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More fun with phyllo

More fun with phyllo

While I’m normally a language fascist and many flee the sight of my red pen, I can’t resist smartass neologizing no matter how linguistically improper I know it to be.  I’m sure someone in Greece has put a contract on my head for the insult I just perpetrated, but I’m a hopeless reprobate and I will quite certainly sin again.

Besides, albeit with apologies to the entire Grecophonic community, I can’t think of a better shorthand for this vegetable-bin-emptying yet tasty riff on spanakopita.

As I only used one of the two 8-oz sleeves of phyllo when I made the vegetable pie and mid-week baklava at the beginning of July, the other was still sitting in my refrigerator, staring reprovingly back at me from the second shelf every time I opened the door.  Since the plan this weekend was for a quiet Saturday night at home to start the always-delightful process of packing up for a move, I had time to make individual pockets instead of a big pie, and decided to cram as much as possible into each little pocket.

Since my fridge contained a rapidly-wilting bunch of chard, a container of cremini mushrooms, and a tub of feta, that was the starting point.  On a previous run of “stuff everything in a phyllo wrapper”, I had potatoes to use up and chose to grate them for better integration with the other ingredients instead of precooking and dicing them.  The grated potatoes added body to the filling and balanced the saltiness of the feta while melting nicely into the background, and as I had a few little potatoes in the cupboard, I used those too.

A few of these pockets make a nice first course, and the cooled leftovers are a great midnight snack.  You could make a large pie from the same filling and cut it into big squares as a main course, but as long as I have time, I always prefer the self-contained triangles because of the better dough-to-filling ratio and enhanced crispness.

The observant eye might notice that there are sesame seeds in the recipe but none in the picture.  That would be because this batch was all gone by the time my schedule opened up for a photo shoot, but these pictures were still in my archive from that prior run in which I discovered the virtues of grated potatoes.  While this small an amount of seeds adds a negligible bit of additional flavor, it really helps with the visual impact and is worth doing if you have a big tub of sesame seeds lying around, as I do.

Chard, Potato, Mushroom and Feta Phyllo Triangles

Makes approximately 24 (your phyllo and filling volume may vary)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, diced
1 large bunch chard, tops finely sliced and stems diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each dried oregano and dill
3 small potatoes, grated
Salt and pepper
10 oz feta

8 oz phyllo pastry sheets, defrosted
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add the onions with a good pinch of salt.  Once the onions have softened, add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid.  Add the greens, garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste to the pan and saute until the stems are tender.  Finally, stir in the potatoes, cover the pan, and cook until the potatoes have lost their raw texture.

Remove from the heat, crumble in the feta, and correct the salt and pepper as needed.  Set aside to cool briefly.

Preheat oven to 375, and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Remove one sheet from the roll of phyllo, covering the remaining dough well to prevent it from drying out.  Brush one half of the sheet lengthwise with butter, folding in half lengthwise to create one long, narrow strip.  Brush the top of the sheet with butter again.  At the bottom edge, place two heaping spoonfuls of the filling, then take the bottom right corner of the pastry and fold over the filling to touch the left edge and form a triangle.  Flip the triangle over repeatedly to create a sealed pocket.  (If you’ve never done this before, see this diagram for the folding technique).  Lay the sealed triangle on a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling.  Since they won’t really rise, the pockets can be placed quite close together, although not touching.

When all the dough has been used up, brush the tops of the triangles with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the phyllo is deep gold and crisp.

These are best after you’ve allowed them to cool just a bit.  The cold leftovers will lose their crispness, but will still be delicious and will travel well.


The first time I made this greens-mushrooms-potatoes configuration, I used arugula and was pleased with the peppery bite.