Well, hello! And sorry for the gap. I don't even have a good excuse. I was snowed in for 24 hours and still didn't manage to share any of my recent foodie updates with you. I have a kind of lame excuse though, in lieu of a good one: I was waiting to make and document something sweet to be the topic of this post, as I thought we were due for a treat after two savories, a breakfast item, and a recycled post. (I am methodical, you see. I have a vision. I am quite inclined to be organized when there's an occasion for it.) To that end, I actually did make two sweet things. But here's the deal: the first one was a pineapple upside-down cake for a bridal shower that I had to leave early, so I never got to try it and felt accordingly ill-equipped to write about how awesome it was (even though it did look and smell quite nice). The second one was absolutely, indescribably, addictively wonderful, but it's already appeared several places on the internet - here and here, for instance - and I didn't feel I had anything to add to the movement, though joining was extremely edifying. (I encourage you all to make it. But heed what was said at the Smitten Kitchen site: it is like crack. Knowing my own weakness for a well-done sweet + salty treat, I made a quarter batch and am so glad I had such foresight. It came in handy where self-restraint eluded me.)
So here we are. I'm the one talking about savory carrot pie and you're the one wishing I'd had a slice of the pineapple upside-down cake.
The good news is this: this dish is so great! It's really quite hearty, definitely suitable for a dinner main, probably with a side salad or cup of soup, like you'd get with quiche at a restaurant. It's fairly easy to make, particularly if you have a food processor. (I love my food processors. And yes, I mean "processors", plural, because I have two: a small and a huge one. The small one was used here.) The pie crust involved my first foray into the world of yeast (I had to start easy because I have a phobia) and it went v. well! In fact, I made pizza last night with a different crust recipe (a comparably easy one) and, while that one will do for thin-crust pizzas in the future, the one described herein is much fluffier, and I am going to use it for pizza crust the next time I make pizza, because I sometimes really like a thicker crust and because it was really great in the carrot pie and I'm eager to see how it would hold up elsewhere. Other positives: it's healthy (lots of nutrients, a decent amount of protein for a vegetarian meal, and less than 600 calories in a serving equivalent to a quarter of the pie - which would be a big slice; we ate sixths); it's unique (kind of sweet, yet just savory enough to be aforementioned "dinner main"); it's seemingly adaptable (I suspect broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, or winter squash could easily replace the carrots); it's attractive (in a rustic kind of way); and babies like it (at least mine did).
One quick tip before I get to the recipe, for those of you with a food processor: grate your parmesan in the food processor!
I shred vegetables and potatoes and fruit all the time using the grater blade, but was always afraid of trying cheese... until recently I was complaining about the length of time it took me to shred mozzarella for FOUR lasagnas I was making for a bridal shower (I know a lot of brides) and the victim of my rant, after listening patiently and nodding in empathy, suggested that I use a food processor. I took her advice and IT TOOK FIVE SECONDS. Literally. And then I just put the bowl and blade on the top rack of the dishwasher, so I can't even argue that the cleaning time cut against any saved grating time. (Go ahead and judge me. The blade hasn't dulled noticeably in 6.5 years.) I would suggest, however, if grating a softer cheese (like, say, mozzarella), placing it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before putting it in the food processor.
And now to the recipe!
Savory Carrot Pie
Adapted from Almost Vegetarian, an odd little cookbook gifted to me by my mother when I left for college, at which time I was, fittingly, almost vegetarian
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons buttermilk (or sour cream or plain yogurt)
3/4 pound carrots, scrubbed clean and sliced into 1/2" chunks
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or jarred)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I used this dried kind) (optional)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 oranges for me)
2 cups water (approximately)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup grated Parmesan (about 2.5 ounces)
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the yeast and water. In a larger bowl, combine the sugar, flours, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg, buttermilk, and yeast-water mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (just about a minute or two). Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with a light towel, and place in the warmest spot in your kitchen until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes.
While the dough is rising, start making the filling. First, juice your oranges. In a large saucepan, combine the carrots, bay leaves, ginger, lemon zest, orange juice, and salt. Add enough water so that the carrots are fully submerged. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, turn the heat down and simmer until the carrots are almost mushy, but not quite, about 20 minutes.
Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Pick out the bay leaves, strain the carrots, and place them in the work bowl of your food processor. Puree in pulses so it doesn't become watery (you don't want the consistency of baby food, you want some chunks). Transfer carrots to a large mixing bowl and stir in the cinnamon, marjoram, nutmeg, egg, ricotta, and Parmesan. Stir until thoroughly combined. Set mixture aside, covered if the dough or your oven needs some time.
Once the pie dough has risen, roll out the dough until it is about 11-12" in diameter. It will be quite thin. Gently center the dough over a lightly greased pie dish (mine is 9" in diameter) and pile the filling inside. Fold the edges of the crust over and crimp them with your fingers (like in the above pictures). Place the pie in the oven and bake until the crust is deep golden and the filling is set, about 40 minutes. If the crust browns before the filling has set (as mine did), cover loosely with foil, lower the heat to 300 degrees, and continue to bake, checking on it every 5-10 minutes or so.
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with parsley or a little more freshly grated nutmeg.