Every Christmas growing up we had my grandparents and aunt and uncle over to my house and feasted on cold cuts, gnocchi, stuffed peppers, tyropitas and desserts galore. I still remember the first Christmas when I went to my husband’s house and they had turkey, or when I heard that other people had ham – I was so confused!! Chirstmas was time for an Italian feast, as far as I was concerned! Well, times have changed in many ways – now we are vegans on the East Coast, and my parents and sister fly out to our house to spend Christmas with our family of four, we we make the trek to the west coast to my in-laws. Ever since we have been out here I have tried to veganize my favorite Christmas dishes with some success. My Grandmother’s tiropitas were always some of my favorites – a savory cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg filling
in a wonderful crispy phyllo pocket. The first year I veganized this it was super bland, but trial and error has led to some success. This year my vegan tiropitas were a success, and I’m thinking that it might almost be time to make them for grandmother next time we are out to visit her. Although nothing can measure up to Grandma’s cooking!
Directions: I know this sounds complicated with the phyllo folding, but trust me, it’s worth trying! My directions might weird, but try a few and I bet you’ll figure it out!
1 lb (14-16 oz) of firm, regular tofu
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp of agave
1 tsp dried basil
8 oz container of vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti brand)
2 TB of nutritional yeast
salt to taste
1 package of phyllo dough
1 cup of vegan butter (I love Earth Balance!) melted
1. First you are going to need to make the tofu ricotta (adapted from the Uncheese cookbook). I suggest doing this a day or so in advance. Break the tofu in to large chunks. Then, place them in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Then, drain well. (This is also a good time to thaw the phyllo dough, or put it in the fridge to thaw overnight).
2. Chill uncovered in the refrigerator until cool enough to handle. Crumble and place in a bowl with remaining ingredients. Mash or blend the mixture until it has a fine, grainy texture (similar to ricotta cheese) Cover and chill several hours or overnight (will keep in fridge – covered! for about 5 days)
3. In a medium bowl use a fork to thoroughly mix the tofu “ricotta” and cream cheese. The final mixture should be goopy without huge chunks. Then, completely mix in the nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt.
4. Unwrap the phyllo dough and unroll it on a sheet of foil. Cut the dough in half width-wise. Then, pull off one of these half sheets and set it on the counter. Cover the rest of the phyllo with another sheet of foil, and top that with a very damp (but not dripping) dishtowel. This will help keep the phyllo from drying out, but with out getting it sticky and wet. (Thanks for the trick Grandma!)
5. Put the half-sheet in front of you so that it is long-ways going up and down. Then, put 1 TB of filling about one inch up from the bottom of the sheet , right in the middle. Brush butter all along the edges of the dough.
6. Fold the bottom of the dough over the filling and brush the whole fold with butter
7. Fold the left side of the dough over the filling square (like you are folding a shirt) and brush with butter. Your dough should now be 1/3 as wide as it was.
8. Fold the right side over the filling and brush with butter. You should now have the dough folded in 1/3s and it should be 1/3 as wide as it was originally
9. Fold the bottom part into a triangle and brush with butter – then fold it up brush with butter. Continue until you end up with a triangle. (This part is like folding a flag). Brush the entire triangle with butter and put in baking sheet.
10. Take off the next 1/2 sheet of phyllo and continue.
11. These triangles can be frozen, or you can cook them right away. Either way, bake them in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (fresh ones sometimes take 20 minutes). They should be a bit browned and crispy on top when they are done – and yes your pan will be full of melted butter.
I know this sounds complicated with the phyllo folding, but trust me, it’s worth trying! My directions might weird, but try a few and I bet you’ll figure it out!