In the summer, I cook up all sorts of greens and freeze them to use in the winter. After a quick cleaning, I plunge the greens into a large pot of boiling water for a few minutes to set their color and to cook them. After draining I swish them around in a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Then, by handfuls, I squeeze the dickens out of them to remove as much water as I can.
I pack them airtight and stash them in my freezer. I’ll repeat this process many times as different greens make their appearance throughout the summer, and near winter’s end, when I want something green to remind me spring is approaching, I’ll make a Greek Greens Pie.
Versions of this pie differ all over Greece depending on what greens are available and who’s doing the cooking. And even my pies change from year to year depending on the greens I’m able to get.
You’ll need about 12 ounces of cooked and squeezed greens to make this pie. When you go to the market to buy greens, you’ll need about 4 pounds of fresh greens to give you this amount. I only use the leaves and add the tough stems to our compost pile.
For this recipe, I chose black kale (cavolo nero), mustard greens, chard, and spinach. Think of what greens you like to eat, then mix and match. Mustard greens add a nice sharpness to contrast with the mild spinach and chard. And black kale has a deep, rich flavor that I welcome any time.
Phyllo is the typical pastry for this pie, but I also like the greens baked in an old-fashioned flaky American pie dough. Serve the pie as a main dish with a side salad. Right now, Romaine, cucumber, celery, and cherry tomatoes, are a good combination.
Greek Greens Pie
Make the pastry first. You can make it a day or so ahead, if you wish. And if you are strapped for time, feel free to use refrigerated pie crusts. You can also blanch the greens a day ahead, squeeze out excess liquid, and refrigerate for a day or two.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold vegetable shortening (preferably Earth Balance, available refrigerated)
6 tablespoons ice water
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1 bunch black kale (cavolo nero) or other kale
1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch chard
1 bunch spinach
Cooking and Baking
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, optional
1 large leek, washed well, sliced thin
1 cup sliced scallions
¾ cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (about 2 ½ ounces)
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese (4 ounces)
½ cup chopped fresh dill
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste
1 large egg + 1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk + 1 teaspoon water, lightly beaten
For the pastry, measure both flours by spooning into dry measuring cups to overflowing and leveling off (10 ounces total by weight). If making with a food processor, put the flours and salt into the work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Cut both cold fats into ½-inch cubes and add to the work bowl. Pulse 4 times for 1 full second each. Combine the ice water and cider vinegar in a 1-cup measure with pouring spout. Start pulsing very rapidly (fractions of a second each) as you gradually add the liquid through the feed tube. Pulse about 30 times until dough forms large clumps but does not actually gather into a ball. Remove dough from processor and place on lightly floured surface. Squeeze lumps together gently into 1 mass. For photos, please see Classic Apple Pie.
If making the dough by hand, combine the flours and salt in a large bowl. Add both fats and cut them into the flour with a pastry blender until the texture of coarse crumbs. Combine the ice water and cider vinegar in a 1-cup measure with pouring spout. Slowly, while tossing with a fork, add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix until dough gathers into a ball.
Divide the dough in two, one piece slightly larger than the other, form each into a disk, enclose in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
For the greens, bring a large pot of unsalted water to the boil. Remove stems from the greens and wash greens well. Cut greens into largish pieces and keep each type separate. Add the kale to the pot, cover, and cook 2 minutes. Add the chard, cover and cook 2 minutes. Add the mustard greens and spinach, cover and cook 4 minutes. Drain well and transfer greens to large bowl of cold water. When cool, drain, and squeeze as much water as you can from the greens. You should have 12 to 13 ounces of blanched greens. Chop them finely with a large chef’s knife.
To cook, heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and the leek and scallions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped greens, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. If vegetables seem dry and want to stick to the pan, add small amounts of water as needed. Take the pan off the heat and cool completely. Add the cheeses, dill, and parsley. Taste carefully for salt and add if needed. Stir in the eggs.
To assemble the pie, roll the larger piece of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch circle and fit into a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate. Trim excess pastry so it hangs over the edge of the pie plate by ½-inch. Roll second piece of dough to a 12-inch circle. Fill pastry shell with the greens, packing it down gently.
Brush edge of pastry with ice water and cover with top crust. Trim top to match the bottom crust and press to seal. Fold edge to make a rounded rim, flatten slightly, and score with the back of a knife. Or just leave the edge plain. Brush with the egg yolk and water, and make 4 slits in the top of pie.