Pumpkin Pie...the Greek Way

Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving favorite, no doubt. Hands down, it's also a favorite with my Greek family. The Greek version of pie is pita, and it comes in savory and sweet versions. While we don't wait for Thanksgiving, we do eat it seasonally around the fall and winter months.


Among my memories from the time I was a young girl and my mother had me helping in the kitchen, there is a recipe for a sweet pumpkin pita. The filling is a combination of grated pumpkin, raisins, a bit of rice to absorb the moisture, an assortment of sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and zippy ones like cumin and black pepper. It's baked and drizzled with a honey syrup right out of the oven. The memory of the way it smells and tastes is strong still.

The pita filled and coiled into a round cake pan, is the tradition on the island of Samos where my mother was born. I jotted down the ingredients many years ago--not a recipe, just the ingredients--and made it a couple of times. I haven't made it in years.

I asked my sister, Antonia, and my cousin Koula, but neither remembers this pita. Koula remembers a savory version. Why is this family recipe so powerful for me, but no one else remembers it or has heard about such a recipe? I spoke with my 92-year-old aunt about it last year. She remembered a simple version that her mother used to make, and even shared with me a very funny story from when she was eight or nine years old. My aunt could not remember the pita that my mother made, the one that's so memorable to me, but she wondered if my mother had perhaps melded her family method for making the coiled savory pita with my father's love of the sweet pita that he'd grown up with. I wonder if this is my mother's invention, combining her heritage and that of my father's.

Recently, I made the simplified version that my aunt remembered, the one from Kalami, the village situated not far from Sparta where she and my father were born.
Don't grate your fingers. Use a fork to grate that last piece.



My aunt made a version with walnuts and more raisins. A new version is born!

We used a store-bought pie dough and rolled it out very thinly. I grated Butternut Squash instead of pumpkin because it's available in grocery stores throughout most of the year and has a flavor profile similar to that of pumpkin. We squeezed out most of the moisture and separated it from the grated squash, then whisked in enough flour to make a thin batter. Into the grated squash, we stirred in a little sugar and blonde raisins. In a round cake pan, we laid out the dough gently and topped it with the grated squash mixture and then poured in the batter. We then turned over the dough hanging over the side of the pan and baked it until the filling had set. Delicious. Easy enough, but I'm still on a mission to make my mother's version, the one I dream about.

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