Every Greek cook has a version of this classic pie. In the villages, very little spinach is used. Instead, a combination of different wild greens, gathered from the hills and fields, are used for the filling. Village people never buy the greens, which are not sold in stores; everyone gathers his or her own.
As the women in Metsovo told me, for the perfect Hortopita you need seven different kinds of wild greens, some sweet, some bitter, some sour, some with a light fragrance, and each complementing the other. Wild sorrel, dandelion, and mustard greens are available in the United States, but kafkalithra (Scantis pecten veneris) and sow thistle (zochos in Greek, Sonchus nymani or Urospermum picioides in Latin) are some local Greek greens considered very good for the pie.
The success of this pie depends on the greens you choose. Sorrel and spinach need some bitter or spicy greens, such as dandelion, watercress, mustard greens, or even arugula to give the pie extra bite. Spinach with leeks and dill, augmented by some greens with a more pungent taste, makes a very nice Hortopita.
Wash the spinach and other greens thoroughly, drain, and coarsely chop. Heat about 1 cup of water in a heavy skillet and add half the spinach and greens. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the greens are wilted and tender. Add the rest of the greens, stir, and cover. When all are soft, transfer to a colander and let drain. Press with your fingers to extract most of the liquid, then chop the greens.
Pour half the olive oil into the skillet and sauté the leeks and scallions over medium heat until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining oil and sauté the greens and chili pepper for 3 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and add the cheeses, eggs, dill, fennel, and raisins. Mix well with a wooden spoon and season with salt, taking into consideration the saltiness of the cheese.
Brush a 15-inch round baking dish with oil. If using homemade phyllo, lay the first sheet of dough loosely in pan. Brush with oil and lay the second sheet over the first. Spread the spinach mixture evenly, pressing with a spoon. Cover with the third and the fourth sheets of phyllo, after brushing each with oil. Trim the edges of the phyllo, leaving only 1½ inches hanging over the edge of the pan. Brush the hanging top and bottom sheets of phyllo with water and roll inward. Press with a fork to seal them.
If using commercial phyllo, layer 8 sheets on the bottom and 8 on the top of the pie, brushing each layer with a little olive oil.
© 1993 All rights reserved. Published by Echo Point.