Phyllo squares stuffed with zucchini and feta
Golden, delicately crisp pastry hides a rich, savory filling.
Phyllo is the traditional Turkish dough for creating delicate filled pastries. You can find it in the frozen foods section of the supermarket. It’s tissue-fine and has almost no fat, so the cook must add fat by brushing the top of each layer with oil or melted butter. Fillings may be vegetables, as in this zucchini-based one, or may be sweet, as in nutty baklava soaked in syrup after baking. Either way, a phyllo pastry is a delight to bite into, with that fabulous crisp, crackly, golden crust that yields to the luscious filling underneath.
This savory phyllo recipe makes a surprisingly satisfying lunch, served with fresh vegetable sticks and hummus. It’s also a nice appetizer, cut into squares. The filling is a good one to keep in mind when summer zucchini comes to the market, and gardeners will love it, as there are always too many zukes to use up.
Phyllo must be handled with consideration for its tendency to dry out and become frustratingly brittle. You’ll need two damp (not wet) kitchen towels; one to place the thawed phyllo on, and one to cover it as you’re working. The damp towels keep the dough moist and pliable.
- 12 sheets Phyllo
- 2 unpeeled medium zucchini, grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 8 ounces feta cheese
- 2 ounces grated mozzarella or other firm, not-salty white cheese
- 2 eggs
- 4 green onions
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon extra olive oil or melted butter for greasing the baking tray
Grate the zucchini and scoop it into a sieve. Sprinkle a little salt over it and turn it over once or twice with your hands. Leave it to drain 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C).
Squeeze the grated zucchini with both hands. Turn it over and knead it a few times, then let it drain again. You want to lose as much moisture as possible, to avoid soggy pastry.
Zucchini should be drained thoroughly after grating. (Photo: Eva Gruendemann/Shutterstock)
Chop the green onions, both the green and the white parts, finely.
Place the feta in a medium bowl. Crumble it with a fork. Add the mozzarella and mix. Break the eggs into the same bowl and beat everything thoroughly. Add the chopped green onions and the thyme.
Add salt, cautiously – if the feta is very salty, you may not want to add any. Add black pepper to taste. Mix well.
In a separate, small bowl, beat the egg for the glaze. Add the olive oil and milk; mix.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Spread a film of olive oil or melted butter over the paper’s surface.
Remove the dough from its package and place it on one of the damp towels. Peel a phyllo sheet off and place on the oiled parchment paper. Cover the rest of the phyllo with the second damp towel immediately.
Brush the phyllo sheet with the glaze mixture, making sure to cover all corners. Remove another phyllo sheet, set it on top of the first one, and brush with the glaze mixture likewise. Do this until you’ve used up five sheets. Remember to keep the damp towel on top of the unused phyllo.
The sheets may tear, but you can patch them up with pieces taken off another sheet of dough. They’ll bake up fine.
When you’ve set down the sixth sheet, spread the zucchini filling evenly over the top. Set another phyllo sheet down over the filling, and brush with the glaze mixture as before. Use up all the remaining phyllo, glazing each sheet, including the last one.
Bake 20-25 minutes. It will resemble a rough pie, with a puffy, golden top. Allow to cool 5 minutes on a rack. Cut the pie into squares with a serrated knife, and serve.
TIPS AND NOTES:
If you’re lucky enough to find fresh phyllo, leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. Frozen phyllo should be put in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. It’s best to thaw the dough in the fridge; condensation from too-rapid thawing at room temperature might make it sticky.
You want to work as fast as possible to avoid drying out the dough. Have ready your work space, ingredients, pastry brush and lined, oiled baking tray before you take the phyllo dough out of the refrigerator.
Any unused phyllo dough may be thoroughly re-wrapped in plastic, put back in its package, and kept in the refrigerator. Use within two weeks.