Leeks were almost completely unknown to me until adulthood. They are not a commonly used item here in the U.S., which is really a shame. I say it’s time for that to change!
Leeks are native to the Mediterranean area, so it comes as no surprise that they are far more common in dishes from that region. They have a long history of cultivation and use throughout Europe, having likely been distributed during the era of the Roman Empire. They are especially popular in the UK due to the fact that they grow very well in their cooler climate.
In fact, my first introduction to leeks came from the popular Scottish dish called Cock-a-leekie soup. I first tasted this soup at a local Scottish Society dinner in honor of the poet Robert Burns. I fell in love with the soup’s simple structure packed with complex flavor that came from the liberal use of leeks.
Leeks are a type of allium like onions, garlic, scallions and chives. They have that same onion-like taste, but to me have a hint of sweetness to them and are not as harsh. They also have that same healthy goodness to them as the other alliums, so you have a lot of reasons to eat them. Many recipes call for using the white part of the leek only, as the green leaves tend to be more tough, but there’s no need to be wasteful. Only the toughest tips of the leaves need to be trimmed as the rest softens with cooking.
It wasn’t until much later in life that I became aware of how leeks are also common in some regional Greek dishes. Prasopita (prah-SOH-pee-tah, Greek for leek pie) is very similar to spanokopita (spah-nah-KOH-pee-tah, spinach pie). The filling has all the flavors of spring with fresh herbs along with the leeks, liberal quantities of tangy feta bound together with protein packed eggs, and all wrapped up in a flaky phyllo crust. It’s truly a great all-in-one meal.
Some quick notes before you begin:
Prasopita is typically wrapped in phyllo, similar to spanakopita. The pictures show my attempt at using homemade phyllo. Spoiler alert: I’m not really good at making phyllo (yet). You can use commercial phyllo, homemade if you know how, or even wrap it up like my spinach and feta galette which uses my pie dough recipe with half the butter replaced with lard (trust me, this is really so good!).
This recipe can also be easily converted to individual, phyllo-wrapped appetizers (you would call them prasopitakia, prah-soh-pih-TAH-kee-ah). Just substitute the leek filling for the cheese mixture in my tyropitakia recipe. This recipe will make a lot of them, but they can be easily frozen for later enjoyment. Bake them the same.
Leeks are often very dirty. They are grown in hills to help encourage the development of more of the tender white portion of the stem, so dirt often gets trapped inside some of the outer layers. Be sure to open them up and rinse them well.
This recipe uses ouzo to add a nice hint of anise flavor. Anisette liquer can be substituted, or you can use anise or fennel seeds, instead.
There are many kinds of feta available these days, but not all are good. Use a true Greek feta made with sheep’s milk, if at all possible. This style has better texture and flavor for this type of recipe.
Once the leeks have been sauteed, be sure to give them a chance to cool somewhat before adding the egg and herb mixture. Otherwise the eggs will get cooked by the heat and will not properly bind the filling.
Prasopita (Greek Leek and Feta Pie) Recipe
- 1 lb. sliced leeks, both white and green parts, remove roots if still attached and any tough leaf tips
- 1/4 cup olive oil, extra virgin preferred
- 1 Tbsp ouzo or anisette liquer, or a small pinch of either fennel or anise seed
- 1 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh dill
- 4 eggs, scrambled
- 8 ounces feta, crumbled, Greek sheep’s milk preferred
- commercial phyllo dough or my basic pie dough recipe (substitute half the butter with lard for best results), or use homemade phyllo if you know how
In a large pan put the olive oil and leeks. Bring the heat to high then reduce to low once the leeks begin to sizzle. Cover the pan to keep the leeks from drying out, but do stir occassionally to prevent scorching. Cook until the leeks are bright green and tender. Add the ouzo (or anisette or seeds) and gently combine. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool, uncovered.
Add the parsley and dill to a bowl. Add in the scrambled eggs and crumbled feta. Gently mix until combined. Once the leeks have cooled enough to be able to comfortably touch them, add the herb and egg mixture and combine.
To prepare the prasopita using commercial phyllo dough, you will want to follow my instructions for making spanakopita, except you will need to double the amount of filling. The layering of the phyllo and the cooking times will otherwise be the same. Or you could make the same amount of this filling and use half the amount of phyllo and cut it to fit a smaller size pan. You will still want the same number of layers of phyllo on the top and bottom of your filling. The baking time may need to be reduced so check on it after 25-30 minutes.
If you are preparing the prasopita as a galette, just follow the instructions for my spinach and feta galette recipe, but use half a recipe of the pie dough. The amount of this filling should make a generous galette. Follow the same baking times.
If you are going to make appetizer sized prasopitakia, follow the instructions for my tyropitakia recipe in terms of wrapping with the phyllo and baking times.
So many options to enjoy!! Kali orexi (good appetite)!