Food encased in dough. I'm in. I came across this recipe for Herb Pie in my cookbook, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini (one of my most treasured cookbooks) and wanted to re-create his version (omit the cheese, eggs) and still have a delicious dinner with bragging rights. And I think I have. First, a word about my love/hate relationship with filo. It scares me. I could have just as easily substituted this recipe by using a myriad of other options reserved for food filling: the puff pastry, a regular pie pastry, a crumble-topped affair, to name a few.
I make it a point to have filo on hand at all times. And yes, it is a vegan friendly option. But that still doesn't dismiss it from my Foods I Fear to Work With list. Or let me clarify: Foods That Taste Delicious But Are Sort of A Pain in the Neck to Work With. Remarkably, when I worked with my filo this time around, it went swimmingly.
It's a simple matter of giving the teeny-thin crust layers a good hour or so at room temperature before touching it. Just pull one of the two plastic tubes of filo out, place on counter and walk away. When you return, the little edible sheets of yum will be like putty in your hands. Really, really thin putty.
This was such a simple meal to throw together on the whole, and I guess that's so the entire filo moment doesn't send you over the edge. This time, for me, it did not.
For the filling, feel free to experiment here--I used what I had on hand: onion, carrots, celery, some mushrooms, three scallions (from my garden), a handful of chard (from my garden), a box of frozen spinach and another box of fresh organic spinach, one box of drained/dried and crumbled tofu, 1/3 cup of Daiya vegan cheddar cheese, lemon zest, fresh parsley (my garden), fresh mint (my garden), dried dill, red pepper flakes, some salt and pepper sauteed in extra virgin olive oil. That. Is. It. Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes and viola, you have a stupendously delicious dinner!
After the filo has had time to thaw, carefully unwrap and roll out to a somewhat flat sheet. Have your baking pan for the pie ready and lightly oiled sitting next to you so once you lift your first layer you can just place it in the pan and begin the task of brushing each layer with the olive oil. It's very important to do this--brush each layer with the oil. All told, you'll place five layers on the bottom and five on top. This isn't an exact number, just the number mentioned in the recipe. If you place six on bottom and seven on top, no biggie, just go with it.
As you can see, the filo is really thin. And it may tear and fall apart in your hand. Again, no biggie. Pick up the pieces and brush with olive oil and move on to the next layer. One thing I should mention. If you get easily distracted, as I tend to do, try not to lay another pan of the cooked filling on top of your filo sheets. Things can get mighty messy should you do this. (I know from first hand experience is all--I recovered nicely, but just wanted to warn you).
After you finish placing all the layers over your filling, be sure to spread more olive oil over the top of the pie. You'll be pleased with how well this browns the pie while it bakes. And be careful to not smooth the top of the filo out--you want a crinkly appearance so the dips and valleys all show a contrast of browning after baked.
And viola! We loved this as a dinner. I served it with a tomato basil soup I whipped up in the Vitamix using the last bowl full of tomatoes and basil I'd harvested from my garden.(*Yes the plants are still producing tomatoes--it's been in the 80s here!)
If you'd like the recipe, here's a link. Again, I modified--making it vegan, of course!