Cornmeal Pie with Greens and Leeks Recipe
This cornmeal pie with greens and leeks recipe is a delightful combination of leafy greens and savory leeks, grated carrots and potatoes, all flavored with rich Turkish chili flakes and fresh mint. Overall the result is a satisfying vegetarian and gluten-free main dish. The recipe is adapted from the cookbook Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey, by Robyn Eckhardt and David Hagerman. The recipes in this cookbook are accessible and delicious, and furthermore, the vibrant, breathtaking photos of the food, landscapes, and people of Turkey throughout the book are not to be missed.
Turkey: One Big Country, Many Different Cuisines
Being half Turkish means I have eaten and cooked a lot of Turkish food in my life. I was excited to get my hands on this cookbook and read about the authors’ adventures around Turkey, travelling by rental car over mostly the northern and eastern parts of the country. Their research was done over many months and trips, and as a result, the discovery (for us!) of less well-known recipes from less well-known regions of Turkey. This particular vegetable pie recipe, with its use of cornmeal, comes from the Black Sea region, which uses a lot of corn in its cooking, something I was fascinated to learn.
The recipe calls for Turkish red pepper flakes, that have a unique flavor which is not so spicy, a little sweet, and full of depth. If you do not have these particular chilies on hand, try substituting crushed red pepper flakes (probably less as they are spicier), or ground smoked paprika. The recipe itself is completely vegetarian, and includes butter and yogurt in the crust. Choose your favorite type of tender leafy green here–I went with spinach, but baby chard, beet greens, or nettles would work as well. Less tender greens such as kale and collards are not ideal for this recipe.
Keep in mind that this cornmeal pie with greens and leeks recipe is a good option when you have a few hours to spare in the kitchen. It is not a difficult recipe, but does require a few steps. Enjoy the finished dish directly after cooking, keeping any leftovers in the fridge (tightly sealed), and eat throughout the week. Reheat in a warm oven and enjoy as a vegetable side dish, or a light main course. I recommend a solid mise en place for this recipe; gathering, arranging, and preparing the ingredients needed before starting to cook, makes this perfect oven to table dish a breeze to put together.
Plain yogurt or garlicky yogurt goes well dolloped atop a piece of this cornmeal pie with greens and leeks. Alternatively, serve it alongside a simple roasted chicken, Mom’s Meatball recipe, or Turkish Style White Bean Stew.
This cornmeal pie with greens and leeks recipe is a delightful combination of leafy greens and savory leeks, grated carrots and potatoes, all flavored with rich Turkish chili flakes and fresh mint.
- 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts, and washed well
- 6 cups ice water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 medium potato, washed (5-6 ounces)
- 1 pound tender baby greens (spinach, chard, nettles, or beet would work well)
- 2 medium carrots, scrubbed or peeled, and grated
- 2 1/2 teaspoons Turkish red pepper flakes*, or to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint (or 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried)
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 1/2 cups fine cornmeal
- 3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 1/4 cups fine cornmeal
- 3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
- 1/4 cup boiling water (if needed)
Butter or oil a 9"X13"x2" baking dish or pan.
Slice white and light green parts of the well-washed leeks into thin slices. You want 3-4 cups of sliced leeks. Reserve dark green part for another use (they freeze well for broth or stock).
Pour ice water over sliced leeks in a large bowl and set aside. This will give them a milder flavor.
For the bottom crust, combine cornmeal and salt together in a medium bowl. Add olive oil and boiling water and stir, removing lumps. You want the consistency of the mixture to be thick enough to hold a shape. Add more cornmeal or boiling water, each 1 Tablespoon at a time, to get the right consistency. Spread the finished mixture in the bottom of the greased baking dish. Reserve the bowl to make the top crust.
To make the filling, drain the leeks. While still in the colander, sprinkle with salt and massage leeks with your hands until they are softened; this takes about 30 seconds. Squeeze out any excess water and place in a large bowl.
Peel and grate the potato and add to the leeks. Add the greens, carrots, red pepper, black pepper, mint, and olive oil. Toss with your hands, incorporating all the ingredients together. Spread the filling over the prepared bottom crush and scatter small pieces of butter around on top.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
For the top crust, combine the cornmeal, salt, and baking powder together in the medium bowl used for the bottom crust. Stir in the melted and cooled butter and yogurt. Add boiling water. You're looking for cake batter consistency, so add more water if necessary. Pour finished batter over the filling, spreading to the edges.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, with some crusty darker bits at the edges. A knife should come out clean when inserted. Rest the pie for 10 minutes before serving.
If you don't have Turkish red pepper flakes, crushed red pepper can be used, but it can be much spicier. Also try using smoked paprika for a different flavor profile.