For many gardeners in the northeast, the months preceding July are a period of eager anticipation for zucchinis, tomatoes, eggplants, corn and all the other veggies, berries, and fruit that summer brings. In my cool climate in central New York, it can take quite a while for the garden to get established and unless you have a greenhouse, the wait for fresh, local veggies can feel long. But in the meantime, there’s greens… so many greens!
There’s spinach, chard, and kale. There’s also plentiful wild greens (aka “weeds”) that are nutritious and grow everywhere such as dandelion greens, garlic mustard, and lambsquarters. There’s herbs like mint, chives, parsley, dill, and oregano. This hearty pie makes use of them all! It’s the quintessential spring / early summer salad and a great way to sneak more greens into your diet. And it will keep you happy while you await all the delicious vegetables summer will soon be offering up.
This dish is inspired by Mediterranean green pies like Spanakopita, Hortokopita, and Torta Pasqualina. My version is adaptable to whichever greens are available to you. If you’ve got tons of spinach, use that. If you only have wild greens, that’s fine. Each pie I make is a little different from the last, depending on what’s available to me. In fact, I never measure the ingredients when I make this pie (though I finally had to so I could share it with you below!). It’s a very forgiving and versatile pie. One thing to note though, you’ll see I used some baby kale in the video version, I find that a little bit of baby kale is ok but that kale is generally not ideal in this pie, it’s a bit too tough. Greens like chard, spinach, lambsquarters are ideal because they’re so tender when cooked, they really melt in your mouth.
In terms of the crust, you can really use pretty much any recipe you like. Store-bought puff pastry would be lovely if you’re short on time. Phillo is always great. I initially used my favorite all-butter basic pie crust recipe, but over time, I’ve found that I prefer an olive oil-based crust for this recipe, it has an appealing texture, almost crisp on the top, and the bottom cooks better. (The greens can hold a lot of moisture and make a standard pie crust a tiny bit soggy if you don’t wring their water out really well). In fact, many of the Italian and Greek recipes call for an olive oil-based crust so it also feels more true to tradition.
It takes a bit of time and effort to prepare this pie, but it’s well worth it. It makes a hearty summer meal, and will serve a good eight or so people. If you’re feeding fewer people, it will provide leftover meals for days to come. And in my opinion, the flavor only gets better as the days go by. I sometimes reheat the leftover pie, but I also love to eat it cold. I find it delicious that way, especially when I’m in need of a quick lunch and have no time to cook.
Oh and yes, frozen spinach is totally fine to use in this recipe!
I hope you enjoy this pie and make it your own, let me know in the comments below.
Greens and Feta Pie
This dish is inspired by Mediterranean green pies like Spanakopita, Hortokopita, and Torta Pasqualina. The recipe is adaptable to whichever greens are available to you.
- 1 1/4 pounds of any assortment of fresh greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, nettles, dandelion greens, sorrel, lambsquarters, ramps, garlic mustard. If using frozen, use 3 cups of frozen greens.
- 2 to 3 cups finely chopped fresh herbs (can include a mix of chives, basil, parsley, dill, or mint - you can use oregano or thyme but in smaller amounts)
- 6 to 7 eggs, beaten
- 12 oz crumbled feta
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 chopped leek (optional)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- Grated zest from one organic lemon
- Salt & pepper to taste (keep in mind the feta already makes the filling salty)
- Pie Crust:
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 cups white flour
- 2 tsp. Baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- A few tablespoons of water, if needed
- 1 egg for brushing the top crust
- To make the pie crust, mix the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and mix in until crumbly. Stir in the yoghurt and if needed, add a little bit of water, one tablespoonful at a time (I used about one tablespoon of water). Don’t overmix the dough. Once it comes together easily and is not too wet or too dry, shape it into 2 balls, one slightly smaller than the other, flatten them slightly, wrap them in a bit of wax paper, and place in the fridge for about 30 to 45 minutes.
- To make the filling, rinse the greens and steam them for about 5 minutes (I simply steam them in a large pot with about 1/2 inch of water at the bottom). Once the greens are cooked but still hold a nice shade of green, drain them and let them cool a bit. (Save the green water for your next soup or water your plants with it, it’s very nutritious). Once the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze them using your hands to remove as much water as possible. Chop the cooked greens and place them in a large bowl.
- Sauté the chopped onion and leek in the olive oil on medium heat until softened and translucent. Let them cool.
- Add to the greens the beaten eggs, chopped herbs, crumbled feta, cooled onion and leek, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind the feta already makes the mixture salty). Mix all the filling ingredients together.
- Assemble the dough and filling in a deep pie dish or an 8 by 11 inch casserole baking dish. Roll out the larger piece of chilled dough into a rectangle, quite thin, about 1/8 inch thick. Place the large piece down into the bottom of your pie dish. Brush a little olive oil all over the dough. Add the filling, spreading it out evenly. Fold the overhanging edges of the bottom dough over the filling (you may wish to trim them a bit as I did in the video). Brush a little water around the edge of the folded down dough. Then place the smaller piece of dough, also thinly rolled out, on top to cover the filling. Pinch the dough edges together so they are well sealed. Brush the beaten egg over the top of the pastry. Cut a few vent holes in your top layer of dough to let the steam out. Decorate with leftover greens and edible flowers, if you wish. I used pansies, violets, chives, garlic mustard, and mint to decorate.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes in a 350 oven, or until the crust is nicely golden and looks done. Allow the pie to settle and cool for 20 minutes or so before slicing and serving. You can make it ahead and reheat it.
Yield: 8 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer, a James Beard award-winning documentary filmmaker and a passionate organic gardener and home cook, who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.