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It's pie time: 3 savory recipes to stay warm as winter wanes

Three onion galette. (Kathy Gunst)
Three onion galette. (Kathy Gunst)

It’s that time of year when, in many parts of the country, it’s not quite deep winter anymore and still not spring. It’s a time of year when we start to think about shifting what we eat and how we eat, and yet those chilly nights still signal the need for comfort food.

In March, when spring produce has not fully appeared in many markets, I love to make savory pies. Think quiche, hand pies with savory and spicy fillings, and a vegetable-based galette.

These pies can all be made with store-bought pastry or you can make up your own following my recipe below. They can be made a day ahead of time and baked just before serving. The beauty of these main-course pies is that all you need to go alongside them is a hearty salad. Mix up a variety of chicories and spring greens with tangerine slices or early spring radishes, or combine mixed greens with roasted beets. Anything goes.

A note on adding salt and pepper: Many of my recipes call for salt and pepper to taste. The reason is simple: Your version of properly salted can differ greatly from mine. Always start with a very small amount of both salt and pepper and then add more as needed through the cooking time. That way you avoid over-seasoning and can always alter it before you are finished with the recipe.

Buttery pie dough

This is a basic, no-fail pastry dough that can be adapted to any type of savory pie. Makes one 8 to 9-inch pie crust or 1 galette or 2 hand pies.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) flour, plus flour for rolling out dough
  • Pinch of fine salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, well chilled, and cut into small cubes
  • About 1/3 cup ice-cold water


Instructions

  1. Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse about 15 times, until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add only enough water until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and almost comes together. Place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap, form into a round disc and chill for at least one hour or overnight.
  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about 10 minutes. Place a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat on a large cookie or baking sheet.
  3. Working on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to use as needed for your pie or galette.

Asparagus and bacon quiche

This simple sour cream-based quiche can be made without bacon to create a vegetarian pie. If you omit the bacon you might want to saute an onion, thinly sliced in a tablespoon of olive oil, for about 10 minutes.

This quiche works well for lunch or dinner or could be served as part of a brunch.

Serves 4 as a main course.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon, optional
  • ½ pound asparagus, preferably thin stalks with the root ends trimmed
  • One 8 or 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or recipe above)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or your favorite hard grating cheese)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled
  • 1 cup sour cream


Instructions

  1. Cook the bacon: In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Crumble 2 slices of the bacon and set aside. Cut the remaining 2 slices into ½ inch-long pieces and set aside.
  2. Cook the asparagus: Bring a large skillet of water to boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks, or until almost tender, but not fully cooked. Drain, place under cold running water, and drain again; set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  4. If using homemade pastry, roll out the dough to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges if desired. Sprinkle the bottom of the homemade or store-bought crust with ¼ cup of grated cheese and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the thyme and sour cream, the 2 crumbled pieces of bacon if using (or the sauteed onions if omitting the bacon), the remaining ½ cup of cheese, salt and pepper, and whisk until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Arrange the asparagus stalks in a single line across the top of the pie. Scatter the remaining 2 pieces of bacon (in ½-inch sized pieces) on top of the ends of the asparagus. Bake on the middle shelf for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven to 375 degrees and bake another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pie is slightly puffed up and no longer appears wet or uncooked. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Three onion galette

A galette, or crostata, is a rustic pie that is far easier to put together than a traditional pie. This rich and flavorful version is made with red onions, leeks and scallions in a herbed rosemary cream sauce. Store-bought or homemade pastry is rolled out into a circle, the filling is placed in the middle, and the sides of the pastry are folded over to enclose the filling.

Serves 4 as a main course.

Ingredients

The pastry:

  • One 8 or 9-inch pie crust or one buttery pie dough recipe, see above
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled


The onion filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, dark green section removed and discarded, and pale green and white section cut in half lengthwise, washed and thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, ends trimmed off and then white and green section cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh parsley, preferably Italian flat parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled
  • 1 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions

  1. Make the pastry or take your store-bought pastry and let it come to room temperature for about 10 minutes. Place a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat on a large cookie or baking sheet.
  2. Working on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 14-inch circle. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Sprinkle the rosemary on top and press the herb gently into the dough. Refrigerate until your filling is ready.
  3. To prepare the filling: in a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion, leeks, and scallions and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, the parsley and the rosemary and cook for another minute. Add the half and half or cream, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the cream is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
  4. When the filling has cooled to room temperature, spoon the filling into the center of the chilled pastry circle, about 3 inches from the outside edge. Fold the edges of the dough in towards the filling, leaving the center of the filling exposed, pleating the dough as you work around the crostata. For a more refined look, you can roll the edges of the dough (closest to the filling) under to create a cleaner look. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Indian-spiced cauliflower, potato and pea hand pies

The classic Indian dish, aloo gobi, which originated in the northern region of Punjab, is a favorite of mine. Chunks of cauliflower and potato are cooked with a variety of spices and generally served with basmati rice. When peas are added it’s often called aloo gobi mater — mater is the Hindi word for peas.

I had the idea to use this classic recipe as the inspiration for a filling for a hand pie, a small triangular-shaped pie that can be held in your hand. Roast small pieces of cauliflower and potato with leeks, turmeric, chili powder, cumin and coriander and then add some frozen peas and a touch of vegetable or chicken broth to moisten the mixture. The filling is spooned into store-bought or handmade pastry and baked with a turmeric-spiced egg wash.

The hand pies can be made several hours ahead of baking time and hold up well for 24 hours.

Makes 4 individual hand pies.

Ingredients

The crust:

  • 2 premade pie crusts or double portion of buttery pie crust, see above


The filling:

  • 1 cup cauliflower florets, cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium leek, dark green section removed and discarded, and pale green and white section cut in half lengthwise, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch size cubes, about 1 cup
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne or chili flakes, depending on how mild or spicy you like it
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, or vegetable oil*
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas


The turmeric egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric


*Ghee is clarified butter. Butter is simmered until the milk solids turn a golden brown and become nutty and then the milk is strained and the butterfat is removed.

Instructions

  1. Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie or baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium-large roasting pan, combine all the filling ingredients except the broth. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the vegetable or chicken broth and roast another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not falling apart. When you test a piece of potato it should feel soft but not break apart. Remove from the oven, taste for seasoning adding more salt, pepper or spice as needed. Stir in the frozen peas and cool to room temperature.
  3. Prepare the pastry: If you’re using premade pie dough, remove and mound into a ball before rolling out. You want to roll the dough out somewhat thinly but not too thin. It needs to be thick enough to hold the filling in.
  4. Divide the dough (premade or homemade) in half and roll out on a well-floured work surface so that you have two 4 ½ by 4 ½ inch squares. Repeat with the remaining dough. This will yield four 4 ½ by 4 1/2 inch squares.
  5. Working with one square at a time, place a heaping ¼ cup of the vegetable mixture into the center of the square. Lift the top left corner of the square over the filling to create a triangle. Using just a touch of water, dab the corners until just wet and pinch the dough together to fully enclose the filling. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. You may have some leftover filling; enjoy with rice or yogurt.
  6. Place the four triangles on the prepared cookie sheet.
  7. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together the egg and turmeric. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the pastry with the seasoned egg. The hand pies can be made several hours ahead of time; loosely cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.
  8. Bake on the middle shelf for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and looks cooked through. Remove and serve hot or at room temperature.

More ideas:

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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