Enjoy omega 3 rich walnuts in this Mediterranean spinach, feta and walnut phyllo pie!
“I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”
California knows how to party...at least when it comes to food!
All my favorite foods come from California. If the movie 2012 came to life and California suck back under the sea, I would be quite distraught (and hungry). What would I do without my favorite Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam cheese? How could I celebrate without a bottle of Sonoma County pinot noir? And avocados?? NOOOOO! Not the avocados!
I would also have to mourn the loss of one of my favorite pantry staples, walnuts. Did you know 99% of the US supply of walnuts comes from California? I actually didn't until preparing for this post!
One thing I love about walnuts is that they're one of those foods you can judge by it's cover. It's appearance gives you a hint to it's health benefits. Think heart healthy strawberries, which kinda look like little hearts. And avocados, with their wrinkly skin, helps prevent wrinkly skin! Then there's walnuts, which kind of look like brains, and are my favorite nut for cognitive health.
Walnuts are the richest nut source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids with 2.5 grams in just one snack sized ounce. We've talked about omega 3s and brain health before, a type of fat that's powerfully anti-inflammatory and helps improve blood flow in the brain. That's one of the reasons walnuts seem to play a role in maintaining cognitive health. Walnuts are no one trick pony - there's also been research suggesting a diet rich in walnuts protects against certain types of cancer, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, promotes satiety, and may help prevent diabetes. Oh, and they're delicious too!
When I saw the newest campaign for walnuts, I knew I wanted to make something inspired by my travels. Despite being very much a California food, walnuts are a huge part of many different cultures cuisines. My first thought was a take on baklava, which I enjoyed in every shape and form when we visited Turkey a few years ago. But, my tastes were leaning more savory that day, so I decided to work walnuts into the spinach and feta phyllo pies I ate almost as often as baklava when in Turkey. Walnuts add a yummy crunch and break up the salty feta and herb infused filling. Plus, it packs about 4 grams more protein and 2 grams of fiber in each serving in for a more balanced and filling vegetarian main.
One thing I'll warn you, this is a pretty time consuming dish so save it for a showstopper on a special occasion. Phyllo dough is a bit finicky, so make sure you cover it with a just barely damp towel to prevent it from drying out while you're working with it. Traditional phyllo pie recipes call for brushing the dough with a whole lot of butter, which is tasty, but I find using a smaller amount of olive oil yields a similar flakiness.
Here's a few more recipes from the blog using walnuts:
Spinach, Feta and Walnut Phyllo Pie
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 2 lbs frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
- 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 egg
- To assemble:
- 1 lb phyllo dough, defrosted
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup walnuts, very finely chopped
- Heat olive oil in a large sided skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add smoked paprika and chili flakes and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add spinach, scallions and dill and cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Scoop spinach mixture into a large bowl. Let cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Add walnuts, feta and an egg and stir to combine.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees when ready to bake. Spray pie pan lightly with olive oil. Open phyllo dough and cover stack with a damp paper towel when not working with it so it doesn't dry out. Pour olive oil in a small bowl. Take one sheet of phyllo and brush very lightly with olive oil. Top with another sheet and again brush lightly with oil. Repeat until you have a stack of 4 oil brushed phyllo dough sheets.
- Scoop spinach mixture in a line along the short end of the phyllo dough stack (about 2/3 cup total). Tightly roll the phyllo to form a "snake." Press the phyllo dough around the outside rim of the pie plate. Repeat with remaining dough and spinach mixture, creating a coil in the pie pan, stopping when the pan is full.
- Mix egg and milk together in a small bowl. Brush over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts. Place in the oven and bake 35 minutes until golden.
- Depending on how big your pie pan is, you may have leftover phyllo and spinach. If so, Wrap into another snake or triangles and bake on a separate baking sheet.