Pie in the Sky: Epirus’ Famous Feta Tart
Kalliopi Bitos pointed at a plate of her warm alevropita (see Feta Tart), the buttery, eggy cheese tart that is a beloved specialty in the mountain villages of Epirus, in northwestern Greece. She motioned emphatically for me to dig in. The crunchy, burnished crust gave way to a popover-like center, punctuated with salty morsels of sheep’s milk feta. I’d spent the morning hiking in the hills outside the village where Bitos runs her small taverna, and her alevropita might as well have been sent down by the gods from Mount Olympus—nourishing, elemental, and satisfying to the soul. Bitos, a small but imposing figure in her seventies, has been serving her pies to hungry hikers since the 1970s. I decided I had to have the recipe. It took some pleading, but eventually Bitos flashed a quick smile and invited me into her kitchen. In a dented tin pot, she whisked bright green olive oil with an egg, baking powder, salt, and a dash of tsipouro, a grappa-like liquor. She stirred in water and flour, then some crumbled feta. She poured the batter into a greased baking pan, added some more feta and a few dabs of butter, topped it all with a dusting of paprika, and slid it into the oven. Half an hour later, the alevropita was dappled with brown spots and sizzling pools of foamy butter. No sooner was the pie out of the oven than Bitos was jabbing her finger at it again, urging me to sit down and eat.