In Ikaria, families make pies with phyllo dough using whatever vegetables are available on a weekly basis. Wild sea fennel coats Ikaria from April through June and is used locally in pies, fritters, and rice dishes. Its licorice aroma adds a refreshing quality to dishes that is unmistakably Ikarian. Wild fennel is also prized for its many health- promoting properties: It is rich in iron, iodine, calcium, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and many other nutrients. Fennel fronds, which most American cooks throw away, are used in Ikarian cooking to add a light licorice flavor to dishes.
4 small onions, minced
2-3 bunches scallions, chopped
6 leeks, thinly sliced
6 medium carrots, peeled and grated
Handful fresh oregano, chopped
Handful fresh mint, chopped
Pinch of salt
1 pound fennel fronds, chopped
3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound store-bought frozen phyllo dough or homemade*
In a large pan over very low heat, sauté onions, scallions, leeks, carrots, herbs, and salt for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly until soft.
(Do not use oil to sauté.)
Add fennel fronds and oil; cook until soft. Coat a 10-inch round baking dish with oil.
Place 3-4 layers of phyllo dough in dish, leaving some hanging over the edge. Brush lightly with olive oil between layers.
Top the phyllo dough with the fennel and vegetable filling, spreading evenly on top.
Top the filling with 4 layers of phyllo, brushing lightly with olive oil between layers.
Trim any excess phyllo.
Brush the top layer of phyllo with olive oil and use a sharp knife to score the top so steam can escape. Bake for about 40 minutes or until dough is golden and crisp.
Remove from the oven and let cool before cutting to serve.
*To make your phyllo dough: Sift 4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 cup room temperature water and 1⁄4 cup olive oil. Mix until soft dough forms, and knead for 10 minutes. After dough is smooth, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for one hour. Divide dough into 10 equal portions and roll into smooth balls. Shape them into cubes. On a floured surface, roll into 12-inch squares with a rolling pin. Repeat the process with the remaining dough cubes.
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