Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Greek to Me!

With Greek Easter quickly approaching, it's time to start cranking out some family favorites!  Since I will be gone for Easter and Greek Easter (they fall on the same day this year), my cousins and I have consorted to have it late.  Much later, as in Memorial Day Weekend!  The weather should be great, I'll be home and it's a long weekend.

We put alot of kitchen time in for this event.  Typically everyone brings a dish to pass, including American foods for the younger, less evolved palates :o)  I like to prepare as much ahead of time as possible and freeze it.  We have alot of mouths to feed and no one ever goes hungry if I can help!

Many of our favorite dishes within the family aren't made much any more.  It's one of those sad things that doesn't exactly get handed down as it should.  So I take it very seriously to keep these few traditions alive!  This year, I am hoping to get several of my younger cousins involved in the makings.  They seem very excited and I am really looking forward to it!

Another reason I look forward to Greek Easter...we are having it here!  I love having family over and it simply doesn't happen enough!

So without further babbling, here's what yesterday brought forth:

How to Make Tiropita / Tyropita
(Greek Cheese Pie) 

First and foremost, how do you pronounce it?  Keep in mind, I don't speak Greek, but we pronounce it as Tier-ro-pee-ta


1 # Feta Cheese
1 # Small Curd Cottage Cheese
1/2 C. Kefalotere or other fresh grated cheese (i.e. Parmesan)
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
Salt and Pepper
1 heaping T. Parsley flakes
1 # Fillo / Phyllo Sheets  (fee-low)
1 # Butter

Fillo can often be found in the freezer section near pastries.  If you purchase it frozen, set it out and let it come to room temperature.

In a small sauce pan, slowly melt 2 sticks of butter.  You can melt more later as needed.

To prepare Cheese Mixture:

In a large bowl, crumble Feta, combine with Cottage Cheese and grated cheese.
In a small bowl, beat eggs until creamy, add to cheese mixture.
Lightly Salt, add Pepper according to taste.
Add Parsley Flakes.  I don't exactly measure this, but go more by looks.  If it looks pretty, it's good!
If you are not skittish about raw egg, taste test and adjust seasonings as desired.
Set Aside.
Working with Fillo:

Don't be scared!  If you can follow a few simple tricks, you will never fear it again!  I promise!

You will need up to 6 Tea Towels.  Wet one down and wring it out very well.

Fold one tea towel in half and lay it on your counter top.  Place the damp towel on top of it.
Place another folded tea towel on top of damp towel.
Place two tea towels together and leave them open.

Remove Fillo from package and cut it in half then place it on one half of the opened two-tea towel set.
Gently unroll one half of the Fillo and remove the plastic wrapping from underneath.  It should slide right out. 
Place the other still rolled half in an airtight bag and set aside until needed.

Fold over the top of the two-tea towel set to completely cover the Fillo.  (sandwiching it)

The key to working with Fillo is moisture control!  It can become bone dry and crumble when touched.  If your Fillo isn't getting enough moisture, you may have been a bit over zealous wringing out the towel.  :) 
Just re-moisten the damp one a bit. 

Likewise, if it gets too moist, it will start to stick together.  You will know right away as the layers wont want to pull apart and will tear.  If this happens, simply cover the two-tea towel set, gently roll it up and set it aside.  Then place an additional folded tea-towel on top of the other towels.  Unroll your two-tea towel set and straighten things back up.  You should be good to go again shortly.

Next, it's best to prepare your work area with all of the following:
Cheese Mixture
Hot pad under melted butter in pan (you may have to reheat or melt more as you go)
Basting/Pastry Brush
Tea-towels loaded with Fillo and ready to go
Large cookie sheet

Now, lets make some magic!

-Open tea towel and gently remove one sheet.  Lay it on the counter.  Always close the tea towels back up!
-With your pastry brush, gently brush butter on entire sheet.  (I usually start with all four edges so it doesn't get away from me.)
-In bottom section, off to one corner just a tad, place a nice Tablespoon dollop of Cheese Mixture.
-Lightly pull up the corner and fold towards other side of sheet and continue to do so all the way up the sheet.  Like this:
-You can tighten things up as you go.  Don't worry about how 'cute' it looks.  So long as the edges seal (and they will because the butter acts as the glue), you can make them as tight or as loose as you like.  You will find that as you get the hang of it, you will gradually tighten things up anyway.
-When you get to the end, use your pastry brush and butter the loose edges, wrap them around your triangle as necessary.
-Butter all sides and place on cookie sheet.

You don't need to cover the finished ones as you work.  The butter will keep them just right.  At this point, you can do several different things.  Place the uncooked tray in the freezer and 'flash freeze' them, then bag them in a single layer or...  Bake them in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30-45 minutes till golden brown.  If you do freeze them, the same cook temp/times will work.
I did both!  The may look a bit flat going in, but the come out looking just fine!  And taste even better!
Mom thought the mixture was a bit too runny, but after her taste test, she said they were excellent.  Now on Mom's folks...let me just tell ya, this process goes alot faster when Dear Ole Ma helps out!  Thanks, Mom!
Now you can also make this in a simpler way by using a 9x13 pan.  Do not cut the Fillo in half, work with the entire sheet.  Butter the bottom of the pan.  Layer the sheets and butter each one!!!  Do the bottom layers at least 3 or 4 thick (or however many more you may like).  Layer your cheese mixture.  Then layer at least as many more Fillo sheets as your bottom...butter each layer!  Bake the same (till done ;) you think you can do it?  I know you can!

With all the goodies we dish up, I have some other great recipes in the works.  Next up, Garlic Lover's -you wont want to miss the sinus clearing, lip-smackin' goodness!


  1. My question is, would you notice if a Russian and Italian were to blend in with the rest of the guests at this particular holiday ? I would bring some lemons and maybe no one would notice :)

  2. Jane, Vodka and Lemons always go nicely together. Well figure something else out for that Italian!

  3. I know NOTHING about Greek cooking. I'd like to come sit by your elbow and learn, learn, learn. You may have gotten me over my fear of phyllo dough. It sounds and looks so good that with your great instructions I just may be able to handle it. Great post. (I'm salivating.)

  4. OH man...looking at all that garlic made me realize you haven't made that roasted garlic with bread in SO LONG! I have my first food request when you are back in town again. Haha!

  5. Wow, does that ever look good! I'll probably just make a trip out to that area for Memorial Weekend and saunter in where nobody will notice and enjoy the food!! LOL!

  6. I wish I lived a lot closer. I'd be sneaking in the back side of your property to enjoy the Greek goodies on Memorial Day.

  7. MamaPea, I can't believe a little thing like Greek pastry would scare you. Nope, not buyin' it. I should have put a warning: Addictive.

    Jen, I have enough garlic flowing thru me right now to ward off 100 vampires. So it might have to wait a bit. Wait, what was I thinking??

    Alla and Ruth, sneakers are always welcome. No covert ops required! :o)

  8. Oh my, Greek and Middle Eastern are 2 of my favorites, and fun to cook! What time should we be there?!! :)