Two Tasty Appetizers to Help Celebrate the Season

December 11, 2020

For holiday entertaining, spinach pies are often a go-to appetizer. While celebrations may be toned down this year, the festive flavors are always appreciated. Right out of the freezer into the oven, phyllo-based pies are great as a make ahead starter or even as a delicious main course served with a salad. Try the following tasty appetizers to help get into the spirit of the season.

Fennel Hortopitakia

4 tablespoons Greek extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped

1 small white onion, finely chopped

1 small fennel bulb with stalks and fronds, finely chopped

1 cup feta, crumbled

1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped

3 scallions, thinly sliced

Greek sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 (16-oz.) package frozen phyllo dough, thawed

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the Swiss chard and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Transfer the cooked chard to a large strainer and press with a wooden spoon to remove any excess water. Then set aside. Heat the skillet to medium-high and add the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Transfer fennel/onion mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the cooked chard, feta, mint, and scallions and stir together. Season the filling with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the stacked phyllo dough lengthwise into 2 inch wide strips. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside. Place one strip of phyllo on your work surface and brush with some of the melted butter. Top with another strip, brush with butter, and repeat once more. Place a tablespoon of filling on one end of strip one inch from the end. Fold in the corner of the end to form a triangle. Then, fold in the triangle edge to form another triangle. Continue folding like a flag, until a triangle pastry is complete. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining phyllo strips and filling. Brush the triangle pastries with the remaining butter. You may need to melt additional butter for brushing. The hortopitakia can be covered with plastic wrap or put in a freezer bag and frozen at this point for up to a month, if needed. Bake in the preheated 375-degree oven for 18–20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Marinated Halloumi and Tomatoes

2 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 pound halloumi, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

16 white or whole wheat pitas

4 medium tomatoes, cored, halved, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons olive oil, the fresh mint, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Add the halloumi cheese slices and toss to coat with the marinade. The mixture should marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. If preferred, you can refrigerate the mixture at this point for up to two days, just make sure to cover tightly and keep refrigerated.

Prepare the indoor or outdoor grill, if the weather permits, by heating to medium high. Grill the pitas until warm and grill marks appear, about 1 minute on each side, then transfer to a serving platter. Next, grill the halloumi for about 1 minute on each side or until grill marks appear and the halloumi starts to melt. Cut the warmed pitas into wedges and place a slice of tomato and a slice of the grilled halloumi on each pita wedge. Drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt and additional freshly ground pepper, if preferred. Serve immediately.


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