The Jury’s Out
Sometimes — well, really it’s not all that often — I make a dish that I just can’t decide if I like or not. That’s not to say that I always hit a homerun in the kitchen. Oh no, no, no. I just don’t tell you about the flops. Blogger’s privilegest and all, ya know. But in the case of this pie, I’m completely undecided on its level of success. I’m kind of hoping a couple of you will make it and form a jury to declare its status. But most likely I’m not doing a very good job selling the idea to you so perhaps I should just make it again, tweak a few things and report back? Since we’re on the brink of December, I didn’t want to wait for “take 2” for fear the urge for an autumn pie would scurry away with the last of the leaves on the trees.
Here’s the problem with this pie. My starting point was a recipe on allrecipes.com that claimed to be a quiche but was more likely to be a sweet souffle judging from the ingredient list and the reviews. I was looking for a side dish along to a small Thanksgiving gathering this past weekend so I didn’t really want something sweet. And well, if I wanted a quiche, I have a very good recipe for that already.
I did like the idea of a savory spinach squash souffle pie concoction. And since I had three of the main ingredients — carrots from the farm, and sweet potatoes and a Delicata squash from Headhouse — already on hand, this seemed like a good springboard from which to plunge into “a pinch here, a pinch there, take this away and add that in” pool. By the way, I love swimming in this pool as I usually feel my culinary creativity refreshed after a quick dip. Anyway, I dabbled a good bit with the recipe, including adding a pie crust, and took this pie along to a weekend Thanksgiving gathering.
It met with mixed reviews, including my own. The flavor was subtly spicy. But was it too subtle? The textures of the more solid spinach and the smoother squash puree contrasted. But was it a nice contrast? The crust most definitely made it a pie. But was it really meant to be a pie? (Whoa, just had a flash back to my college philosophy course!)
Oh, you were expecting answers to those questions? Hmmm…well, I do know that if I made it again I would stir the spinach and squash layers together. I’d also up the salt, pepper and cumin quantities. And I might just add another egg in there somewhere. But really I’m not sure that the recipe below isn’t fine just the way it is. The only thing I do know for sure is that this pie was much better served hot out of the oven (or reheated for 15 minutes at 250 F) than when it cooled to room temperature.
On a completely different note, I wanted to mention a great farmers market I got to visit over the weekend (shortly before eating this pie in fact) in Troy, New York. I’m constantly intrigued by how these amazing markets pop up in unexpected places. Troy, for anyone who’s not been there, is a small industrial city that, to be honest, doesn’t seem to hold much in the way of local foodie culture. And yet, plunked smack dab in the middle of it was this farmers market that rivals the Headhouse Market here in Philly. It had moved indoors for the winter so I’d suspect it might actually out stride Headhouse in the summer. Sadly, I didn’t bother to take my camera along so have nothing more to share with you than a couple links and the suggestion to seek out farmers markets during your travels. You just might be surprised where you find them.
Savory Spinach Squash Soufflé Pie
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
1 small winter squash, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 bunch of carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. butter
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. salt
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
½ t. curry powder
¼ t. cayenne pepper
½ t. ground cumin
½ t. cinnamon
1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
16 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 eggs, beaten
1 t. salt
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
½ c. sour cream
2 T. bread crumbs
2 pie shells, frozen or fresh
In a large saucepan, combine chopped squash, sweet potato, and carrots. Pour in just enough water to cover vegetables and cook over low heat until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and roughly mash with a fork. Stir in butter and oil and allow to sit for a minute to let butter melt. Using a stick blender or regular blender, process squash mixture until smooth, adding 2 eggs and spices as it blends. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F and pre-bake pie shells for 10 minutes.
Clean the blender and process spinach (be sure you squeezed out all the water), 2 eggs, sour cream and salt and pepper. Using a spatula, mix in the bread crumbs. Divide the spinach mixture between the two pie shells, flattening it with the spatula.
Gently pour squash mixture on top of spinach layer. Spread out a bit but leave an edge around the outside so the spinach can still be seen. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until squash resists a lightly pressed finger. Serve immediately or prepare ahead and warm in the oven for 15 minutes before serving.