Savory Filo Pie with Zucchini and Feta
Today’s recipe for a savory filo pie with zucchini and Feta cheese is a variation of the classic filo pies known throughout Greece. If you have never handled filo before, or, are intimidated by handling it out of fear of tearing it, this is the perfect beginner’s recipe to experiment with. Filo is not as delicate as you might think. It is very forgiving, and, I promise you that any tear will go unnoticed!
The Filo Pies of Greece
Part of the culinary tradition of Greece is the many varieties of filo pies. Filo pies or, “pites” in Greek, hold a special place in Greek cuisine because they are among the oldest and most beloved dishes in the region. Made with modest and mostly simple ingredients, it is believed that pites played a central role in keeping Greeks fed and nourished during the Italian and German occupation of the country in World War II and, historically, when food was scarce.
The shape of this Filo Pie
As it is often the case with traditional dishes, the fillings and the shapes for these filo pies vary from region to region. This shape of filo pie is more known in the southeastern Greek islands, the Dodecanese. It is a different, easier technique in “filo pie making” that everyone can try. As an extra encouragement to make this delicious variation, I will show how it is made in the process photos I have included below (which I hope you find useful)!
Ingredients for this filo pie
Grated zucchini, young green onions, fresh dill, Greek Feta cheese, some Greek yogurt, olive oil, and a few aromatics are all you need to prepare the filling for this savory, satisfying dish. Besides that, you will need a package of good filo pastry. I am using organic Filo dough with excellent results.
Step by step – How to make the filo pie with zucchini and feta
- Prepare the filling and gather all the ingredients
Spread some of the filling on the first stack of filo
- Scrunch the filo, creating a “pleat”
- Twist the filo “pleat” to create a coil
Place the filo coil in the middle of the pan
- Continue forming filo “pleats”
- Continue placing all filo pleats around, and extending from, the first coil
- Brush some olive oil on top and the filo pie is ready to bake
A few tips about the different kinds of filo
- Filo comes in different thicknesses: the number you see on a box of filo indicates how thick it is. The lower the number, the thinner and more delicate the filo. Lower numbered filo requires a lighter touch with the pastry brush to avoid tearing. The most common numbers are #4 (thin and pliable and best for filo pies that are rolled up) and #7 (slightly thicker, a bit easier to work with and best for rustic filo pies).
- Filo comes in different sizes: some packages have large sizes of filo (13″ x 18″), suitable for larger pans, and some packages have smaller sizes of filo (9″ x 13″), for smaller pans. If you are using a smaller pan but can only find the larger-sized filo, just cut the larger sheets in half.
- The weight of the filo: no matter what the size or the thickness, the weight of a filo package in the U.S. is always going to be one pound. This means that the box with the thinner filo will have more sheets while the box with the thicker filo will have fewer!
Substitutions and Variations
- Zucchini: sautéed leeks, swish chard, or spinach are good alternatives; make sure you squeeze out the extra moisture if using spinach so your filo pie does not become soggy
- Yogurt: can be replaced by drained, full-fat Ricotta cheese
- Fresh dill: add some fresh parsley, if you do not have dill handy. A combination of the two is great too
- The shape of the filo pie: even if you do not have a round or springform pan, use what you have – a small rectangular of even square pan will do!
No matter what you are using for a filling, this easy and savory filo pie is going to be delicious! I hope you will give it a try!
This recipe is a collaboration with Fillo Factory. You can find their filo dough at Whole Foods and small local stores. I love the quality of the Fillo Factory products and I always make sure to stash a couple of boxes in the freezer!
- 8 oz. filo pastry, defrosted and at room temperature
- 5 TBSP. olive oil for the filo (or half olive oil & half butter)
- 1 lb. zucchini, grated
- 6 small green onions, chopped (about ⅔ cup)
- ¼ cup fresh dill, minced
- 4 oz. Greek Feta cheese
- 3 oz. plain Greek yogurt
- 2 TBSP. virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- ½ tsp. dried spearmint (optional)
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- Remove the filo from the refrigerator. Grate the zucchini using the large holes of a grater. Place it in a colander and sprinkle with ¼ tsp. of salt. Let it sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 20 minutes, squeeze the zucchini between the palms of your hands to remove all the excess water. This is necessary so your filo does not get soggy (as a reference, I was able to remove ¾ of a cup of liquid from mine). Place the drained zucchini in a medium bowl.
- Chop the green onions, mince the dill and crumble the Feta. Add them to the bowl with the zucchini then stir in the yogurt, olive oil, lemon zest, spearmint, salt and pepper. Stir gently to incorporate and set aside. If there is time, refrigerate the mixture for 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a 10” springform pan with a piece of parchment paper and secure it to the top edges of the side with clips (a regular 10” cake pan can be used as well as long as the sides are about 2” tall.).
- Open your room-temperature filo. Unroll it and place it on a clean surface. Position the long side in front of you. The filo will measure 13” x 18”. Cut through the center of the stack of filo so you have a 13” x 9” stack. You will need only half of the package (8oz.), so cover the remainder well and refrigerate it.
- Take two filo sheets and place the springform pan on top of them. With a sharp knife, cut the filo around the pan so you have two round pieces of filo. Brush a little olive oil on each of them and stack them at the bottom of the pan (they will form the base of the filo pie).
- Brush three sheets of filo lightly with olive oil and stack then on top of each other. Spread about 3 TBSP. the filling on the top layer of the filo stack, using the back of a spoon (do not worry if it is not spread evenly). Gently scrunch the filo lengthwise to create a pleat (see photos). Once it is all scrunched, form a small coil and place the coiled and filled filo in the center of the pan. Repeat this spread/scrunch/coil process with a second stack of three layers of filo, and add this to the end of the first coil in the pan so that your coil is expanding from the center of the pan outward (see photos). Continue with the same process until you have created three additional pleated filo stacks and you run out of the filling. If there are any visible gaps, use some pieces of filo to fill them out.
- Brush the top of the pleated filo tart lightly with olive oil and bake for about an hour. Half way through baking, gently lift the tart to ensure that the bottom is cooking evenly. If it is not, place the pan on the lower rack for the remainder of the cooking time.
- When the tart is ready, the top should look golden brown and crispy. If necessary, cook for a few more minutes to get it to the right color. Remove the pan and place the tart on a rack to cool down slightly until you can handle it. At that point, open the springform pan and slide the filo tart directly to the rack to cool off completely.
-- You can assemble it ahead of time, refrigerate and bake later in the day. You might have to adjust the cooking time.
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