Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Taste of Europe - Greece

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It has been several weeks since we learned about Greece and some of the other countries in the Mediterranean region of Europe, and I am just now sharing about the menu items from Greece that we tried. Much of Greece is rough and mountainous terrain, with only about 30% of the country having arable farmland. Most people live in small villages, and the largest and most productive farms are either near the coast or on the interior plains where irrigation is more common.   Farmers grow cotton or raise sheep and goats. Lamb is the meat used in many traditional dishes, and products from goat's milk such as feta cheese are commonly used.

One very simple dish that one of our recipe books suggested is Greek yogurt with honey. Not really even a recipe! I happen to love Greek yogurt, so this was easy enough to try. Kennady thought it was okay but wasn't a big fan - she prefers fruit flavored yogurts. Hmmm... I guess with a brand name like "Gunter's" it's unlikely that my wildflower honey can claim much Greek heritage!

Personally, I would have loved to convince the rest of the family to try baklava, which is another of my favorite treats. The fact that it includes nuts turned the kids off, and I couldn't justify buying a whole tray of baklava that only my hubby and I were going to eat. Next time I notice a Greek festival nearby or we are at a restaurant that includes baklava on the dessert menu, I promise I will indulge and will do my best to get Kennady to at least taste it.

So our Greek recipe was a Chicken and Feta pie. This delicious meat pie in phyllo crust has been enjoyed at our house a few times before, so it was with a fair amount of confidence and anticipation that we prepared it for dinner one night.

Chicken and Feta Cheese Pie (Kotopita me Feta)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 8-10 oz total
2 stalks celery
fresh or dried dill
3 oz (3/4 cup) feta cheese
2 oz (1/2 cup) grated Romano cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
2 tbsp butter
10 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed

1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil or thyme
black pepper

Cut chicken breasts into one-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Cut celery into small chunks (about 3/4 cup total) and add to the chicken. (The last time I made this, I used carrots instead of celery and it worked out fine - just gave a little different flavor.) Chop fresh dill and add about 1/2 cup to chicken. (I only had dried dill so I sprinkled in a generous amount.) Add oregano, basil, and pepper. Crumble feta cheese into the mixture and add Romano cheese and about 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Mix well. Break eggs into the mixture and mix. Refrigerate while preparing the phyllo crust.

Lightly grease a 10-inch pie plate. Melt butter over low heat, then add remaining olive oil and stir. Count out ten sheets of the phyllo dough. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the first sheet of phyllo with a thin coat of olive oil/butter mixture. Then lay the sheet into the pie plate, gently pressing it into sides and corners and allowing the extra pastry to hand down evenly around the sides of the plate. Repeat this step with all the remaining phyllo, laying each into the pie plate, but staggering the sheets so they cover the whole plate with plenty hanging out over the side. These will be folded over the filling to create the top crust. 

Spread the chicken filling into the pie crust. Then lift the overhanging corners of pastry one at a time and fold over the pie filling. Tuck in any edges to prevent them from burning. Brush the top of the pie with any remaining olive oil/butter mixture. Sprinkle with a few drops of cold water. Bake at 350* for 50-55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let the pie cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.  

I'm told it can be served hot or cold, but I much prefer it hot. Besides, there were no leftovers!

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a49erfangirl said...

I love Baklava. I haven't had that in year. I first tried it at the Holiday Folk Fair. I am not a big one on Feta Cheese so I am not sure how I would like that. I wonder if I could omit the cheese. The rest of it sounded pretty good.

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