Spinach Pie, An Old Favourite Revised
About ten years ago, I wrote my first column for The Goshen News. While on a camping vacation to the Canadian side of Lake Superior, I had the bright idea to write and submit several columns to the paper and see if they and their audience might have interest in my stories. Here I am ten years later, still writing. The recipe for Spinach Pie, one of our family favourites, was among the first ones that I shared back in September of 2006! But, recently, I made a new version that I like even better. Here is the story.
Every year for the past fifteen years, we travel to southern France for a time of renewal and rest. We stay in the same cottage set in a small port village along the Mediterranean Sea. We chose the cottage format because it provides all the necessities for living, including a well-equipped kitchen. It is also on the edge of the village and sits back a little from the small road that goes by. So, often, in the morning we can sit outside for breakfasts and read with the sound of cooing doves and the rustling of olive leaves. We love having a place to cook. It’s cheaper than going out and the local markets provide enough variety to allow for some really mouthwatering homemade feasts. Whether we want fish or grains or greens or cheese, we can usually find what we want by strolling along the lined up vendor stands.
On my menu list this time, I put spinach pie. Our daughter and her husband were along for the trip, and she often requested the recipe for her special birthday meal when she was young. I knew it would be a popular choice. So I went to the market, looking for the items I needed. Spinach headed the top of the list. At this time of year, I couldn’t find spinach, only corn salad. And so began the new version. Leeks are always available and I thought they would add a nice flavor, and they look so springy poking out of a market basket. Then I saw the small artichokes. With their olive green and purple streaks, I couldn't resist. I grabbed four and figured their hearts would add an extra depth of flavor. The cheesemonger had a big wheel of Abondance, a more tangy version of a Swiss, so I bought a nice wedge cut fresh from the wheel. My spinach pie was starting to look better than ever.
Back at the cottage, I made the pie crust from memory and used the larger ceramic tart mold that is common in French kitchens. For the filling, I made do with what I had, adding garlic to the original and of course, the leeks. The corn salad cooked just like the spinach. The artichoke hearts were tender. The large fresh farm eggs showed a lovely yellow yolk and the cheese, ah, the cheese. Once all the ingredients together, it was just a matter of time. As it baked, we were pretty sure of the final prognosis.
In that small cottage in Le Brusc, France, around the small circular table, we repeated our mealtime ritual that happens no matter where we are. We took our time and looked and smelled and cut into and, finally, ate. And every bite was a pleasure.
Here is the revised version for those of you who want it.
2 c. flour
1 ½ t. sugar
1 t. salt
¾ c. plus 2 T. cold butter
1 ½ t. cider vinegar
1 egg yolk
¼ c. cold water
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter, chopped into small pieces. Cut it into the flour until mixture is crumbly (or you can use a food processor). Add vinegar and egg yolk, then water 1 T. at a time just until the ingredients are moistened and form a ball that holds together. Makes two pie crusts so roll out half for the spinach pie into a larger pie pan. Freeze the other for later.
1 10 ounce package of fresh spinach
1 10 ounce package mix (arugula, and other non lettuce greens)
½ small onion, diced
1 leek, sliced fine
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 small can artichoke hearts, chopped (make sure you don’t get marinated!)
1 t. oregano, dried
¼ t. nutmeg, ground
Dash of salt and pepper
1 ¾ c. Gruyère cheese, grated
Cook the greens in boiling water for a minute or two. Drain well. (You might even have to squeeze the water out). Fry the onions and the leeks for ten minutes over a medium flame, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue frying for another minute.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, crack the eggs and beat well. Add the onion mixture, the greens, and all the other ingredients. Mix well. Empty the filling into the pie crust. Smooth the filling. Bake for 40 minutes or so, turning halfway through the baking. It is finished when you poke it with a knife and it comes out clean. I like to eat this with cooked or roasted carrots.