Call it pita, banitsa, or zelnik, the people of the Balkans love their filled phyllo pies. Cheese, leeks, spinach, cabbage, pumpkin, apple, or meat fill these. My mom used to make one filled with ground beef, onion, and a lot of black pepper (I mean *a lot* of black pepper!). I decided to use ground lamb and leek and coil the little rolls into a round baking dish. This makes a small 10-inch pie but you can certainly double the ingredients to fill a 14- or 15-inch deep-dish pizza pan. —inpatskitchen
Test Kitchen Notes
Love, love. It's terrific with all that black pepper. This could easily be sliced table-side because it's so pretty and unique-looking. Sophisticated without much effort. Next time I'd put cheese in the filling, but still, this one is a winner. I equate "pie" with time consuming, but this is not. Is it a weeknight dinner posing as something finer? As the lead says, you can easily experiment with the filling. Mine looked very nice—but would have looked even better if I had taken time to snug up the coils so that it was a bit easier to slice. —Karen McCarthy
one 10-inch pie
1 1/4 pounds
medium leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned, cut lengthwise and then crosswise in 1/4-inch half-moons. (You should have about 4 cups.)
butter, divided (3/5)
coarse black pepper
package phyllo dough (thawed overnight in the fridge if purchased frozen)
In a large sauté pan, brown the ground lamb, breaking the clumps of meat up with a wooden spoon as you go. Once browned, drain the meat thoroughly and place in a medium mixing bowl to cool.
Wipe out the same sauté pan and melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in it. Add the leeks and sauté gently until very soft. Add the leeks to the meat.
Stir in the salt and pepper. I know that this seems like a lot of pepper, but that's the beauty of this pie. Let the mixture cool thoroughly.
Now, time to get rolling. Preheat the oven to 350° F and then melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. With a pastry brush, coat the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round baking dish with some of the melted butter.
Unwrap the phyllo on a work surface and keep any unused phyllo covered with a very damp tea towel. Take two sheets of the phyllo and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture along the bottom edge of the longer side. Roll the meat mixture to form a small log and then place this along the edge of the baking dish. Continue making the logs and place them in a coiled fashion in the baking dish until the dish is filled.
Generously butter the top of the pie with most of the remaining melted butter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: This can be made ahead. Just brush a little more butter over the top and place in a 300° F oven for about 15 minutes.
I think I get my love for food and cooking from my mom, who was an amazing cook. She would start baking and freezing a month before Christmas in order to host our huge open house on Christmas afternoon. I watched and I learned...to this day I try not to procrastinate when it comes to entertaining.
My cooking style is pretty much all over the place, although I'm definitely partial to Greek and Italian cuisine. Oh yes, throw a little Cajun in there too!