Spinach, Herb and Feta Skillet Pies (Gözleme)

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Skillet pies –tiganokouloures or tiganopsoma in Greek, and gözleme or saç böreği in Turkish— have become our everyday project these days. Read more HERE.

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Next to the popular markets in Istanbul, and in most other Turkish cities and villages, there is usually a lady preparing gözleme.  She sits on the floor, rolling phyllo (or yufka, as it is called in Turkish) on a sofra – a large, low, round wooden table. Next to her burns a makeshift charcoal stove with a piping-hot saç griddle, a large concave drum blackened and shiny from years of constant use.  With these humble instruments she creates the most tempting street food the market has to offer. The large, half-moon-shaped pies are made to order.  Sheet after sheet of thin phyllo is rolled with the help of a long rod in less than a minute. She spreads either a mixture of greens, herbs and fresh salty cheese, or just dabs of creamy cheese with hot pepper and some dried or fresh mint. The gözleme are briefly toasted on both sides atop the saç, then folded or rolled and handed to the customer to devour on the spot. Gözleme is soft, sometimes the dough is not even fully cooked; eaten piping hot, these super-fast pies are very popular and there is usually a line of people waiting patiently to enjoy their treat.

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My version of a delicious skillet pie inspired by gözleme  is easy to make, provided you can roll phyllo. Unfortunately, the frozen commercial kinds cannot be used. In some parts of the US fresh yufka sheets are available. If you have a pasta machine it is easy to make your own thin phyllo strips and to create rectangular or square gözleme. They may look different from the traditional pies, but they will be equally delicious, as they toast to crispy perfection.

See also my dessert version, Skillet Pies with Chocolate and Nuts.

Serves 6

For the Phyllo:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 to 2/3 cup water, as needed

Cornstarch, for rolling the sheets

Stuffing

1 cup wilted spinach leaves, squeezed dry and finely chopped, or tender fresh leaves finely chopped and rubbed with a few drops of olive oil and salt to wilt  (see Note)

1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to brush the phyllo

1 cup crumbled Feta

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Thick, Greek yogurt (optional) for serving

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Make the phyllo: In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the flour and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in the olive oil and vinegar.  With the machine running slowly pour in water and work the mixture for about 6 minutes to get a smooth and elastic dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 6 pieces and shape each piece into a ball.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make the Stuffing: Squeeze small handfuls of spinach again to extract all moisture and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the parsley, dill, oregano, olive oil  and rub the mixture with your fingers for a couple of minutes to combine and wilt the herbs. Add the Feta and pepper, toss well to mix, cover and set aside.

Make the Skillet Pies: Take one ball of dough, keeping the rest covered, and sprinkle the work surface and the dough with cornstarch.  Roll with a long rolling pin to make an almost round sheet, about 16 inches across.

Heat a ridged stovetop grill-pan or a large skillet.

Cut the rolled sheet of phyllo in half.  Starting with one of the pieces, brush lightly with olive oil on both sides. Spread evenly about 2 tablespoons of the filling all-over half the surface and then fold the other half over it. Press to extract air bubbles and to smooth the filling.

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Carefully, with the help of a large spatula, transfer to the heated grill and toast.  Press often with the spatula if it puffs up, cooking for about 3-4 minutes or until golden and crisp; lift carefully with the spatula to check. Turn the pie over and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a pan lined with kitchen paper and continue rolling the phyllo, stuffing and toasting all the pies.

Alternatively, if your grill is large enough, you can divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each piece to an 8 or 9-inch disk. Do not cut the disks. Proceed with oiling, stuffing and folding as described above.

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If using a pasta machine: Roll each of the 12 pieces of dough through a pasta machine as thin as possible, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and transfer to a large tray lined with kitchen towel. Depending on the size of your grill or skillet, cut each long sheet in two or three pieces. Take once piece and brush with olive oil on both sides.  Spread the filling over half the surface of each piece, fold, press and toast as described above, one or two pieces at a time, as they fit onto your grill.

Serve the Gözleme hot, warm or at room temperature, accompanied by thick yogurt.

NOTE:

Instead of spinach you can use any green or a combination of greens: beet greens, arugula, chard, pea shoots, etc. A basic rule is that 1 pound raw spinach and most greens will shrink to about 1 cup when wilted or blanched and drained.

You can also substitute zucchini for the spinach.  Use about 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini, mixed with 1 teaspoon salt, rubbed and squeezed dry.

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