Shiloh Fernandez / Mint, Za'atar and Feta Pie
As a small disclaimer, Shiloh and I are cousins, but perhaps that makes it even more sincere for me to write about my admiration of his work. Objectively, Shiloh always strikes me as very genuine, kind and intensely curious, and as these qualities relate to his artistry, perhaps this is why he can transport himself into the mind of a character with whom, in reality, he may have nothing in common.
Whether in the theater or on screen, one can easily admire Shiloh's artistic choices and the inquisitiveness that he brings to exploring his craft. It is my impression that as an actor, he studies and puts an immense amount of thought into his work, which informs both his performances on screen and stage, as well as his experiences in life.
Family and food draw many obvious connections to each other, so when I thought of what to cook for Shiloh, a fresh, homemade pie was a clear choice. Pies are genuine and thoughtful, just as Shiloh is in his approach to acting. I love the ease with which a simple pie can come together with greens and herbs, but for this pie I wanted something that went beyond a typical spanikopita, hence the incorporation of mint and homemade za'atar, for the makings of a lovely family-filled afternoon.
MINT, ZA'ATAR AND FETA PIE
32oz spinach leaves (2 large boxes of pre-washed, or about 5 - 6 large bunches)
1 bunch mint, leaves removed and thinly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
~6oz good quality feta
1 tbsp za'atar
1 tbsp dry oregano
Salt and pepper to season
Plenty of olive oil
Phyllo dough sheets*
*This pie was made with homemade phyllo which I believe is significantly preferable in flavor, however for ease of cooking, this recipe includes store-bought phyllo. Try to find something with the most simple ingredient list, as homemade phyllo only includes flour, water, olive oil, and raki/vinegar.
Prepare the spinach: In a large pot, heat ~2 cups of water until boiling. Bring down to a simmer and add the spinach, gently using tongs to stir. The spinach will wilt quickly. Once the spinach is wilted and mostly cooked, ~5 minutes, pour the spinach into a colander in the sink to drain. Once cooled, taking a handful at a time, wring out as much water as you can. This is very important, otherwise your pie will be soggy! A lot of water should come out. You can also do this step a day ahead to save time. Once the water is wrung out, very roughly chop the spinach a few times to help break it up a bit. Set aside.
Prepare the onion: In a large saute pan, saute the onions in a generous dash of olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper, and cook until translucent. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. I recommend making this in a rectangular shape/pan when using store-bought phyllo. Something around ~34cm pan should work; so long as the phyllo sheets are not too small for the pan, otherwise you can layer them. Prepare the pan with a light layer of olive oil on the bottom, then add a phyllo sheet. Repeat the oil and dough layering 4 times.
Mix the filling in a large bowl by combining the spinach, onion, mint, za'atar, oregano, feta (crumbled), and the egg. Lightly salt and pepper, but if your feta is very salty, then you can adjust the salt accordingly. Start by mixing with a spoon but then use your hand to combine the ingredients. I like mine to be well-combined but also with some visible feta chunks.
Add the filling to the middle of the prepped phyllo in the pan and evenly disperse leaving an inch or two at the edges. Cover with a sheet of phyllo and a light layer of olive oil, repeat 4 times. Fold the edges of the phyllo in towards the filling to make the crust, slightly crimping at a diagonal. Don't by shy to really fold it...store-bought phyllo tends to be dry so don't be afraid that it's delicate. It will soften with the addition of oil.
Pour a generous dash of olive oil on the top of the pie and spread around with your hands. Score the pie into the piece sizes you'd like, otherwise it will be more difficult to cut once it's baked. Bake for ~35 minutes, rotating half way through. Check at 35 minutes, you may need to bake for another 10 minutes or so, and add another dash of oil on top, but once it's golden brown you're ready. Let cool for ~10 minutes and serve.