Hortopita Recipe – Wild Greens Phyllo Pie

Many people are familiar with spanakopita, the Greek spinach and cheese pie with a flaky phyllo crust. This is that same pie but made with nettles and other wild greens instead of spinach.

Horta is the Greek word for wild greens and can be applied to any wild edible leafy green vegetable. In this recipe, mild-flavored (but nutritionally packed) nettles makes up the bulk of the horta, but I’ve added tangy sorrel leaves for interest.

stinging nettles

Nettles’ sting disappears when they are cooked

You can substitute almost any leafy green for the nettles. Chickweed (Stellaria species) is especially good, as is lamb’s quarters (wild spinach a.k.a. Chenopodium album and C. murale).

nettles pie

Hortopita

Makes 8 servings as a side dish, 4 as a main course

 

2 quarts rinsed and lightly packed nettles, stems removed

1 pint wood sorrel or sheep sorrel

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/3 cup sour cream OR cottage cheese OR ricotta OR greek yogurt (do not use regular yogurt unless you strain it first or you’ll end up with a runny pastry filling)

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill OR 2 teaspoons dried dillweed

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Salt to taste

1/4 cup melted butter

Phyllo pastry dough

  1. Put 1-inch of water into a medium sized pot and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, wash the nettles and other greens. Add the greens to the water and boil, stirring, until fully wilted, not longer than 5 minutes. Note that the sorrel and dock will turn a dingy khaki color: this is normal and does not affect the flavor. The nettles will retain their vivid green color.
  2. Drain the greens in a colander then immediately rinse them under cold water to prevent residual heat from continuing to cook them. Drain again, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can (squeeze hard).
  3. Finely chop the cooked greens. It will be much easier now that they are in a tightly squeeze wad. If you had chopped before cooking you’d have lots of little green bits stuck to the pot – much better in this order!
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat (you can use the same pot you cooked the greens in). Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
  5. In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients except for the phyllo pastry and the butter. Add salt to taste (you may not need any if your feta is especially salty).
  6. Brush a 9×9 baking pan with some of the melted butter. Lay in a sheet of phyllo, brush that with more butter, and repeat the layers 2 or 3 more times. Note: keep the phyllo sheets wrapped in a moist, clean kitchen towel in between adding each layer because they dry out very quickly.
  7. Spread the greens mixture over the buttered phyllo layers.
  8. Top with several more layers of phyllo, coating each layer with melted butter. Use the tip of a sharp knife to score the hortopita in a tic-tac-toe pattern. This both allows steam to vent while it cooks and makes it easier to cut into individual portions later.
  9. Bake in a 350F oven until starting to turn golden, 30-35 minutes.

You can serve hortopita hot, but in Greece it’s more likely to be served at room temperature (translation: you can make this several hours ahead of serving).

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