Morning: spanakopita

Spanakopita was the morning name some weeks ago, and then this morning the bon appétit site offered instructions on how to “make spanakopita pie”, with a yummy photo:


The full instructions, which are pretty complex, amount to:

make the spinach filling (using frozen spinach), prepare the phyllo pastry (using frozen phyllo), assemble, bake

The result, seen above, is spanakopita:

(in Greek cooking) a phyllo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. ORIGIN modern Greek, literally ‘spinach pie.’ (NOAD2)

Note 1. The Greek name translates as ‘spinach pie’, so the pie in spanokopita pie is etymologically redundant (as it is in pizza pie) — and is in fact dispensable in English (as in the NOAD2 entry). But the longer form isn’t wrong: it’s just an instance of a N + N compound type in which the head N2 denotes a type or genus (of pie in this case) and the modifier N1 denotes an instance or species: “What kind of pie? Spanakopita pie”. Other type of N + N compounds are more common (for foodstuffs, especially those in which N1 denotes the most significant ingredient, as in cherry pie, apple pie, molasses pie), but species-genus compounds are not uncommon: collie dog, for example, or various X + bread compounds (chapati bread, ciabatta bread, injera bread, matzo bread, pita bread). In general, species-genus compounds are in alternation with the species N alone (since the species identification usually brings with it the genus identification); the longer versions are useful in supplying the genus to those who don’t know it or might have forgotten it, or to emphasize or focus on the significance of the genus.

Note 2. So it is with phyllo dough, another species-genus compound. From Wikipedia:

Filo (or phyllo) (Greek: φύλλο “leaf”) is a very thin unleavened dough used for making pastries such as baklava and börek in Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Filo-based pastries are made by layering many sheets of filo brushed with olive oil; the pastry is then baked.

The current practice of stretching raw dough into paper-thin sheets likely originated in the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace during the time of the Ottoman Empire, based on Central Asian and Romano-Byzantine techniques. Baklava is probably the earliest dish using filo, and is documented as early as the 13th century.


On baklava:

Baklava … is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of Levant, Mediterranean, Caucasus, Balkans, Maghreb, and Central and West Asia. (Wikipedia link)

Finally, a first cousin of phyllo, from Wikipedia:

Puff pastry seems to be a relative of the Middle Eastern phyllo, and is used in a similar manner to create layered pastries. … references appear before the 17th century, indicating a history that came originally through Muslim Spain and was converted from thin sheets of dough spread with olive oil to laminated dough with layers of butter, perhaps in Italy or Germany.

(A brief note on puff pastry in a 7/6/16 posting.)

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