Have you ever noticed that whatever you fear (at least in cooking) is generally unfounded? Too many people tell me they are afraid to use phyllo dough so I am sort of on a mission to get people to use more of it. This is not simply because I am a didactic sort of person (although I certainly was very guilty of that when I was younger!) But because phyllo pies are 1) so versatile – a great way to eat greens of all sorts, 2) relatively small amount of carbs for a very filling meal, 3) mostly vegetarian, and 4) taste great hot or cold or the next day for lunch or dinner…well you get the idea! I also think of them as key to pantry cooking or using up leftovers, whether greens about to go bad or lots of bits of cheese that need to be used.
This version of the pie was not pantry inspired because I was so excited to find lambs quarters at the Farmers’ Market and decided this was the perfect dish to showcase them in an entree. The ricotta and mascapone, however, were “leftovers” so to speak but pairing their creamy goodness with the slightly tangy lambs quarters was divine inspiration!
As I mentioned earlier, lambs quarters (aka Pigweed) are seen as a “weed” by many gardeners, but only because they weren’t planted on purpose. They are full of vitamin C (over 100% in a single serving), Vitamin A and loads of calcium. They rank with nettles and dandelion in terms of the nutritional punch they pack and unlike those two greens, lambs quarters is tangy as opposed to bitter. Many people substitute them in dishes calling for spinach. All I can say is when you find them grab some, you’ll love them no matter how you cook them!
Farmers’ Greens Phyllo Pie
1 roll phyllo dough (boxes come with two) defrosted*
4 cups packed fresh greens (spinach, lambs quarters, destemmed), washed well
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup mascapone cheese
1/2 cup parmesan (or pecorino or romano) grated
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (or similar amount ground)
1/2 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
olive oil spray, or oil for wiping on phyllo sheets
1 egg, beaten with
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large pot saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add greens and turn down heat and cover pot to allow greens to cook down, 5-7 minutes, stirring greens once or twice to make sure top greens wilt. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Mix in cheeses and adjust for salt and pepper and add nutmeg.
Prep counter for assembling the pie by placing filling near at hand, next to baking dish (9 x 13 is best), defrosted phyllo sheets unwrapped from plastic and covered with a dish towel, and oil spray or oil in a bowl with a pastry brush. Spray or brush the bottom of the baking dish lightly with oil and place two phyllo sheets on it. Repeat with two more sheets and then dab on 1/4 of the filling (it should not cover the sheet, just dab it around). Repeat with two more sheets of phyllo, three times and then dab more filling. Repeat until all filling is gone and finish with several sheets of phyllo to top the pie.
Sharpen your sharpest knife and cut the pie into 9 or 12 pieces, cutting carefully to cut down to the bottom of the dish. Beat the egg and milk mixture again and pour over top of pie, making sure to moisten the top pieces in particular and then swirl it around to ensure it covers the bottom of the pan as well. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and puffy. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before recutting. Serve hot or at room temperature. It also reheats well, either in microwave or wrapped in foil in a 250 degree oven.
* Phyllo dough will defrost very quickly, within an hour if the day is relatively warm or easily overnight in the refrigerator if you remember to remove it from the freezer the night before. If you need to defrost it quickly, remove from refrigerator and wrap in a dish towel and place in a warm place (in the sun or in a particularly warm room). It will be ready to use in 30-45 minutes.