Green is Good
I will say that despite how many ideas I’ve found on Food Network shows, Public Broadcasting (PBS) has been way more enlightening in educating me on world cuisine. It’s funny how over a year ago when I started this blog, it was because I was disappointed in the limited offerings of different cuisine in these shows. Now over a year later I travel the world in these broadcasts.
When Chef Yannis Mameletzis had popped up telling of his upcoming show The Cooking Odyssey, I was of course interested. Like many shows, I always learn something new and gained much in my own culinary repertoire. I like how his show is about Greek cuisine, but not just the traditional favorites.
In one episode, Yannis went to the Northern city of Trikala. While not as large and grandiose as Athens or Thessaloniki, the city carries a rich history dating back to prehistoric times. What more fascinated me about Trikala was a dish Yannis showed being made by an old woman and later in his own kitchen – hortopita.
In Greek, horta means “greens”. My father would often times boil a pot of dandelion greens (the stems and leaves) and serve them with a little olive oil. While I never found them appealing, I understood the rationale. Back during WWII and the Greek civil war that followed, food was scarce, and many Greeks would collect any edible greens they could eat.
Hortopita is somewhat like Spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese pie), only the filling is really any fresh greens of the season. What I liked even more was how Yannis and the old woman in the show made this dish not with phyllo, but with a crust made out of cornmeal. It was crunchy and hearty. Now you can use phyllo if you want. Looking around online I’ve seen hortopita made with phyllo or even puff pastry, but the cornmeal crust just adds a little something.
What I’m going to post here isn’t Yannis’ recipe, but my own variation. I didn’t find his ingredient amounts ideal for a good thin crust, and I made my filling similar to how I made spanakopita with fresh herbs and garlic. In the end, I think it’s a wonderful way to use up leftover romaine lettuce, baby spinach, and other greens as opposed to laying them to waste.
I also suggest you either use a larger tart pan, or a large pie pan. You want this to be thin over anything. Let’s get cooking…
Ingredients (Bottom Crust)
- 1 cup of cornmeal
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 pinch of pepper
Ingredients (Top Crust)
- 1/3 cup of cornmeal
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 pinch of pepper
- 4 packed cups of various greens, chopped or shredded
- 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 lb of feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tbsp of dill
- 2 tbsp of dried parsley or Italian parsley
- 1 tbsp of granulated garlic
- 2 tsp of oregano
- A drizzling of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 350°.
- Pour a small amount of olive oil in your pan and spread it around with a brush or your hand.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the bottom crust and stir thoroughly.
- Pour the mixture into the pan and spread it around evenly with your fingers.
- In a larger mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the filling. Mix well.
- Spoon the filling into the pan carefully, evening it out all around until the pan is about filled.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the top crust and stir thoroughly.
- Pour this mixture all over the pie and let it seep into the greens mixture.
- Place the pie into the oven and bake for one hour, or until the top is golden brown.
The greens you use are up to you. I usually like to use old greens that are losing their crunch. So those romain hearts, spring greens, and baby spinach you use for salads are perfect here.
To save time, I’ll usually chop them up in a food processor. You don’t have to be pretty with this, since you want them in bits that make for a nice filling.
You might be concerned that the top crust ends up more “liquid” than the bottom. This is normal. You want that liquid to seep into the greens and tie everything together. The bottom crust should be more solid.
Feel free to variate to your heart’s content. Do only spinach, or use other vegetables. Broccoli would work here. Even try some meats if you feel the need to be a carnivore.
You also don’t have to use the cornmeal recipe. Feel free to try #7 phyllo or even make your own pastry crust with wheat or white flour.