A Mediterranean diet will set up your body to be fit and mobile in old age. A new study found that those who eat fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals in their 30s, 40s and 50s did far better in physical tests than those who ate highly processed foods. People often eat foods that are high in saturated fats, red meats, ’empty’ carbohydrates, and greasy food. Their diet can be full of fatty and sugary foods, such as burgers, fries and soda. But people who performed better in the study ate wholegrains, seafood, lean proteins and fresh vegetables.
One delicious staple of the Mediterranean region is the vegetable pie. These rustic pies are a great way to add vegetables to your diet. Cooks make good use of the season’s produce by filling dough with vegetables, adding eggs, local cheeses and herbs for flavor. These pies make a perfect substantial vegetarian main dish for a dinner party. The leftovers are terrific lunchbox fare, delicious hot or cold.
Greek Zucchini and Herb Pie
- 2 ¼ to 2 ½ pounds zucchini, ends trimmed
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the phyllo dough
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup finely chopped dill
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint, or a combination of mint and parsley
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Freshly ground pepper
- 12 sheets phyllo dough
Grate the zucchini using a food processor or a hand grater. Place in a large colander, salt generously, and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down on it occasionally to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take up handfuls and squeeze out moisture (or wrap in a kitchen towel and twist the towel to squeeze out the moisture). Place in a bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes, then add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini. Stir in the herbs, feta, eggs and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 10-inch pie or cake pan. Line the pie dish with seven pieces of phyllo, lightly brushing each piece with oil and turning the dish after each addition so that the edges of the phyllo drape evenly over the pan. Fill with the zucchini mixture. Fold the draped edges in over the filling, lightly brushing the folded in sheets of phyllo, then layer the remaining five pieces on top, brushing each piece with olive oil. Stuff the edges into the sides of the pan.
Make a few slashes in the top crust so that steam can escape as the pie bakes. Score in a few places with the tip of a knife, and brush with olive oil. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool 15 to 30 minutes or to room temperature. Slice in wedges and serve.
You can make the filling a day ahead. The pie can be baked ahead and reheated to crisp the phyllo. Reheat in a 325-degree oven for 15 minutes.
Thanks to Martha Rose Shulman of The New York Times for the Greek Zucchini and Herb Pie recipe. For an alternative crust, go to Mediterranean Vegetable Pies with Whole Wheat Yeasted Olive Oil Pastry.