Hortopita or seskoulopita aka Greek phyllo pie with swiss chard

One of the things I learned to make growing up with spanakopita. My maternal grandfather is Greek and this dish was a staple at family get togethers. Particularly in the summer time when there was more spinach than anyone knew what to do with. In the winter we’d shell out and make it with bags of fresh spinach from the grocery store but it was never quite the same as the ones made in the summertime.

Because I like making things with fresh ingredients that I can get my hands on, I’ve been making a variation on spanakopita using Swiss Chard for a while. It started because a friend of mine in upstate NY had a ton of chard one year when I was visiting. My friends all wanted spanakopita. I’d made it for them before and they pretty much request it everytime I visit. However, in the summer in NY fresh local spinach can be more difficult to come by. So I decided that I’d try to make it with chard instead of spinach since that was what I had at my disposal. The result was great and in some ways tastier. Okay, not tastier but tasty in a new and different way. Chard is heartier than spinach so it gives the dish a different texture. One that I really like a lot.

I’m Greek enough to know that the spanako in spanakopita is the greek word for spinach and it would be very wrong to call the thing I was making “Swiss chard spanakopita”. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Greek so I didn’t know what it SHOULD be called. However, when I was talking cooking with a friend this winter she said – “oh that’s hortopita”. Well, yes and no. Hortopita is actually a greek phyllo pie with greens – pretty much any type of greens. Although there are recipes out there which use

  • Mustard greens
  • Beet greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Kale
  • Chard

or a mix of greens. So technically what I’m making could be called hortopita and you’ll find recipes for swiss chard Greek phyllo pie that use that name. However, another and probably more correct name for it is seskoulopita. If you Google for this you will find references recipes that are quite different from that I’m making because they use currants and walnuts. Mine really is my family’s spanakopita recipe with chard subbing for spinach.

Karen’s Seskoulopita

1/2 pound of unsalted butter, clarified
1 package Phyllo dough
4 eggs
1 pound feta cheese crumbled
3 pounds washed, dried, chopped swiss chard, stems removed

Combine chard, eggs, and feta cheese in a very large mixing bowl. Mix well with your hand or a spoon until the ingredients are combined. In a 9 x 13 pan baste bottom with butter and layer 7 sheets of phyllo dough, basting each with butter as your lay them. Add a layer of the chard mixture. Sprinkle lightly, not heaps. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough and baste with butter. Repeat process until all of chard mixture is used up. For top, layer 7 more sheets of phyllo dough basted with butter. Cool for 1 1/2 hours in fridge so solidifies. Bake at 350 for 60 – 90 minutes. Make sure the top of the pie browns nicely.

Whatever you want to call this it is amazingly good and I’m really glad I’m learned how to make this variation. Particularly because I often get a ton of greens in my spring CSA box. Next spring I’m going to try to make it with mustard greens and see how that turns out.

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