Intimidated by cooking with phyllo dough? Here are three recipes to get you started. By Michelle Walch
Why on earth is a health and wellness blogger featuring phyllo dough recipes? Even the minimal amount of butter required is probably not good for someone watching their fat intake. Butter is needed to prevent the phyllo from drying out and giving the final product the delightful crispyness on the top layer. I suggest a few hacks: cut the butter with coconut oil or use spray oil on each sheet of phyllo. And if you are into keto, might I suggest using ghee (clarified butter. Read about the benefits of ghee here.
I fell in love with spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) many years ago. But the thought of making it was daunting. I studied the recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook (the go-to cooking tome during my faux -hippie University of Oregon days). Handling the phyllo dough seemed like a delicate operation. I was nervous I would let these dainty pastry sheets dry out before finish preparing the entree, dinner would be a failure, and everyone in the student co-op would starve and die.
No one died.
After a few years I mastered working with phyllo dough. I can make spanakopita without the recipe like a boss. I rock the pastery sheets.
What I really like about cooking with phyllo is the ability to make delicious vegetarian entrees. It is one of the best ways to get reluctant vegetable eaters to tuck in to a meal and clean the plate. Spanakopita smells like pizza when it comes out of the oven. It’s heavenly. Carnivores are even into it, and don’t miss the meat.
I devised a few other recipes with phyllo dough, with this newfound liberation. One is a mushroom pastry, which is this earthy, rich concoction. I figured out how to use peaches we froze, that grew here on our farm.
Below find my recipes for spanakopita, mushroom pastry, and peach-riccotta pastry.
Wok or large frying pan.
9” by 13” inch baking dish.
Yield: 8 servings.
About 20 sheets of phyllo dough. Note: defrost phyllo in refridgerator overnight. When ready to use, take out what you need. Lie it flat, and cover with a clean tea towel to help keep it cool. This helps prevent it from drying out, cracking and unusable. Try to keep it covered inbetween layering the sheets in the baking dish.
Half cup butter OR 1/4 cup butter & 1/4 cup coconut oil OR spray oil
2.5 pounds washed & shopped spinach. I use pre-washed and chopped bagged spinach.
1 yellow or Spanish onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups crumbled feta cheese (low fat or traditional)
1 teaspoon (or to taste) dried basil
1 teaspoon (or to taste) dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
Prepare filling first. In a large frying pan or wok, saute onions in olive oil until soft and a bit translucent. Add about a teaspoon of salt. Add spinach. Note that spinach might overlflow the pan at first. It wilts has it is cooking. I pour a cup of water to help steam it, and speeds up the process. Cover with a lid to help compress the volume. Cook for about ten minutes or until spinach has wilted appearance. Add oregano, basil, garlic and stir into spinach. Add eggs and feta cheese. Stir mixture. Do not cook spinach mixture completely. Remove from burner. Set aside.
Melt butter or butter/coconut oil combination. Or stage oil spray. Butter baking dish. Uncover phyllo dough, remove 1 sheet. Place sheet on bottom of dish, spray; repeat with 5 phyllo sheets. Use a large spoon and put half the spinach mixture on the phyllo in baking dish. Then add 5 more phyllo sheets on top of spinach mixture. Add the rest of spinach mixture. Put the rest of the phyllo dough sheets on top of spinach mixture. Top with a bit more melted butter on top (even if using spray oil). A bit more butter helps crisp the phyllo. Tuck in the sides of the phyllo sheets so they don’t dry out while baking in the oven.
Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes to cool and settle. It will smell like heavenly pizza and everyone will eat it and get their vegetables and not miss meat! It’s that good.
Hack: I go fairly light on the butter when putting the phyllo on the bottom of the baking dish. The reasoning is the the moisture and oil from the spinach mixture will sink down to the bottom layers of the phylo dough, making the butter less necessary.
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See phyllo dough notes and cookware notes above. However, I tend to prepare this in an 8” by 8” dish. I make a smaller batch of the mushroom version.
3 Tablespoons olive oil or coat frying pan with spray oil
4 cups sliced mushrooms
1 chopped Spanish or yellow onion
1 tablespoon garlic
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dry tarregon
Salt & Pepper to taste
Prepare phyllo as above.
Filling: Saute onion and mushrooms in olive oil (or spray oil). Add garlic, vinegar, tarregon, salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes; correct seasonings. Remove from burner.
Place 5 phyllo sheets on bottom of baking dish. Add mushroom mixture. Add remaining phyllo sheets on top of mixture. Add a little more butter or butter/coconut oil mixture to top of phyllo.
Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes.
Peach Ricotta Pastry
Use same pans and phyllo dough preparation method as above.
10 blanched peaches, stones removed, sliced
4 cups Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (or more if you like sweet) powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice or use 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
Mix ricotta cheese with lemon juice and powdered sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
Layer bottom of baking dish with phyllo.
Evenly spread ricotta cheese on phyllo.
Add middle layer of phyllo.
Spread peaches on top of phyllo.
Add final layer of phyllo on top. Add melted butter. Tuck in edges of phyllo.
Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes.
Have you ever cooked with phyllo dough? Share your favorites in the comments! Need some pointers on using phyllo dough? Throw those in the comments as well.