It’s interesting that like children we quickly lose interest in our things and move to the next. This seems to have happened to me over the past year with the plethora of recipes at my fingertips on-line. My wonderful and beloved cookbooks have sat unopened in their corner bookcase these past few months as I’ve been romanced by the many forms of digital presentations. That includes the numerous recipes I’ve carefully clipped and filed in color-coded binders.
Last week, enough was enough and I decided to yet again excavate from one of those neglected sources. Most of the ingredients had aligned in my pantry for a recipe shared by a friend long ago. It was yet another in my repertoire of “pies,” a savory pie. Speaking of alignment, my first two blogs about pies were posted just about two years ago (see 6/26/2019 and 7/30/2019 posts if interested in other pies).
This recipe, enjoyed when we lived in Tulsa many years ago, is filed in the binder marked “Greek” opposite one for frappe, a wonderful Greek iced coffee concoction I yet have to try to make at home. My friend wrote a note below the recipe assuring me that “It’s not a difficult one.” She was right. Of course, I made some changes, substitutions, omissions as per the palates of my family.
Meat, spinach, and cheese pie. There are three steps; first prep the meat filling, then the spinach filling, then fill. Believe me, it is really not difficult and well worth the effort.
Step one. Saute 1 ½ cups of chopped onions in oil. Add 1 ½ cups of ground beef and brown. Drain off the excess fat and add ¾ tsp salt, 3/4 tsp ground pepper, ¾ tsp oregano (mine is from Athens’ central market), 1/3 cup tomato paste, ¾ cup parmesan*, 2 eggs beaten, and mix well.
*In accordance with constant companion’s tastes, the parmesan was omitted.
Step Two. Saute 5-6 chopped scallions including the tops until tender. Add 1 ½ pound packages cooked and carefully drained spinach, cook a few more minutes. Add ¾ cup chopped parsley, ¾ cup chopped dill, 2 tbsp dried mint, 1 ½ tsp salt, 1 ½ tsp pepper. Add 3 beaten eggs, 1/3 pound of feta* and 1/3 pound of cottage cheese and mix well.
*The feta was also omitted. Both of these cheeses add considerably to the flavor of this pie.
Tip: Any green will do in place of spinach. I used beet greens and arugula. Get to know your produce man at the grocery store. When I see fresh beets topped with greens, I ask mine for the greens which he kindly breaks off and gives me. Many customers just throw them away. They have a nice bite to them.
Step Three. Working with filo might seem challenging, but it’s really not. Some tips: if it’s frozen, remove it from the freezer with enough time to thaw (about 3-4 hours). Make sure that you keep the filo leaves covered with a kitchen towel as you work to prevent it from drying. Don’t worry if your leaves crack as you arrange them, they cook just the same.
Line two* buttered, nine-inch tins with filo – about 6 leaves – brushing each sheet with melted butter (you will need about ½ pound of file and ½ pound of butter*). Let the excess hang over the edges of your pan, you’ll tuck then over the top of the filling before adding the final, topping layers.
*You can use high rimmed cake pans. I made only one pie, using my 9 x 9 pyrex.
*I substitute olive oil for the butter. It works just fine.
Add the meat mixture to the filo-lined tins spreading evenly. Add the spinach, egg, and cheese mixture over the meat.* Cover the pies with the remaining pastry, buttering each sheet, tucking in the overhang neatly.
*I added a few layers of filo between the meat and the spinach – something different.
Bake for 30-45 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven, til the top is nice and brown. Serve with a tossed salad.
Both Constant Companion and I enjoyed this dish from the distant past. We’ll try it again sometime in the future, when the ingredients align. Spoiler alert: The pantry was not totally aligned, I had to buy the filo, and now I have some in the freezer for the next time.