When I set out to make a gluten free spinach pie I thought I’d be inventing the wheel and that there was certainly nothing traditional about it. I was so wrong. According to the Greek food bible cookbook “The Glorious Foods of Greece” by Diane Kochilas, “All over the North of Greece…cooks avoid the time and expense of rolling out their own phyllo dough by substituting a technique for making a grainy, toothsome, tasty crust with cornmeal.” Ah ha! Problem solved. As for rolling out my own phyllo dough, well that wasn’t about to happen any time soon, cornmeal crust or not.
This beautiful, rustic and totally delicious pie is an adaptation of those traditional recipes. The cornmeal crust is basically a thin layer of polenta on the top and bottom of the rich and nutritious spinach filling.
You can make this ahead of time. It tastes as good, if not better, the next day, when the crust has had time to really set and the flavors combine. Just reheat gently.
- For the Filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions chopped, about 4 cups
- 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 large eggs
- 5, 10-oz. packages of frozen whole leaf spinach, completely thawed and uncooked; note: if you don't have time to thaw the spinach you can also steam it until just warm
- 1 1/2 lbs. (24 oz.) crumbled feta
- 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tsp. salt
- For the Crust:
- butter or olive oil for greasing baking pan
- 2 3/4 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups water, as needed
- 1 1/2 cups fine cornmeal
- Prepare Filling
- Heat oil in a medium pan on medium high heat. Add onion, and sauté until soft and slightly brown. Add garlic and cook, stirring for an additional minute. Let cool.
- While the onions are cooking, crack eggs into large bowl and beat with a fork. Put spinach in a colander. One handful at a time, squeeze liquid out of spinach and add it to the bowl. Continue until all spinach has been added.
- Add sautéed onions, feta, dill, and salt and combine thoroughly.
- Make Crust:
- Grease a 3 quart (I use the Pyrex 9"x13") baking dish with butter or olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Combine milk, 3/4 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Slowly shake in the cornmeal while stirring. It needs to be added slowly, while stirring constantly, otherwise it will lump. If little lumps do form, smash them against the pot with the back of the spoon. Stir until the mixture is thick, like polenta. Correct for salt. Remove from heat.
- Put half the mixture in the greased baking dish. Spread evenly. Add spinach mixture on top and spread evenly.
- Remaining cornmeal will have probably gotten too thick to spread. Stir in a little water, as required, to make it spreadable. Spoon over spinach and spread evenly over the top. Don't worry if it doesn't completely cover all the spinach.
- Bake for 45 - 60 minutes until the top is browned.
- May be made 1 day ahead of time, kept covered and refrigerated, and reheated gently before serving. Do not microwave.