Archive | January 2014

Winter in a Pie

Winter Pie

Sometime last fall my sister Liz started raving about the delicious roasted winter squash tart made by our friend Mary, who saw the recipe in The Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Liz made the tart when she got home…and then again, and again. Soon, variations on the theme started popping up everywhere, and I realized this tart was a relative of the pita we ate long ago in Greece. The village women made fillings of wild greens, winter squash, potato, or leeks and rolled them up or layered them with thin pastry. Baked into a fragrant pie, these winter vegetables became a celebration meal. It’s a beautiful way to turn a vegetable side dish into a centerpiece.

I made a version of the pie as part of an opulent Christmas dinner, using a Greek-style olive oil crust to make a rustic galette. The roasted winter squash and caramelized onions called for in the original recipe make a wonderful pie, but I couldn’t resist adding splashes of color and spice by adding roasted red pepper and red chile. There’s plenty of room for experimentation: make the crust buttery-rich or thin and crisp, keep it simple or jazz it up, serve it plain or with toppings.

Galette or tart? I think of a tart as a pie made in a straight-sided pan with a fluted pastry crust standing at attention. A galette is a more laid-back approach: the dough is rolled out thinly in an over-sized circle, and the extra just folded up over the filling (usually about 2 inches–more or less to your liking). One cook’s tart is another cook’s galette, so just call it a pie.

Winter Squash Galette

With Za’atar

Winter Squash

Ingredients for one pie filling: 1 1/2 lbs winter squash, 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 onions, 1 1/2 Tbs butter, 1 large red bell pepper (optional), 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme or sage leaves, 1/2 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino, 1/4 tsp red chile flakes, salt and black pepper, 2 Tbs chopped parsley, za’atar

Za’atar: Mix together 2 Tbs sumac powder, 4 Tbs dried thyme, 1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds (lightly crushed), and 1/8 tsp sea salt

Galette Crust (makes two): 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry or spelt flour, 1 tsp salt, 4 Tbs olive oil, 1/2 cup water, 1/3 sour cream or yogurt, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Rub the oil into the flour. Add the water, yogurt, and lemon juice, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball. Knead briefly until smooth. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight (the longer it rests, the easier it is to roll out).

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut the squash into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp kosher salt. Spread evenly on a heavy baking sheet and roast 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through. Turn the pieces after 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. Cut the bell pepper in half, remove the seeds, and place it cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast until the skin is bubbled and slightly charred. Remove from the oven and cover with a towel or paper bag. When cooled, peel off the skin, and cut into slices.

Peel and cut the onions in half, and then crosswise into thin slices. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkled with 1/4 tsp salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes.

Make the filling by mixing together the squash, onions, thyme or sage, and chile flakes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roll out the dough to a 14-inch round and place on a baking sheet Spread the squash mixture over the dough to within a couple of inches of the edge. Arrange the strips of red pepper on top and cover with grated cheese. Fold the edges of the dough up over the filling, overlapping in pleats.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned.

Before serving, sprinkle the galette with chopped parsley. Cut in wedges and serve with a small bowl of za’atar.

Sweet Potato, Red Onion, and Chard Galette

With Cornmeal Crust

Ingredients: 1 3/4 lbs sweet potato (3 medium), 2 medium red onions, kosher or sea salt, 4 Tbs olive oil, 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 8 cups chopped chard leaves (no stems), 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar, 4 oz crumbled feta or gorgonzola, 1 thinly sliced red chile

Cornmeal crust for one pie (recipe by David Lebovitz printed in Fine Cooking, September, 2000): 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal, 1 tsp salt, 6 Tbs unsalted butter, 3 Tbs olive oil, 1/4 cup ice water

Cut the butter into 1/4-inch pieces and place in the freezer for 5 minutes. Mix together the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Cut the chilled butter into the flour using 2 knives, a food processor, or your fingers. The butter should be evenly distributed, but still be in large chunks. Add the olive oil and water and mix until the dough comes together. Gather the dough with your hands and shape it into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 3/4-inch cubes; toss with 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Peel and cut the onions into 3/4-inch wedges; toss with 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread the vegetables on separate baking sheets and roast 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until tender and lightly charred.

While the sweet potatoes and onions roast, warm the remaining 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook gently 1 to 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, add the chopped chard and a pinch of salt and toss with the garlic until the leaves begin to wilt. Sprinkle with vinegar, cover, and steam until the chard is tender, about 3 minutes.

Assemble the galette: Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface or piece of parchment paper into a 14-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a large baking sheet. Spread the chard over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Distribute the sweet potatoes, onions, and red chile over the chard and scatter the feta or gorgonzola on top. Fold up the edges of the dough, making regularly spaced pleats. Brush the folded edge with melted butter or egg-wash, if you like.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

This is very delicious with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, which is easy to make while the pie is baking.

Balsamic Reduction: 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/3 cup fruit juice (orange, apple, pomegranate…1 Tbs sugar

Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by a little more than half.

Broccoli and Potato Pie

Vegetable Pie

This pie is inspired  by Richard Miscovich, who makes potato pie in his wood-fired oven, and by Gabriele Bonci, who is not afraid to put broccoli (or anything else) on his pies.

Ingredients for one pie: 2 mediumYukon Gold potatoes, 1 lb Romanesco or regular broccoli crowns, 2 Tbs olive oil, 1 or 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 1 finely chopped small hot chile, 8 oven-dried plum tomatoes (substitute 8 to 10 fresh cherry or grape tomatoes or thinly sliced sundried tomato), 4 oz fresh mozzarella or other soft melting cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves, 2 or 3 slices bacon, optional

Potato Pie Crust adapted from Richard Miscovich (makes two): 2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, 1/3 cup whole wheat or spelt flour, 11/4 tsp salt, 3 Tbs olive oil, 1/2 plus 1/3 cup water

Combine the flours and salt. Add the oil and water and mix until the dough can be gathered into a ball. Knead smooth. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a 6-inch flattened disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours or longer. A long rest makes it easier to roll out.

Put the potatoes in a pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil. Boil gently until tender. Remove from the water and cool. Boil or steam the broccoli florets until just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and chop (set aside a few small florets for a garnish). Warm the oil in a skillet over medium low heat with the garlic and chile. Cook gently 1 or 2 minutes; stir in the broccoli to coat with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat.

Assemble the pie: Roll out one disk of dough on a lightly floured surface or on parchment paper to make a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Use a potato masher or your fingers (Bonci’s method) to crush the potatoes. Spread them over the center of the dough, sprinkle with rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Cover with broccoli and dot with tomatoes. Put slices of cheese on top and fold up the edges of the crust. Brush with oil, melted butter, or egg-wash.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Garnish with the reserved broccoli and a bit of crumbled bacon before serving the pie.

Thanksgiving traditions

Most traditional Thanksgiving dinners don’t include many chile peppers or curry spices, but the foods we love to eat at this holiday meal –cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and turkey–are just begging for a blast of spicy flavor. Make these little dishes to scoop up with appetizers, serve as condiments for simple roasted meats or vegetables, eat with rice or couscous, and turn holiday leftovers into zippy wraps or sandwiches. So, in the spirit of “El Kimchi” (the food truck offering tacos of pulled pork and kimchi), have at it!

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry chutney

This spicy-tart sauce is equally good with roast turkey or combined with goat cheese on a cracker.

Ingredients: 2 cups fresh cranberries, 1 1/2 cups chopped red onion, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1 Tbs minced garlic, 1 Tbs minced ginger, 1/2 cup dry red wine, 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, 1/4 cup balsamic or cider vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 Tbs maple syrup or honey, 2 tsp minced red chile (or 1/2 tsp dried red chile flakes), 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 1/2 tsp salt

Toast and grind the spices to a powder. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is as thick as you like.

Variations and additions: Add a cup of frozen or dried cherries, raspberries, or blueberries…chunks of orange segments, pear, or apple…tomatillo salsa or a dash of habanero hot sauce…it’s all good.

Pumpkin Chershi

Chershi are described as “piquant condiments” made by the Jewish community of Tripoli, Libya. They are mentioned in Jerusalem, the Cookbook in connection with a North African carrot salad made with Libyan pilpelchuma. Roasted winter squash can replace the carrots, and if the salad is crushed it becomes a kind of salsa or dip for pita bread. This piqued my interest, and a new Thanksgiving tradition was in the making. Pilpelchuma is meant to be spicy hot, but may be made with various combinations of chiles to suit your taste. Pilpechuma was deemed the perfect condiment for roast turkey.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 lbs winter squash, 2 medium red onions, 3 Tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, 1cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, 1/2 tsp cumin seed, 1/2 tsp caraway seed, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 (or more) Tbs pilpechuma, fresh lemon juice

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Peel, seed, and cut the squash into 3/4-inch slices or cubes. Peel and cut the onions into 1-inch wedges. Put the vegetables into separate bowls; toss each with 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Spread on baking sheets and roast 30 to 40 minutes, flipping the pieces after 15 to 20 minutes to brown both sides.

Toast the cumin and caraway and grind them to a coarse powder. Chop the roasted vegetables and mix them with the spices, herbs, sugar, pilpelchuma, and lemon juice to taste. Toss well and season with salt and black pepper. Serve as a salad, or crush the squash with a fork or potato masher to make a spreadable dip.


Hot Peppers

Ingredients: 1 oz ancho chiles (2) or an equal weight mildly hot chiles, such as Anaheim or New Mexico, guajillo (spicy-bright), or pasilla (woodsy-tangy), 1 to 4 Tbs cayenne, 3 Tbs paprika, 2 1/2 tsp cumin seed, 1 1/2 tsp caraway seed, 3 or 4 whole heads garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 4 Tbs olive oil, 2 Tbs preserved lemon

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat. Tear the chile open and remove the seeds. Open flat and toast a few seconds per side, pressing down with a metal spatula. Transfer to a bowl of hot water and soak 30 minutes, covered with a small plate to keep the chile submerged. Dry-roast the cumin and caraway 30 to 60 seconds on the hot skillet, stirring to prevent burning. Transfer to a mortar or spice grinder and grind to a powder.

Put the soaked chile, spices, peeled garlic cloves, salt, olive oil, and preserved lemon in a food processor and process to a smooth paste.

*Mellow the flavor of pilpelchuma by using toasty-sweet pan-roasted or oven-roasted garlic. For pan-roasting, set a heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat. Place the unpeeled garlic cloves on the hot surface and roast, turning occasionally until soft and slightly charred, about 15 minutes. Remove the skins before adding to the chile paste.

Sweet Potato Chutney

Here, raw sweet potato is a stand-in for firm, slightly tart green mango used in salads and chutneys in tropical countries.

Ingredients: 2 small sweet potatoes, 1 small red onion, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt2 tsp minced garlic, 1 1/2 Tbs minced ginger, 2 finely chopped jalapenos, 3 Tbs fresh lime juice, 2 Tbs fresh orange juice, 1 Tbs coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp curry powder, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or mint leaves

Peel and cut the sweet potato into thin matchsticks to make about 2 cups. Cut the onion into thin slivers and the red pepper into small dice or thin slices. Toss them together in a bowl with the salt, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, and citrus juices. Dry-roast the coriander seed 1 or 2 minutes and crush roughly in a mortar or spice grinder. Add the crushed seeds, curry powder, and fresh herbs to the chutney. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding a pinch of sugar or a dash of vinegar as needed.


Ingredients: 1 large ancho chile (or substitute 1 large roasted red pepper for more sweetness…or use them both), 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp coriander seed, 1 tsp cumin seed, 1 tsp caraway seed, 2 Tbs olive oil, 1/2 cup chopped onion or shallot, 2 Tbs chopped garlic cloves, 3 or 4 fresh red chiles (jalapeno, serrano, or other small hot chiles), 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil or water as needed

Split the ancho chile open and remove the seeds and stem. Toast both sides of the chile lightly on a hot skillet. Soak the chile in warm water to cover 30 to 40 minutes, until soft. Dry-roast the black pepper and coriander until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar or spice grinder. Dry-roast the cumin and caraway seeds 30 to 60 seconds, stirring or shaking the pan to prevent burning. Add them to the other spices and grind to a powder. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic and chiles until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a food processor or blender to process all of the ingredients to a smooth paste. Add a little chile-soaking water or more olive oil if needed.

Roasted Roots with Harissa, Toasted Pecans, and Mint

Ingredients: 2 red onions, 3 or 4 small turnips, 2 medium parsnips, 1 sweet potato, 1 small fennel bulb, 3 medium carrots, 2 Tbs harissa thinned with 1 Tbs water and 2 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces, 2 Tbs chopped fresh mint

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Peel and cut the onions into 3/4-inch wedges, cut the turnips into quarters, cut the parsnips and sweet potato into 3/4-inch cubes, cut the fennel lengthwise into 3/4-inch wedges, quarter the carrots and cut them in 2-inch long wedges. Put the onions and turnips in a bowl, drizzle with 1 Tbs olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt, and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet. Prepare the parsnips and sweet potato the same way and spread on a second baking sheet. Repeat with the fennel and carrots. Roast the vegetables 25 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans and stirring every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.

Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large platter. Drizzle with harissa and sprinkle the toasted pecans and chopped mint on top.