Thursday, September 3, 2009

Veggie Pie

So I have been craving pie for a while now... okay maybe not pie per se, but pie crust more specifically. Flaky, buttery, crunchy pie crust. Done right, the crust is the very best thing about a pie. Done wrong (and it can go very, very wrong), and it will be tasteless, tough, and do nothing more than hold the pie filling on your plate for you and look embarrassed next to your scoop of vanilla ice cream. Pie crust is a relatively simple recipe: Some flour, water, shortening, a pinch of salt and sugar, and magically you have the world's greatest accompaniment to fruit filling.

The challenge I was facing in my quest to consume pie crust was to think of a excuse to make a pie, with no special occasion and for only two people. But what about veggie pie? That might almost be considered healthy. And bonus, we can eat it for dinner! So with a fridge stockpiled with squash and eggplant from our CSA box, we had our filling, and I just needed to make that golden cup of goodness to put it all in.

First, the important part. Like I said, in principal pie crust is pretty simple. But it can be infuriatingly difficult to get right. When you're working in small spaces trying to roll out an uncooperative pie crust, it can be down right maddening. A couple tips to get started: First, put all the tools you will be using to handle the dough in the freezer for maybe 1/2 hour. This means your rolling pin, silicone mat, etc. Make sure they are good and cold before they touch your dough. This will save you a lot of screaming and cursing.

Second, the dough is all about ratios. How much water to flour, flour to shortening, you get the picture. Mix things together slowly at first, testing the mixture to make sure it has the right consistency and texture before rolling it out. Too dry? Add a little water, a teaspoon at a time. Too wet? Drop a tablespoon of flour in at a time to thicken it up. The right amount of shortening can be a little difficult to gauge, but about 1/2 a cup for a single crust should do the trick. Here's a super basic recipe for the crust, and by all means change the amounts as you see fit. It's your pie:

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon of salt
2 - 3 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 cup of water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and shortening. Blend together with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until crumbly. You will see little chunks of shortening throughout the mixture. This is a good thing.

Add the water slowly, mixing with a pastry cutter until completely incorporated. Roll into a ball, and chill the dough for about 15 minutes, or until you are ready to use it. Then, on a flour covered surface with your frozen rolling pin, roll it out to fit the size of your pie plate. Roll one edge over your rolling pin so the dough will drape over it. Gently lift it and set it into your pie plate. Push the dough to the edges, cut off the excess across the top, and using a fork or a small knife, poke little holes in the bottom of the crust. Place in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

So now you have your delicious crust. Resist the urge to eat it all by its self, and lets put something in it.

For this veggie pie, we used a mandolin slicer to slice a medium eggplant and several green and yellow summer squashes. In a heated skillet, melt about 1/2 a stick of butter and begin adding the slices of eggplant. As they begin to absorb the butter and brown, pull them out onto a plate so they don't get too soggy. If they soak up all of the butter in the pan, add more.

Once you have cooked the eggplant slices, melt more butter, (or drizzle in some olive oil) in the same pan. Saute the squash, seasoning with salt, and after a minute or two add a splash of white wine. Once the wine has been cooked off / absorbed, season with dried oregano, and remove from the heat.

Line the pie crust with the slices of eggplant so they cover the bottom and go up the sides. Spoon the squash into the pie, pushing them around to make sure they are even and level with the top of the crust. For an added bit of color, cut a red bell pepper into slender slices and lay them across the top. Place your pie back into the 375 degree oven for another 2o minutes or so, or until you are just so hungry you just can't take it any longer. Top with Parmesan cheese, and then allow it to cool for a minute or two.

This pie was a nice surprise for a weekday dinner, and it made fantastic leftovers. Try it out with different vegetables if you like, or if you are feeling really frisky, maybe a crust over the top, too. Enjoy!


Teashop Girl said...

Looks really good. It has never occurred to me to make a veggie pie, but now perhaps I will!

Grandma Sandy said...

That looks very,very good. We get a weekly produce basket, and it's always a great surprise to see what's in it. Your parents' garden supplements occasionally. A great idea if I'm not quite sure what to do with some of the veggies. I'll probably go a little heavier on the olive oil and not so much butter.

Pam said...

I love veggie pies! Nice blog you have and Congrats. on the foodie blogroll!

Velva said...

The vegetables pies look great. Healthy too!
I agree with you. In pies, it is all about the crust!

Sweet and Savory said...

I admit it. I am afraid to attack a pie crust. Kudos to you.