Today, the World Cup of Soccer begins with the host nation being South Africa. Canada’s team did not qualify but Greece’s team did. Soccer (Football) is by far the world’s most popular sport and people will be watching the tournament for the next month. Some will be following the favoured teams (like Brazil), others will be watching the underdogs…a team like Cameroon always provides a surprise and others will simply be cheering for their home nation.
Greece is in the tournament, good for at least three games. Regardless if we see another miracle repeated like in the Euro Cup of 2004 or not, I’ll be cheering for Greece and some other teams that play inspired ball, I like an offensive style of play and little or no diving! Side bets will be made, heroes will be created and villains cursed. It’s all fair in love and soccer. Drinks will be drunk, lots of food to fuel the passion, triumph and the agony of defeat.
Today I would like to serve up a game day offering that”s easy, it’s Greek and it’s delicious (isn’t everything Greek delicious?). Allow me to introduce to you Perek, also known as Fillota. This a crepe-thin pita bread comes from the cuisine of the Pontian Greeks. The Greek influence and settlements of Greeks went far beyond today’s borders of Greece. Alexander the Great made it as far east as what is now India, Greeks made it as far west as southern France and to the south. Greeks also settled in North Africa with Greek communities still living in Cairo and Alexandria.
The Pontian Greeks lived around the Black Sea and the term Pontian comes from Homer, in the context of describing the sea. The first Pontian settlements consisted of Greeks who migrated from the mainland in the late 11-10th century BC. Pontian Greeks lived with Armenians, Turks, Jews and Russians.
I could go on and on about Pontian and Greek history at large but this post would go on and on. The Pontian Greeks survived a genocide at the hands of the Ottomans, co-existed with other peoples yet most retained their Greek language, culture, music, dance and cuisine through the ages.
After the Treaty of Lausanne where it was agreed that Greece and Turkey would conduct massive population exchanges, it was then that Greece would see an influx of these peoples return to the mainland after being uprooted from what had been their home for centuries.
The Pontian Greeks also have their distinct dialect containing alot of ancient Greek and a cuisine that often will have it’s own chapter in many Greek cookbooks. I have relatives by marriage that are Pontian Greeks and I’m only just discovering this unique cuisine that is both rustic, borrowing from some surrounding influences and all the while retaining its core Greek culinary roots.
A traditional Perek (or Fillota) is made from flour, water and salt. It is kneaded and formed into balls. The balls are allowed to rest and soon after rolled into thin flats of dough that look like rustic crepes. A thin, round cooking pan called a “Satz” is placed over open coals and cooked until just crisp.
Many Pontian families will sprinkle some water on the Perek pitas, place them in a buttered skillet and fill them with cheese and another topping of Perek to form a snack (or light meal) that resembles a quesadilla. The most basic filling could be crumbled Feta or other sheep’s milk cheese or a beaten egg could be added, some wild field greens or some herbs.
You and I don’t have access to a package of Perek or Fillota but I found Arabic pita bread to work in a pinch to make this simple yet delicious snack. Arab pita bread is then, hollow and can be separated into two, resembling the thin Perek pita bread. For each recipe you will need two Arab pita breads, carefully separated each pita into two thinner pita breads, some butter, a beaten egg and some crumbled feta cheese. I took the liberty to put my my spin on this dish by adding some chopped scallions and fresh dill into the mix. Feta loves scallions and dill!
Perek (Fillota) with Feta
2 Arab pita breads
1 egg, beaten
approx. 1 cup of crumbled Feta cheese
1 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
fresh ground pepper to taste
some softened unsalted butter
- Crack your egg and add it into a bowl along with the crumbled Feta, scallions, ground pepper and dill. Mix well with a fork and set aside.Snip or cut-off a very slim piece of your Arab pita bread.Slip a dull butter knife in the cavity to separate the top and bottom parts of the bread. Noe carefully cut open the pita bread or pull one piece away from the other. You should now have two thin pieces of round pita bread. Repeat with the second Arab pita bread.
- Place a heavy skillet on your stove-top over medium heat and add a Tbsp. of butter into the pan. Sprinkle some water on four rounds of pita bread. Place one pita round in the skillet (exterior side down) and then the second pita round on top (interior side up). Spread the Feta cheese filling over the pita bread and then place the third round of pita on top of the filling (interior side down and finally, the fourth pita round (exterior side up).
- Cook in your skillet for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown underneath and just crispy. Spread some softened butter on the top pita layer and then carefully flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until just just crisp and golden.
- Slice off the skillet and onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve immediately as a snack, appetizer or with a Greek salad.
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