Seskoulopita entered my culinary repetoire when my greek grandmother Nea was forbidden to eat spinach, but still allowed chard.
Highlighting the slightly sour and salty overtones of chard, I’ve added preserved lemons to this recipe. You can substitute lemon zest if you don’t have preserved lemons.
I think yia-yia Nea would approve, even though preserved lemons weren’t among her usual ingredients.
Young wild dock leaves and stems (Rumex crispus or R. pulcher are my favorites) are a wonderful replacement for the chard in this dish.
Seskolopita (Greek Chard Pie in Flaky Phyllo Crust)
Makes 8 servings as a side dish, 4 as a main course
1 big bunch chard
1 large onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon peel (from about 1/4 preserved lemon) OR 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream OR cottage cheese OR ricotta OR greek yogurt (do not use regular yogurt unless you strain it first or you’ll end up with a runny pastry filling)
1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Salt to taste
1/4 cup melted butter
Phyllo (sometimes spelled filo) pastry dough
1. Put 1-inch of water into a medium sized pot and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, wash the chard. Cut out the midribs and set aside the green parts of the leaves. Finely chop the midribs. Add the chopped midribs to the water and boil for 6-7 minutes.
Drain through a colander into a large pot (so that the cooking water is saved in the larger pot). Let the cooked midribs cool then squeeze out any excess liquid.
2. Very coarsely chop the green parts of the chard leaves and add them to the saved cooking water in the large pot. Boil, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander. Squeeze out any excess liquid (squeeze hard). Let cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, sautee the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat (you can use one of the pots you cooked the chard in). Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
4. In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients except for the phyllo pastry and the butter. Add salt to taste.
5. Brush a 9×9 baking pan with some of the melted butter. Lay in a sheet of phyllo, brush that with more butter, and repeat the layers 2 or 3 more times.
6. Spread the chard mixture over the buttered phyllo layers.
7. Top with several more layers of phyllo, coating each layer with melted butter. Use the tip of a sharp knife to score the sesskoulopita in a tic-tac-toe pattern. This both allows steam to vent while it cooks and makes it easier to cut into individual portions later.
8. Bake in a 350F oven until starting to turn golden, 30-35 minutes.
“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos
“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer