The tall yellow, fuchsia and white-stemmed leaves of Swiss chard in our garden deserved a recipe to feature them. The first recipe I found was for Ottolenghi’s herb pie enclosing lots of chard and fresh herbs in layers of crisp and flaky phyllo dough. A bit more research revealed that there are other versions of this savory phyllo pie throughout Turkey, the Balkans and the Middle East. Yet, I especially enjoyed learning about Hortopita, the chard, greens and herb filled phyllo pie considered a specialty of the Greek countryside. Horto translates as “weeds” or “wild greens,” and pita as “pie.”
For years I’ve enjoyed hortopita’s similar yet better known city cousin, spanakopita. So much so that spanakopita and a Greek salad were our first meal upon arriving in Athens a few years ago.
At the moment, though, I’m loving my version of hortopita, both in pie form and as triangles, with its extravagant use of Swiss chard and fresh mint, parsley and scallions. Forming individual triangles take longer than forming a pie. Yet the ratio of filling to flaky phyllo pastry in the triangles, suits me perfectly. I give the step-by-step techniques and photos for both the pie and triangles in the recipe below.
10 Tips for Phyllo (filo) Pastry Success
Have no fear. In spite of what you may have heard, delicate, paper-thin phyllo pastry is pretty straightforward to work with. Here are my 10 Tips for Phyllo Pastry Success.
- Allow frozen phyllo pastry to defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Or, if time is short, for about five hours at room temperature. Only work with completely thawed phyllo pastry.
- Prepare your work surface and all ingredients before opening the package of phyllo.
- Work with dry hands.
- Work gently and quickly.
- Keep your work surface clean and dry.
- Carefully unroll the phyllo pastry. The thin sheets of pastry tend to dry out quickly. Always keep the unused sheets lightly covered with a damp (not wet) kitchen towel.
- Gently lift a sheet of phyllo pastry onto your clean, dry work surface. (If two sheets won’t separate, leave them together and treat them as one sheet.) Immediately cover the unused pastry with the damp towel.
- Brush the sheet lightly with your choice of melted butter, a combination of butter and olive oil, olive oil or even coconut oil. Brush the entire surface of the pastry sheet (unless the recipe says otherwise), especially the edges to keep them from drying out and cracking.
- When filling unbaked pastry, have the filling cold or at room temperature.
- Roll up any unused phyllo pastry and enclose it in plastic wrap. Store it in its original box. Refrigerate it for up to a month or refreeze it for up to two months.
Thank you Yotam Ottolenghi and Aggeliki Bakali for inspiring this recipe.
Hortopita is great for buffets and picnics, as both the pie and triangles are at their best served warm or at room temperature.
I’ve found the food processor the easiest way to chop the large amount of fresh herbs. Dry the leaves and put them all at once in the processor bowl. Use the pulse button to get them started. Then let the machine run until the herbs are finely chopped.
Makes 8 servings as a pie or 16-18 individual triangles Printer-Friendly Recipe
Total Time About 1 ½ hours
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, ¼ inch diced (2 cups)
1 pound Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced, leaves ½ inch strips
2-3 large stalks celery, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced 1 ½ cups
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 ounces green onions, thinly sliced ¾ cup
1 large bunch fresh parsley, leaves and fine stems finely chopped
2 ounces fresh mint, leaves finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
4 ounces feta, crumbled
¼ cup grated pecorino Romano
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
Dozen twists black pepper
Sesame seeds for garnish, optional
4 sheets phyllo pastry for a pie; 16-18 sheets phyllo pastry for triangles
4 tablespoons olive oil, melted butter or coconut oil (or a combination) for brushing phyllo pastry for pie; double the amount when forming individual triangles
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Stir in the diced onions. Cover the pan and cook for 7 minutes until the onions are tender and translucent.
- Stir in the Swiss chard stems, celery and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes.
- Add the chard leaves. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high. Uncover the pan and cook for another minute until well mixed and the chard is tender.
- Stir in the scallions. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the chopped herbs. Transfer to a colander to cool. When cool enough to handle, use your hands to squeeze out as much extra liquid as possible.
- Use a fork to whisk the eggs together with the salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the crumbled feta and grated pecorino.
- Use a rubber spatula to combine the chard mixture with the eggs.
- Set up your counter for working with the phyllo pastry.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Assembling a Phyllo Pie
- Lightly brush the inside of your baking dish with your choice of oil or melted butter.
- Lay out a sheet of phyllo pastry on a clean surface, with the long end facing you. Brush half the sheet with oil. Fold the unbrushed half over the brushed half. Brush the top of the pastry with oil. Place the sheet in the bottom of your baking dish with its ends hanging over both long edges.
- Repeat with a second sheet of phyllo pastry. Place this folded sheet inside the dish with its short end fitting along the top long edge and one right short edge. The extra pastry will hang over the opposite long side and the opposite short side.
- Repeat with another sheet of phyllo pastry. Place this folded sheet inside the dish with its short end fitting along the bottom long edge and the left short edge. The extra pastry will hang over the opposite sides of the second sheet.
- Fill the dish with the chard mixture, smoothing its top.
- Fold the extra pastry over the filling. Brush the pastry with oil.
- Lay out another sheet of phyllo pastry. Brush half with oil. Fold the pastry in half. Brush the bottom half with oil. Fold the pastry in half. Top the pie with this pastry. Use the tip of your brush to push the edge of the pastry down into the baking dish. Generously brush the top of the pastry. Sprinkle with the optional sesame seeds, if desired.
- Use the tip of a sharp knife to score the top layers of the pastry into portions.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown. Let the pie cool before serving it warm or at room temperature.
Assembling Phyllo Triangles
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Lay out a sheet of phyllo pastry on a clean surface, with the long end facing you. Lightly brush the top two-thirds of the pastry with your choice of oil or melted butter. Fold the bottom third up. Then fold the top third down. Brush the top with oil.
- Place about 3 tablespoons of filling in the top right of the pastry. Fold the top right corner of the pastry over the filling to form a triangle. Continue folding triangles (as you would fold a flag) from side to side.
- Brush the bottom of the triangle with oil. Place it on the baking sheet. Brush the top of the pastry triangle with oil. Sprinkle with the optional sesame seeds, if desired.
- Continue making phyllo triangles with the rest of the filling. As you get to the end of the filling, you’ll find extra liquid in the bottom of your bowl. Squeeze it out before putting the filling on the pastry. This keeps your triangles from becoming soggy.
- For baking, arrange the triangles so they don’t touch one another.
- Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden.
- Let the triangles cool about 10 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.