Sprinkle Pie

Although this Greek pie has all the savory richness of quiche, it’s both egg-free and gluten-free. It gets its intensity from both a blend of greens and an unusual cooking technique. The greens are massaged with salt, then left to stand for about an hour, and finally squeezed to extract excess moisture, a technique that intensifies their flavor. They are then blended with feta cheese and encased in an equally remarkable and unorthodox “crust”: a light sprinkling of cornmeal moistened in the liquid released by the greens. Typical of Paula’s most radical recipes, it shouldn’t work, and yet it does.

Serves 6 to 8 as a first course or light lunch

2 pounds (900 g) leeks (about 5), white and light green parts quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 3/4 pounds (800 g) spinach leaves

2 small handfuls each of at least two different greens (cultivated greens such as arugula, young Swiss chard, baby dandelion greens, lamb’s quarters, or sorrel, or wild greens such as purslane, mallow, or nettles; about 2 ounces | 60 g total)

3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing

12 ounces (350 g) sheep’s milk feta, preferably Bulgarian, crumbled

2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill (optional)

1/3 cup (55 g) fine stoneground yellow cornmeal

*Note: The leeks and greens can be cooked and refrigerated overnight before assembling the pie.

Put the leeks in a large sieve and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the leeks. Let stand for 1 hour, then rinse under cool running water. Working in small batches, squeeze the leeks tightly in paper towels to extract as much moisture as possible, capturing the released liquid in a small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the liquid for the pie; reserve the remainder for stock or soup if desired.

Meanwhile, shred the spinach and greens and any tender stems; discard any tough stems. Put in a sieve or bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, toss well, and let stand for 45 minutes. Rinse under cool running water. Working in small batches, squeeze the greens tightly in paper towels to extract as much moisture as possible, capturing the released liquid in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the liquid to the leek liquid; reserve the remainder for stock or soup if desired.

In a 10-inch (25-cm) frying pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, cover partially, and cook until they are just heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate or sheet pan and let cool. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the frying pan, and when it is hot, add the greens and cook, stirring, until the leaves turn bright green, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the plate or pan with the leeks and let cool. (At this point, the greens, leeks, and the reserved greens liquid can be covered and refrigerated separately overnight.)

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). In a small saucepan, gently warm the reserved greens liquid over low heat. In a large bowl, combine the leeks, greens, feta, and dill (if using) and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Lightly grease a 9-inch (23-cm) round or 8-inch (20-cm) square baking dish, preferably nonstick, with olive oil. Add 1/4 cup (40 g) of the cornmeal to the prepared dish and then rotate the dish to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Using your fingers or a fork, lightly sprinkle the cornmeal with just enough of the warm greens liquid to dampen it. Gently scrape the leek-cheese mixture into the cornmeal-lined dish and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula or moist palms. Sprinkle the remaining cornmeal in an even layer on top. Using dry hands, lightly press the cornmeal into the mixture. Sprinkle the cornmeal with just enough of the remaining greens liquid to dampen it lightly.

Bake the pie until the cornmeal forms a crisp, lightly browned crust, about 1 hour. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and sprinkle with a few drops of tap water. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*NOTE: Greens that have been salted, rinsed, and squeezed dry, as they are in this recipe, are also lovely sautéed in olive oil with sliced garlic and mild red pepper flakes (preferably Aleppo or Marash), drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and then served over pasta or No-Stir Polenta.

For more delicious recipes, check out Unforgettable by Emily Kaiser Thelin. Published by Grand Central Life & Style. Copyright © 2017 Emily Kaiser Thelin.

Available October 17, 2017!

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, iBooks

For more information — http://www.unforgettablepaula.com/the-book