12.20.2014

Greens With Envy

Recently, I told my friend Kate that I was headed to the store, and she asked me to get her some escarole for a dinner party we were having together the next day. I happily agreed, got several heads, and put them in the fridge for safe keeping.

Well, they were safe all right! So safe that they never made it to Kate's table.

She was incredibly gracious about my forgetfulness, and made her salad with arugula and mixed greens. (She makes a wonderful salad!)

Not only was I embarrassed that I forgot it, but I was also left with two large heads of escarole. Having never used it, I did some quick research and found a variety of recipes: Soup, salad, sautéed with beans, stuffed (like cabbage), and even on pizza.

Our homegrown chiltepins with the special grinder made by the Seri Indians.
But the one recipe that caught my eye was one by Giada de Laurentis. While not exactly our beloved Luccan Torta di Erbe (which can be as much a dessert as a light meal), it has a lot of the same qualities, and both Mark and thought I should give it a try.

I made a few changes based on what I had in the house. Surprisingly, two large heads of escarole weren't enough, so I augmented with spinach and kale.

I didn't have any kalamata olives on hand, so I substituted oil-cured Moroccan olives and those led me to add some preserved lemons.

Not the preserved lemon - they didn't photograph well. (Their eyes were closed.)
With the addition of some cinnamon, my pie shifted suddenly from Italian to North African-inflected.

The pie turned out beautifully. As I made it just for the two of us, it sustained us for several days of lunches and light suppers.

After all those greens, it seemed silly to serve it with a salad, but we did anyway: a tomato salad, which added beautiful colors to the plate.

This can be made of any combination of bitter and slightly tough greens - beet greens, kale, and so on. Try adding some nuts for texture or hard-cooked eggs for a little visual surprise. And, as many of my colleagues would say, "What isn't made better by bacon?"

Have fun with this pie!

~ David

Bitter Greens Pie

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 2-ounce tin anchovies, drained and minced
2 larges shallots, minced
3 crushed chiletpin peppers, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 pounds mixed escarole, kale, and spinach, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup pitted Moroccan oil-cured olives, chopped
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons diced preserved Moroccan lemon
double pie crust (make two of the recipe found here.)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add the anchovies, shallots and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the escarole, spinach, kale, and salt to the pan, cover and cook until wilted about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Drain the greens in a colander until cool enough to handle, then place it in a large kitchen towel and ring out excess moisture. Transfer the greens to the bowl of a food processor. Add the olives, the lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, and the feta and process until finely chopped, about 30 seconds. Add the currants and preserved lemons; pulse to combine.

Roll out the bottom crust. Line a 10-inch pie plate, leaving some overhang around the edges. Brush the crust with the beaten egg, then spoon in the filling and distribute evenly. Roll out the second pie crust, top the pie, and tuck and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush the pie with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, then cut three decorative leaves in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Allow the pie to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.


Serves 8.

28 comments:

  1. Hi David, this would be part of my last meal, I love everything about it and the leaf shape in your crust makes this even more special. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Thanks, Cheri! That is quite the compliment!

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  2. A versatile pie, indeed! And I love where things turned a little North African.

    This is the first that I've heard of chiltepin peppers. I think I need to source some seeds so I can try growing them!

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    1. John - the chiltepin is said to be the mother of all chile peppers - that every pepper we know and eat is descended from this tiny, hot little orb. I will see if I can find some seeds...

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  3. You make a good pie. I think I've said that before, but you've proven it true again. So I guess I better say it again. You make a good pie. Even if you used Kate's salad to get the job done. GREG

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    1. That is because I love pie, Greg. And I don't use the L word lightly.

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  4. This looks amazing! I am always down for a savory pie. Yum!

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    1. Cathleen - it does make me wonder why I don't make more savory pies! Imagine the possibilities!

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  5. This looks fabulous! Love the little grinder, too!

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    1. I have started a collection of chiltepin grinders. There are so man fun designs. My latest was carved by a man in prison in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

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  6. Wow, what an interesting pie, David! I've never heard of escarole nor chilitpin peppers. Seasons eatings to you both xo

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    1. Liz - you should check out chiltepins - they are an amazing little pepper. One or two will add a wonderful amount of heat to any dish. I am constantly amazed by the availability of foods that differ between countries, continents, and hemispheres... I thought escarole was as common as pigs' tracks.

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  7. Only yesterday I had "scarola soffocata" (simply cooked with a little water, garlic and herbs in a covered pot) and it was a discovery for me. Your version of the pie looks absolutely delicious, normally I make something like that with spinach. Will certainly try it. Thank you!

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    1. Anna - I love the name "scarola soffocata!" I hope yo get to try the pie - it is pretty tasty!

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  8. Looking forward to trying this after the traditional holiday fare.

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    1. Well, the butter crust doesn't exactly put it in the remorseful diet category... but it isn't UNhealthy!

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  9. Glad you forgot to bring me the escarole -- now I have another way to use it! Kate

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    1. And I still need to try it in your salad sometime... xo

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  10. I know I would love your greens pie. I make something similar with just spinach. I'll mix the greens next time. I was surprised to learn that you have never used escarole in all your cooking adventures.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Yes, my not knowing escarole was even a surprise for me. I have to wonder what else is out there to be discovered! Merry Christmas and I wish you a wonderful year of exciting adventures!

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  11. Your pie looks wonderful David. It reminds me of Greek pies with all the greens.
    Merry Christmas and all the best to you and Mark!

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    1. It did seem quite similar to some Greek dishes I know - very omni-Mediterranean! Merry Christmas to you and S.!

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  12. You know I'm a sucker for all kinds of pies and tarts, savoury or sweet. This looks great and the mixed greens definitely boost the flavour here too. I love the touch of preserved lemon! I'm going to add some next time to my feta spinach phyllo pie. Hope you had a lovely Christmas! Wishing you and Mark a fab 2015!

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    1. And to you, Trace, and the kids, too. Hope you are having a great holiday!

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  13. Looks like something I'd love, David! My Italian family makes something a bit similar at Easter time. Americans simply need to get more recipes like this into their diet, on restaurant menus and in school cafeterias!! Don't you agree?

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    1. This is pretty much an Easter dish, but why not at the Christmas holidays, too? I do agree - recipes like this do point out the lack of healthy options that are flavorful. I would have loved this if my school cafeteria had it!

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  14. I love the Maroccan influence and am still laughing about the lemons closing their eyes! ;o)
    I had never cooked with escarole untile recently and am quite a fan now.

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    1. Fiona - I think you may be the only person who noticed the lemon comment! :) Me, too, on the escarole front!

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