Jan 29, 2015

Alevropita with Feta, Olives, and Herbs

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So I hear there’s a football game happening around here this weekend? Terrific. Can someone come get me when all the sports-ing stops interrupting the Katy Perry Show? Thanks.

I realize it makes me totally un-American and very unpopular, but I really don’t understand the excitement of the Super Bowl, no matter how hard I try. But I can get behind the thrill of Big Game Day snacks. Particularly snacks that involve cheese, are terrific with booze, and offer something beyond a bag of chips.

I’ve also been really pumped about savory baking this year, vowing to do more of it. I’ve been doing some homemade pizza (which I’ll tell you about in the near future), bread baking, and trying some new biscuit recipes with interesting flours and add-ins. Recently, while researching some flatbread ideas (do I know how to party or WHAT?), I came across something that absolutely fascinated me.

Despite my Greek heritage, I’d never tried alevropita, and once I saw it, I felt like I needed it to immediately be wine o’clock, so I could settle in with a entire pan of the stuff, a little green salad, and a whole lotta chilled white wine. This is light lunch/heavy snack food of the highest order. Some sources refer to it as a “tart”, but that’s not what I’d call it. It’s something like a hearty cracker? Or maybe a crisper, more delicate version of a flatbread? Or the thinnest sauceless pizza you’ve ever come across? Words escape. It’s really good, I’ll tell you that.

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Traditionally, you’ll find alevropita in its bare-bones form–the simplest batter, like a thin pancake batter of flour, milk, and egg (and a splash of vodka (!), which I assume helps with both tenderness and crispness)–is poured into a piping hot sheet pan that you’ve preheated in the oven as you get your ingredients together, and generously coated with olive oil. Onto the batter you sprinkle many hearty handfuls of crumbled feta, and then pop the pan back into the oven for a short bake, until it’s crisp and golden and sizzling and totally irresistible, with the brown edges of the alevropita kind of rising and curling up all along the edges of the pan, with an almost fried quality from all that good olive oil.

But I’ve found that you can riff on the toppings here, and go a little beyond just the feta (although there’s certainly NOTHING wrong with just going with copious amounts of Greek feta on anything). The trick is to not use too much of any one add-on, and if the ingredients are especially moist or oily, pat them dry with paper toweling before scattering over the batter, to keep the crust from getting soggy. I sliced up a whole bunch of pitted kalamatas, and added some fresh oregano leaves and a speckling of finely grated lemon zest. It was a crisp, salty, fragrant, olive-oiled revelation, and we ate the whole dang pan in no time flat.

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If you happen to be looking for interesting snacky things to add to your football watching this weekend (or simply something new to serve with wintry soups and stews), I highly recommend giving this alevropita a whirl. It may not be typical Dude Food for watching The Sportz, but hey, some of us have different priorities when it comes to the Super Bowl (I personally am very interested in what hair color Katy Perry will be showcasing).

Alevropita with Feta, Olives, and Herbs
Adapted from Saveur

This is an excellent make-ahead app for parties–it recrisps with just a few minutes in a 350 degree oven. Don’t skimp on the olive oil, even though it seems like a crazy amount. Trust. 

Serves 6 to 8

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces/70 grams) extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons vodka
1 large egg
1 cup (8 ounces/224 grams) water
1 1/4 cups (5 5/8 ounces/160 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon fine sea seal
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
10 ounces (284 grams) Greek feta, crumbled
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces/70 grams) sliced, pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unsalted butter, cut into tiny bits

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 500°F. Put an 17″ x 12″ x 1″ rimmed baking sheet (or thereabouts) into the oven for at least 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the oil, vodka, and the egg. Whisk in the water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.

Remove the hot pan from the oven. Carefully brush the remaining olive oil all over the pan in a generous slick. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth it evenly. Sprinkle the feta, olives, oregano, and lemon zest evenly over the batter. Dot all over with butter. Distribute cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crisp all around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly, and for an extra crunchy crust, use a pair of tongs to pull the alevropita onto a cooling rack to rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.

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