Do you have PDA (phyllo-dough anxiety) ?
A lot of people I know do. They get quiet and their eyes take on that glassy far-away look when we have “the talk” about phyllo.
My stock answer is that phyllo is very very forgiving. Rip it and you just cover the rip over with another piece of the dough or a smear of butter. Who’ll know? In fact, those extra edges of buttered dough will make your dish all the more crispy and delicious.
These feta cheese-filled phyllo pastries are melt-in-your-mouth good, or, as the Greeks say about something that is sinfully delicious , Μπουκιά και συγχώριο. (One bite and all is forgiven.)
I like to serve these as appetizers but, served as an accompaniment, they elevate a simple summer salad dinner to something special.
This is my adaptation of a recipe from Zov Karamardian. Karamardian is the owner of the much-acclaimed Zov’s Bistros in Tustin, Newport, and Anaheim and is the author two cookbooks, Zov and Zov Simply.
If your hands are still shaky when you think about working with phyllo, here is a You Tube link that shows you the process for making tiropita (and gives you another recipe for the filling). The video also has a nifty suggestion about cutting the strips of dough.
Here is a link to another “how to” phyllo video, this one made by Athens Foods. Their phyllo is commonly available in the freezer section of grocery stores here in California:
12 sheets phyllo dough (defrosted)
6 oz. feta cheese (crumbled)—about 1 1/2 cups
3 oz. fontina cheese (shredded)—about 1 cup
2 oz. Monterey jack cheese (shredded)—about 3/4 cup
1/2 C. chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 large eggs (beaten just to blend)
1 T. minced shallot
1/2 C. melted unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Defrost your phyllo dough overnight in your refrigerator.
Combine feta, fontina and Monterey jack cheeses. Add parsley, eggs and minced shallot to the cheese mixture.
Melt unsalted butter in your microwave.
Prepare a large rimed baking sheet by lining it with parchment.
Carefully unroll the defrosted phyllo and put on your counter. Cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and a lightly-dampened towel. Be sure to have all your ingredients prepared and arranged conveniently on your counter before you begin working with the phyllo. It dries out quickly and you will want to work fast.
Slowly remove a sheet of the phyllo and place it on your work surface. Brush the phyllo with melted butter. Remove another phyllo sheet and place on top of the buttered sheet. Butter the second sheet. Use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut the buttered phyllo into 3 inch-wide strips (cut the phyllo length-wise so that you have long strips). Alternatively, use the method described in the cheese tiropita video posted above. The cook in that video cuts the roll of phyllo into three sections while it is still rolled up.
Put a generous tablespoon of filling at the bottom of each buttered strip and fold the strip over to cover the filling, folding the strip of phyllo so that you make a small triangle. Then, continue to fold the strip like you were folding a flag–keeping the triangle shape as you make your small packet. When you get to the last fold, brush the tiropita with butter and press the last edge of the phyllo to attach it firmly to the packet. Brush both sides of the finished tiropita with butter and put it on your prepared baking sheet.
Continue making your tiropitas (this will get easier as you go!). In the end, you should have 24 triangles. (See cook’s notes below. Your tiropitas can be frozen at this point.)
Bake about 20-25 minutes until the packets are light brown. Serve warm.
Cook’s Notes: If your phyllo dough sticks when you try to separate the layers, take a deep breath and work slowly. It is not unusal for this to happen, I’ve found. If the layer tears, just use the ripped piece.
Baked, these triangles do not keep their crisp for long. You will want to bake them shortly before serving. The good news is that these pastries can be frozen before baking and then popped frozen onto your baking sheet when you are ready to enjoy them.