Monday, November 18, 2013

Butternut Squash Pie with Feta and Mint

I used to make this savory supper pie at least once every autumn, finding it rather elegant and a bit fancy but still not too difficult to pull off, especially for how delicious it is. I’ve let this recipe slide out of my fall repertoire for a few years, however, forcing me to reconsider labeling it a relatively easy recipe. Now that I have a lot less time to cook than I once did, I’m less inclined to think of this as a trouble-less weeknight meal. It may not require much special skill, but there is phyllo dough involved. And if you don’t have a food processor with a shredding blade, there may be hand shredding of winter squash involved as well. Enter at your own risk.

Really, it’s not that difficult to make this pie. For one thing, you don’t have to make a pastry crust for it. Layers of buttered phyllo encase the filling instead, and this application of those thin, finicky layers is pretty forgiving. Since even the best of my phyllo creations look like poor attempts at papier-maché projects anyway, I don’t worry about it too much. (At least here I can blame the crummy lighting in my kitchen and the bad photography…)

The delicious filling of this pie is what you want to focus upon. Sweet shredded squash mixed with bulgur to keep it from getting too moist, rich feta and Parmesan cheeses, and a kick of fresh mint make a perhaps non-intuitive but nonetheless lovely combination. I think this basic idea could be flavored other ways as well, say with green onions or sherry and smoked paprika. Or how about Gruyere, sage and thyme instead of feta and mint? I’ve always stuck with original taste profile, but who knows? I may be missing out on something even greater.

Next time I have time to fiddle with phyllo dough, I may have to find out.


Butternut Squash Pie with Feta Cheese and Mint
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

It’s easiest to use the shredding blade on a food processor to shred the squash, but it can be accomplished with a box grater if you don’t mind the extra work.

I find it works best to thaw the phyllo dough over night in the refrigerator and work with it quickly once the package is opened.

4 cups shredded butternut squash (from about 1 pound peeled squash flesh)
¼ cup dry bulgur
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup (about 3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
½ cup (about 2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen

1. In a large bowl, combine the squash, bulgur and salt. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes. (Refrigerate if leaving longer than 30 minutes.)

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-size skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook 5-8 minutes or until tender and just beginning to brown.

3. Add the cooked onion, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, mint and pepper to the squash mixture and stir to combine.

4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt the butter.

5. Generously brush the bottom of a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan with butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan allowing the ends to extend over the edges. Brush the phyllo with butter. Repeat with another sheet in a crisscross design. Butter that sheet as well. Repeat with 2 more sheets of phyllo and more butter. (The remaining 4 sheets will be used to top the pie.)

6. Spoon the squash mixture over the layered phyllo in the pie pan. Place a layer of phyllo over the filling. Brush it with butter. Repeat in a crisscross pattern with the remaining 3 sheets of phyllo and the remaining butter (you may have more butter than you need). Fold the edges of the phyllo dough to fit the pie pan and form a rim around the edge.

7. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the phyllo crust is golden brown.

Makes about 8 servings.


Got leftover phyllo dough? Make these delicious croutons from Giada De Laurentiis at the Food Network!


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