For our end-of-summer party this year, we let ourselves be inspired by the latest issue of Saveur and made food with a Greek or Mediterranean slant: dolmades, tzatziki, tabouli, grilled flank steak, lemon chicken, grilled eggplant dip, hummus, and so on. For a while we were considering pastitsio (sort of a Greek lasagna), but decided on a greens-filled phyllo pie instead. I thought this would be spanakopita, the classic buttery spinach-feta pie, but then I discovered hortopita.
Hortopita is like spanakopita, but better. It uses any sort of greens mixture (horta in Greek) plus scallions and fragrant herbs, and instead of butter you brush the phyllo with olive oil, making it much less rich. I ended up making this twice this week – the one I made for the party disappeared almost instantly, and since there was phyllo left over I figured I’d just make us another one.
The first one used a gorgeous bunch of rainbow chard from a friend’s garden, plus some fresh beet greens. The second pie was made of purslane from Blue Heron Farm and a bunch of ruby chard. Both were great. Purslane is remarkably like spinach, and melts down into practically nothing, so you can use a lot. This is a great way to eat a huge quantity of greens!
Fresh herbs are key to the flavor of this pie. The world’s not going to end if you don’t have them, but I was really struck by the earthy quality of the blend of dill, mint and parsley. Quantities are highly variable, however. This is very much a use-what-you-have sort of recipe.
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing the phyllo
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 scallions, chopped
- 2 pounds greens (chard, purslane, beet greens, spinach, dandelion greens, etc), washed and chopped
- 1 cup each (more or less) fresh dill, mint, and parsley, minced
- 12 oz feta, crumbled
- black pepper
- 12 sheets storebought phyllo, thawed
Preheat the oven to 375°.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic and scallions. When they begin to soften, add the greens and herbs. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the greens are cooked down and soft, about 15 minutes. Add black pepper to taste and lightly stir in the feta so it stays chunky. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Lay out your sheets of phyllo on a damp cloth or wax paper. In a 9×13″ roasting pan, lay a sheet of phyllo into the bottom and lightly brush it with olive oil. Lay another sheet on top, crosswise if possible, and brush with oil. Continue until you have six layers. Pour the greens filling into the pan. Lay six more layers of oil-brushed phyllo on top. Put in the oven and bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling inside.
Serve hot, warm or cold. It’s all good.