Posts Tagged ‘savory’

Tarragon and Mustard Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping

April 20th, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping

Necessity is the mother of invention. With Chef Loryn being temporarily out of business, and not having a Griggstown pot pie (my favorite) on hand , the temperature dropping from the 70s to the 50s, and in want of some comfort food, I set out to make my own chicken pot pie. One that could be made relatively easy on a weeknight. Earlier in the day I had been leaning toward a pork chop with a mustard tarragon sauce. I couldn’t make up my mind, so why not infuse my chicken pot pie with the flavors of tarragon and mustard?

At the market on the way home from work, I expeditiously found all the ingredients for the pot, but what about the pie? Pot pie may be fully encased in pie crust, puff pastry, or topped with a biscuit topping. Puff pastry was out of the question due to the defrosting, not to mention the fat content. Pie crust can be a little tedious, and I generally find pre-made crust not savory and thick enough for a pot pie. That left me with a biscuit topping.

For some reason, the market I was in had no biscuit mix. Not even a pop-the-can biscuit was to be found. I did find some frozen biscuits, which looked absolutely luscious when I read the description, and I thought would be charming if I made the “pies” in individual ramekins, topping each one with a biscuit. Then I read the nutrition information. Weighing in at nearly 300 calories with 9 grams of saturated fat each, well, that’s not exactly the semi-healthy direction I had started out in. I wandered around the market with those biscuits in my cart for a full 10 minutes. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I? Shouldn’t I? Wait a minute. Biscuits!

Remember the Cream Biscuits from December? The ones that were so easy to make? Why not use that recipe? And so I, very reluctantly, put the luscious looking frozen biscuits back on their shelf and went home with the ingredients for my filling. I am so glad I did, because my pot pie was wonderful.

The aroma and flavor of the vegetables, chicken, herbs, and creamy sauce are pure comfort food. The bite of the vegetables, the tenderness of the chicken, the creaminess of the sauce, and the biscuit layer provide a ton of texture, and the top adds buttery-ness without making the dish overwhelmingly rich.

Tarragon Mustard Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping
Serves 6 – 8

– 2 russet potatoes
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 3 strips bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips (lardon)
– 1 cup shallot, diced
– 1 large carrot, diced
– 3 ribs celery, diced
– 2 teaspoons canola oil
– 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, cubed
– 1/2 cup dry white wine
– 2 cups chicken stock
– 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
– 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
– 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1/2 recipe Cream Biscuits (click link for recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

1. Fill a saucepan with cold water. Dice the potatoes, put them in the saucepan, and bring the pot to boil. Boil the potatoes until they are just fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, but do not rinse them. Set aside to cool.

2. While the potatoes are simmering, blend butter and flour together with your fingers to make a paste. Set aside.

3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4. Drain all but a tablespoon of the fat from the sauté pan. Add the shallot, carrot, and celery to the pan, with a large pinch of salt  and a few grinds of pepper to taste, and sauté until the shallot is translucent and the vegetables are becoming fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Pour the vegetables into a bowl and set aside.

5. Heat the canola oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and sauté until it is cooked through. Add the chicken to the bowl with the vegetables.

6. Over medium-high heat, pour the white wine into the sauté pan and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by at least half.

7. Pour in one cup of the chicken stock, and reduce the stock and wine to at least half again. Pour in the last cup of chicken stock and reduce until there’s about a cup of liquid in the pan.

8. Break off about a tablespoon of the flour/butter mixture and whisk it into the pan. Continue to whisk until all lumps are gone and the sauce is thickened, just a couple of minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, repeat with a bit of the flour/butter mixture at a time.

9. When sauce is thickened to the consistency of cream, stir in the tarragon, rosemary, and mustard. Taste, adding more herbs or mustard if you prefer. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and chicken, add the crisped bacon, and stir altogether. Place mixture into an oven-safe, deep casserole dish.

10. Prepare 1/2 recipe Cream Biscuts. Pat the dough out to fit the size of your casserole. Using a bench scraper or large, flat spatula, place the dough on top of the filling, patting the dough out to the edges of the casserole dish.

11. Brush the top of the biscuit dough with melted butter, or cream if you prefer.

12. Place pot pie in the oven and bake until top is golden and the pie is bubbling around the edges, 20-25 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, and serve hot.

Crispy Polenta Topped with Creamed Spinach and Over Easy Egg

February 23rd, 2010
Polenta, Creamed Spinach, Egg

Polenta, Creamed Spinach, Egg

It all started innocently enough with an email from a friend. Her husband asked her for creamed spinach, and, overwhelmed by the 147,000 (as Googled) creamed spinach recipes, she asked if I had a recipe. However, there was a twist, “Preferably a truffle oil and no nutmeg or no cheese variety.” It has been for-ev-er since I’ve made a basic creamed spinach. Not since I fell absolutely in love with Ina Garten’s recipe for spinach gratin, which of course has nutmeg and cheese, and which you should make immediately because it is delicious.

In any event, I set out to make creamed spinach that very evening so I could give her an actual recipe rather than instructions for winging it, or giving her something I hadn’t tried. The easiest possible recipe is to saute some spinach in butter until it is nicely wilted, and then add some warm cream, salt, and pepper. But I wanted to give her something richer, creamier, more of the steakhouse variety. I couldn’t leave out the nutmeg. I think it absolutely belongs in creamed spinach, as it brings out the flavors of the sauce, but whatever you do in your kitchen is up to you. You could also drizzle a little truffle oil over it once it’s finished as an added touch.

But then, once I had an entire pot of creamed spinach, what would I do with it? Sure, I could be a glutton and eat it out of the pot standing at the kitchen counter, but I thought there must be some dish I could make with it, rather than just having it as the side to a steak. So I went shopping in my refrigerator. Aha! some polenta I had put in a dish to set after having it soft with sausages earlier in the week, and an egg.

I made the creamed spinach and set it aside to cool. I sauteed a round of polenta until it was extra-crispy on the outside,  topped it with some creamed spinach, and finished it off with an over easy egg. It is a pretty magical, satisfying dish, appropriate for any time of the day. With the addition of truffle oil, this would make a wonderful special-occasion brunch dish.

Crispy Polenta Cake Topped with Creamed Spinach and Over Easy Egg

This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings of creamed spinach, which may be prepared and reheated up to two days ahead. Although the description here is for one serving, obviously you may use as many rounds of polenta and eggs to make however many servings you require. You will have enough creamed spinach for at least six servings of polenta with spinach and egg.

For the creamed spinach:Ingredients for Creamed Spinach
– 1.5 lbs. baby spinach
– 8 oz. whole milk
– 4 oz. heavy cream
– 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
– 1 large clove garlic, minced
– 1/4 stick (2T) butter
– 2 Tablespoons flour
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1. Bring 1.5 inches of water to boil in a very large pot. Salt the water well, add the spinach. Cover the pot for a moment to begin wilting, remove the lid, and stir the spinach gently until well wilted – approx. 1/3 to 1/4 of the volume you started with.

2. Drain the spinach in a colander, immediately running cold water over it to cool. When drained and cool enough to handle, squeeze the water out of it in handfuls, putting the squeezed spinach in a medium bowl lined with a paper towel as you go. Once thoroughly drained, chop the spinach into large pieces. Don’t worry that the spinach is stuck together, as it will come apart when added to the sauce.

3. Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat (or in the microwave – I heated it for 2.5 minutes at 3% power). Do not boil or simmer, you just want it warm.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan, and cook the onion and garlic until very soft, approximately 5 minutes.

5. Add the flour to the pot with the onions and garlic, and cook this together, stirring often, for a few minutes on low to cook the roux – you don’t want this to brown (although it will be fine if it does). It will be a pretty solid mass, break it into bits as you stir it.

6. Slowly add the heated milk/cream, whisking like a fiend to make sure there are no lumps. Cook this for 3 to 5 minutes or so. It will be relatively thick, like a thin porridge. If it is too thick, add more milk.

7. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the spinach in batches, stirring to blend well. Cook this for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until warmed throughout.

Set this aside while you prepare the rest of the dish. Alternatively, this can be cooled and refrigerated, and reheated the next day. Of course, the creamed spinach may be served as a side dish to any entree, or eaten out of the pot standing over the kitchen counter.

For the Crispy Polenta Cake, and Assembling the Dish:

If you have not made polenta, it is incredibly easy. Mark Bittman has a great video on making polenta that can be found here. Once you have cooked, soft polenta, spread it in an approximately 1 inch thick layer in a pan and place in the refrigerator to cool until set. Alternatively, use prepared polenta, which you may find sold in the supermarket, packaged in a cylindrical tube.

Use a cookie cutter or rim of a large glass to cut a 3 inch round of set polenta. Alternatively, use a knife to cut any shape you wish, or slice a 1 inch thick slice of prepared polenta. Heat approximately two teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a small, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the polenta cake and saute until golden and crispy on the outside. (If sauteing several rounds, increase the amount of olive oil, using a larger pan). Set polenta cake on a serving dish and top with creamed spinach. Rinse the saute pan so you can use it to cook your egg.

Prepare the egg(s). (If you would like instruction on preparing an over easy egg, I like this video from Top the creamed spinach and polenta cake with the egg. Season the dish with a grind or two of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Crispy Polenta Cake

Crispy Polenta Cake

Crispy Polenta Cake Topped with Creamed Spinach

Crispy Polenta Cake Topped with Creamed Spinach

The Assembled Dish


Blue Corn Muffins with Chile and Cheese

February 16th, 2010

In the first week of January, there was a tweet in my Twitter feed from Amy I., writer of the Playing House blog, that read, “Seriously you guys, run, don’t walk to make these chile cheese corn muffins from The Freckled Citizen.” OK, so I walked; but when I finally got there it was worth it.

These are savory muffins, with a crisp, sweet crust. The green chiles lend just a bit of heat and peppery flavor, while the corn kernels add an exciting texture and a cooling component to the spiciness of the chiles. Blue cornmeal has an earthy, less-sweet flavor than its yellow cousin, and gives the muffins a unique southwestern color. They are wonderful served as an accompaniment to chili con carne or black-bean soup, or simply on their own, warmed with a bit of cold butter for breakfast.

The original recipe is from the “Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook,” a book I do not own but is now high on my wish list.

Blue Corn Muffins
with Chile and Cheese

by Susan D. Curtis
From The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook, Gibbs Smith, 1998
© Gibbs Smith, 1998

Yields 6 extra-large muffins, 12 large muffins, or 18 small muffins.

– 1/2 cup softened butter
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 5 large eggs
– 1/2 cup buttermilk (milk may be substituted)
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup blue cornmeal
– 2 teaspoons baking power
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
– 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
– 3/4 cup roasted, peeled, diced green chile*

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins well or insert paper liners.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
3. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Slowly mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
5. Stir in the corn, cheese, chiles and mix well. Spoon the batter into muffin tins. Bake about 25 minutes, until just firm.

* Chiles should be prepared prior to assembling the batter. For this recipe, I used two poblano chiles. You could ramp up the heat by adding a roasted jalapeño or two. There are several ways of roasting chiles, but in this instance I pre-heated the broiler with the oven’s rack in the topmost position, then placed the peppers directly under the heating element. I turned the peppers with tongs occasionally, and carefully, until they were blistered and black on all sides, then removed them from the oven. When they were cool enough to handle, I removed the blackened skin, stem, and seeds, and diced the flesh. -taetopia

Long-Cooked Sugo and Turkey Meatballs with Porcini, Pine Nuts and Raisins

January 24th, 2010
Pasta, Sugo, and Turkey Meatballs

Pasta, Sugo, and Turkey Meatballs

“Oh, Lidia, this is never going to fit!” That’s me, brow furrowed, wooden spoon in hand, peering into my 3 qt. saute pan, talking to Lidia Bastianich as channeled through her book, Lidia’s Family Table. I believe I said that three times over the course of making this recipe. For some reason, it just doesn’t look like you can possibly fit any more ingredients in the pan, but by magic, and by the diligence of a good recipe tester, it all works out.

Chef Bastianich’s cookbook, true to its name, is full of recipes that will feed six or more. There are several recipes, such as this sugo, that describe one base recipe and then several variations or uses for it. For instance, she mentions this sugo is good “as a topping for a big bowl of dressed pasta,” “as a meat course with vegetables,” “in a risotto, using the sauce and broken-up meatballs,” etc. Among the expected recipes for pasta, polenta, and soup, there are some lovely vegetable recipes, such as roasted eggplant and tomato salad, and grilled corn and figs with balsamic reduction, and hearty dishes such as rabbit cacciatore.

With cinnamon, pine nuts, and raisins, the aroma and flavor of this sugo and meatballs are reminiscent of Middle Eastern cuisine. Although these ingredients typically fall into the sweet spectrum, their sweetness is tempered  by the vegetables of the soffrito and the acid of the tomatoes. I found the flavors of this dish refreshingly unexpected and interesting. The sauce is thick but not cloying, and coats the pasta (should you decide to serve it with pasta) beautifully. But the most incredible thing about this dish is the texture of the meatballs themselves. While sturdy and toothsome on the outside, they are incredibly soft and moist inside. Be forewarned, this is *not* your usual tomato-y sauce with beef or beef/pork/veal meatballs. If you are looking for the typical tomato-sauce and meatballs recipe, this is not it.

This recipe fit the bill as a winter-housewarming recipe (important criteria when it’s less than 40° F. outside), a meal to have together as a family, and the very important opportunity for leftovers. This makes enough for three meals for my family of three. It would have made four, except we ate a half dozen of the meatballs standing over the pot while we were tasting…for research, of course.

The recipe begins by making a soffritto. This is a vegetable base for the sauce, made by finely mincing various vegetables and softening them in the pan, before putting the tomatoes and broth in. Although the recipe says to cook the vegetables approximately four minutes, I cooked them longer. Make sure your vegetables are very soft, or else they will simply be hard pits in your sauce, rather than disintegrating into the tomatoes. In addition, when toasting the tomato paste, make sure it gets nicely browned. The whole concoction of vegetables and tomato paste when mixed together should be slightly darker orange-brown than the color of a basketball.

You’ll want very good ventilation for frying the meatballs, else your house may take on the odor of an Italian street fair for a while. However, Chef Bastianich makes note in her book that the meatballs don’t have to be fried (although I feel you will very definitely miss the texture). If you decide not to fry them, she says to increase the sauce by at least a third (or decrease the meatballs by a third) so that they have plenty of sauce to cook in.

Do not be put-off by the length of this recipe. While there are several steps and many ingredients, the directions are all relatively simple. If you love to cook, you’ll have a lot of fun making this dish. And remember, when you’re looking into the pan feeling certain that another quart of stock or three-dozen meatballs will not ever fit into your 3 qt. pot, believe me, it will.

Note: In the cookbook Lidia’s Family Table, Chef Bastianich includes a variation of this sugo with sausage meatballs. I have omitted directions for that recipe from this text.

Lidia's Family Table

Long-Cooked Sugo and Meatballs
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
from Lidia’s Family Table
© Knopf, 2004

About 2 quarts of sugo, to cook and serve with 3 dozen meatballs.

Frying the Soffritto and Starting the Sugo

For the soffritto
– 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 2 medium onions (3/4 pound), minced in a food processor
– 3 or 4 plump shallots, minced in a food processor
– 2 or 3 fat garlic cloves, minced in a food processor
– 1 large carrot, minced in a food processor
– 2 large stalks celery, minced in a food processor
– 5 or 6 fresh bay leaves
– 1/4 cup tomato paste

For the sugo
– One 35-ounce can San Marzano plum tomatoes and juices, passed through a food mill (4 cups)
– 8 to 12 cups or more hot Turkey Broth, Simple Vegetable Broth, or plain hot water (recipes for the broths are in the book, I used my own vegetable stock)
– 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
– 1 cinnamon stick

Pour the olive oil into the pan, drop in the onions and shallots, and set over medium-high heat. Stir for a minute or two, until the onions begin to sizzle.

Drop the garlic into a hot spot and spread it out to caramelize for a minute, then stir with the onions. Stir in the carrot and celery, and get them cooking; drop in the bay leaves and cook the soffritto for another 4 minutes until it is starting to dry out. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

Push the vegetables to the side and drop the tomato paste into a hot spot. Toast it for a minute or more, then blend it into the soffritto. Pour in the milled tomatoes and juices, and stir; slosh the tomato container with a cup of hot broth or water and stir that in too. Bring the sauce to a boil quickly, and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or more, stirring frequently, until it has just begun to thicken.

Pour in 4 cups of the hot broth, stir it in, and note now the level of the liquid in the pan: this is about the level that the sugo should be at the very end of cooking, after the meatballs have been removed. Stir in another quart of the broth, and bring to a lively boil.

Submerge the cinnamon stick in the sauce. Cover the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a steady but gentle bubbling all over the surface of the sugo . Let it cook for at least an hour or longer, checking the pot every 20 minutes or so. It should be redicuing steadily. If it’s barely dropping, or not at all, raise the heat and set the cover ajar ot speed its concentration. If it’s dropping extremely fast, lower the heat to slow the evaporation. Add hot broth or water if needed to keep the sauce at the level you want.

Make the turkey meatballs while the sugo cooks. Once they are finished, complete the recipe as follows:

Have the sugo at a gentle simmer over low heat when the meatballs are fried and ready to go into the saucepan. Have hot broth or water on hand if needed. Drop the meatballs in one at a time; fit as many as you can in the bottom of the pan in one layer, but leave enough space to roll them around. Drop the rest of the meatballs in to make a second layer. Add hot broth or water if necessary so the meatballs are covered with liquid. Stir gently to mix the broth with the sugo – don’t break the meatballs! Cover the pan and raise the heat slightly to bring the sugo back to a simmer. Set the cover ajar and adjust heat to maintain steady simmering (but no threat of burning the meat on the bottom), and cook the meatballs for 35 to 40 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the meatballs cool in the sugo and absorb more of its flavor (unless you need them right away). When cool, remove them to a big bowl. If the sauce is thin (probably well above the 2-quart mark), return it to a boil gradually and cook it uncovered to thicken. Stir frequently as it thickens; reduce it to the 2-quart level, or to whatever consistency you like – that’s the most important guideline. Taste the sauce during this final cooking, and add salt, if needed, or adjust the other seasonings.

Serve sauce and meatballs right away if you want. Otherwise, pack the meatballs in containers with enough sugo to cover and the rest of the sauce in separate containers. Portion them, for convenience, in the amounts you’ll use in different dishes. Store in the refrigerator for 4 days, or for several months in the freezer.

Making Turkey Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

– 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
– 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
– 4 slices dried white bread from a sandwich or big Italian loaf
– 1 to 2 cups milk
– 3 pounds ground turkey meat
– 3 large eggs, well beaten with a pinch of salt
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
– 1 1/2 tablespoons porcini powder (to make porcini powder, place dried porcini in a spice or coffee grinder, and pulverize them as fine as possible – for more notes on porcini, see Lidia’s Family Table)
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
– 3/4 cup golden raisins, plumped in warm water and drained
– 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet

Pour the olive oil into a medium skillet, drop in the minced onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and set over medium-high heat, stirring until they begin to sizzle. Lower the heat and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is wilted and slightly dry (but not colored). Scrape out of the pan and let cool.

Break up the dry bread slices into pieces roughly an inch or two across – you should have almost 4 cups – and put them in a shallow bowl or baking dish. Pour enough milk over to cover them, and soak for 4 to 5 minutes. When the pieces are completely soft, gather them in your hands and firmly squeeze out all the milk; you should have almost 1 cup of densely packed moist bread.

Loosen  up the turkey meat if it’s been compressed in packaging; spread it out in a large mixing bowl. Pour the beaten eggs on top, sprinkle on the parsley, porcini powder, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Scatter the drained raisins and pine nuts on the meat, then spread the cooled wilted onions on top. Break up the clump of wet bread, spreading little bits over the meat. Now fold, toss, and squeeze the meat and seasonings together with your hands and fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly.

Spread the flour about 1/4 inch deep in the center of a baking sheet.

Pour vegetable oil into a large, heavy skillet or saute pan – 12 inches in diameter if possible – to a depth of at least 1/3 inch.

Scoop up a portion of meat with a small ice-cream scoop, a large spoon, or your fingers. Lightly shape the meat between your palms into 2-inch balls, a bit larger than golf balls (or whatever size you like). Drop each ball onto the floured sheet, roll it around until coated, then place it on another baking sheet. Form and flour all the meat balls in this manner.

Set the skillet over heigh heat until the oil is very hot. With tongs or a spatula, carefully transfer meatballs to the pan, as many as you can, leaving at least an inch or so between them. Cook for a minute or two, until they’ve starged to brown on the bottom, then turn them continuously – watch out for oil spatters – until golden-crusted on all sides, about 6 minutes. As they are done, transfer the fried meatballs to a baking sheet (I set them on a cooking rack atop a baking sheet to keep them dry – T). When all the meatballs are on the tray, sprinkle salt lightly over them (just a couple of pinches in all).

Note: The meatballs will finish cooking in the sauce; they are fried just until a golden crust forms. So, if you intend to eat them as is instead, be sure to fry them longer, until they are cooked through.

Before frying the next batch, turn off the heat and, with a fine-meshed skimmer or strainder, remove any browned bits from the oil. Add oil if needed to restore the 1/3 inch depth and heat it up again. (I must admit, I completely skipped this step. I found there was plenty of oil to fry 3 dozen meatballs in about four or five batches)

When all the meatballs are fried, cook them with the sugo following the instructions above.

Sugo and Turkey Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Winter Squash and Leek Pie

December 18th, 2009

squash_tartOver the years I have surrounded myself with wonderful cookbooks. Cookbooks that for some reason I never cook from. I love to own them and read them, but I never seem to get around to actually using them as often as I should. I usually get an idea in my head, assemble the ingredients at the market, and throw it all together at home with, I am happy to say, better-than-passable results. I think it has something to do with my natural desire for immediate gratification, combined with my irrational fear of recipes that begin with the words “Day One.”

I now have it in my head that a great project would be to make a few recipes from the books I own each week. I’ll finally get some mileage out of my purchases, and see which books stand up to the test. Not sure how this will turn out or how long I can keep up with it, but we’ll give it the good old college try.

This week’s recipe comes from Martha Rose Shulman’s “Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes from the World’s Healthiest Cuisine.” Never was there a sorrier title for a book filled with truly luscious recipes. But trust me, you couldn’t get farther away from “100 Recipes for Steamed Broccoli with Garlic” for healthy recipes than this book. Its recipes include “Baked Semolina Gnocchi with Butter and Parmesan,” “Honey-Orange Biscotti,” and “Zucchini, Potato, and Artichoke Moussaka.” It is one one of the cookbooks I took the pleasure to read straight through, like a novel, as the recipes were so enticing.

This filling of this squash and leek pie has a very creamy texture, which contrasted quite nicely with the crispness of the phyllo. Although it is savory, a definite sweetness comes through from the squash and mint.

squash_tart_wholeA note on the recipe: The author doesn’t say exactly how you’re supposed to get the crackly phyllo dough into the edges of the tart pan. Just squish ’em in. It’ll work out just fine. Also, a spray bottle of olive oil works wonders in place of a brush. There’s much less of a chance you’ll break your dough.

While this tart makes for a great vegetarian entree, my husband mentioned to me that it might be good for breakfast. I had the leftovers for breakfast two days in a row. My husband is a very smart man.

med_harvestWinter Squash and Leek Pie
by Martha Rose Shulman
from Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes from the World’s Healthiest Cuisine
© Rodale, 2007

– 2 1/2 pounds winter squash (1 large or 2 smaller butternut squash), seeds and membranes scraped away, cut into large pieces (see Note)
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
– 4 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)
– 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing
– 3 large leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds), white and light green parts only, washed well and chopped
– 2 large garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
– 3 large eggs, beaten
– Salt and freshly ground pepper
– 12 sheets phyllo dough

Note: If using butternut, cut in half crosswise, just above the bulbous bottom part, then cut these halves into lengthwise quarters and scrape away the seeds and membranes.

1. Steam the squash over boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool in a colander for another 15 minutes (butternut squash will not be watery). Peel and place in a bowl. Mash with a fork, large wooden spoon, potato masher, or pestle. Stir in the herbs, nutmeg, and cheeses.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick frying pan over medium heat and add the leeks. Cook, stirring, until tender and just beginning to color, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add the leek mixture to the squash. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the beaten eggs for brushing the tart. Mix the remaining eggs into the squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Heat the oven to 375 F. Brush a 10- or 12-inch tart pan with olive oil and layer in 7 sheets of phyllo dough, placing them not quite evenly on top of each other so that the edges overlap the sides of the pan all the way around and brushing each sheet with olive oil before adding the next. Scrape in the filling, fold the dough edges in, and brush with olive oil. Layer 5 more sheets of dough over the top, brushing each sheet with olive oil. Stuff the edges into the side of the pan. Brush the top with reserved egg. Pierce the top of the pie in several places with a sharp knife. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Advance Preparation: The squash can be cooked and mashed 3 or 4 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator in a covered bowl. The filling will keep for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator.

Leftovers: The tart keeps for a few days, but you must keep recrisping the phyllo. This is easily done, either in a low oven (250F to 300F) for 10 to 20 minutes, or in a hot oven that has just been turned off for 5 or 10 minutes. (I used a microwave for reheating. Was it crispy? No. But it still tasted wonderful. -Taetopia)