Alevropita…a flat, crispy, Greek, feta bread

This recipe is so much fun. It is instant gratification bread. It is easy and it is so very delicious. Even my son (5) loved it and he doesn’t love anything but peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. I am dying to get onto variations such as sun-dried tomatoes or some little chopped up bits of artichoke. But I wanted to post it the same way I discovered it because it really is a simple, hearty, crisp bread.

You stand, perhaps, a thirty percent chance of sustaining a hospital grade burn making this but it is TOTALLY worth it.

I’m playing. But I am going to lead with a warning. In this recipe I heat a cast iron skillet in a 500 degree oven. When I see a pan with a handle, even if it is in a hot oven, my brain says, “grab handle.” I have done this several times in the past and it is not fun. So I’m just telling you up front, if you decide to make this…especially if you use a cast iron skillet…get out the hot-pads, keep them handy and keep your head in the game. And, things go from perfectly browned to 3 Mile Island really quickly in a 500 degree oven so…get off the phone (this is how I ruin food) and pay attention on this one. I ordered the little folks OUT of the kitchen. It is possible that being a mom has made me hyper-aware though not averse…and it is also possible that being a lawyer has made me hyper-sensitive to people blaming others when things go badly. So I apologize for this exceedingly boring intro…I can’t help it. Just be careful.

I found this in Saveur. If you love food, I highly recommend that you subscribe to this magazine. I like a variety of food magazines. Some are utilitarian wonders, like Martha’s Everyday Food. Some are for the slightly more adventurous palate…like Bon Appetit. Saveur, I think, is for people who are really very passionate about food generally, and about regional fare, and learning all of the very fascinating minutia about places and cultures as they pertain to food. I’m a new reader, but I am already quite taken with it. The August/September issue had a section on Greek cooking and a little blurb on a woman named Kalliopi Bitos and a pan of alevropita. The photo alone sold me on needing to learn the recipe. I reduced the size of the recipe by half, and monkey-ed a little with amounts. Saveur recommends a 18” x 13” x 1” baking pan if you use the entire recipe. I chose a cast iron skillet for the size, and because I love using my cast iron skillet.

But I’m also quite fascinated by bread and how it is one of the staple foods of practically every culture, and how it has been a point of culinary commonality for millennia. I’m drawn to the recipes. I like how they are basic.

Here is the drill: You will heat your skillet while you prepare the batter. You will need your olive oil, cheese, batter and butter (for dotting) near your stove top. Once you pour the batter you will be working very quickly. It will be cooking right in front of your eyes. You will return it to the oven for 15 to 20 more minutes.

2 Tablespoons olive oil (for batter)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (for the skillet)
2 teaspoons vodka
½ cup water
Half an egg (scramble it and eye-ball it)
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (did you know this is a “dash”)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Select a baking pan or a cast iron skillet that is about 12 inches in diameter. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the pan inside.

Meanwhile, combine the water, vodka, olive oil, and half an egg. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk them together.

Carefully remove the HOT pan from the oven. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet and spread it around with a paper towel or a spatula. Immediately pour in the batter and spread it to the edges of the pan to the extent possible using a wooden or rubber spatula. It will be cooking as you spread so just do the best you can and then let it be. Sprinkle the feta on top of the batter. Dot the batter with butter…and by that I mean put 8 or 10 little spots of butter around the pan.

CAREFULLY, return the pan to the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Check it at 15 minutes to make sure it isn’t getting too browned. CAREFULLY remove the pan back to the stove-top (just because it is the most heat-safe spot). With a large spatula, remove the bread to a cutting board. Cut it into pieces and serve.

This goes great with a greek salad.

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