So, what to do with all those onions after peeling them to use their skins for dying Easter eggs? I did two things: onion-wild fennel pita (savory pie) and caramelized onion chutney, which is delicious on country bread, with a little cheese (we’re fasting this week, though), or mixed into black-eyed peas or over pureed yellow split peas. I am thinking it also be delicious tossed with fresh arugula and whole-wheat pasta. That’s for later!
I make my own phyllo, with a durum wheat flour:
4 cups durum wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin Greek olive oil, plus another 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup for brushing the phyllo*
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp. balsamic
*This is one of the secrets to really crispy homemade phyllo dough, the “excessive” (by American standards?) use of olive oil. My motto: Eat less but enjoy it!
For the filling:
1/2 cup extra-virgin Greek olive oil
5 red onions, minced in a food processor
2 cups finely chopped fresh, wild fennel**
Salt, pepper to taste
** You can try substituting a finely chopped fennel bulb and 1 cup chopped dill if you can’t get hold of wild fennel. While the onion is cooking, add 1/3 cup ouzo or 2 tsp. ground fennel seeds to approximate the taste.
Make the phyllo:
In the bowl of a mixer outfitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt. Next, add the water, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Mix at low speed for about 8 – 12 minutes until a very smooth elastic dough forms. Note: weather and flour conditions will affect your dough, so you will have to use a little common sense and add more flour or a bit more water as needed to achieve the final result, which should be a very pliant, smooth, silky dough. Sprinkle flour over it and leave it to rest, covered either with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, at room temperature for one hour before using. (You may also refrigerate the dough and use it within a few days’ time; make sure you bring it down to room temperature before doing so.)
Preheat the oven to 375 F/ 180 C. Lightly oil a 15-inch round by 2-inch deep baking pan. (You can use a pizza pan or you can use a rectangular pan.)
To make the filling: Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep skillet or wide pot and cook the onions over low heat for about 35-40 minutes, until very soft and lightly colored. Season with salt and pepper as you cook. Stir in the chopped fennel right before removing from heat. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Assemble the pie: Break off the dough into 4 or 6 even-sized balls. On a lightly floured surface, pat down the first ball then roll it out with a rolling pin, sprinkling with a little flour, until you get a circle about 18-inches (45 cm) in diameter. Do this gently but firmly, so that the dough rolls open without tearing. If you tear it, not to worry, just patch it back together and keep rolling. It’s important to roll in every direction in order to form an even circle. Place the dough in the oiled pan, leaving about 1n inch and a half (5 cm) hanging over the edge. Brush with olive oil and repeat the procedure with the second and, if using a total of six balls, third ball.
Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the last, oiled sheet of phyllo.
Repeat the rolling and oiling process with the other phyllo balls, placing them one at a time over the filling. Trim the excess phyllo if there is too much, i.e. 3-4 inches (7 1/2 – 10 cm) of it hanging. Roll the excess inwards to form a decorative ring around the perimeter of the pie. Brush with olive oil and score as desired into serving pieces, as large or small as you like. Note: score, do not cut all the way through, the phyllo.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove, cool and cut to serve.