In Greek pita, spelled pita, is a very common word. A pita is a tart, usually filled with vegetables like spinach or wild greens and cheese. Pita is also the flat bread used to make souvlaki: the Greek sandwich filled with gyros, tzaziki sauce, tomatoes, onions and french fries. You can also say that a person is pita, which is the equivalent to being “hammered” or “wasted,” in other words, very drunk. This is why ALL Greeks smirk when I say my name, Nicole Pita. Some think they have misheard me, forcing me to spell it out, causing even more laughter. My name has amused people since my childhood when I was called “Pita pocket” and “Pita bread” in school. But no, it does not have Greek origins, no one here is named Pita. It actually is from the Basque Country in Northwestern Spain. In Spain there is in fact a plaza named after Maria Pita, a woman who is famous for valiantly fighting against the invading British forces in 1589. Of course, I never have time to explain my ancestry to people, so the image of a piece of bread always pops into their minds. No big deal. I love pitas! The bread and the tarts, and my family. :)
I thought it would be humorous for me to make a pita, so my host thumbed through his Greek cookbook and found a recipe for us to make together. It is not very simple to make pitas, you must make the dough, the filling, and then bake the tart for about 45 minutes. He says his grandmother used to make them for him, usually filled with spinach and cheese. Reminding me of the pascualinas (swiss chard quiche) my grandmother always made for me…
We decided to fill our pita with zucchini, something there is still a lot of at the market; and to add a little twist, instead of using an onion as the recipe calls for, we used leeks. The result was a thin, crispy crust with a light, creamy filling.
The recipe uses tea cups and coffee cups as units of measure. While we were cooking I should have converted them to grams and millilitres, but I didn’t. Sorry! So a coffee cup is the equivalent to an espresso cup and a teacup is the equivalent to one of those small fancy teacups.
For the dough:
- 500 grams flour
- 1 coffee cup olive oil
- 1 teacup warm water
- 1 tablespoon salt
For the filling:
- 1 kilo zucchini
- 1 onion or 1 or 2 leeks, chopped
- 1 teacup butter
- 200 grams crumbled feta
- 1 teacup shredded parmesan cheese
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a large rectangular pan with olive oil.
- Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients and incorporate with your hands. Add more flour as needed to create an elastic ball of dough. Cover with a dish cloth and let rest.
- Grate the zucchini into a bowl and press out as much liquid as possible.
- Saute the zucchini and leeks or onion in the butter and a bit of olive oil.
- Meanwhile, mix together the feta, parmesan, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Once the vegetables are tender remove the pan from the fire and let cool.
- Now take the dough ball and divide it into two parts, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger dough ball into a rectangle big enough to fit into the pan. Carefully place into the pan. Roll out the second dough ball int a rectangle large enough to cover the tart.
- Incorporate the vegetables into the cheese mixture and dump over the dough in the pan. Place the other layer of dough on top, carefully seal, brush entirely with olive oil and slice a few holes in the top of the dough for vapor to escape.
- Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. This pita tastes even better when eaten at room temperature, a few hours after baking.