The holiday of Shavuot is approaching, or as they call it in my wife’s office the cheesecake holiday. Why is it the cheesecake holiday? I’m glad you asked. Shavuot is the only holiday on the Jewish calendar where we traditionally eat dairy. The primary reason given is that Shavuot celebrates the Jewish people’s reception of the Torah. The Torah contains the Jewish dietary rules know as kosher. While the Jews sorted out these new rules, they stuck to eating dairy which has somewhat simpler rules than consuming meat.
As I have said many times before I am not a baker, and I usually leave anything pastry related to my wife. Instead of treading on her domain and doing a traditional sweet cheesecake for dessert I decide to challenge Rachel to a savory cheesecake challenge.
I kicked around a few ideas including a deep dish pizza cheesecake, a goat cheese and caramelized onion cheesecake, and a hybrid cheesecake/frittata, but ultimately landed on a spanakopita inspired cheesecake. I took a bottom up approach for this recipe as I wanted to challenge myself to use filo dough (sometimes spelled phyllo) for the crust which can be hard to work with. Once I established that, and wanting to stay in the savory realm, the choice of spankakoptita was fairly obvious. Spankakoptita is a Greek spinach, feta cheese, and filo “pie”, often served in the style of a lasagna or as small hors d’oeuvres. A dish containing cheese, a savory vegetable, and crispy dough checks all the boxes needed to compete in this challenge.
Alerts and Alternatives
A few things to remember as you make this recipe. Taste your feta before you use it. Some brands are are more moist than others. I prefer a moister feta for this recipe. When frying your leeks keep your temperature low, otherwise the leeks will burn quickly. If you can’t be bothered to make these as personal cheesecakes this will work perfectly well as a large cheesecake. If you decide to make it as a large cheesecake you can use filo dough as a base or you can use a store bought frozen savory pie crust (not a shelf stable graham cracker crust like you would use for a sweet cheesecake).
Recipe: Personal Spanakopita Cheesecake Topped with Feta and Crispy Leeks
A twist on a Greek dish that is perfect for your Shavuot table.
- 1 lb Cream Cheese 2 bricks, allow to soften on the counter for an hour
- 1 lb Ricotta Cheese
- 2 Large Eggs
- 2 lbs Fresh Spinach Washed and stems removed
- 2 Large Onions Sliced
- 1 Stick Unsalted Butter Melted
- Kosher Salt For seasoning your spinach and onions
- 2 Large Leeks Green part removed, white part cleaned, and sliced in to matchsticks
- 1 lb Feta Cheese Crumbled
- Vegetable Oil For Frying
- 1-1 lb Package Filo Dough
Add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter to a large saute pan an place over medium heat. Add the onions and season with a heavy pinch of salt. Saute until the onions begin to brown.
Add 2 more tablespoons of butter and the spinach to the pan. Season again with another heavy pinch of salt. Cook until the spinach has wilted, but be careful not to cook it too much as spinach shrinks significantly when cooked.
Remove the spinach and onion mixture from the pan to the bowl from your mixer. Drain off any excess liquid. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Add the cream cheese, ricotta, and eggs to the mixer Bowl. With the paddle attachment mix until thoroughly combined. You can do this in a mixing bowl with a spatula, but the stand mixer definitely makes it easier.
Brush the muffin tins with melted butter. Cut the filo dough in to 48-3x3 inch squares, and brush each square with melted butter. Place two squares in each cup slightly off set from each other making sure to cover the entire side and bottom the muffin tin cup.
Fill each cup 3/4 the way with the spinach and cream cheese mixture, about 3 tablespoons.
Top each one with feta and bake for 45 minute. Allow to cool and remove from the muffin tins.
Add a 1/4 inch of oil to a frying pan and place over low heat. Once the oil is hot add a handful of leeks at a time, and fry until they just turn golden brown. Be careful as the leeks can burn quickly.
Top the cheesecakes with the leeks and serve immediately.
What’s your favorite kind of cheesecake? Have you ever made a savory cheesecake? If so what flavors did you use?
Don’t forget to check out Rachel’s savory cheesecake: Mini Crust-less Smoked Salmon Cheesecakes (Happy Shavuos!)