the pie trio, part 3: pumpkin and cheese pie

And now we come to our final pie option… pumpkin and cheese!  This one is a little sweet and is great for breakfast or a snack at any time during the day.

This is the third of the three kinds of pie that I made with my single package of phyllo dough. If you do the same, be sure to make all three fillings before you even take your phyllo out of the fridge.

For this I used frozen chunks of orange winter squash (the Greek word kolokytha is usually translated pumpkin, but it’s basically butternut squash or something along those lines)  that I had bought at the farmers’ market back in the fall, and kept in the freezer until now.  Whether you use fresh (unlikely at this time of year) or frozen, put it in a saucepan to soften up.

Transfer the cooked pumpkin to a food processor.

Process for a few seconds until it breaks down.

Transfer to a colander and squeeze it gently to drain off the excess water.

Measure out your spices:  left to right, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and maple extract (optional).

In a clean bowl, combine the pumpkin with the spices and the remaining one third of the cheese.

Now we’ll make the phyllo triangles.  These will be large triangles; if you want, you can make smaller ones by cutting the phyllo in half lengthwise once again.

Put 1/8 of the filling at one end of the phyllo strip.

Fold the phyllo over itself to form a triangle.

Continue folding, keeping the triangle shape.

When you reach the end, spritz the end with olive oil to make it stick and place it on your oiled wax paper-lined baking sheet.

When they’re all ready, spray them again with olive oil and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

Kolokythotyropitakia | Pumpkin and cheese triangles
makes 8 small pies

3 cups pumpkin or winter squash, cubed
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp maple extract (optional)
1/3 package phyllo dough
1/3 cheese for pies (see below)
olive oil for spraying

1.  Soften pumpkin by heating in a saucepan over medium heat for several minutes.

2.  Transfer to a food processor and process for a few seconds until broken down.  Transfer to a colander.  Squeeze gently to release excess water.

3.  Combine pumpkin, spices, and cheese in a bowl.

4.  Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper and spray with oil.  Make phyllo triangles:  put 1/8 of filling on one end of the phyllo sheet, which has been cut in half lengthwise.  Fold phyllo with filling over itself to form a triangle.  Repeat this folding motion, making a triangle with each fold.  When the phyllo is all folded, spray with olive oil to adhere the last layer of phyllo to the triangle.  Place on wax paper.  Repeat with the rest of the filling and phyllo.

5.  Bake at 180 C / 350 F for 20 minutes or until a golden brown color and crispy.

Cheese for pies
makes enough for 24 small pies

140g feta cheese or lefko tyri
160g anthotyro or ricotta cheese
40g shredded parmesan or myzithra cheese
1/4 cup milk (lowfat or skim is fine)

To make cheese sauce, combine all ingredients and mash together.

Note:  if you aren’t also making other kinds of pies at the same time, triple the pumpkin and spices, and use all the phyllo and cheese.

Nutritional Information
per piece, i.e., 1/8 of total recipe, including cheese

117 calories
3g fat (2g saturated, 1g unsaturated)
7g carbohydrate
3g protein
0g dietary fiber
9mg cholesterol (3% DV)
104mg sodium (4% DV)
202mg potassium (6% DV)
Contains 83% DV Vitamin A and 18% DV Vitamin C

See the other recipes here:
Leek and Cheese Pie
Spinach and Cheese Pie 

Advertisements

the pie trio, part 2: spinach and cheese pie

We’ve made leek and cheese pie already; we’ll make the spinach filling today.

You can use either fresh or frozen spinach.  I had frozen so that’s what I used, but the method is the same either way.

Put the spinach in a nonstick pan with a little spritz of olive oil and let it soften.

Transfer the cooked spinach to a colander to drain.  Sprinkle the salt on the spinach and let it rest for about ten minutes.   The salt will help draw excess water out of the spinach.

Squeeze the spinach outside the colander into the sink, allowing the water to run out of your hands.  The volume of the spinach should reduce by over half.  It’s important to do this to avoid soggy spinach pie.

In a clean bowl, combine the spinach, dill, and cheeses.

Stir to incorporate everything.

Form the phyllo spirals following the instructions on the leek and cheese pie post.

Bake them for about 20 minutes until golden brown and cripsy!

Spanakotyropitakia Strifta | Spiral spinach and cheese pies
makes 8 small pies

4 cups spinach, fresh or frozen, stemmed, washed
1 tsp table salt
1 tbsp dried dill or 1/4 cup fresh dill
1/3 cheese for pies (see below)
1/3 package phyllo dough
olive oil for spraying

1.  Spray a non-stick pan with olive oil lightly.  Add spinach leaves.  Allow to soften.  Drain in colander.   Sprinkle with salt and allow to rest 10 minutes.

2.  Squeeze spinach with hands to remove as much water as possible.

3.  In a bowl, combine spinach with dill and cheese.

4.  Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F.  Cover a baking sheet with wax paper and spray with oil.  Form phyllo spirals:   cut phyllo in half lengthwise.  Put 1/8 of filling on each sheet along the bottom long edge, and roll up.  Coil the roll around itself to form a spiral.  Place spirals on wax paper and spray with olive oil.

5.  Bake at 180 C / 350 F for 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown in color and crispy.  Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

Note:  if not making other kinds of pies at the same time, triple the spinach and dill, double the salt, and use all the phyllo and cheese.

More detailed instructions on how to form phyllo spirals here.

Cheese for pies
makes enough for 24 small pies

140g feta cheese or lefko tyri
160g anthotyro or ricotta cheese
40g shredded parmesan or myzithra cheese
1/4 cup milk (lowfat or skim is fine)

To make cheese sauce, combine all ingredients and mash together.

Nutritional Information:
per serving, i.e., per 1/8 of this recipe including cheese

97 calories
3g fat (2g saturated, 1g unsaturated)
1g carbohydrate
3g protein
0g dietary fiber
9mg cholesterol (3% DV)
114mg sodium (5% DV)
113mg potassium (3% DV)
22% DV of vitamin A

the pie trio, part 1: leek and cheese pie

Now that we know how to make our own phyllo dough, we can go back to buying it out of the supermarket freezer (come on, who really has four hours every time they want to make a recipe?).  A package of phyllo dough is 450g (1 lb), and that’s a lot of dough.  So what I often do is make several different dishes with it.  However, once you defrost it, you really need to use it up the same day.  So I usually make several fillings for the phyllo and do them all at once.  You can triple the recipe (using all the phyllo) or use the given recipe for each of these three pies.  If you make your own phyllo, go with the tripled recipe.

This time, with my package of phyllo dough I made:  leek and cheese pie (prassotyropita), spinach and cheese pie (spanakotyropita), and pumpkin pie (kolokythopita).  The first two are savory; the third is sweet and savory at the same time (and makes a great breakfast).

This post will deal with the leek and cheese pie; we’ll do the others in the next two recipe posts.

If you’re using storebought phyllo dough, move it from your freezer to your refrigerator 24 hours before you’ll be using it.  Make the filling before you take the phyllo out of the fridge.

Leeks are great because when they’re available, they’re cheap as can be.  They’re easy and go into lots of recipes.  They pair well with white cheeses and have a sweeter, brighter flavor than regular green onions.

Start buy cutting them into rounds.

Leeks are among the dirtiest of vegetables.  I try to wash them before cutting them, but always wash them once they’re cut as well, because there is always dried mud hidden inside the fronds.

I wash sliced leeks the same way I wash spinach:  fill a large pot with cold water and a few tablespoons of vinegar.  Add the leeks, agitate them with my hands for a few minutes, and then lift them out of the water into a colander to drain.

Because I was only making filling for a third of the phyllo, I didn’t need to use all these leeks.  I put half of them in the freezer to use in other dishes later (leeks freeze well).

If you are only making leek pie, use a very full colander; otherwise, about half of a colander.

Start to sweat the leeks in your pan.  We want them to release some of their moisture and to take on a bit of a brown color in places, but still retain that bright green.

While the leeks are doing their thing, assemble the cheeses.  If you’re making this in the US or UK, you should use real Greek feta cheese (it’s easy to get anymore at any supermarket) with ricotta and parmesan.  If you’re in Greece, you can (as I did) use lefko tyri (feta-style cheese made with cow’s milk), anthotyro, and shredded myzithra.  I make these suggestions for Greek readers because these cheeses are much cheaper than the traditional Greek choices (real feta is now too expensive for many Greeks, including us – although I did make an exception and bought a box of real feta from our town just to remind us what it tastes like… oh, it was so good!).  The lefko tyri at my supermarket is about €3.80/kg.  The cheapest feta cheese is around €9.00/kg.  You can also leave the cheese out entirely.  Note that the eggs, traditionally used in this recipe, are omitted here, in an effort to reduce costs further.

Mash together the cheeses and pour in the milk.

Stir it all together to form a thick sauce.

At this point, get a clean bowl.  Combine in the bowl the leeks from the stove with one third of the cheese.  (If you’re making only leek pie, use all the cheese.)  Add dill to the bowl.

Stir everything together and set it aside while we prepare the phyllo dough.

To use storebought phyllo dough, if you’re not familiar with it, is easy but it needs a little kitchen preparation first.

First, turn on your oven.  Line a large baking sheet in wax paper and spray it liberally with olive oil.  Set aside.

You’ll need a fair amount of counter space.   You need space to lay out the phyllo and space to form the pies.  I cleared off the top of my washing machine in order to have space to lay out the phyllo.

First, cover your pie-forming space with plastic wrap completely.  Then, prepare your phyllo as follows:

Clockwise from top left:

1. Cover the space completely with plastic wrap.  Lay out the phyllo on the plastic wrap.
2. Cut the phyllo dough into strips with kitchen shears.  For this recipe, simply cut it in half the long way.  (Cut through all the layers of dough at once.)
3.  Cover the cut dough with plastic wrap completely.
4.  Moisten a kitchen towel in cold water, ring it out, and drape it over the top plastic wrap.

The plastic keeps the dough from drying out, and the wet towel keeps it cool.

To form each pie, first lay out one single sheet of cut phyllo on the counter.  Put some of the filling in a line along the long edge as in the photo.

Roll the phyllo uniformly up towards the top of the sheet.

When it’s all rolled up, spray the top with olive oil.  Turn it over and spray the bottom with oil too.

Then curl it around itself to form a spiral.  Put it on the baking sheet.  Continue until you run out of filling.

In Greece, a package of standard phyllo kroustas (the most common type of phyllo dough) usually has 12 sheets; since we cut these in half, we should get 24 pies.  I actually only made 21 pies (7 of each kind) but if you spread the filling out a little more, you can get 8 of each. I am pretty bad at guessing how much filling to put in each one to make it come out exactly the right number of pies.

When you’ve filled your baking sheet, put them in the oven for about 20 minutes or until a light golden brown and crispy.

Prassotyropitakia Strifta | Spiral leek-and-cheese pies
makes 8 small pies

4 leeks, sliced into rounds, and washed
1 tbsp dried dill, or 1/4 cup fresh dill
1/3 package phyllo dough
1/3 cheese for pies (see below)
olive oil in a sprayer

1. Spray a non-stick pan with olive oil. Over medium heat, sweat leek rounds for about 10 minutes until soft and brown in spots.

2. In a clean bowl, combine leeks, cheese, and dill.  Note:  if making other types of pies at the same time, make all fillings before moving on to step 3.

3. Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. Cover a baking sheet in wax paper and spray with olive oil. Prepare phyllo: cover a large surface in plastic wrap. Lay out phyllo dough. Cut in half lengthwise with kitchen shears. Cover cut phyllo with plastic wrap and top with wet, wrung-out kitchen towel.

4. Lay a strip of phyllo dough on plastic wrap covered surface. Top with 1/8 of the filling, in a line along the bottom. Roll the phyllo up toward the top. Spray the top and bottom of the phyllo coil with olive oil, and twist into a spiral. Place on baking sheet.

5. When all the spirals are on the baking sheet, spray again with olive oil and bake at 180 C / 350 F for 20 minutes or until a light golden brown color, and crispy. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

If you are not also going to make other kinds of pies at the same time, use the whole package of phyllo, all the cheese, and triple the leeks and dill.

Cheese for pies
makes enough for 24 small pies

140g feta cheese or lefko tyri
160g anthotyro or ricotta cheese
40g shredded parmesan or myzithra cheese
1/4 cup milk (lowfat or skim is fine)

To make cheese sauce, combine all ingredients and mash together.

Nutritional Information
per pie, i.e., 1/8 of the recipe including the cheese

121 calories
3g fat (2g saturated, 1g unsaturated)
7g carbohydrate
3g protein
1g dietary fiber
9mg cholesterol (3% DV)
111mg sodium (5% DV)
110mg potassium (3% DV)
Contains significant amount (+10 DV) of the following:
calcium and manganese

You might also like:
Handmade onion pie
Baked spanakoryzo
Fennel-seed kebabs with yogurt sauce on pita 

pillowy pita bread

After living and traveling in the Eastern Mediterranean for over a decade, I’ve seen a lot of pita bread cross my plate.  None of them have ever come close to this one – except the one made by an Israeli friend when she was teaching me how to make this one.  So thank you to Sarit for the lesson!  But don’t be intimidated – it’s not difficult.

Because the goal is the ultimate in pillowy softness (as I write this, I imagine myself as the star in a fabric softener commercial, you know the ones where the pretty lady with the spring in her step and the twirly dress has flower petals rain down on her from Heaven), I use all purpose flour; but you can use half all purpose and half whole wheat if you like.  I would not recommend using 100% whole wheat flour for this particular recipe.

These pitas will create a pocket, so you can open the pocket and stuff them.  We usually use them for dipping rather than stuffing, but it’s your pita so you can do whatever you want with it!

The ingredients are extremely simple and very, very frugal.  The only things you need are all purpose flour, yeast, warm water, salt, sugar, and olive oil.  You also need a cookie sheet or baking sheet.

Start by proofing the yeast.   Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over warm water in a large bowl.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes until it foams.

Meanwhile, weigh out the flour.

When the yeast is ready, stir in the flour, salt, and olive oil.

Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead with floured hands for about ten minutes. I have a tutorial on kneading dough just like this one here.

Whenever I knead this dough, I always get drowsy.  The dough is so soft, that I want to curl up and take a nap on it.

Put it back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Let it rise for 90 minutes at room temperature.

After 90 minutes, turn on the oven to its maximum heat.  Place a baking sheet in the oven upside down.  It’s important that your baking sheet preheat together with the oven.  Check the dough; it should have doubled in size.  Turn it out onto the counter.  Press out the air from the dough and divide into the number of pitas that you want.  For this recipe, you can either make 8 regular pitas or 6 large ones.  I made 8 regular ones.

Form them into balls and place on a plate or two.  Soak the kitchen towel in water, ring it out, and drape it over the balls.  Let them rest like this for 20 minutes.

Roll out two balls at a time with a rolling pin, leaving the others under the wet towel.  Roll them to a thickness of about 1/8″.  When you have two ready to go, put them on the hot baking sheet.  Close the oven door and wait about 1.5 to 3 minutes.  They should puff up.  Take them out (be careful not to burn your fingers too badly!) and roll out the next two.  You want to keep your eye on these so they don’t burn.   The puffiness is a good indicator of when they’re ready.  I tend to take mine out after about 2 minutes; most recipes say to bake for 3.  It will depend on your oven.

Pillowy Pita Bread
Makes 8 pitas

300g all purpose flour
180 mL warm water (or more or less depending on your flour)
1.5 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

1.  Proof the yeast:  put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast and sugar on top.  Set aside for 10 minutes, until it foams.  If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and start over with new yeast.

2.  Stir the flour, salt, and olive oil into the water and yeast mixture.  When it is fully combined, turn out onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands for 10 minutes.

3.  Oil bowl and top of dough.  Place in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel and allow to rise for 90 minutes.

4. Press air out of dough and divide into 8 pieces (6 for large pitas).  Form each piece into a ball.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to maximum heat with a baking sheet upside down on a middle rack.

5.  Roll two balls into 1/8″ thick (1/3 cm) circles.  Place on the very hot baking sheet.  Allow to bake 1.5-3 minutes until puffy but not brown.  Remove and continue with the rest of the balls.

Nutritional Information
per pita, i.e., 1/8 of the total recipe

161 calories
3g fat (0g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
29g carbohydrate
4g protein
1g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol (0% DV)
583mg sodium (24% DV)
55mg potassium (2% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
thiamin, niacin, selenium, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, and manganese.

You might also like:
Classic French baguette
Olive bread
Raisin walnut whole wheat bread