An unusually deep flavored sweet pumpkin pie from the large island of the northeastern Aegean. The cheese used in Lesbos is the local ladotyri (cheese aged submerged in olive oil). Parmigiano Reggiano is a good substitute.
The grated squash is not cooked, but left to wilt overnight in a colander mixed with a little sugar, and the resulting precious liquid is collected in a bowl and used as glaze, to brush on the half-baked pie. Needless to say that home-rolled phyllo makes a much more interesting pie, but store-bought, frozen phyllo works well here too.
The traditional recipe had no eggs, but you will be able to cut neater pieces if you include eggs in the stuffing. The recipe is adapted from my Foods of the Greek Islands.
For a 13 X 9 X 2 inch rectangular pan, or an equivalent 15 cup round pan. Or you can make two smaller pies.
6 cups grated pumpkin or squash, preferably Calabanza (about 2 pounds), OR 5 cups of any other grated pumpkin and 2 yams, baked and mashed
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup medium grain rice
1/2 cup light olive oil, or a combination of olive and sunflower oil, plus more to brush the phyllo
1 cup grated Lesbos ladotyri, or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 eggs, lightly beaten (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
A few grindings of black pepper
1 pound thick commercial phyllo
Confectioner’s sugar and ground cinnamon for sprinkling
At least 3 hours and preferably the night before making the pie, sprinkle the grated pumpkin with a little salt and a pinch of sugar, toss and let it wilt in the refrigerator, in a colander placed over a bowl to collect the juices. When ready to make the pie, press well to drain the grated pumpkin, reserving the liquid in the bowl. In a large bowl mix the pumpkin with the rice, olive oil, cheese, eggs, if using, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400 F (220 C).
Brush the pan with olive oil and lay 5-6 sheets of commercial phyllo, brushing each individually with olive oil as you layer, and leave about 1 inch overhang at the rims of the pan. Pour in the filling, smooth with a spatula and cover with the rest of the phyllo sheets, brushing each layer with olive oil. Crimp the top and bottom layers of phyllo, making a neat ‘cord’ around the edge of the pan. Press with the tines of a fork to prevent burning.
Brush the top liberally with olive oil, and with a sharp knife score the top phyllo layers all the way to the filling. Brush with the reserved pumpkin juices and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350, brush again with the pumpkin juices and bake another 45-50 minutes, or until the top turns golden brown and the filling is set. Turn off the heat, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand in the warm oven another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 15 minutes and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon.
Leave to cool completely before cutting pieces to serve.
Sweet Kolokythopita keeps well at cool room temperature for up to 3 days. You can freeze the pie, wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a zip-log bag. Reheat, directly from the freezer for about 25 minutes (at 375 F) loosely wrapped in foil, then sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.