Happy Thanksgiving! I realize I am a little late on that, but I’ve been out of state since Tuesday. I had a great Thanksgiving and it was so nice to see my family, especially since I haven’t seen them since July. I hope you all had a great holiday! I’m sorry to say I won’t be updating the blog with any ideas for leftover meals since I thought it better not to fly with leftovers :)
I know I have mentioned on here before that my family does not cook with recipes, and I don’t really, either. A big reason I started this blog back in the day was to document recipes–be it actually measuring things out when creating my own concoctions or trying to figure out via trial and error what, exactly, make the dishes my grandmothers prepare so much better than the ones anyone else does. One of my favorite dishes my paternal grandmother (grandma = ”yiayia”) makes is plasto. I think plasto must be regional, because I’ve never heard of anyone else who makes it, nor have I ever seen it on a menu at a Greek restaurant. Even an internet search didn’t yield much in the way of results, so perhaps its name is also regional (if you’re curious, yiayia is from a smallish town in Greece called Karditsa). At any rate, plasto is basically a savory pie of greens and cornmeal crust. The filling is similar to spinach pie/spanakopita, but with a little more variety. The crust is what makes this different than traditional spanakopita and, in my opinion, much tastier.
A while back, I asked my grandmother how she made her plasto. As I said, I love the dish and enjoy variations of spanakopita. By variations, I mean methods for the lazy. I am a pretty terrible Greek when it comes to phyllo–I hate using it. I tend to make my mini spanakopitas with puff pastry, actually, because I’m too lazy and impatient when it comes to working with phyllo. My yiayia said that of course she couldn’t tell me how to make plasto–but, she could show me. So, when we were in town for Thanksgiving, we headed to yiayia’s to get a lesson in plasto.
You’ll have to excuse most of the pictures below as my grandma isn’t used to the idea of photographing food, let alone delaying the process of cooking with something crazy like taking pictures. Most of the pictures turned out blurry because she was moving so fast. The woman put the plasto together in like 10-15 minutes, I kid you not! Eventually I will make this at home with better measurements than what is below (and probably not in the yiayia-sized pan, since it’s just the two of us eating it), but I thought I’d give the basic method and share some pictures for now.
I decided to submit this to the Festive Food Fair 2007 hosted by Morsels & Musings because not only is it a food that is important to my culture (and certainly served at family holidays), it’s something my yiayia always makes when I visit, so it’s definitely something special to me. I’m so happy I got a chance to learn how to make this delicious dish and spend some quality time with yiayia!
Cooking with Yiayia: A Lesson in Plasto
First, clean (and dry) all your greens (or “horta”). You can use anything you want, really. Sometimes my grandmother will use dandelion greens. For today, we used about 1.5 lbs of spinach, a bunch of swiss chard, a few sliced leeks (make sure to wash them well), and about 1/2 cup of fresh dill. Mix them all together.
To the greens, you will want to add some feta cheese (about a pound crumbled), a couple pinches of salt and a little extra virgin olive oil (probably 2 Tbsp.).
Spread some softened butter and olive oil on the bottom of your pan. Yes, this will help with sticking but more importantly, it will give flavor (and cohesion) to the pie. So don’t be too stingy with the fatty goodness!
In a bowl, mix one container of yellow cornmeal with a pinch of salt and some milk (and sure, you can use fat free to combat some of the oil/butter). For a whole container of cornmeal, you will probably use about a cup of milk here, but go by consistency. The mixture should be soft and moist, but still slightly crumbly when you pick it up.
Place half the cormeal mixture in the pan.
Press the mixture down, evenly, to form a crust.
Now, add the greens/feta mixture over the bottom crust.
Spread the mixture evenly.
Whoops, I think we need some more cheese! Use your judgment here as you may already have a good amount of feta, but my judgment always says “more cheese.”
Now, to the remaining cornmeal mixture, you will want to add some milk. You don’t want the mixture to be too liquidy or pourable (ignore the picture here as we added more cornmeal, but I wanted to add a picture of every step and this is all I had), but it will be sort of spreadable whereas the other mixture was more crumby. Maybe about 1/2 cup milk.
Now–you guessed it–put the other half of the cornmeal mixture on top of the greens to form an upper crust.
It’s evenly pressed down and almost done, but…
it needs some more olive oil and a few dollops of butter on top.
A-ha! Now it’s ready to go into the oven. The oven temperature was everything from 550 to 350 while I was there, so this, too, is unscientific. However, I would say about 400 or 425 for 50 minutes, or until the crust is set and golden brown should do it.
Mmm, it’s done! Look at that yummy looking, golden brown crust!
Time to slice into that puppy
…and plate it up.
Here’s my serving (a big one, of course). Sure, it’s not the most beautiful *looking* thing but…
it sure tastes good!
Tom likes it, too!
And yiayia gets to enjoy the fruits (no, not those terrible plastic ones!) of her labor.
Good to the last bite.
The Chefs! (Yes, I am named after my yiayia, although my full name is just Elly whereas her name is Eretheli but people call her Elly).