The island of Paros is famous for many things; its spectacular beaches, the traditional Cycladic architecture, Parian marble, a majestic span of significant cultural and archaeological history, the best light, perhaps in all of Greece for photography and painting, and Anna’s cooking.
Anna Polykandriotis is not originally from Paros but from the island of Andros, also of the Cycladic island group. She and her husband Markos, who comes from a long family of Greek-Swiss hoteliers, made the decision back in 1978 to leave Athens where they were both living to change their lives. They wanted to live a simple life with purpose and substance. They wanted to raise their children in a clean and wholesome environment.
So they moved to Paros, bought some land and built their home and the Swiss Home Hotel which they have been running ever since in the town of Naousa. Anna says that she has found paradise. The hotel in itself is a little slice of paradise that Anna and her family have created for themselves. Markos has saved many extraordinary pieces of his grandmother’s antiques which was used in the families previous hotel in Switzerland giving the Swiss Home an air of Old World Charm but retaining the simplicity of Cycladic traditional style.
The hotel is impeccably clean and the service is phenomenal – the Polykandriotis family make you feel like you are a guest in their home rather than in their hotel. But by far their biggest advantage is Anna’s cooking. She cooks every meal served at the hotel herself, fresh, everyday and using many of their own products which are grown on their land.
Which is why I thought you would enjoy a couple of Anna’s special recipes. This one is for a deliciously savory spinach and zucchini pie which is perfect for an early evening meal complimented with a chilled glass of Assyrtiko or Moschofilero wine.
You will need:
A square of rectangular casserole pan
a basting brush
2 and a half pounds of zucchini
2 and a half pounds fresh or frozen spinach
3 onions, or 1 bunch of fresh onions or 3 leeks (the leeks make it a little sweeter)
a pinch of salt and pepper to taste
this recipe is tasty with lots of fresh herbs so add:
1 cup of freshly chopped dill
1 cup of freshly shopped spearmint
1 and a half cups of extra virgin olive oil for the mix
and another equal amount for the phyllo dough
I pack of frozen or fresh phyllo dough in sheets for Greek Pita or Baklava
200 grams of grated feta cheese (and not white cheese)
150 grams of grated sharp yellow cheese. Greek Kefalograviera is perfect if you can find it, if not an Italian Pecorino Romana or Parmesan will do.
1/2 a cup of sesame seeds
Wash the spinach and zucchini thoroughly and drain well. Grate the zucchini and chop the onions or leeks.
Pour the olive oil into a pot and saute the onions or leeks for about 10 minutes. Add spinach and zucchini and continue to saute until spinach and zucchini are wilted. Remove pot from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add eggs, 3/4 of the cheese mix, chopped herbs and dash of salt and pepper. Mix well.
Next lay out your phyllo sheets one by one in a well oiled pan. Oil each sheet individually after spreading into pan. After spreading half of the sheets from the pack add your pie filling and sprinkle with the remaining mixture of the grated cheese you saved from the filling. Top with remaining phyllo sheets in the same way as the bottom.
Once you have finished spreading your phyllo sheets oil the final top sheet and then carefully cut lightly into squares so that only the first top sheets are cut. You will need a sharp knife for this. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 170 degrees Celsius or 340 Fahrenheit.
You have just completed the perfect Greek pita. Congratulations.
Stay tuned.Our next Greek cooking lesson with Anna will be moussaka!