I try to get ahead not only with sweet holiday baking in December, but also with savory hors d’oeuvres that I can freeze until I need them for a party. Baked Greek phyllo triangles — tiropites — are my favorite in this department. The crispy filled pastries are always impressive, and while they take some time to make, they are not at all difficult.
The filling here is simple: Roast winter squash until tender, mash it and mix with sautéed scallions and garlic, a generous amount of mint (squash and mint are a match made in heaven), feta and egg. You need only a teaspoon of the mixture for each triangle.
When you make tiropites, you have to take care that the phyllo does not dry out, which will cause it to crack when you fold the triangles. Keep the sheets and strips you are not working with covered with a damp towel to avoid this. If you do have a problem with cracking, wrap each triangle in another strip of phyllo. Some Greek cooks use two layers as a matter of course.
Phyllo dough is almost always sold frozen. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and not at room temperature, or it will become soggy and the sheets will stick together. Wrap leftover dough in two or three layers of plastic, then wrap again in foil and refreeze for next time.
Phyllo Triangles with Squash and Mint
Time: 2 1/2 hours
Yield: 50 triangles
1 small butternut squash, about 1 1/4 pounds, peeled, halved, seeds and membranes removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 ounces feta, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound phyllo dough (store-bought is fine)
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss squash with two tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender and easily pierced with a knife. Allow squash to cool slightly, then mash with a fork or in a food processor.
2. Lower oven to 350 degrees. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet and add scallions. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add to squash and stir together.
3. Beat egg in a medium bowl. Add the squash, cheese, mint and salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Melt butter with two tablespoons olive oil in a microwave at 50 percent power, or in a small saucepan.
5. Take one sheet of phyllo dough at a time and lay it horizontally on your work surface. Cut 2 1/2-inch-wide strips. (You should be able to cut about six strips per sheet.) Cover the strips you aren’t working with, and the rest of the phyllo, with a damp towel. Brush a strip with the butter-olive oil mixture.
6. Place a teaspoonful of filling on the strip, about an inch down from the end. Lift a corner of the pastry and fold over filling diagonally until shorter edge of the strip meets the longer edge. Fold triangle of covered filling down toward you, and continue folding over and down at right angles, until you reach the end of the strip. If the phyllo cracks, or if you simply want a thicker wrapper, double wrap the triangle in a second strip.
7. Brush with more melted butter and olive oil to seal the end, and place on baking sheet. Continue making filled triangles in this way.
8. Before baking, brush triangles with oil and butter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot.
The assembled pastries can be covered tightly with plastic and refrigerated overnight, or frozen for several weeks. To freeze, lay about one dozen pastries on a large sheet of plastic wrap in a single layer and wrap tightly. Wrap the plastic packets in foil and then place in a freezer bag. Unwrap and transfer directly from the freezer to parchment-covered baking sheets, brush with butter and olive oil and bake without thawing first. Add 5 minutes to the baking time.
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