It's time for Fun with Phyllo Dough! Plus some Fun with Fruit (and Rum)!
Everyone is so scared of Phyllo dough. Faw. Wusses.
The key to working with Phyllo is to chill out. Relax. Breathe. It doesn't need to be perfect. It isn't supposed to look perfect anyway. It's a flaky crust in the end anyhow - so don't worry about rips and tears and crumbles. It'll look natural when it's all said and done.
And anyway, it just has to taste good. And you know what? It will. Why?
Because Phyllo is much easier and much more fun to work with than common rumor has it.
Let me put it this way - I completely screwed up this Spanakopita and it still turned out fine. Not great, but that's ok because I know what I did wrong (and it wasn't the phyllo's fault).
Additionally, the Rummy Peach Pockets are fun and tasty, and they are a great way to use up any extra Phyllo dough leftover from the Spanakopita. They bake for the same length of time as the Spanakopita, so you can make them together. Ah, efficiency.
You can also fold these dishes into the typical triange shape. Instructions for that are at the very bottom of the page. The method in my instructions is for a sort of easy cheater casserole style of Spanakopita.
The first step is to get some vegan Phyllo Dough. It isn't hard to find. Athens brand is great.
Now you need to thaw it. It takes 2 hours sitting out on the counter to thaw. Too bad I forgot all about that. Oops.
Instead, I thawed it in the microwave by cutting the ends off the tube casing to vent any steam buildup and nuked it on the 3 power level (with 10 being the highest) for 30 seconds. I then flipped the tubes over and did the same thing for another 30 seconds. I then let it sit out while I got everything else ready. I then nuked them at 2 Power for 30 seconds.
Your mileage may vary. The safest bet is to give it the 2 hours, but who gets home 2 hours before they even start making dinner? Right. So, give it your best shot with the microwave.
1 Package Phyllo Dough
1 Large Bag Fresh Spinach (or 6 big handfulls) OR 1 Package Frozen Spinach
1 Package Firm Tofu, regular or silken*
1 Onion, finely diced
1/2 Cup Walnuts or Pine Nuts, finely chopped or ground (optional)
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (optional)
1/4 Cup Fresh Dill (optional)
1/4 Cup Miso (mild, yellow, or white)
2 TBSP Lemon Juice
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Nutmeg
3 TBSP Olive Oil OR melted Earth Balance**
* You can use Silken or Regular tofu - both will work. The Silken will create a sort of creamy spinach mash while the Regular will create a firmer mix sorta like feta crumbles mixed with spinach.
** This will be for wiping on the phyllo dough. You can use an oil brush or a rounded knife to spread it on the dough. You can also try a spatula or a large spoon. Whatever works. The melted Earth Balance might be easier if you're without a brush.
Spray a skillet with a bit of olive oil and saute the onion. At the same time, steam your spinach either in the microwave or by adding to the skillet along with the onion (and a few TBSP of water) and covering.
Once the onion is tender and see-through and the spinach is steamed, set aside.
In a large bowl, mash your tofu with a fork until it is crumbly (or mooshy, if you're using Silken). Add the miso and lemon juice and mix well. Now add in the spinach, nuts (if using), herbs (if using), olive oil, salt, and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly. If you're using regular tofu, you want a mashy crumbly mixture without any really large chunks of tofu. If you're using silken tofu, just mix it all together.
Here is my mix, although I used too much spinach (i've now adjusted the recipe):
Now for the fun part.
Preheat your oven to 375.
Get out a large rectangular casserole (like 11x7).
Unroll your Phyllo dough. It should be in small, very very thin sheets. It will probably want to stick to itself, and to rip and tear and crumble. Oh well. You want to layer it fairly evenly across the bottom of the casserole. Don't worry if it curves up the sides some.
IMPORTANT: While you are working on each layer of Phyllo dough, you want to cover the rest with a sheet of saran wrap (or a dry towel) and then top that with a damp towel. This is because you really, really don't want to let the Phyllo dry out.
Once you've got a single layer down, brush it lightly with oil. Lay down another layer. Brush with oil. Lay down another layer. If you have to do it in strips or torn bits, that's fine too. Do the best you can and be patient when separating the Phyllo from itself.
Do this until you have 8 to 10 layers, depending on your patience.
Now cover with your spinach and tofu mixture. You want it to be about 1/2 inch to 1 inch deep and covering the whole dish all the way out to the edges.
Now lay down another 8-10 layers of Phyllo dough, brushing each layer with oil before laying down the next.
Finally, brush some oil on the top of the topmost layer.
Using a knife, score the top of the topmost layer (and on deeper if you want, but best not to cut through the bottom layer) so that when it's cooked, it won't tear or crumble so much when you cut it. You can see in my picture above where it is scored. You can't tell, but the cuts don't go all the way through to the bottom.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes at 375.
After the 25 minutes is up, remove from the oven and remove the foil. Return to the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes at 350. You will know it's done when the top layer of Phyllo is a golden brown (but don't burn it of course).
Remove, slice, and enjoy.
Wait, what did I do wrong when I made it last night?
I forgot to oil between the layers of Phyllo dough. Sadface. I had the oil and brush all ready to go, I just didn't think to use it. I also didn't think to use it on the Rummy Peach Pockets. Way to go.
And yet, it all turned out OK. I'm sure it will be better with the oil, but hey. We got dinner and then leftovers for lunch out of it.
Rummy Peach Pockets
1 Package Phyllo Dough, Thawed
1 Bag Frozen Peaches (or 2 if they are small bags)
1 Cup Dark Spiced Rum
1 Cup Water
2 TBSP Brown Sugar
2 tsp Almond Extract (you can use Vanilla instead)
4 TBSP Water
3 TBSP Olive Oil or Earth Balance
Thaw the Phyllo dough.
Thaw the peaches (microwave on 5 for 1 minute and repeat until no longer frozen).
Mix the Rum and water together in a large bowl. Add the peaches. Soak for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Remove from the rum/water mix and place in a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and almond extract. Add about 4 TBSP of water.
Mirowave on high for 6 minutes.
Now get out your Phyllo Dough and a small rectangular casserole dish. Just like with the Spanakopita, layer the casserole dish with a sheet (or many strips and torn bits) of Phyllo and then brush with oil.
Don't forget to cover the Phyllo when not in use with saran wrap and a damp towel.
Repeat until you have about 8 layers.
Cover with the peaches so that you have one solid layer of peaches.
Lay down another 8 layers of Phyllo (oiling each one). Score the top layer where you want to eventually cut slices.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven, remove the foil, return to the oven and bake at 350 for another 15-20 minutes until the top layer of Phyllo dough is golden brown.
Remove and enjoy.
Timing the complete dinner:
You can bake both of these dishes at once. I advise getting the Spanakopita all ready while you soak the peaches. Once the Spanakopita is all ready in the casserole, get the Rummy Peach Pockets ready and then pop both dishes in the oven at the same time.
Making triangle pockets:
You can also make actual "pockets" with either of these dishes, rather than doing it slacker casserole style. Just cut (with scissors, or carefully tear with your hands) the Phyllo into 3-inch or 4-inch wide strips, place 1-2 spoonfulls of spinach mix (or peaches) at the bottom and fold up like you're making a paper football (or a flag). No need to coat with olive oil except on the top of the pocket.
Once you've got them all made, place the pockets in a casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil and proceed like normal with the baking.