Winter Squash and Leek Pie

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)

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