A quarter century ago – which of course is 100 years ago in COVID-19 years – I had a roommate from Serbia who taught me phyllo dough was not a precious, delicate substance to be feared. Oh no. Rather it was peasant food, to be slapped around and eaten at all hours of the day. OK, maybe we didn’t slap it around, but she helped me lose the fear of handling it. And now it is my gift to you, a gift that will help you feed the open-mouthed starving people in your household when you need something new to put on the table.
The key to working with phyllo dough is oil spray. Yes, really, oil you spray from a can. Instead of laboriously painting your phyllo with butter or oil (my roommate Natasha scoffed loudly at this idea), you just give it a once over with some oil spray, and move on to the next layer. If you really abhor that idea, you can buy the Misto, which allows you to add oil to the Misto canister, pump it, and the pressure then sprays the oil out. It’s reusable and not too expensive, but right now probably only available online.
What I love most about this recipe is how loose it is – substitute away! To me, it’s the best recipe for using up wilting greens as well as throwing in an assortment of cheeses. In the version pictured above I used Swiss chard, fresh dill, feta, ricotta salata and some blue cheese along with the sour cream and ricotta and it was fantastic! Best of all, it tastes great hot, room temperature or straight out of the refrigerator, at all times of the day. Have fun with it!
Phyllo Greens and Cheese Pie
5 eggs, beaten
1 egg beaten and set aside (to coat top of pie)
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
2 large bunches of greens, steamed, drained and chopped (Spinach, Swiss Chard, Beet Greens, Radish Greens or a mix there of)
1/2 cup fresh herbs – parsley, basil, dill or a mix there of or use dried herbs, just taste the mixture before baking)
1-2 large cloves garlic, grated – you can use more, the cheese will soak up the garlic
2/3 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt; if you use regular yogurt, it just might take longer to cook)
1/2 cup crumbled feta (or grated parmesan or ricotta salata or cotija)
1/2 roll phyllo dough (it comes in a long roll, cut in half while it is still rolled up, seal it up until you use it; freeze the other half)
Oil for spraying (if you’re using a Misto)
9 inch x 13 inch baking dish (glass is best if possible, like a lasagna pan)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine eggs, ricotta, cooked chopped greens, fresh herbs, garlic, sour cream, and remaining cheeses in a large bowl. The mixture should be like a thick cake mix but not soupy.
Take your phyllo dough out of its plastic package, and place it between 2 cloth dish towels to keep it from drying out (although you will work with it quickly). Spray some oil in the bottom of the baking pan and place 2 sheets of phyllo to cover the bottom, but do not go up the sides. Spray the top sheet and layer 2 more sheets. Spread 1/4 of the mixture on top of the sheets; don’t worry if it doesn’t cover it all, just make sure to get some on the corners and dollop it around the sheet. Add 2 more sheets and spray with oil, repeat.
Add another quarter of the filling, and dab it where it isn’t in the layers beneath it (you will notice where the phyllo sheets dimple so fill it in from above. Repeat with layers of phyllo and filling until you finish with phyllo on top.
Slice the pie into 12 or 15 pieces as desired, and then pour the 1 beaten egg over the top and brush it over the phyllo. The egg wash should moisten the top layer of phyllo which is what gives it the dimpled look. Be sure to get the edges moistened with the egg wash.
Bake for 30 minutes until golden and puffy. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before eating.