Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
On a recent evening, as I bustled around my kitchen licking full-fat Greek yogurt (yes, it must be full-fat) from a wooden spoon, then chopping scallions, garlic and mint and sliding a lemon over a zester, I found myself invigorated. The sharp aromas kicking up from my cutting board energized my senses and grew stronger as I mixed the seasonings into the yogurt and added a hefty dose of feta cheese for good measure.
These Mediterranean flavors make these tasty little Greek pies much more than the sum of their parts. While this recipe makes a simple, satisfying dish on its own, it transforms into a leisurely summer meal or a full-fledged party spread with the addition of olives, grape tomatoes, fava bean hummus, olive oil and pita bread or toasted garlic bread.
This recipe is easy to tweak depending on what’s in your pantry. You can substitute phyllo dough for the grape leaves or even use chard leaves, which I've turned to as a last-minute replacement. Blanching the leaves before cooking is a good idea to mellow out any bitterness, though frankly I didn’t taste much difference between the pies that I prepared with blanched greens and those where I skipped that step.
Adding a textured flour to the yogurt gives the mix a bit of oomph as it cooks, changing from cold and smooth to porridgelike in consistency. I used chickpea flour from Italy, which worked well, though a coarse-ground wheat flour or other grainy selection could be interesting too.
The pies’ flavors can complement a range of wine pairings, so I opted to try a white, rosé and red. A Viognier was lush, with yellow apple on the nose and ripe pear on the palate, but lacked enough acidity. This meal needs something cleaner, brighter and livelier in the glass. Thus a rich rosé was also better on its own, while a crisper, more mineral-tinged version might have succeeded.
The best pairing of the night, and a bit of a surprise, was a red wine from the Côtes du Rhône produced by the historic southern France firm Vidal-Fleury. The Grenache-based wine exhibited red fruits and blackberry, but the sustained earthy notes, woodsy flavors and lean body made the difference when tasted alongside the char of the pies' roasted leaves. The acidity running through the wine, along with its understated tannins, kept the pairing balanced, making the next bite of creamy, tangy yogurt and grape leaves all the more appealing.
We can’t forget the meal’s origins though. Try these pies with a minerally Assyrtiko white that evokes the volcanic rock terroir of its homeland, Santorini. A pairing like that will take you straight from your kitchen to the sun-bleached islands of Greece.
Pair with a rustic red wine like Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône 2013 (88 points, $15) or a mineral-driven white varietal such as Assyrtiko.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Approximate food costs: $20
Note: Optional garnishes include toasted pine nuts, fresh dill, olives, hummus, pita bread or garlic toast.
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt, feta cheese, garlic, scallions, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the flour. Taste the mixture and adjust the balance of flavors to your preference; add mint and repeat.
3. Brush a light layer of olive oil onto each grape leaf and drape each leaf into a ramekin (can substitute with cupcake tins if needed). Fill each ramekin with 1/2 cup of yogurt mixture. Fold any long leaf edges or ends back over the mixture. Brush another light layer of olive oil over the top of the pie and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set on baking tray and cook for 25 minutes.
4. Remove the pies and pull back the edges of any folded leaves, adorning with a drizzle of olive oil and any desired garnishes. Consume warm. Serves 4.