September 2, 2016
Vol. VIII No. 18
An Oldways photo of a Greek cheese pie made by Aglaia Kremezi at Kea Artisanal. 
Mediterranean Savory Pies
Oldways is taking a culinary tour to Greece this November, starting in Thessaloniki, traveling south to Athens, and visiting food markets and restaurants along the way. One of the foods we can't wait to get our hands on is a dreamy herb- and spinach-filled savory pie called spanakopita. It's crispy and delicious, and who can say no to pie? 

Spanakopita is just the tip of the iceberg of savory pies in Greece; they are a quintessential Greek food, where [insert Greek word for ingredient]-pita (or -pittes for little pies) vary indefinitely. Tyropitas are stuffed with cheese and patatopita are stuffed with potatoes, for example. 

Hortopites are Greek savory pies stuffed with horta, a general Greek term for wild greens such as purslane, sorrel and dandelion greens. In the U.S., these greens could be considered weeds, but in Greece, they are valued for their flavor and health benefits. In fact, Greeks share with American Southerners the tradition of drinking the leftover broth from cooking greens. Eating greens is a way of life there, as are the savory hortopites made with them.

The Greeks aren't the only ones with a proud culinary history of savory pies; they're found around the Mediterranean. Like many Mediterranean foods, savory pies were created as a way to stretch vegetables from the garden into a substantial meal: just mix cooked vegetables with fresh herbs, cheese, eggs, and plenty of olive oil, wrap them in thin pastry crust, and bundle them up for the oven. They store well, travel well, and they can be served cold or hot; they're the ultimate Mediterranean "fast food." 

A long time ago, many small Mediterranean towns shared ovens, and savory pies were a popular item to bring to the oven on your "baking day." Back then, they were a simple and practical way to feed the family. These days, fillings are limitless and shapes range from rectangular sheet pan-sized pies to impressive spiral coils.

To find out which Mediterranean stuffed savory pie suits your style, take our quiz:

If you are interested in making your own homemade savory pies, try stuffing store-bought phyllo, commercial puff pastry, and even wonton or spring roll wrappers with vegetables, cheese and/or meat to start. Mediterranean markets may carry their own homemade versions too. Or, make your own pastry crust. There are only three ingredients in basic Greek crust: wheat flour, water, and olive oil. The taste of homemade pastry is hard to beat.

Serve savory pies with salad or soup for a light meal. Check out a few of our favorite savory pie recipes below.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe.

These Lebanese meat pies will fill your home with the smell of comforting Middle Eastern flavors: lamb, tomato, pine nuts, and pomegranate molasses. Perfect for parties, they are traditionally served with a fresh cucumber salad and Greek yogurt.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar

Hash browns are an exciting alternative to traditional savory pie crust. Serve over warmed marinara sauce as a main dish. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Egg Nutrition Center

This recipe is inspired by the "greens" pies of Greece's Cyclades islands. Try using dierent types of greens, or using greens in varying proportions to keep the recipe exciting.

Chef Aglaia Kremezi for The Oldways Table. An Oldways photo. 

Cheese is one of the most common ingredients in savory pies. If you love cheese and want to learn more, pledge to join the Oldways Cheese Coalition's Taste Cheese Live Event and invite your friends to do the same:

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.