Exotic Mushroom and Spinach Beggars’ Purses in Phyllo - Rancho La Puerta
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Exotic Mushroom and Spinach Beggars’ Purses in Phyllo

This makes a lovely appetizer for a dinner party or any special event.  Tie each purse like a gift with a ribbon of green, and a fresh, edible flower. Mushrooms are a gift: delicious and packed with antioxidants. For the filling, use a variety of exotic mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, portobello, and cremini. The filling may be made a day ahead.

The purses are very quick to make with versatile phyllo leaves, found in the freezer section of most super­markets. Spraying the purses with a small amount of oil helps the phyllo bake up crisp and brown. Use a refillable household spray bottle of oil rather than expensive cooking spray.

Serves 6


2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more to spray the phyllo

½ medium white onion, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

4 ounces fresh exotic mushrooms, such as oyster or shiitake, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)

1 pound fresh spinach leaves

6 basil leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, or to taste

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

⅛ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

½ cup ricotta cheese

¼ cup crumbled feta

¼ cup grated mozzarella cheese

1 extra-large egg, beaten

1 package phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions

Long chive stems with flowers, or green onion tops, cut into long “ties,” and small flowers with stems (optional)


1. In a 10-inch sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes, or until soft.

2. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring until they are soft. Scrape the mushrooms into a small mixing bowl and return the pan to the heat.

3. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to the pan and cook the spinach until just wilted. Cool, drain, finely chop the spinach, and add it to the mushrooms. Add the basil, dill, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg, and stir to combine thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

4. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, feta, and mozzarella cheeses with the beaten egg, then add to the mushrooms and spinach. (The recipe may be made ahead to this point, and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Drain thoroughly in a large sieve before proceeding.)

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

6. Read the package directions on phyllo dough. Unfold the phyllo sheets. If they are full sheets, cut in half across the middle to make approximate 6-inch squares. Discard any cracked or broken sheets. (To prevent drying, always keep the phyllo covered with a dry kitchen towel when not in use). Set 1 square of phyllo on a baking sheet and spray lightly with olive oil. Set 2 squares of phyllo on top at an angle to the first, and spray the top sheet. Set another square of phyllo on the top at a different angle and spray the top sheet. You should have 4 phyllo leaves in the stack. If the phyllo cracks at any point, add a patch.

7. Spoon ½ cup of filling into the center of the phyllo sheets. Gather up the corners of the phyllo like a kerchief and hold in one hand. Pinch the bundle just above the filling and squeeze gently. Give a little twist to make a purse. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling.

8. Bake the purses for 35 minutes, until the filling is very hot all the way through and the phyllo is crisp and brown. Serve within 15 minutes, or the bottoms will become soggy.

9. Just before serving, cut the flower from the chive, leaving a 2-inch stem. Pour hot tap water over the chives to soften them slightly, drain, and pat dry. Gently tie a chive around the neck of each purse and tuck in the flower. If using green onion tops, prepare them in the same way.


※ Make tiny purses for a party, with 1 tablespoon of filling. (Tying with chives is up to you.)

※ Make one big spanakopita by lining a large baking dish with several layers of oiled phyllo sheets. Spread the filling evenly over the top and finish with four more layers of oiled phyllo. Bake until crisp and well-browned, then cut into small squares to serve.