World Vegetarian Day was held on October 1st and to celebrate this event, 196 flavors went green.
And on the sixth day God said: “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1: 29-30.)
Vegetarianism is not new! According to the Bible, if Adam and Eve had not committed any mistake, we would all be vegetarians!
Vegetarianism is a diet or a multimillennial philosophy. Biblical texts from the Book of Genesis, as well as myths and stories from many cultures show that the vegetarian lifestyle was favored by the first inhabitants of Earth.
But the first written evidence proving the existence of a vegetarian movement can be found in India and date back to the eighth century BC. Until today, many Indians live by the Hindu rules of conduct and are vegetarian.
So, three centuries earlier in India, with the advent of Buddhism, which advocates non-violence and respect for nature that vegetarianism developed. According to the precepts of Buddhism, men must not kill living beings because all lives are sacred. So Buddhists shall not eat meat, fish or eggs.
If this eating lifestyle dates back to the dawn of time, it was not until the nineteenth century, in 1847 exactly, that the first vegetarian organization in the world was born in England: the Vegetarian Society, was founded by evangelical Christians. Until the, vegetarianism was commonly referred to as “abstinence” or “vegetable diet”. The word vegetarian comes from the Latin “vegetus” which means “healthy, fresh, and alive.”
When Mike gave his falafel recipe, he told us that vegetarianism rhymed with peace and coexistence. As far as I am concerned, it also rhymes with health!
Let’s be clear, I do not intend to become a vegetarian tomorrow. I am a carnivore at heart! However, I must confess that as I was browsing the web, it became clear to me that vegetarianism has proved to be one of the healthiest diets for centuries. Numerous studies and reports regularly highlight the benefits of a vegetarian diet. As an example, even as far back as 1907, an experiment conducted by Professor Irving Fisher of Yale University on 32 vegetarians and 15 meat eaters, demonstrated that vegetarians showed more endurance than meat-eaters (“The Influence of Flesh-Eating on Endurance”, Yale Medical Journal, 13 (5): 205-221, 1907).
Today, I am taking you to Greece to celebrate vegetarianism for a recipe essentially based on leeks: Prasopita. In Greek, praso (Πράσο) means leeks and pita (πίτα) means pie.
Leeks, feta, hard cheese and other ingredients wrapped in what I have often called my “pet peeve” dough aka phyllo sheet (remember my Sari Burma?).
I did not find the hard cheese called graviera from Crete that is typically used for this recipe so I used Gruyere, which is also widely used in many Greek recipes.
It is in Kozani, the capital of Western Macedonia, founded in the mountains by Christian refugees during the Ottoman conquest, that this local specialty of prasopita was born.
Feta (Φέτα) is probably the best-known Greek cheese in the world. It is also one of the oldest cheeses since Homer alluded to it in the Odyssey. It is based on goat’s and sheep’s milk, and its white color is the evidence that it does not support any artificial treatment.
The name “feta” appeared in the seventeenth century and comes from the habit of slicing feta since feta means slice in Greek.
Good Feta worthy of the name should be firm, creamy and slightly crumbly with a tangy but sweet flavor. Often presented in brine, it marries perfectly with salads but also with preparations such as bricks, savory pies and other hot entrees.
Filo sheet is no stranger to Mediterranean cuisine. Its name comes from the Greek word phyllon meaning sheet. Its thickness is similar to that of a sheet of paper and it tears very easily, hence my aversion to using it!
Warning! Do not confuse phyllo dough with its cousin brick dough sheets, which are not fragile! Brik dough sheets are of Tunisian origin, while phyllo originally comes from Greece and Turkey.
Don’t worry. No Vera or animal was hurt in the preparation of this recipe. A pie crispy to perfection, with wonderful aromas.
- 8 filo sheets
- 5 leeks , thinly sliced
- 4 scallions , chopped
- 1 shallot
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- ¾ cup white wine
- ¼ cup water
- 12 oz. crumbled feta
- 3 oz. grated gruyere cheese (or graviera from Crete)
- ¼ bunch parsley , chopped
- ¼ bunch dill , chopped
- 6 tablespoons butter , melted (to grease the filo sheets)
- 1 egg yolk , beaten
In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add leeks, shallot and spring onions and sauté over medium to high heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add flour, stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
Slowly add milk, white wine and water, stirring constantly until boiling.
Lower heat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add salt, pepper, dill and parsley.
Allow the mixture to cool and add the cheese.
Preheat oven to 410 F.
Grease a rectangular pan. Gently brush 4 sheets of filo with melted butter. Place them on bottom of pan.
Place the filling on the sheets and fold the sides over.
Brush the remaining 4 sheets with melted butter and lay gently on the stuffing.
Using a sharp knife tip, pre-cut the sheets into squares. Brush lightly with egg yolk.
Bake at 410 F for 20 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 350 F and cook for another 20 minutes.
The top should be golden.