Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kolokythopita (Greek winter squash pie)

The Vegan MoFo 2012 Iron Chef Challenge for January is squash.  I am so all over that that I gave myself a secondary challenge, which was to make my dish out of as many little bits and scraps and containers of leftover things as possible.  What I had:
  • 1/3 of a large, uncooked hubbard squash
  • 4 oz firm tofu
  • some Vegan Brunch omelet mix
  • some leftover filo dough that had been in the fridge for quite some time

Hubbard squash, pictured at the top of this post, looks kind of like the big brother of kabocha squash.  Apparently it comes in many sizes and colours, but mine was a rich dark green striped with lighter green, very shiny and pretty.  The outside is bumpy and gnarly but the skin is smooth-textured.  The inside is bright yellow-orange.  It comes to points at the top and bottom, and so won't "sit up" on its own.  Baked, the flesh turns even brighter and more orange:

Gratuitous educational photo, nothing to do with the recipe in this post
The rind, unlike that of kabocha squash, is very hard and not edible.  The flesh is fairly moist and soft, and has a mild sweet flavour, making it a very good squash for mashing and roasting.  I made a squash risotto out of part of the baked half above and it melted into the rice beautifully, and tried some raw in chunks in a stew, where it held its shape--barely, deliciously.

For the kolokythopita, you need to peel it and grate it.  I find that the easiest way to peel hard squashes like this is to scrape out the seeds, cut the squash into wedges, lay a wedge on its side on a cutting board, and hack off the rind with a large, sharp knife.  You get peeled slices like this:

By this time I was rather weary of manhandling this squash, so I used a food processor for grating:

makes 1 8-inch pie

1 1/4 lbs winter squash, peeled and grated
1 medium onion, peeled, sliced in half, and then into thin slices
1 tsp olive oil
4 oz or about 1/2 cup firm tofu, mixed with enough light miso and lemon juice to form a sharp-tasting "feta" (or any other vegan feta-type ingredient)
1/2 cup Vegan Brunch omelet mix (or other vegan omelet mix)
Spices of choice (optional)
Salt and pepper
Filo pastry (you'll need about half a package for this size of pie; scraps are fine)
Olive oil for brushing

Start by sweating the onions in a tsp of olive oil in a non-stick pan:

When they're translucent, add the grated squash and continue to stir and fry over medium-high heat, until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes.  My squash was rather dry at first, so I covered it for part of the time.  If yours is watery, you would want to boil it down.  There should be no liquid at the bottom of the pan when you're done.  Take it off the heat, and stir in the vegan "feta", the omelet mix, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, and any flavorings you like (or none).  Since this is my own recipe and not attempting to be authentic, I put in a tablespoon of rasam podi, for the flavour, and also for the additional protein and the thickening effect of the dals in the blend.  Just a dusting of nutmeg or cinnamon would also be nice:

Mix it all up and taste for salt and sweetness.  Some kolokythopita recipes call for sugar; I didn't feel my mix needed it because my squash was sweet enough on its own--though a really delicious sweetening option would be golden raisins...

Prepare the filo pie (instructions for the super-easy, super-fast method here, along with a link to a video of Jamie Oliver, from whom I took this method, putting something similar together).  Will I ever make filo pie any other way, ever again?

The finished pie:

Bake it at 400F until golden, about 20 minutes:

You can eat it hot, if you must, but if you have the time, this, like all filo pies, in my opinion tastes best just warm or at room temperature.  A closeup of the finished pie:

The whole meal:

The two salads were also lovely:

Chopped salad, with cucumber, red and orange sweet peppers, green onions, radish, and tomato, very simply dressed with lemon juice and sumac (sumac, the red spice in the salad, is soon to be featured on its own in a future post).

A surprisingly good eggplant raita-type thing, with soft baked eggplant mixed with soy yogurt, red onions, more red and orange peppers (mostly for colour), grated ginger, tomato, cayenne, fresh cilantro, and a dusting of garam masala. 

Altogether a wonderful meal, of which I ate way, way too much!


  1. Oh wow, beautiful! COincidentally, I too have old-ass phyllo in my fridge and an ridiculously huge Jamaican pumpkin we need to eat. I don't even know HOW I am going to cut that monster up without chopping some fingers off, but this recipe looks like a great way to put it (the pumpkin, not my fingers) to use! Thanks for posting!

  2. There is literally a years worth of information in this one post. To maintain my sanity, I'm just gonna focus on the first sentence, the "Vegan MoFo 2012 Iron Chef Challenge for January is squash". WTF is this and how could you not win?

  3. Because there are no winners! How unfair is that? Only kidding--this is kind of an "everybody wins" contest. Still, I never win anything. Where are those corporate sponsors of Vegan MoFo with their battery of prizes? I ask you!

  4. Oh, your filo pies are always so gorgeous! The squash in it sounds like an awesome twist: I hope you win the challenge! I love the sound of that raita too; I would have definitely eaten too much it too.

  5. Oh...just realized my "hope you win" comment was ill informed. Anyway, you're still a star!

  6. That looks magnificent! And soooo tasty. So when are you going to open up a Gourmet Vegan Cafe??