The traditional cuisine of Epirus features delicious pites (pies), an integral part of the local gastronomic experience. Local, natural ingredients and phyllo pastry are the keys to these flavorful pies. The traditional Zagori pies can be found throughout Epirus and are relatively simple to make, but full of the rich flavors of the region.
Kourkoutopita, also known as alevropita, zymaropita or zarkopita, is made with flour, feta cheese and olive oil. The simple recipe is stirred together and baked until golden brown. Pita tis tembelas or lazy pie is another favorite in the region and relatively simple to prepare and bake. Meat pies and pies made with leafy greens and many layers of thinly rolled out sheets of phyllo dough are also staples of the cuisine of Epirus. The pies are traditionally made in large tins called sinia, round copper baking trays, and then baked in wood-burning ovens.
There are savory and sweet pie options to try any time of day when you visit Epirus, from sweet custard pies for breakfast to various cheese pies throughout the day as a snack, there is a pie for every taste.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Greek yogurt
3 cups water
A pinch of Greek sea salt
1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
3 cups feta
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, yogurt, water, salt and about half the olive oil. Use the remaining oil to grease a large round or 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Transfer the flour mixture to the prepared pan and top with the crumbled feta. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until golden. Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature.
Pita tis Tembelas (Lazy Woman’s Pie)
1 package horiatiko phyllo, thawed (Zagorisio preferred)
2/3 cup milk
2 cups feta
Greek olive oil for brushing the phyllo, as needed
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
A pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the phyllo sheet(s) on a parchment lined, rimmed 13 by 9-inch or 10-inch round baking pan. Brush the parchment paper with olive oil in the pan. In a bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs and set aside while working with the phyllo. Lay one sheet of phyllo on the baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and, then lay another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle half of the feta over the second sheet and pour half of the egg mixture on top. Sprinkle with the oregano and red pepper flakes, if using. Place a third sheet on top, brush with olive oil, then lay the last sheet on top and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle the remaining feta on top and drizzle with the remaining egg mixture. Sprinkle with more red pepper flakes, to taste, if using. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. If the top browns too quickly, cover the pie loosely with foil and continue baking. If it is browned underneath but the top is not yet crispy enough, heat the broiler and bake for a few minutes right under the broiler. Serve immediately, using a pizza cutter to slice the pie into pieces.
Preveza, at the southern tip of Epirus, is bordered by both the Ambracian Gulf and the Ionian Sea. During the summer months, fresh fish and seafood are the highlights of the local cuisine. In the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only, James Bond, played by Roger Moore orders Preveza prawns (shrimp) for his dinner, according to JamesBondFood.com.
Grilled seafood, the traditional ouzo bars and fish tavernas draw visitors from around the world in the summer months. Preveza is famous for Ambracian ‘gabari’ shrimp and the ‘poor man’s fish’, the sardine, which is not to be missed, particularly when freshly grilled at your table. Special delicacies also include oven-baked eel, fried red mullet, grilled grey mullet, and cuttlefish with spinach.
The delicious journey ends with a traditional Greek coffee and sweets, looking out over the Ambracian Gulf.
Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
4 tablespoons Greek extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1⁄2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
4 medium tomatoes, grated
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
16 large shrimp (about ¾ lb.), peeled and deveined
Greek sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces feta
1 lemon, halved
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Heat oven to broil. Heat oil in a ten-inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and scallions; cook, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste; cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add oregano, sugar, chili flakes, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 12 minutes. Add the mint and shrimp, stir, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Crumble feta on top. Broil 5 minutes, until bubbling. Serve immediately with a squeeze of fresh lemon on top and garnish with parsley.