Photograph by Penny De Los Santos-Greece Feature-The island of Kea
Recipe courtesy of Aglaia Kremezi

Crispy Cheese Pie (Lazy Woman's Pie)

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This is my adaptation of the cheese pies Balkan women prepare whenever they fire the wood ovens. They are easy and fast to make. The thin, crackerlike cheese pastry is called tis tembelas ("lazy woman's pie") in Epirus, at the northwestern edge of Greece, no doubt because it is not a proper pie with several sheets of phyllo and stuffing; often it is a simple batter of flour, eggs, crumbled feta, and milk, spread on a sheet pan and browned instantly to crispy perfection in a blazing-hot wood-fired oven. My version, even the one with commercial frozen phyllo - which I rarely use - is extremely simple and highly addictive! A handful of roasted vegetables or wilted greens is sometimes added, if you are feeling ambitious. Serve as a main course with soup, or accompany with a large salad of steamed or fresh vegetables. Cut into bite-size pieces and serve as finger food.
  • Total: 35 min
  • Prep: 10 min
  • Cook: 25 min
  • Yield: Serves 2 to 4 as a main course
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  1. Preheat the oven to 430 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the paper with olive oil. In a bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. 
  2. If using homemade phyllo: Stretch or crimp one sheet of phyllo as necessary to fill the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the feta. Pour half of the egg mixture over the feta and sprinkle with the herbs and Maras pepper, if you like. Lay the second sheet of phyllo over the egg mixture and brush with olive oil. Crumble more feta on top and drizzle with the remaining egg mixture. Sprinkle with more Maras pepper, to taste. Proceed to baking. 
  3. If using frozen phyllo: Lay one sheet of frozen phyllo on the baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with half of the Parmesan, then lay another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle half of the feta over the second sheet and pour half of the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle with the herbs and Maras pepper, if you like. Place a third sheet on top, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, then lay the last sheet on top and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle the remaining feta on top and drizzle with the remaining egg mixture. Sprinkle with more Maras pepper, to taste. Proceed to baking. 
  4. Bake in the lower part of the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Check to make sure the pie is well browned on the bottom. If the top browns too quickly, cover the pie loosely with foil and continue baking. If it is well browned underneath but the top is not yet crispy enough, heat the broiler and bake for a few minutes right under the broiler. Serve at once, cutting the pie into pieces with a pizza wheel. 
  5. Note: If the feta is too salty, mix it with some ricotta; I often use equal amounts of feta and ricotta in this recipe.

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