Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Eating Fall: Spinach and Ricotta Pie


This delicious pie resulted from my over buying fresh ricotta at our farmers Market this past weekend. If you love good quality ricotta you know it doesn't hang around for long and wasting food puts me into a total tizzy!  

We had sweets in the house and a cheesecake just wasn't doing it.  I didn't have all of the ingredients for lasagna. Plus I wanted something easy for a Monday dinner.

A few minutes on the internet led me to this recipe, which is truly cobbled together from many I read. Frankly I think it's probably better than some of them! 

I had all of the ingredients already - either in the refrigerator or down in the big freezer. That's my kind of recipe.

It's easy and very good - it was great for dinner but it could definitely work for lunch with a quick warm up and I have it on good information that it's great for breakfast.  I had to be sure you know!  OK here we go.

Spinach, Ricotta, Bacon, Leek & Mushroom Pie


Three large eggs
24 ounces (or so) of fresh ricotta cheese - if it's really wet, drain it in a sieve or colander for 20 minutes or so.
10 - 12 ounces of uncooked spinach - I had a big bag (2 pounds) of fresh spinach in the freezer.  A local grower is experimenting with "flash freezing" it. Makes it easy to take some but not all out of the bag. I hope he keeps doing it.

One cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Six or seven strips of regular bacon
One large leek, cleaned, and chopped
Two garlic cloves, sliced
Approximately a quarter pound of mushrooms chopped just a bit.  I had some mixed mushrooms - use whatever you like or none at all.  They aren't critical.

One pie crust - now you have heard me say that I keep Pillsbury ready made pie crusts in the freezer for just this sort of occasion.  Or you can use your own pie crust recipe.  Homemade would make this even better and I promise that I will use a homemade crust for it, just not on a Monday night!


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees

Lightly butter a pie plate - I like a glass pie plate for these sorts of recipes, you need a little depth.

Put your crust into your pie plate.

"Dock" the crust a bit - just make a few holes in it with a fork.
Put it in the oven for about 5 minutes.  You just want to get it started a bit. Take it out when it just starts to change color.

If your spinach is frozen, let it defrost.  To quick defrost it, put it in a colander and pour a little hot water over it. If it's not frozen, just be sure it's clean of sand. 

In a sauté pan, cook the bacon to almost crispy - it will cook a bit more in the pie.  Set it aside draining on paper towels. When it's cooled, chop it.

Cook the chopped leeks in the bacon fat; as they begin to soften, add the garlic.
In about one minute, add the mushrooms if you are using them.  Let the mushrooms get a little browned.  At this point you can add a dried herb for a bit of zing.  I added some of our dried thyme because I was using mushrooms.  Mushrooms and thyme love each other. 

Add a light sprinkle of salt and a good bit of freshly ground pepper to the mixture

Take the sauté pan off the heat and when it cools a bit add the chopped bacon, stir well to incorporate.

Beat the three eggs in a large bowl.  Add the ricotta and the Parmesan and keep whisking to incorporate the eggs into the cheeses.

Swutch to a large spoon or spatula and add the spinach to the egg & cheese mixture - mix it together well.

Then add everything from the sauté pan into the spinach mixture. Again - take the time to mix it well.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 40 - 45 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, let it rest for ten minutes before slicing.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eating Fall: Eat the Real Thing!

At this time of year, among other delicious cold weather foods, we start eating oatmeal, pancakes and waffles, and soups and stews.  A few considerations are in order with some of these categories of cold weather good eats.

The first one is something that I admit does irk me a bit.  Those brown thick liquids in plastic bottles in your supermarket are not Maple Syrup! They are blends of high fructose corn syrup, food coloring and preservatives.  Please don't eat them. Find real Pure Maple Syrup at your Farmers Markets - and/or from time to time on the supermarket shelves. Only the real thing can say it's the "real thing". The other stuff is just flat out bad.  Yes, real maple syrup does cost more (it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup). But again you will use less, enjoy it more, and not be putting yet another source of high fructose corn syrup in your body.

Also be aware - and very wary - of "instant" oatmeal. There are many nasty ingredients creating that convenience.  Steel cut oatmeal is available in bulk dry goods stores.  There are a ton of recipes for making oatmeal and you can make a big pot and keep it in the 'fridge - making it easy to grab during the week.

And that brings us to Pancake "mixes".  I had spent years truly in love with Bisquick.  What didn't it do!?!?  Then I learned about it's manufacturer - Kraft - who is one of Monsanto's most faithful mega corporations and a big user of GMOs. We have attempted to avoid bringing anything from Kraft into our home.  So - no more Bisquick.  However I have found that it is pretty easy to make a pancake or waffle dry mix.  Stored in a tightly capped container and kept in a cool place it will be available and ready for the addition of some milk, buttermilk and an egg just as easily as the big yellow box. 

The same "make your own dry mix" is also true for a good hot chocolate mix that just needs hot water.  We make a couple of big batches of that over the winter.  On a really cold morning, it's as quick as putting the kettle on. 

Lastly, it is also worth considering making big batches of soups and stews this time of year.  Pack them up in lunch sized servings, label, and freeze them.  These will be so much better than anything you can buy that's been commercially produced and canned. 

In the coming weeks I will be publishing some of my favorite "make your own" dry mixes and easy to make and freeze soups & stews. In the meantime please share some of your favorites

So, do it yourself.  Make ahead.  Use local, seasonal, natural ingredients.  Make your own dry mixes. Freeze your own. Read labels. 

Come Spring you'll be happy, well fed, and healthier!