in the vitality of the natives. A Greek diet puts emphasis on seasonal vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and, unfortunately for me, feta cheese. My all time weakness is cheese. I love any and all cheeses, but what I love even more is Spanakopita, a spinach and feta cheese pie. The feta cheese is used in this recipe to add texture, as well as salty and sour tones. This can easily be mocked with a cashew and lemon juice blend. This tastes so similar to the traditional Greek recipe you hardly notice there is no actual cheese. If you have never worked with filo dough before, it is a very thin, almost paper like, dough. It's fun to experiment with and, after understanding how it works, you can fill it with basically anything.
Healthy Dinner: Vegan Spanakopita Pie

Healthy Dinner: Vegan Spanakopita Pie

Recipe Type: Hearty Entrees
utensils YIELDS 1 9x9 pie
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  • 10 oz bag of spinach
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 bundle scallions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup soaked cashews, pre-soaked for 1-4 hours
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 14 sheets filo dough
  • olive oil see instructions
  • black pepper to taste
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Directions

1. The first thing you should do is prepare the mock feta cheese because it takes time to soak the cashews. Soak the cashews in about 3 cups of water for at least an hour and up to 4 hours before using. After soaking, add to a blender with the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Pulse the mixture until it is crumbly and it is ready to be used. 2. In a large sauté pan, heat some water and add the bag of spinach until it is all wilted. This may have to be done in batches to assure that all of the spinach wilts evenly. 3. In a separate saucepan, add the onions and garlic cloves with a tablespoon of olive oil and saute for about 5 minutes, or until everything is soft. Add this to the pan with the spinach. Take off the heat and add the scallions, mint, dill, lemon juice, nutmeg, and vegan feta. 4. Brush a 9x9 baking pan with olive oil and layer your first sheet of filo dough. Brush the top of this sheet with olive oil and continue layering the dough with this process with about 8 sheets. 5. Pour the spinach mixture over the layered filo dough and spread evenly. 6. Continue to add 6 more sheets of filo dough covering the filling, making sure to brush each sheet with olive oil. 7. Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes, or until filo dough is golden brown. You can use any greens you want in this pie--it doesn't have to be spinach. Next time I make this I want to try adding kale and swiss chard or even dandelion greens. I made this in a cast iron pan and draped the excess filo dough over the side of the pan, poured in the spinach mixture, and folded the dough back up over the top and pinched it closed. When making in a baking pan, be sure to score the top layer of dough so the heat can escape. While there are many aspects that contributed to the longevity of the people living in Blue Zones, choosing to eat well is a very attainable goal for people of any region!

Also by Lauren: Aphrodisiac Arugula Salad

Related: Turkish Spinach with Dill (Ispanak)

Healthy Dinner: One Pot Sweet Potato Quinoa Stew (with Video!)

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Photos: Lauren Sacerdote


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Lauren is a homebody who likes to spend time with her cat, explore new ideas in the kitchen, relax in the sun with a good book, and promote healthy living to friends and family.

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