Back when I was young, I remember my mom hosting a baby shower in my childhood home – gosh, it must have been for my cousin Sydney, but my mom or aunt would have to confirm. She hit up our Greek market for olives and fresh feta and grape leaves, none of which interested me at the young age of 10. But she also scored triangles of spanakopita (spinach was still gross to me at that age) and these miraculous cheesy alternatives called tiropita. I had my first taste of them sneaking one before the guests showed up and man, what a treat. Salty feta and crisp, buttery phyllo folded into golden triangles of deliciousness.
All of this was well before phyllo dough and phyllo appetizers became common fare at the market, and I’m kind of happy that it’s so easily accessible now. I’m able to pop into the grocery and make a lavish cheese pie of my own, all without any crazy trips to the market. I cut down on the traditional amount of feta and amp up the flavors with nutmeg and dried mint. I keep things creamy with a bit of ricotta as well, but feel free to substitute other cheeses such as cottage cheese or even crumbly, salty mizithra. Though I typically make this in a 13x9x3 inch pan and cut it into squares, this also works exceedingly well in a deep dish 9 inch round pan cut into triangles. If you’re planning a party of sorts, consider making this tiropita with a spinach pie as an accompaniment and a greek salad to tie the whole thing together. It’s a whole lot of buttery goodness without any fuss. And we all know that fusses are way overrated.
1/2 tbs. oregano
1 tsp. dried mint
12 oz. of feta, crumbled
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. of parmasean
16 oz. of ricotta
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 stick of butter
1 box of phyllo
In a standing mixer (or with an egg beater), mix together all of the ingredients except for the phyllo and butter until well incorporated.
Grease a 13 x 9 in baking pan. Working carefully and quickly, lay out a sheet of phyllo and butter with a pastry brush. Keep on alternating melted butter and phyllo until you have laid down half of the phyllo. Pour the cheese mixture on top of the phyllo. Top with alternating layers of phyllo and butter. Once you’ve finished with all of the sheets, cut the pie into squares before baking.
Place in the oven and bake on 350° for 45-50 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time. Let sit for around 5 minutes before cutting. Serve.
Ok, hold your panties for this one folks (and sorry to all of my many friends who have a problem with the word “panties” – just pretend it didn’t happen). This one is a middle east platter with flatbread for a plate. You just eat away until you get to the table top and then lick it clean. Kidding – use a plate, nasty. But I do give you permission to lick the plate clean. Fo sho.
This simple pizza is a riff off of the Lebanese treat, manaeesh, that’s like a pizza with ground meat and sumac. If you haven’t tried ground sumac before, it’s certainly worth a go – it’s very slightly smoky and earthy, and can be used in lamb and beef dishes for absolute fabulousness. Rather than marinara and sausage, you’ve got hummus and delicately spiced ground beef. Mozzarella meets the melty craving and feta adds salty goodness. Top it all off with cool, lemony tabouleh (which you can buy or make for yourself) and you are in business. It’s ah-MAY-zing. And oh so easy to prep for some random guests who decide to pop in. Because you know those good friends of yours are total randoms. It’s all good, though. They always bring good booze, so certainly feed them for their generosity.
Middle Eastern Flatbread Pizza
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sumac
pinch of allspice
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 c. of hummus
1/2 c. of tabouleh
2-3 tbs. of crumbled feta
1/2 c. of mozzarella cheese
2 large flatbreads (pita, naan or even 1 large piece of Afghan bread)
Begin by sauteeing the ground beef until no longer pink. Drain and return pan to heat. Mix in the salt, sumac, allspice, thyme and black pepper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or use a pizza stone) and put your flatbread on top. Spread the hummus on each of the flat breads and top with the ground beef. Crumble the feta on top and sprinkle the mozzarella over that. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
Remove from the oven and let hang out for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the tabouleh on top and cut into wedges. Serve.
Not to put his business out there, but my husband is not a fan of spinach. Stubborn that I am, though, I try to work it into dishes to “convince” him that maybe, just maybe, there is requited love out there for him and the leafy greens. You see, I didn’t always adore spinach myself. When I was in preschool, I once had an abysmal lunch of macaroni and cheese (yum!) with canned spinach (ugh!). When I refused to eat my spinach, I was told that I couldn’t have any chocolate pudding for dessert. This was no matter in that I didn’t like chocolate (don’t really love it to this day unless it’s really, really good) – I pitched a fit and refused to eat the vile spinach. With that, I was whisked off to timeout and my hatred of spinach was sealed. Until…I decided to study Italian in high school before heading off across the pond for a school trip. As we learned the different food names in Italian, a group of us made a face at spinaci. “Oh no!” our professor assured us, “Fresh spinach sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper is delicious! You must try it.” Try it, I did, and I never looked back – spinach and I were meant to be together. Continue reading Dionysi’s Spinach and Cheese Pie →