Lori’s Spanokopita made in Crete

 

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Tastes better than it looks!

When my friend Dan was here with us in Chania, I said that I was going to make vegan spanikopita without the cheese and adding mushrooms and sesame seeds to the mix for a flavor burst (as I learned from my family member Lori and her Mom, Carole, some years back).

He challenged me to concoct a feta replacement. And I did. It came out pretty well that first time. Sophie requested it as a birthday meal, but we went out both meals yesterday so today I set to work.

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For the “vegan feta”, crumble about 8 ounces of firm tofu and add tahini, pesto, roasted or sautéed garlic, paprika (sweet or smoked), crushed red pepper (optional) and salt. This latter is important as one of the main flavors contributed by cheese to recipes is salt.

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Oyster mushrooms, red onion and fresh mint

For the filling: cook red onion and sliced mushrooms together until they are softened then add spinach (I used a combo of fresh and frozen–doesn’t matter, you just need a large quantity) and cook until it is all wilted. Here the most plentiful and reasonably priced mushrooms are oyster mushrooms, but any type will do the trick. Flavor the mixture with black pepper, salt or soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and fresh chopped or or dried mint.

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For the filling: cook red onion and sliced mushrooms together until they are softened then add spinach (I used a combo of fresh and frozen–doesn’t matter, you just need a large quantity) and cook until it is all wilted. Here the most plentiful and reasonably priced mushrooms are oyster mushrooms, but any type will do the trick. Flavor the mixture with black pepper, salt or soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and fresh chopped or or dried mint.

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Bottom layers of filo prepared and filling added
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Completed, topped and baked

Cretan Spanikopita 
Makes 8 portions

Vegan feta filling
8 ounces (or half of a large package) of firm tofu
1 heaping Tablespoon of tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 Tablespoon of pesto (if you have some; if not, minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried oregano will work)
1 Tablespoon of minced sauteed or smashed roasted garlic
1 teaspoon of sweet or smoked paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Spinach filling
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 to 2 cups sliced oyster or other mushrooms (if the mushrooms are large chop them into bite-sized pieces)
1/2 cup red or white wine OR 1 T balsamic vinegar +3 T water
2 large bags or bunches of fresh spinach or on large bag of frozen spinach (or some combination of the two)
1/4 cup o chopped fresh mint leaves
black pepper
soy sauce
salt

Assembly ingredients
1 package of frozen filo dough (check to make sure it is free from animal products; many are, but some are not)
sesame seeds
olive oil, for brushing the filo sheets
paprika, sweet or hot, depending on your tastes

Allow filo to thaw according to package directions. Crumble the tofu and put it into a bowl. Add the tahini, pesto, roasted or sautéed garlic, paprika (sweet or smoked), crushed red pepper (optional) and salt. Stir to mix and set aside.

To make the spinach filling, cook red onion and sliced mushrooms together with the wine or vinegar+water until they are softened and most of the liquid has dried up.  Add spinach and cook until it is all wilted and well mixed together.  Flavor the mixture with black pepper, salt or soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and fresh chopped or or dried mint.

To assembly and complete the spanikopita. Grease a 9×12 inch pan or a large baking sheet and Place filo on it two layers at a time, brushing lightly with olive oil between each pair of sheets. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt or paprika if desired between the sheet pairs. Continue in this manner until you have 6 to 8 sheets on the pan. Then add spinach filling and vegan feta and spread evenly over an 8×10-12 inch area. Then fold the extra dough from around the edges over the filling and top the “pie” with the remaining dough sheets (2 at a time, brushing with olive oil between sheets and sprinkling with sesame seeds, paprika and salt between each set of sheets. Tuck the sheet edges around the filling or into the sides of the pan. See picture above. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds and paprika.

Bake at 350 degrees F or about 180 degrees C in a fan-assisted oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Best served hot as the filo sheets are crunchy. It may be refrigerated and reheated as well, or eaten cold.

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