by Dorie Greenspan
Phyllo/fillo/filo, however you want to spell it, it translates to leaf in Greek. As you can see, it is tissue paper thin of unleavened flour dough that is stacked in several layers to get a crisp and flaky crust.
You often see it used in Middle Eastern dishes, such as spanakopita - those spinach filled triangles, baklava - the nut filled pastry covered in honey, and one of my favorite dishes, bastilla (spelled several different ways) - the chicken and almond dish covered in phyllo and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Using phyllo at home, I can take it or leave it - more likely to leave it. It is a pain to work with. You have to keep the sheets that you are not working with covered with a damp towel or they will dry out rather quickly and become unusable. And the sheets being tissue thin, they tear easily. You definitely need some patience to work with phyllo; and if you don't use it all, you can't refreeze it - it becomes brittle. So you have to use it up within two weeks time.
The filling for our tart is made from sautéed vegetables (onion, bell pepper, and mushroom), garlic, thyme, and goat cheese - my favorite! The recipe instructs you to gently stir in the cheese to the cooked filling to warm it up a bit, but not actually melt it. I opted to crumble the cheese over the phyllo before filling, and then again on top. I also added thyme, salt, and pepper to my cheese.
This tart has wonderful flavor, though next time I would opt for your typical tart/pie crust. I felt the phyllo was to light for the heaviness of the vegetables.
Success meter (1-3): 2.5
All eight layers completed. Time to pre-bake the crust. This bakes for about ten minutes or until golden brown.
Fill with the sautéed vegetables and it's ready to serve. Personally, I don't find the crust visually appealing. It looks like parchment paper if you ask me.
Look at all those flaky layers.
I made a single serving as a trial run and found it awkward to handle the tart with the edges hanging so far over the pan. I also used butter (not clarified as the recipe instructs) this round to coat the sheets of phyllo. The butter version came out a bit more bronzed than the tart above sprayed with olive oil.
Anyone else's book falling apart from so much use?
Don't forget to browse the TWD LYL: Summer Vegetable Tart link, for other versions of this tart from all of the talented bakers in our group!
Summer Vegetable Tart
Serves 6 to 8
4 sheets phyllo
½ cup clarified unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, deveined, and sliced
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom or a pie pan and place it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; set aside until needed.
Stack the phyllo sheets on a work surface, cut them in half crosswise (so that each piece yields 2 rectangles about 8½ x 13 inches), and cover the stack with a kitchen towel. Working with one piece of phyllo at a time, brush the sheet with clarified butter and season with a little freshly ground black pepper. Lay the phyllo in the pan, pressing the pastry against the bottom and up the sides and allowing the edges to hang over the rim. Continue with the rest of the phyllo, spreading each sheet with butter and dusting with pepper, and laying each one in the pan at an angle to the last so that the overhang forms a pattern of jagged triangles.
Keeping the tart on the baking sheet, bake the shell until it is golden and crispy, 7 to 10 minutes. Take a look at it while it’s baking: if the center puffs, press it down gently with a fork or spatula. Place the tart, on its baking sheet, on a rack while you make the filling. The shell can be made a few hours ahead and kept at room temperature.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they’re soft and translucent. Add the remaining vegetables and sauté until tender. Season with the thyme and salt and pepper and toss in the goat cheese, stirring and just letting it heat ever so slightly – you don’t want it to melt. Spoon the vegetables and cheese into the tart shell and serve warm.
This tart is meant to be served as soon as it is made, but no one will complain if you serve it at room temperature – its flavor and texture will hold up for a few hours.
Baking with Julia/Dorie Greenspan