Expand the family's horizons and experiment with a little ethnic cooking for dinner. Filo dough, a paper-thin dough that comes in sheets usually about the length and width of a typical roasting pan, makes a delicious, delicate crust for both sweet and savory dishes. Although layering butter between the filo layers is the traditional method of working with filo, you can also use olive oil or just put several leaves together with nothing in between.
If you buy frozen filo dough, place it into the refrigerator for about 24 hours before you're ready to cook with it. Fresh filo dough -- you may find this in specialty markets -- won't require thawing and you may find the sheets less fragile than that of frozen filo dough. After you unwrap the filo dough to begin meal preparation, cover it with plastic wrap and a damp cloth to keep it from drying out.
Making Filo Crust
Place a sheet of filo dough into the baking dish. Use a pastry brush to brush on a thin and even coating of melted butter over the sheet. Add another sheet of filo dough and repeat the buttering process until you have the desired number of filo sheet layers to create the bottom of the recipe. To save time, try using a cooking spray to coat the filo dough layers. For savory dishes, use olive oil or vegetable oil instead. You can skip the butter or oil between all or some sheets. They'll retain their individual layered character, though not as much as if you butter or oil them.
Make a wide variety of different desserts using filo dough as the crust. Instead of buying or making a standard pie crust, layer the pie plate with filo leaves. The famous Greek dessert baklava, consists of layers of filo dough with walnuts, raisins in the middle, and a honey syrup sauce covering the layers. Try a strudel recipe using filo dough in between layers of assorted fruit fillings.
Spanakopita, or Greek spinach pie, is built much like baklava, but it is a savory feta-and-spinach pastry. Spanakopita contains fresh spinach, eggs, ricotta cheese and feta cheese, mixed and then covered with a top filo dough crust. Follow this basic formula with any cheese or vegetable you like. Try mixing the eggs with cottage cheese, shredded mozzarella, a savory dip mix and chard, for instance, for your own custom filo creation Instead of using a flour crust for a savory pastry dish like quiche, try using filo dough to make a light and crispy crust. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with the filo dough sheets, coating each with olive oil or butter. A quiche might contain eggs, milk, and vegetables. Vary your quiche recipe with a dash of bacon dressing or a Southwest seasoning mix.
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Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.