Albanian Cornmeal Pie
with Scallions and Cheese
Makes 6 servings
During the summer of 1969, 1 was traveling by motorcycle down the Dalmatian coastline of Yugoslavia on my way to meet friends in Athens—I was part of that generation who explored the world in the late '60s. Yugoslavia was a quiet country still controlled by Marshal Tito. As I stopped at a passport check on the highway near Dubrovnik—there were several such checks along the road—I experienced one of those memorable moments that life often springs on us. When the guard saw my American passport, he grinned and pointed to the sky. I was puzzled, and then I realized what he meant. Neil Armstrong had just walked on the moon.
To get to Greece, I had to detour around Albania, which was off-limits to Americans. The road, what there was of it, was mainly gravel, making a speed of more than five or ten kilometers per hour risky business, since anything faster would result in a spinout, as it in fact did when I tried to push my luck. I was famished and exhausted. Somewhere in the mountains of the Kosovo region, I stopped at a roadside food hut—who knows why it was there, except that this was the only road that skirted Albania. This was my lunch break, and what I ate was a coarse cornbread, flavored and moistened with a fresh cheese. I'll never forget the simple, satisfying flavors of that meal. It was a life-saver.
I learned later that two of the mainstays of Albanian-influenced cooking—shaped by the Turks, Greeks, and Italians—are corn and cheese (cheese usually made from goat's and sheep's milk). This, then, is my adaptation of that simple meal that provided a much-needed, if brief, moment of pleasure. As an alternative, I've also made the pie with farmer's cheese for the topping, rather than the feta, and half a cup of oil-cured olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and halved.
Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
1-1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
12 ounces small-curd cottage cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch scallions (about 9), chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces feta cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.
In a medium bowl, stir together the cornmeal, cottage cheese, eggs, scallions, melted butter, thyme, and salt. Scrape into prepared pie plate and spread evenly. Sprinkle the feta over the top.
Bake in 400-degree oven until golden brown, set, and slightly puffed, about 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes, then serve warm.
Serving tips: This makes a satisfying main course with a green salad or juicy ripe tomatoes, sliced and seasoned with coarsely ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Or cut into wedges and serve as you would cornbread, with soups, stews, roasts, egg dishes, or wherever an assertively flavored bread would work. Use leftovers together with smoked ham or thinly sliced sausage to make small sandwiches.
Home Cooking Around The World:
A Recipe Collection
By David Ricketts
Photographs by Mark Thomas
Published in October 2001 by Stewart, Tabori & Chang
208 Pages / 80 recipes
Recipe reprinted by permission.
Home Cooking Around The World
- Albanian Cornmeal Pie with Scallions and Cheese
- Indonesian Spicy Beef in Coconut Sauce
- Peruvian Chicken in Walnut-and-Pepper Sauce
This page created January 2002