Those that know me know that not only do I love to cook, but also that I like to spend some time watching cooking shows. I was watching PBS one morning and came across a show on Greek cuisine called The Cooking Odyssey hosted by Chef Yanni Mameletzis. It was an episode on Trikala, a city in Northwestern Greece, in Thessaly. I enjoyed watching the show. Every time I see Greece on TV or some sort of media, its so beautiful it just makes me feel like in awe, like I would want to be in that world. I’d be staring at the beautiful scenery with my mouth open, my eye muscles relaxed and softened to a gaze as if in a trance. Haha, anyways, most of the PBS cooking shows I like, in contrast to Food Network. What do you guys think about PBS or Food Network? PBS shows appeal to me more, though there are some shows that I like on FN. On The Cooking Odyssey, a particular rustic-type pie called hortopita caught my eye. It is a cornmeal pie with a wild greens filling. I never saw cornmeal used as a pie crust, or if I did, it did not catch my attention then. I’ve eaten phyllo based dishes such as spanakopita, but didn’t know that Greek cuisine included cornmeal much. So…since I was fascinated, on a nice and sunny day in San Diego while yearning to be in Greece, I made Greek Greens Pie with Cornbread Crust.
Here’s Klaus, the Gnome, watching over the hortopita. I almost had a disaster in the kitchen–that’s why there’s a crack on the top of the pie. I was too eager to get the pie out and I somehow snapped part of the top crust off. But I as able to fix it and put it back. It was fine and the crack actually gave it a rustic look as this dish is supposed to be. Klaus, my kitchen buddy, was there for moral support so I didn’t wreak any more havoc 🙂
Shake it like a salt shaker Klaus! But alas, he just wanted to watch and keep company. He’s a bit shy. 😀
Traditionally, wild greens such as dandelion (which I love), mescaline, arugula, etc. are used, but domesticated would taste good too. I used Trader Joe’s Southern Greens Mix with mustard, turnip, collards, and spinach leaves. The stems too tough for this dish, so use it for something else. If you use chard, the stems can be separated an sautéed with the aromatics.
Some aromatics: onion, garlic, leeks and green onion
Here are aromatics sautéing to soften them up and aromatize the kitchen (No, I didn’t mean in the organic chemistry sense, for you chemistry know it alls) 😀
The greens mix, getting their wilt on.
From voluminous to itsy.
The Filling: a mix of greens, onions, garlic, leeks, feta, dill, mint, and lemon zest seasoned with red pepper, black pepper, and salt.
The bottom layer of cornbread crust goes on the greased pan first, then the filling of greens. For the cornmeal crust, I think you could use your favorite cornbread recipe if you wanted, maybe a touch less sweet. That should work out fine.
The top crust is smoothed on and its ready to bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees F.
A golden brown pie on sunshiny day. And yes, a leafy and corny rustic pie that is tasty! Was worried that the cornmeal batter would leak through the removable bottomed quiche/tart pan, but it didn’t.
The Pac-man shot. The signature pie look. 🙂
adapted from The Cooking Odyssey
- 5 cups greens mixure (such as spinach, chard, mescaline mix, arugula, dandelion, etc.)
- Cooking oil
- 1 cup onion, sliced
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 leek, sliced
- Dash of white wine, water, or stock
- 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 2-3 green onions, sliced
- 1.5 tablespoons dill weed, chopped (or 0.5 to 1 tablespoons dried dill)
- 0.5 to 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons mint, chopped
- 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or Aleppo pepper) (optional)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Bottom layer of pie:
- 1 cup corn meal
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (can use gluten-free all-purpose flour)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- ¾ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Top layer of pie:
- 1.5 cups corn meal
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet, 10 inch x 2 inch deep quiche/tart pan, or 10 x 10 inch square baking pan.
- Make the filling: Wash the greens, being careful to clean and dry them well. Roughly chop them and remove any tough stems or flower buds. If using chard, separate the stem from the leaves and you can sauté the stems with the onions. Heat oil in a pan and saute the onion and garlic for about 3 minutes until starting to soften. Then add the chopped chard stems and the leeks. Saute until soft. Set aside in another container.
- Deglaze the same pan with white wine (or stock, water, etc.). Add the greens and cook just until wilted. Let cool and then add the onion-leek mixture and feta cheese. Mix in the green onions, dill, lemon zest, mint and red pepper. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Make cornbread crust & assemble: In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the top layer of the pie. Place the batter on the greased pan. Then layer on the filling. Mix together the ingredients for the top layer then layer on top of the filling. Gently smooth the top crust out with your hand. Don’t worry if the greens are showing as the top crust will rise.
- Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let the pie rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Slice and enjoy! Serve with Greek yogurt if desired.
The combination of the greens, aromatics, feta, and the herbs were really good. I would say that I prefer this greens pie over spanakopita. But of course I love both. Though the crust was a bit crumbly, I think it adds to the rustic charm of this dish. Perhaps, a finer cornmeal or corn flour is what is needed, but the original recipe didn’t specify that. For a less crumbly pie, I think I may try the technique in a New York Times version that uses polenta. The polentazation of the crust must be worth a try, haha. Leftovers taste great and it reheats well. Would be good for school lunches too.
Hortopita (also called by dozens of different names such as plasto) is a rustic Greek comfort food for those times when you need a little bit of that sunshiny and happy type of feeling. Try it!
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