06/28/17 — Worldwide eats: How to prepare spanakopita

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Worldwide eats: How to prepare spanakopita

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on June 28, 2017 8:27 AM

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From left, Morgan Davis, 11, Serenity Franklin, 10, Savannah Holstein, 10, and Katelyn Harrison, 11, prepare onions, parsley and feta cheese to go into spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie, during cooking camp at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base youth center. Campers were split into several groups and rotate in the kitchen, preparing, mixing and cooking a variety of recipes.

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Parsley is chopped for spanakopita recipe.

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Liberty Reitz, 13, and Haley Ackerman, 12, read the cooking directions for spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie, during a cooking camp at the youth center.

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Trinity Pendleton, 13, pours onions in a pan as she prepares to cook several ingredients to be put into their recipe during cooking camp at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base youth center June 21. Trinity was selected as the peer leader for her group after showing skill in the kitchen and the ability to lead.

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Katelyn Harrison, 11, cuts up feta cheese that will be added to a recipe during cooking camp.

Good recipes come from all over the globe, and the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's Cooking Around the World camp is putting them to use.

The camp ----  June 19 through 23 ---- gave children the chance to cook food from a different country each day. On Wednesday, June 21, around 15 kids worked together in the base Youth Center kitchen to prepare a Greek dish known as spanakopita, which translates to "spinach pile."

Youth Center employee Cynthia Lawrence has run the camp for 10 years, having taken charge of it after running a similar program at the Boys and Girls Club for just as long.  She split the campers into groups, each of which would handle a different step in the cooking process.

Among the first was the meal prep group. The campers chopped, sliced and organized all of the ingredients, from spinach and onions to feta cheese. Jailen Page, 13, wants to be a chef when she gets older. She was one of the campers Lawrence tasked with being a mentor to her peers.

"I've always loved cooking, I basically cook dinner for my family," she said. "My father put me in this camp, and I've learned a bunch of stuff I didn't know already."

One of those things was knife safety, which Lawrence constantly reminded the campers of. She paused the meal prep group to demonstrate how to safely move knives around the kitchen, by keeping them at one's side and making sure other people knew they were there.

She also instructed them on how to keep things clean.

"Anything that you are cooking with needs to be washed in some form or fashion," she said as the kids worked around her.

One of the other mentors was 13-year-old Terrance Gilliam. He joined the camp after spending time with his father out of state, where he learned to love cooking. After coming back to North Carolina, his mother heard about his new passion and enrolled him in the cooking camp.

"I've learned all kinds of new stuff," he said. "For the paella we made on Monday we had to mix spices, and a lot of those spices I'd never even heard of before."

The campers made the Spanish rice dish on their first day, followed by Hungarian goulash on Tuesday, June 20. On Thursday, June 22 they planned to make a surprise Malaysian dish, followed by lasagna and Caesar salad on Friday, June 23. Lawrence said the camp is a good outlet for kids during summer.

"Lots of kids in summertime don't have things to do, and they need somewhere to go," she said. "We are not a daycare. We're teaching them a life skill, so they can take care of themselves."


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds spinach, rinsed and chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

8 sheets phyllo dough

1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-9-inch square baking pan.

Heat three tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium hear. Sauté onion, green onions and garlic until soft and lightly browned.

Stir in spinach and parsley and continue around two minutes until spinach is limp.

Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta and feta.

Lay one sheet of phyllo dough in the prepared baking pan and brush lightly with olive oil.

Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat the process with two more sheets of dough.

The sheets should overlap the pan.

Spread spinach and the cheese mixture into the pan and fold overhanging dough over the filling.

Brush with oil, then layer the four remaining sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into the pan to seal the filling.  Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Cut into squares and serve while hot.