This article first appeared on Edible San Diego as part of my weekly column Mediterranean in Little Italy.
We left behind the cliff-side views of Greece’s western coast for the softly slopping shore views of the hilltop town of Exo Gonia.
Our mission? A lazy lunch of local fare at Metaxi Mas far from the crowds and tourist cafes.
We parked just off the main road and walked down a quiet village street to a light-dappled patio filled with locals and well-informed travelers perched between clay potted bougainvillea and cacti. We were waved to shady table and welcomed with briny olives, creamy cheese and shots of raki, an anise-scented apéritif.
Hushed happy tones of nearby conversations and the ting of silverware served as the soundtrack. The menu was short, the mark of a proper local spot, so we quickly settled on a few dishes to share.
While we were charmed by our first course of grilled oyster mushrooms and white eggplant in tomato sauce, what really captured my heart was the unique sweet and savory dish that ended our meal.
Local brined cheese was wrapped in phyllo dough and fried to a golden brown before being drenched in sticky honey and topped with nutty sesame seeds.
On a recent trip to the farmers’ market in Little Italy, I picked up some orange blossom honey that inspired me to recreate this dish, with a nod to San Diego’s local citrus. The floral notes of the honey play off the earthy herbs of the feta cheese filling, and baking instead of frying creates a great crunch and requires less oil.
When I find myself longing for a casual, leisurely meal like the ones I enjoyed in Exo Gonia, I make a batch of these sweet-salty pastries to serve alongside local olives, a simple salad, and delicate glasses of raki.
Phyllo Wrapped Feta with Honey & Sesame
This dish is inspired by my time in Exo Gonia, Greece, using local orange blossom honey and California feta.
- 1 egg large
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano thyme or mint
- 8 ounces feta crumbled or whole
- 1/2 pound phyllo dough 9” x 14” sheets, thawed
- for coating layers Cooking Spray or Extra-Virgin Olive Oil House
- to finish Orange Blossom Honey
- for sprinkling Sesame Seeds
Preheat oven to 375 F. Set aside a cookie sheet covered with baking paper or foil.
Make Your filling
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg with a fork. Add the dried herbs and feta. Using the back of the fork mix together the ingredients until uniformly combined.
Prepare and Fill Phyllo Dough
Unroll and cover the phyllo pastry sheets with a damp towel or plastic wrap to prevent drying out.
Place one sheet of phyllo on a cutting board (with long edge at the bottom) and lightly coat with cooking spray or olive oil using a brush. Layer and repeat coating method with two more sheets.
Cut the 3-layered set of phyllo sheets into 4 strips (from top to bottom). 1” from the bottom of each strip, add 1 tbsp of filling. Fold one corner of phyllo diagonally across to opposite edge to form a triangle.
Continue to fold triangle onto itself until you are left with a triangular packet. Coat lightly with cooking spray or brush outside with olive oil.
Repeat this process until filling is used up. This should yield about 12 triangles.
Bake and Finish
Place phyllo triangles on prepared baking sheet and bake the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.