Spanikopita or [Greek] spinach pie is well-known in the United States. However, when made with a mixture of greens/herbs it’s referred to as hortopita (xορτόπιτα). You can use any number of greens/herbs in your hortopita — beet greens, kale, mustard greens, dandelion, nettles, amaranth, spinach, sorrel, collard greens, chard, dill, parsley, mint, chervil, oregano, etc. No matter which greens/herbs you decide to include in your pie, the key to a good hortopita is to use lots of greens/herbs, with enough salty-sharp feta to balance out the greens and a generous amount of [Greek] extra virgin olive oil.
More often than not, when I order spanikopita, the ratio of filo [or phyllo] dough to greens is skewed in favor of the dough. Kind of disappointing if you ask me. I want my pie stuffed to the gills with greens. And I can’t recall ever encountering a savory Greek pie that contained a green other than spinach.
This recipe was inspired by Diane Kochilas’ Ikarian Longevity Greens Pie. I used her recipe as a base, albeit with a larger quantity and wider assortment of greens (beet greens, mustard greens, kale, and spinach), more feta, and more olive oil. As previously mentioned, I like a lot of filling.
For those of you who have not heard of Diane Kochilas, she is a Greek-American cookbook writer/food historian whose family has roots in the remote Greek island of Ikaria in the Aegean Sea. Ikaria has been referred to as ‘the island where people forget to die,’ because it possesses one of the largest populations of centenarians (i.e., people actively living to or beyond the age of 100) in the world.
The Ikarian secret to longevity remains a mystery. Perhaps it’s the wild greens [and sardines] :-), clean air and water, slower pace of life, family values/social network, or perhaps it’s something in the Ikarian wine?
I think a trip to Ikaria in the name of investigative research [read: swim, relax, eat, and drink plenty of the local wine] is called for. Plus, it’s been far too long (2012) since I last lazed on the Greek Islands (I hear them calling my name).
A few photos of previous trips to Greece can been found here.
The dough for this pie is whole wheat-olive oil based. It has a much different taste and texture than the store bought filo to which you may be accustomed. Commercial filo is very thin and gets crispy and flaky when baked.
On the contrary, this crust is more rustic and not nearly as flaky, but I think it works well with the overall taste and texture of the pie. The addition of fine semolina and cake flour lend a nice lightness to the crust, as 100% whole wheat crusts can be dry and dense. It’s a little extra work rolling out the dough by hand, but if you feel so inclined I think you will be pleased with the end result.
2 1/2 pounds of greens went into this pie. Today, I used a combination of the beet green tops (from a bunch of beets), kale, mustard greens, and spinach along with parsley, mint, and plenty of dill.
Kali Orexi (καλή όρεξη). Good Appetite!
Ikarian Mixed Greens Longevity Pie
Adapted from Diane Kochilas
makes 1 (9×13-inch) pie
2 large leeks, washed and chopped
2 1/2 pounds of greens (used a combination of beet greens, kale, mustard greens, and spinach)
1 bunch dill (~1 1/2 cups lightly packed)
1 bunch mint (~1/2 cup lightly packed)
1 bunch parsley (~1/2 cup lightly packed)
1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cups crumbled feta
pinch of red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (added a bit extra) plus more for brushing the filo
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whole wheat filo dough (recipe to follow) or store bought filo
Egg white wash:
1 egg white whisked with 2 tablespoons milk
To make the filling:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the leeks until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Place the greens in a large pot with no liquid. Cover and cook over low heat until just wilted, about 8 to 10 minutes, giving them a stir from time to time. Drain and squeeze out any excess moisture. Chop the greens.
In a large bowl, combine the leeks, chopped greens, herbs, feta, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/3 cup Greek olive oil, or more, as desired (I added a few more glugs of olive oil). Let the filling cool.
Assembling the Hortopia:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly brush the bottom of your baking pan with olive oil.
Spread the greens filling inside the pan. Repeat the rolling procedure with last two dough balls, placing them over the filling and brushing with olive oil. Trim the excess and roll in the dough to form a decorative rim.
Score the top of the pie, by making a few horizontal and vertical slits with a sharp knife (as pictured above).
Bake the pie for 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown. Brush with an egg white wash halfway through baking.
*Store any leftovers in the fridge. Reheat in the oven until warmed through before serving.
Whole Wheat Filo Dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup semolina flour
½ cup cake flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
½ cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
Extra cake or white flour for kneading
Place the whole wheat, semolina cake flours, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a dough hook. Mix the flours and salt together. Pour in the vinegar, water, and olive oil. Knead the dough with the dough hook on medium speed for about 10 to 12 minutes. Shape into 4 equal balls and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel until ready to use. Or, store wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator.