Fennel, Spinach and Feta Pie in Whole Wheat Phyllo
Serves 4 – 6
1 large bunch fennel leaves*, roughly chopped
1 c cooked spinach, starts out at around 4 – 6 cups raw
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 – 2 spring onions, chopped
~ 7 oz feta
Dash of dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, a lot
1 c (110 g) whole wheat flour
1/2 c (55 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tbsp (45 ml) raki or white wine vinegar
* In Greece they sell fennel stalks at the market in bunches like parsley or cilantro, but in the US I always found it hard to find fennel leaves without having buying the bulb. I used to ask the grocer for the stalks or a sometimes I’d even call ahead to ask them to hold some for me, as a lot of grocery stores in the US discard them. If you find fennel at your farmer’s market I’d bet if you ask the farmer for the stalks they’d save you a big bunch.
Prepare the filling:
- Wash the spinach really well. You can soak it in vinegar and water, and then rinse, to help get any dirt off. In a large pot, add 1/2 c water and bring to a boil. Place the spinach in the boiling water and bring down to a low simmer. Stir in all the spinach and let it cook for 4 – 5 minutes or until the spinach is just wilting but still bright green and not falling apart. Strain in a colander in the sink and rinse with cool water. Let stand to drain.
- Sautee the onions and spring onions on medium heat in a generous dash of olive oil until translucent. You can add a small amount of salt and pepper here, but not too much. Then add the chopped fennel, another dash of olive oil and combine. Cook down stirring occasionally until the fennel is cooked and a deeper green but not cooked dead. This usually takes about 10 minutes and there shouldn’t be much water or moisture from the cooked greens at this point. They’ll just be a nicely oiled and cooked down but not overcooked. (see photo). Set aside to cool.
- When the spinach has cooled and drained a bit, start removing the liquid completely by taking small handfuls of the cooked spinach and squeezing out the water. This in an important step. You will find that a lot of water is coming out of the spinach and if you do not remove it your pie will be watery and soggy.
- In a large bowl, add the cooled onion and fennel mixture, spinach (lightly pulled apart), crumbled feta, dash of oregano, and a small dash of sea salt and pepper, and combine. It’s important that the onion/fennel mixture has cooled a bit, otherwise it will melt the feta before you cook it. Also remember that feta is salty so you don’t need to add too much salt.
Rolling out the Phyllo and Assembling the Pie:
- Making the dough: Combine the flours, 3 tbsp olive oil, raki or vinegar, and about 6 – 8 tbsp room temperature water as needed. Combine and knead with your hands until you have a nicely developed dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes.
- When you’re ready to assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Also, in an ~11 in circular cooking pan, line the pan with parchment paper, spreading a light layer of olive oil between and on top of the paper. This will prevent the pie from sticking or burning, and make your clean up very easy. Note, if you don’t have a round pan you can use a baking sheet. The pie won’t lose it’s form too much.
- Cut the dough into two equal parts. Cover the piece you’re not using to keep it from drying. Dust your surface with flour and start rolling the piece out into a long rectangular shape the length of a rolling pin by about 6 in. (see photo). It doesn’t need to be perfect. Basically you’re looking to make two long rolls of dough with filling and then you’ll roll those into a circle to form the pie.
- When the dough is rolled out, place half of the filling along the top of the dough lengthwise and then roll the dough (see photo). When I make the first fold of the filling into the dough but before the dough is fully rolled, I also spread a dash of olive oil inside the dough where I’m going to roll it. Take the first long roll and make a circle, then gently transfer to your cooking pan. Repeat with the second half of the dough and wrap that roll around the first circle. (see photo) You can gently tuck the edges under the pie to close it.
- Brush a light layer of olive oil on the top of the pie and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown.