Greens, Feta, and Phyllo Tart
Raise your hand if your crisper drawer sometimes frightens you. Being drawers and all, crispers are notoriously adept at hiding all sorts of ancient and shape-shifting things that you either don’t remember buying or, if things have gotten really bad, no longer recognize. I have a particularly bad habit of completely forgetting things of which I am not reminded or do not see on a daily basis (sometimes at the grocery store I wander around aimlessly because I forget what to buy, which only happens because I forget that I have a grocery list in my pocket), so the concept of hiding things in refrigerator drawers can often prove to be disastrous for me. More times than I like to admit, I have unearthed slushy bags of used-to-be spinach and might-have-at-one-time-been-cilantro, only to then be greeted by the horror of what was lying beneath them: might-possibly-resemble-a-cucumber.
But no more. In an effort to curb my tendency to let hidden crisper produce go to waste, I have decided that twice a week I will now start writing down each and every thing that inhabits the crisper, then cull from that list and make another list of things that I am going to cook from that week’s available produce. No, I am joking. I am totally not going to be doing that. Now, I am certain that there are people out there who could do that, and be very successful at it, to boot, but I am not one of those people. More often than not, when I have made the decision to spend time engaging in an archaeological dig through my crisper, what I find myself doing is coming up with all sorts of new and inventive ways to stuff things into a savory pie or tart.
Savory pies and tarts are my version of the perfect food. They’ve got everything a person could want in a meal (a selection of vegetables, sometimes flavored with a bit of meat), conveniently nestled together in a bed of dairy and eggs, and surrounded by a flaky crust of your choosing. In the case of this tart, the crust is made from layers of shatteringly thin phyllo dough that puff up in the oven, forming a lovely ring of golden crispness around the tart’s edge. Perusing the contents of my crisper revealed the greens from several beets, half a bag of washed spinach, and the last remaining sprigs from a sadly dehydrated bunch of thyme, all of which were more than welcome when added to a filling of rich eggs and creamy feta cheese.
It was a happy ending to what could have been another unfortunate lesson in post-mortem vegetable identification. We ate our pie with a salad of less than beautiful red and orange bell peppers, our bellies growing fuller while our crisper rested just a little bit emptier.
Greens, Feta, and Phyllo Tart
12 oz greens (spinach, beet greens, chard, etc.), stemmed and washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ large red onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely minched
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
2 large eggs, beaten
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled or diced into ¼ inch chunks
freshly ground pepper
10 sheets phyllo pastry, plus 3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Thoroughly clean your trimmed greens, and, if using chard or beet greens, make sure you have removed the tough stem and rib from each leaf. Fill a bowl with ice water. Blanch the greens in boiling water for 1 minute, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer greens to ice water. Allow greens to cool, about 1 minute, then remove in fistfuls, tightly squeezing each fistful to remove the excess water. Chop thoroughly and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions. Cook, stirring often, until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until the garlic becomes fragrant but does not brown, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chopped greens, thyme, and marjoram. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer onion and greens mixture to a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
When greens mixture has cooled, add in beaten eggs and stir to combine. Crumble or blend in the feta, stirring to combine.
Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan with a removable bottom. Line the tart pan with one sheet of phyllo, then lightly brush with melted butter. Lay another sheet of phyllo over the first sheet, rotating the tart pan slightly so the sheets will overlap and drape evenly over the pan, and lightly brush with melted butter. Repeat layering and buttering until the bottom of the pan is lined with 5 sheets of phyllo. Fill with the greens mixture. Fold the phyllo’s draped edges over the filling, then lightly brush the folded edge with butter. Layer and butter the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo over the top of the filling, using the same method as when layering the bottom sheets. Gently fold the edges of the phyllo on top of the tart. Brush the top of the tart with butter. Carefully slash the top of the tart so steam can escape as it bakes.
Bake 40-50 minutes in the preheated oven, rotating once halfway through. Remove tart from oven when the crust is golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove tart from pan. Serve immediately, or allow to cool on a wire rack (completely cooling the hot tart in its pan or on a plate will cause the bottom to become soggy).