"Mom and I Make a Green Pie"

When I experiment in the kitchen, there are two variables: whether the dish is successful, and if I can recreate the recipe. This leads to four possible outcomes.

1)  Tasty and replicable!    (best possible outcome)   

2) Tasty but unlikely to happen again! (dinner Brigadoon)

3) Nasty and replicable! (worst possible outcome)

4) Nasty and forgotten! (sometimes a blessing)

Think of it as the Roumel Punnett Square, a cross-breeding experiment that often goes awry.

“Nasty and forgotten” most frequently happened when I was in college, trying to cobble together a meal from moldy Bisquick and stale Ramen noodles, or whatever else I could find in the pantry. I lived.

Other culinary outcomes fall into category 2. I once made the most amazing chicken wings in world history for a neighborhood potluck. My neighbors begged me for the recipe. I just shrugged: I didn’t remember how I made them. Have never come close again.

 Another time I made stuffed peppers that were dead solid perfect. That time, I remembered to write down the recipe. I recently looked it up. Yep, there it was: a list of ingredients. I had forgotten the directions.

Recently I’ve been envisioning a Greek Lenten version of spinach pie, with no egg or dairy. I didn’t want to simply make the usual recipe and leave out the egg and feta. I was hoping for something with more pizzazz. I settled on something I’ve never seen anywhere – a base of phyllo dough, topped with three different greens, then finished with toasted bread crumbs. I gave it a snappy flavor with lemon zest, sautéed beets, and currants soaked in red wine. The bread crumbs gave it a nice contrast in textures.

Since I just made it a few hours ago, I do recall what I put in it. What I don’t remember are the proportions. It reminded me of my mother’s recipes. (“Some. Not too much.”)

Here’s the best I can do, for a dish with no name.


The rest of the phyllo dough you have in the freezer

    Earth Balance dairy and soy free margarine. A big spoonful, and another if you need it. (Hereafter called “butter” with cutesy quotation marks.)

 A bunch of beets with their greens. Use one beet and all the greens.

A bunch of dandelion greens.

A bunch of spinach.

A small handful of currants – not as much as I used. Soak in red wine.

I think I used two scallions.

A lemon (yes! Exactly one! But a little smaller than the one I used)

Three pieces of leftover Zingerman’s bread from somebody’s lunch at work

A bottle of olive oil that you will need, here and there

Salt and pepper


1. Zest the lemon and squeeze out the juice.

2. Rinse the greens, dry and chop.

3. Choose one beet. Peel and slice thin.

4. Put some oil in a heavy lidded pot. And a garlic clove, cut in half. Shoot, I forgot to list the garlic in the ingredients.

5. When the garlic clove starts to burn, remove it and throw it away. (See, you didn’t need it anyway.) Add the scallions and sauté a couple minutes.

6. Add beets and sauté for a while, like for the length of one song. Add the lemon zest and some salt, stir.

 7. Add the greens and lemon juice. Toss the mixture quickly until it shrinks in volume. Take it off the heat, season with salt and pepper if necessary, and set aside. Oh, put some more olive oil in it. I almost forgot to tell you.

8. Get the currants. Drain off the wine but SAVE IT. JEEZ. Add the currants to the greens mix.

9. Get a shallow baking pan like the size of an 8 ½ x 11 legal pad. Do NOT use 8 ½ by 14 – that drives me bonkers.

10. Melt the Earth Balance “butter” over low heat. Brush the bottom of the baking pan.

11. Get out your phyllo dough and “butter” the top sheet; lay it face down in the baking pan and “butter” the other side. Repeat until you have about 7 layers. Maybe a couple more.

 12. Top with the greens. Set aside for the moment. Turn the oven on to 375.

 13. Crumb-ify the bread in a food processor.

 14. Add some olive oil in the pot the greens were in. When hot, add the bread crumbs. Stir until brownish. Add any reserved “butter” and mix.

 15. Top the greens with the bread crumbs, place in the oven, and bake. I forget how long I had it in. I’m thinking 20-25 minutes, until the edges of the phyllo are nicely browned.

 Let cool slightly, slice and serve. It’s good: I promise.

 Tell your guests what you made. What are we going to call it? How about “Roumel (and his Mom’s) Greek Lenten Greens Pie, Category 2?”

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil rights