Greek cuisine has an incredible range of ‘pites’ (pies) with many variations. Their history goes back at least to ancient times and probably further back into pre-history. Pies can be sweet or savory, like the following variation on a classic hortopita or greens pie made with roasted beets.
Hortopita (Greens Pie) with Beets
6 medium-sized beets
2 large bunches beet greens (about 1 pound) with stems, washed
1⁄4 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing phyllo
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Greek sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup feta, crumbled
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh mint or 2 tablespoons crumbled dried
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh dill
12 sheets phyllo dough
Cut off the tops and wash the beets thoroughly and place in a roasting pan, tent with foil, and roast in a preheated 400-degree F oven for 40-50 minutes, checking every 20 minutes or so, since oven strength can vary and the size of the beets affects the cooking time. A skewer or knife should poke through easily when done. Allow to cool, peel the skins and slice into thin rounds.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and add the beet stems. Once tender, remove the stems from the pot and set aside. Add the beet greens to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute, and then remove from the pot and drain. Allow to cool slightly and then squeeze out excess water. Chop the stems and the greens coarsely.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5-8 minutes, add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook and keep stirring until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cooked stems and greens, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the ingredients are combined and remove from heat.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and add the crumbled feta. Stir together, then add the cooked stems, greens and beets, as well as the chopped fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly brush a 10-inch straight-sided tart pan or baking pan with olive oil.
Lay a sheet of the phyllo in the pan, tucking it into the seam, with edges overhanging the rim. Brush the phyllo lightly with olive oil and turn the pan slightly, then place another sheet on top, positioning it so the edges overlap another section of the pan’s rim. Continue to layer in 5 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with olive oil and staggering them so the overhang on the rim of the pan is evenly distributed and covers entire pan.
Fill the lined pan with the beet filling, then fold overhanging phyllo edges in over the filling, brushing each one lightly with olive oil. Layer remaining 5 sheets of dough over filling, brushing each sheet with olive oil and rotating pan slightly after each addition. Crimp edges down into the sides of the pan. Brush top with olive oil. Pierce the top of the pie in several places with a sharp knife. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.