Friday night’s Prasopita (prah-SO-pee-tah, Greek leek pie) tasted great, but producing it was not pretty. I learned, yet again, to embrace kitchen disasters for their educational benefits.
It was one of those evenings where everything went wrong. From dodging falling knives to cleaning up egg-splattered floorboards, the frustrations accumulated. It was typical that I opened the filo and found the sheets of pastry inseparably stuck together. All but six were unusable and went straight into the garbage.
I quickly mixed up dough for an olive oil crust, and switched to making tri-cornered hand pies. Unfortunately, I didn’t make nearly enough pastry dough. It started running out while I still had a bowlful of filling. Too impatient to make more pastry, I rolled up the remaining dough and made an open-face, free-form tart.
When I was done, I had three filo-wrapped traditional Prasopites, six tri-cornered leek hand pies, and one free-form leek tart. Although I hadn’t planned it, this gave us the opportunity to directly compare filo-wrapped pies with those having a simple olive oil crust. The comparison was enlightening.
As between the filo and hand pies, it wasn’t a close call; the filo pies were far superior. Crisp filo pastry was the perfect counterpoint to the savory leek filling. Although the hand pie crust was flaky, the filling to crust ratio was too low and the crust’s flavor too dominant.
The open-face tart was another story. In this version, the single layer of olive oil crust nicely balanced the flavorful leek filling. Even better, the crust held its integrity and remained crispy even after it had been in the refrigerator for two days. This is not true of filo-wrapped pies; they rapidly lose their crispness after even a short time in the refrigerator.
So what will I do in the future? For a party, or any situation where pites are likely to be eaten quickly, I’ll stick with traditional filo. Nothing beats buttery-rich filo wrapped around leek and herb filling. I’ll also use filo when I’m not planning to bake all the pies at one time – unbaked filo-wrapped pies freeze well and can be popped in the oven direct from the freezer.
On days when I want Greek pie, but am in a hurry and don’t want to mess with filo, or when I want to limit the amount of fat I ingest, I’ll make an open-face tart. It’s an easy, extremely flavorful, savory treat. I’d happily serve it for any occasion, special or not.
Filo Tips – Working with Filo is Easy
First, pronunciation; in English, there are multiple ways to spell filo (fillo, fyllo, phyllo) because Greek to English isn’t transliterated consistently. But no matter the spelling, the pastry is pronounced FEE-low.
As with the ruined mess I faced on Friday, stuck together filo sheets are the bane of a cook’s existence. It is generally caused by improperly storing filo, by thawing and refreezing filo, or by leaving filo for too long at room temperature. To avoid this problem, buy from stores that sell a lot of filo. When you are ready to use it, thaw filo overnight in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature before you start to work with it, and use the thawed filo within a week.
Finish making the filling, including cooling it, before you open the package of filo.
Filo is a lot more forgiving than it might seem. A few rips and tears don’t make any difference at all, and usually disappear in the many layers of filo or when a pie is shaped or rolled.
Dried out filo breaks apart and makes working with it difficult to impossible. Once filo is removed from the package, you either must work very quickly or must cover the filo sheets with a slightly damp cloth. The first few times you work with filo, the damp cloth is a must. As you gain confidence, you’ll be able to work quickly enough that the damp cloth is unnecessary.
If you want to make your own filo, Peter Minakis explains how here.
If you want to see how filo is traditionally made in Greece, Maria Verivaki has a video and explanation here.
Makes 10 large or 20 small filo-wrapped pastries or 1 10” free-form tart
For vegans or those who are fasting, leave out the feta and eggs, and brush the filo sheets only with olive oil. Freeze extra Prasopites and bake frozen, adding 5 – 10 minutes to the baking time.
3 cups diced leeks, white and light green parts only, 1/2” dice (3 medium leeks)
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onions, 1/2” dice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups sliced green onions (1 bunch)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup minced fresh dill
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 cup crumbled feta
1 pound box of filo (18” x 14”)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup olive oil
Make the Filling: Sauté the leeks and onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until the onions soften and start to turn golden. Put in a bowl and mix with all the remaining filling ingredients, except the eggs. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Stir in the eggs.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Clarify the butter (see NOTE below for why and how to clarify butter). Mix the clarified butter and olive oil, and brush a rimmed baking sheet with the mixture.
Alternative 1 - Shaping Large Prasopita: Remove the filo from the box, unroll it, and cover any you are not actively using with plastic wrap or a slightly damp cloth. Lay one 18” x 14” sheet of filo out on the counter and brush it lightly with butter-oil. Cover with another sheet of filo and brush it lightly with butter-oil. Spread 1/2 cup of filling along one of filo’s short edges. Fold in the sides and roll up the filo. Place roll on the prepared baking sheet seam side down and brush lightly with butter-oil. Repeat until all the pastries are rolled.
Alternative 2 – Shaping Small Prasopita: Follow the directions for shaping large Prasopita, but use 9” x 14” filo sheets or cut 18” x 14” filo sheets in half and use 1/4 cup filling.
Alternative 3 – Make Open-Face, Free-Form Tart: In a food processor mix 2 cups flour, 6 Tbsp. olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix in as much water as necessary (4 – 6 Tbsp.) to make dough that sticks together. Form into a ball and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough into a 12” circle, place on a baking sheet, and spread the filling out on the dough, leaving a border of 1 1/2”. Sprinkle a little freshly grated parmesan cheese over the filling. Fold up the edges, sealing with water as necessary for folds in the dough to stick together.
Place the Prasopites (or tart) in the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the filo is brown and crispy (or the tart pastry is set and lightly browned).
NOTE: Clarified butter is butter with the milk solids removed. To clarify butter, melt it in a saucepan or microwave and skim off and discard the white foam that rises to the top. Pour the clear yellow butter into a bowl, being careful to keep the milky liquid that sinks to the bottom of the pan out of the clarified butter. Discard the milky liquid. If you don’t clarify butter used for separating layers of filo, the pastry won’t cook correctly, and will be soggy rather than crisp.
UPDATE: Maria Verivaki recently made this Prasopita, and shaped it into one large sprial pie (called Strifti - Στριφτή - in Greek). Here's Maria's post about Prasopita Strifti.
More Leek Recipes:
Beet, Fennel, and Leek Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing (Παντζάρια, Μάραθο και Πράσο Σαλάτα με Πιπερόριζα Σάλτσα) (I make a winter salad and spice it up with ginger salad dressing)
Leek Pilaf (Πρασόρυζο) (I make Greek leeks with rice.)
Leek and Tomato Crumble
The Easiest Grilled Leeks Ever