Making Spanakopita in the Tornado Kitchen (Recipe)

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My tornado memoir – “Twisted” was released on 05/22/12! click here for more details, or to purchase!
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Can I just say that I’m sick of not having a kitchen?

Yesterday I had a bit of a meltdown. I got myself out of bed (I was on day 2 of bedrest on account of heat stroke, and bored out of my mind!), went down to the grocery store* with a rough idea of what should be in Spanakopita, and set about to make some – for the first time. I’d been craving it recently, and had a fairly disappointing experience with the ones we picked up at a local cafe.

Yes, I’m aware that it was a stupid move with regard to the heat stroke, and I’m paying for it this morning. It sounded like a good idea!**

Yes, I’m aware that the kitchen was NOT ready to be cooked in. We have no cabinets or counters. we haven’t even grouted the floor, and shouldn’t be doing anything messy/dirty in there at ALL until we do. It’s more accurately an unfinished room with a fridge and a stove randomly tossed in it, rather than an actual kitchen.

Yes, I realize that one would traditionally follow a recipe the first time. Gleaning a basic idea and winging it from there is FAR more my style, though. I don’t know that I had the reading comprehension skills to follow a recipe yesterday, anyway…

No, I didn’t have any measuring utensils, and all of the ingredients listed below are a “best guess” on what I did, from eyeballing it…

Oh, but it was SO worth it! (I do think I earned some Badass Points as a result of the whole deal, too!)


For the first time since the tornado, the house was filled with the smell of good, PROPER food cooking in our “kitchen”… not just the smell of whatever takeout we brought home to survive on. The look on my husband’s face when he came home to the final few minutes of wilting the spinach, the grin on his face at the aroma – THAT made all the effort worth it, before we even tasted it.

Oh, and they tasted fabulous. Home cooked food! By my hand! Only the second time I’d actually cooked something in the two months since the tornado ripped our house – and lives! – apart! (The first time being that giant pot of jambalaya in a funeral home parking lot, a week after the tornado). They were crispy, hot, savory, and just so good. MMMMmm.

We know we can’t really be cooking in there again until it’s more finished, but “misbehaving” like that just tasted so good. I think it did us a world of cook to eat real food, at HOME again. 2 months is far too long.

My apologies for the lack of a professional photo. The kitchen isn’t the only thing we’re not set up with at the moment. Honestly though, even if we HAD been set for proper photos, we were kinda ravenous as they were coming out of the oven, and there’s no way they would have made it to the studio table.

Spanakopita Recipe

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 bunch green onion, finely chopped
1.5 lbs baby spinach, ripped up
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1 handful of dried or freeze dried dill
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 package fillo (phyllo) sheets, thawed.
1 cup butter, melted

In a large pot, saute garlic, onion, and green onion together over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add spinach and parsley, continue to cook until wilted down to almost nothing. Drain well, cool to room temperature.

Add dill, feta, ricotta, and eggs, stir until everything is well incorporated.

Preheat oven to 375

Unroll one tube of fillo sheets carefully. If the sheets break, it’s not a big deal – just quicker and easier to use if they don’t!

Lay one sheet out on your work surface (In my case, the back of a cookie sheet, LOL!). Lightly but completely brush with melted butter, lay another sheet on top. Repeat one more time for a total of 3 sheets, cover the remaining sheets with plastic wrap and a towel to keep them from drying out.

Cut the sheet pile lengthwise into 3 long strips.

Place about 2 Tbsp of spinach filling at one end of each strip. Fold one of the end corners over the filling, meeting the short end up with the long side of the strip. (IE: That end of the strip will now have one point, with a covered triangle shaped “dumpling”.)

Fold the triangle “dumpling” up along the length of the strip, “flag style”, until reaching the end. Tuck under any remaining overhang of fillo sheet, place on lightly greased baking sheet.

Continue with remaining dough and filling, until you run out of one, the other, or both.

Lightly brush the tops of each spanakopita with melted butter, bake for 17-20 minutes. Pastries should be golden brown.

Serve warm, preferably with some tzatziki to dip them in!

* A funny thing happened on the way to the grocery store. By the time I got out of bed, got dressed, and got down to the car, I was second guessing my ability to pull off the “feat” of actually shopping for the ingredients. It was hot out, and I was still SUPER weak.

Then I turned my car on, and Despina Vandi’s “Come Along Now” started playing. (Vandi being a famous GREEK singer). Kinda felt like a cool little cosmic urge to power through!

Here, let me share:

* Then again… buying a pair of Zubaz sounded like a GREAT idea yesterday. I managed not to, but… damn. This is what happens when you fry a few billion brain cells, I guess. Spanakopita and Zubaz. Does it GET more random?

On the afternoon of May 22, 2011, North Minneapolis was devastated by a tornado. Twisted recounts the Porters’ first 11 months, post disaster. Rebuilding their house, working around the challenges presented by inadequate insurance coverage. Frustration at repeated bouts of incompetence and greed from their city officials. Dealing with issues such as loss of control, logistics, change, and over-stimulation, as an Aspergian woman.

Subjects covered include: Opportunistic “Vultures”, gawkers, new friendships, a bizarre gingerbread house, unique decisions made with the rebuild – including an internet-famous kitchen backsplash, “Tornado Claus”, contractor drama, water balloons, DIY design and work, music, sensory overload, and details on how to cook jambalaya for almost 300 people, in the parking lot of a funeral home… should you ever find yourself in the position to do so. Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.

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