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The Handoff: Kale and Butternut Squash Phyllo Pie

2011 November 10

By Amri Abuseman with photos by Adrian Hashimi

Ingredients-for-Kale-and-Butternut-Squash-Phyllo-PieNew York, NY – Welcome back, everyone.  Today, I unveil the mystery ingredient in my layered dish – phyllo.  I bet you didn’t see that coming!

Along with Brianna’s White Bean, Red Kuri and Kale Soup, I drew inspiration for this dish from Turkish börek, a type of filled pastry which can be made sweet or savory. Hence the phyllo dough.  Fresh phyllo can be difficult to find, but if you live near a Greek or Middle Eastern neighborhood you may be able to get some at the bakeries.  Fret not, frozen phyllo are readily available at many supermarkets and specialty food stores.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

The thin phyllo sheets are very delicate and dry up quickly at room temperature, something to beware of while you are doing the prep for the rest of the recipe.  While working on a sheet of phyllo, make sure that the rest of the sheets are covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying.  Each piece of the phyllo should be liberally brushed with oil or butter and layered on top of each other to create a light and crunchy crust when baked.

We’ve got phyllo layers on the outside and on the inside – layers of veggies and spice.  Turmeric, cumin and cayenne will provide the spiciness and warmth that will get me through the cold months.  To keep this dish vegetarian, I used pine nuts to add some protein.  The sweetness of butternut squash and cippolini onions balanced out the spices and rich iron taste of kale.

Without further ado, let’s get the pie started.

Kale and Butternut Squash Phyllo Pie

I used this recipe from Epicurious to gauge quantities and cooking time.

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes (roasting butternut squash and cippolini onions) plus 25 minutes for final bake

Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings (main course); 8 servings (appetizer)


  • ½  cup olive oil
  • 1 lb butternut squash
  • 1 ½ lbs kale, discard stems and center ribs
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder (use ¼ teaspoon for mild heat)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (raw, brown, or any variety; omit if using less cayenne powder)
  • salt to taste
  • 7 red and yellow cippolini onions
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 8 phyllo sheets
  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • water (as needed)

 Preparation Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. If using frozen phyllo, thaw at room temperature.
  3. Peel and cut butternut squash to ½ inch cubes.
  4. Peel and slice cippolini onions to ¼ inch thickness.  Smash 3 cloves of garlic, add to the sliced cippolini and mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Spread on baking sheet.
  5. Mix turmeric, cumin, cayenne, sugar, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil with the cubed butternut squash.  Spread on another baking sheet.
  6. Finely chop remaining 4 cloves of garlic.
  7. Chop kale to ¼ inch thickness.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Roast butternut squash and cippolini onions for 35 minutes, until soft but not mushy.  Once cooked, take them out of the oven and set aside.
  2. While butternut squash and onions are roasting, heat up pan and put in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Put in the chopped garlic, stir continuously to prevent burning.  Sautée for 2 minutes and add the chopped kale.  If your pan is small, you can cook the kale in a few batches until the leaves soften.  If needed, add some water to prevent the leaves from burning.  Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat pan and toast the pine nuts to golden brown (usually 5 minutes).  Make sure to continuously stir to prevent burning as pine nuts contain high amount of fats.
  4. Melt butter and keep it warm to brush the phyllo sheets.

Assembly Instructions

  1. Unwrap phyllo sheets and lay them flat on a kitchen towel, this will make assembly smooth.  Cover with damp towel to prevent sheets from drying.
  2. Generously brush melted butter on a baking dish to prevent phyllo from sticking.
  3. Carefully peel a sheet of phyllo and lay it inside the baking dish.  Brush the entire surface of phyllo with melted butter.  Be generous with the butter to prevent the sheet from drying and cracking.
  4. Then, take another sheet of phyllo and put it on top of the buttered sheet, arrange the sheets to maximize coverage of the baking dish.  Continue brushing melted butter on the entire surface of the second phyllo sheet.
  5. Repeat 4 more times to make a layer of 6 phyllo sheets.  At this point, if the phyllo sheets hang over the side of the baking dish, don’t worry.
  6. Spread half of the sautéed kale on the buttered phyllo sheets.  Pat down to make sure leaves are packed.  This will ensure that the fillings will stay intact when you cut the pie.
  7. Layer the roasted cippolini on to top of the sauteed kale.
  8. Layer the roasted spicy butternut squash on top of the roasted cippolini.  Make sure the entire surface is covered for equal distribution of spiciness.
  9. Spread the remaining sautéed kale on top of butternut squash, pat it down gently.
  10. Lastly, spread the toasted pine nuts on top of the kale.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of pine nuts for garnish.
  11. Take another sheet of phyllo, fold it in half and lay it on top of the final pine nut layer.  Brush it with melted butter.  Repeat with one more sheet of phyllo to cover the top layer.  To wrap things up, fold any overhanging phyllo sheets on top of each other to enclose the filling.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes until phyllo is golden brown.
  13. Chop the remaining pine nuts.  Once the pie is done, take it out of the oven and sprinkle the chopped pine nuts on top.  Let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

The pie can be served warm or at room temperature, as a main dish or appetizer.  Give it a go and let me know how it turns out.


Amri Abuseman likes to try out new recipes and venture on food explorations when she’s not churning out software releases.  She is also Sarah Maine’s designated Asian food ingredients person.

  • Achiqq

    Merci beaucoup !!!

  • Sarah

    Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious – the roasted pine nuts are key!  I actually used leeks and shallots instead of cippollini (didn’t have any on hand) – I’m sure the flavor was a little different but no less tasty.  We actually at 3/4 of the pie between two people and I had to fight to save the last 1/4 for tomorrow’s lunch.  Thanks for the delicious recipe Amri!

  • Linda

    you’re making me hungry, amriejie!!!!

    maween ;-D

  • Renee

    I made this for my family last night.  It was absolutely gorgeous and delicious.  I added goat cheese, because, to me, almost everything is better with it.  I can imagine riffing on it for years, using whatever there’s too much of at any given time.  Ooh, thank you!

  • antimonysarah

    Ooh. I was looking to possibly change-up my usual Thanksgiving spanakopita, and this might be just the ticket.  Especially since, if I use olive oil on the phyllo, it’s vegan.