In Greek, the word “Pita” does not simply stand for the flatbreads most people are familiar with in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Instead, “Pita” is the Greek word for pie, a significant component of the classic Greek diet.
In the old days, a Greek housewife was quite frankly “judged” on her ability to roll out her own phyllo and as such her most prized kitchen tools included only a long, thin wooden rod used as a rolling pin and a large round wooden surface on which to stretch the phyllo.
Back then, pites (plural for pita) offered a way for housewives to make something a bit more substantial out of the little produce that was actually available. Fillings and techniques varied from region to region: savory or sweet; phyllo layered with a vegetable filling; coiled or S-shaped; some with cheese, others without; and many made with rice or semolina as opposed to dairy so as to abide by the dietary restrictions of Lent. The possibilities were and continue to be endless.
I love having some form of Greek savory pies on hand during summer months as they always make for a light meal and a quick bite before or after a day at the beach. A flavorful pie–be it spinach, cheese, squash, or any other combination of vegetables and herbs you like–can go a long way. Pair it with a fresh salad and a Greek dip such as melitzanosalata, tzatztiki or kopanisti and you’ve got a light lunch that won’t weigh you down when you’re out and about in the sizzling summer heat.
During Lent I made an “Agginaropita” that consisted of artichokes, herbs and a bit of semolina to bind it all as eggs and cheese were out of the question. It was quite good and extremely satisfying but the other day I put together this “Agginarotyropita” as I adore Greek pies featuring cheese, especially Feta. I served it during my daughter’s birthday party and more than one guest commented that it was the best tyropita they’d ever eaten! I love how the artichokes provide an extra dimension of flavor. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!