This phyllo dough is inspired by traditional recipes from Crete and Epirus. When we think of phyllo, we think of very thin sheets, as used in baklava. This phyllo is thicker, and though still used in layers, provides a sturdy but delicious crust for pies. It is not difficult to make, but even in Greece is somewhat of a dying art. Only a generation back, women would make phyllo every day to wrap the bounty of Mediterranean gardens, a task they learned as young girls. Nowadays, most phyllo is made in large commercial operations. Zatinya is one of the only Greek restaurants I know of in the U.S. that still makes its own phyllo dough the traditional way.
- 6–8 sheets (for 1 large, or 2 smaller pies)
- 4 cups (500 grams) bread flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- About 1 cup water, or more as needed
- Cornstarch to roll the phyllo
Mix all dry ingredients, then make a well in the center and pour in olive oil, vodka and club soda. Mix and knead well (for about 8 minutes) to make a smooth and elastic dough. Let rest for 20 minutes and up to 2 hours, or refrigerate for up to 3 days, but bring to room temperature before proceeding further.
Divide into 6 parts, shape each piece into a ball, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Roll each piece on a floured surface to make a large, almost transparent thin sheet, and place on a clean cloth as you roll the rest of the sheets.
Hortopita (Greens, scallion and herb pie)
Adapted from Aglaia Kremezi’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts
Simple pies made of vegetables are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, especially on the Greek islands where meat is a luxury because of cost and the lack of grazing land for animals. But sunshine is abundant, and so are vegetable gardens. This is a typical pie made of fresh greens, herbs and cheeses. It is delicious as main course on a summer day.
- 2 pounds mixed greens (spinach, arugula, chard, beet greens), washed, drained and finely chopped
- ½ cup olive oil and more for the phyllo
- 15 scallions, white and most green parts, finely chopped
- 2 cleaned leeks, white parts and 3 inches of the green, finely sliced
- 1 cup dill, finely chopped
- 2 cups parsley, leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- 2–3 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 cup chervil, leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- 1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup grated aged cheddar
- ½ cup currants (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Homemade phyllo or thick commercial phyllo, at room temperature
- Bulgur flour, breadcrumbs or cornmeal as needed
Rinse the greens. Drain briefly and place in a large pot while still wet. Cook over high heat, stirring, until wilted. Let cool. Squeeze the excess liquid from the wilted greens with your hands, then coarsely chop them.
In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup of olive oil and sauté the scallions and leeks over medium heat for 6–8 minutes, or until tender. Add the wilted greens, the parsley and 3 tablespoons of the oil and sauté for 3–4 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the eggs, cheeses, dill and other herbs, currants, if using and pepper to taste. Taste and add salt if necessary, feta is usually quite salty. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and oil it lightly. Lay 2 sheets of phyllo, lightly oil them, then add another 2 sheets, oil them, and do the same with 2 more sheets of phyllo. Sprinkle liberally with bulgur or breadcrumbs, then carefully spread the greens mixture, pressing and spreading evenly. Lay another 6 sheets of phyllo on top, lightly oiling every second sheet. Cut excess phyllo around and fold the phyllo inwards to seal the pie, pressing with a fork so that the borders won’t be higher than the center, because they will burn. Cut a cross on the top layer to let the steam out as the pie bakes. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until well browned on top and bottom. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting to serve.