Kale and Fontina Phyllo Bites

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I worked at a family owned Greek restaurant for five years in my twenties. For most of that time it was my responsibility to fold the tyropites, small savory pastries that were cheese-filled triangles of phyllo. Typically once a week I would come in a couple hours before we opened, brew and pour myself some coffee, or make a latte, and sit and fold. It is not a stretch to say I’ve folded thousands of tyropites. Though getting there earlier was always exhausting in its own way, the time itself was therapeutic.

A mixture of kale, fontina, ricotta, and Mama Lil's peppers waits to go into phyllo.
Phyllo triangles are folded neatly onto parchment paper in a container, waiting to be stored in the freezer.

These triangles are filled with kale, plenty of garlic, and Italian cheeses. It’s like a kale dip that is already wrapped up in delicious dough. I also added a little bit of Mama Lil’s peppers to to mix because I really like the slight brininess and heat they provide.

There is a snack spread of kale and fontina phyllo bites, almonds, salami, and white wine.

Most of the effort for these phyllo bites is the folding. They store well in the freezer, and bake up quickly without thawing. They would be a great appetizer to make ahead for a dinner party or Thanksgiving.

Kale and Fontina Phyllo Bites (makes about 40)

  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 10-12 Lacinato kales leaves, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (These are garlicky. Cut it back if that’s not your thing.)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup shredded fontina
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 2 T Mama Lil’s, finely chopped
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lb thin phyllo dough, thawed (See note.)
  1. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. and add the 2oz of oil. Add the garlic and kale and turn down to medium-low to sweat the garlic and cook down the kale. Cook for about 10 minutes until most of the water from the kale is evaporated. Add the lemon juice and cook until that reduces.
  2. Allow the kale to cool slightly. Mix the kale, fontina, ricotta, and Mama Lil’s. If desired, this can be done in a food processor to make the kale more fine. Season with salt and pepper and taste.
  3. Cool the filling thoroughly in the refrigerator before filling the phyllo.
  4. When ready to fold, melt the 1/2 cup of butter over low heat. Set up a station with a large cutting board, the filling, melted butter, a pairing or utility knife, pastry brush, and small spoon. It is also set up a container that you’ll use to store the appetizers when they are folded, lined with parchment paper.
  5. Gently unroll the phyllo. Place one sheet on your cutting board. Using the pastry brush, spread a thin layer of butter all over the sheet of phyllo. Place a second sheet of phyllo on top of it, and then another thin layer of butter.
  6. Cut the phyllo into four long strips with the knife. This is easiest by cutting it once in half, and cutting each half in twice. Place about one teaspoon of filling near the bottom of each strip. Carefully fold up the bottom of the strip about two inches, pressing down the sides around the filling. You can also press down the top above the filling.
  7. Proceed to fold the phyllo up, bringing the bottom up to the right side into a triangle, and then to the left side, and so on until the whole strip is folded.
  8. When all four our folded, brush a small amount of butter on the front and back of each triangle.
  9. Place side by side on parchment paper in the container you will store them in. Keep folding until all of the mix is gone. You will likely need a second layer of parchment paper. Cover with a lid, and freeze until ready to prepare.
  10. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Spread the number of phyllo bites you want to prepare out on a baking sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until golden brown, turning over midway if desired.
  11. Allow to cool slightly before eating. Enjoy!

Note: For this batch I used a 9in by 14in phyllo dough, Athens Phyllo Dough, and it made small, two bite pastries. For the tyropites at the Greek restaurant we used a #4 phyllo (very thin) that was 12in by 17in. If you are using a larger phyllo you can either cut them into five pieces instead of four, or you can just make them larger and increase the filling to about a tablespoon each. For me it’s easier to cut out four so I would probably go the latter route.

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