Photo by Eugenia Bone
Provenance of Dish
The origins of this dish are in the Peloponnese, Greece, where winter squash is used for savory cooking. It is very similar to a zucchini pie in preparation, although both the texture and the taste are very different. In the Northern Peloponnese it would have powdered sugar sprinkled on top, a technique that we see in the Moroccan b’stilla, too. You can certainly try it, but it is not my thing.
You can also make this as a sweet pie, as they make it in the Southern Peloponnese. Substitute the cheese, salt, mushrooms, and spearmint with plumped raisins and sugar, and add cinnamon after you take it out of the oven. And then you can sugarcoat it to your heart’s content!
8 ounces minced A. bisporus mushrooms, chopped
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 butternut squash, steamed and peeled, cut into chunks, cooled-off, about 4 cups
2 whole eggs, whisked
2 cups grated mixed cheese (like comté, cheddar, mozzarella, and some smoked gouda)
5 ounces crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup dried spearmint (don’t skimp on this)
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 package fresh phyllo pastry, or defrosted if frozen.
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized-skillet over a medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they have released their water and the water has evaporated, about 7 minutes. This makes about 2 cups of cooked mushrooms.
In a large bowl add the steamed peeled squash and mash it well with the fork. Add the mushrooms, eggs, grated cheese, feta cheese, spearmint and breadcrumbs. Combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Remember feta can be salty so be careful, but be liberal with the pepper.)
Heat 6 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small pot over a low heat until the butter is melted. Have ready an 8-inch square baking pan and a pastry brush.
Unroll the phyllo pastry. Keep 4 sheets for another use. Place the rest of the phyllo in front of you lengthwise. Cut strips 4 inches wide along its length. At the end of the phyllo you will have strips of 2 inches; use them if you need to, otherwise put them aside along with the reserved sheets for another use. Brush some of the butter mixture in the bottom of the pan and lay down two wide strips of phyllo, side by side, letting the ends of the pastry hang over. Brush the phyllo with more butter/oil and add two more strips in a cross pattern and brush with butter/oil. Continue the same way in a cross pattern every two strips until you have used all the wide strips of phyllo, brushing with butter/oil each one. If you run out of warmed butter/oil just top-up with olive oil. If you need to cover an opening, just use the thin strips.
Pour the squash and mushroom mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Fold the over-hanging phyllo one strip at a time over the top, brushing with butter/oil between each layer. Brush the top liberally with butter/oil.
In a small bowl combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the water into a paste about the consistency of pancake batter. Drizzle over the top of the pie. This will make it extra crunchy. Bake for 20 minutes until the phyllo is golden brown.
Allow the pie to rest for at least an hour before serving