Thursday, May 21, 2015

Savory Carrot Pie

I wasn’t sure if I was going to post this recipe. My first bite was mediocre, or so I thought, but more bites led to more appreciation and more pleasure, and I even found the leftovers to be better still. This is another version of the seasonal vegetable quiche-like pies I bake for supper when I feel like I have a little extra ambition.

The new, super-sweet carrots showing up in farmer’s markets just about now are perfect for this pie, which is savory, though based on that sweeter combination of ricotta cheese and sautéed onions along with those carrots. The savory-ness is punched up by Dijon mustard and cheddar cheese, which complements the carrots and ricotta very well. I flavored this dish mildly with a bit of parsley (because that’s what I had on hand), but I think other herbs, such as tarragon or dill, would be even better.

The crust for this pie needs to be partially baked before the filling is added. I used this method to blind bake it and I used half of the dough recipe in this post. You could use your favorite recipe for the pastry and your favorite method of blind-baking the crust.

While the flavor of this pie is like a slightly sweet, vegetable-filled omelet, the texture is that of a dense quiche. The extra density is from that hefty dose of ricotta. I used a part-skim ricotta in my pie, which I thought made the texture a bit gritty. As the pie stood longer, however, I found it to feel a bit smoother, which the reheated leftovers being even better. This makes me a firm believer in the instruction to allow the pie to stand a good 15 minutes before being cut into and enjoyed. It will still be plenty hot, and the settled, improved creaminess of the rested pie will be worth the wait.

Savory Carrot and Ricotta Pie

The blind baking method I used for the crust of this pie is outlined in detail in this post.

Crust for a single crust pie (I used this one), rolled out
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 ½ cups shredded carrot
1 tablespoon dry sherry
¼ cup chopped parsley
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle and place it in a 9-inch pie pan, being careful not to stretch it. Gently prick the crust all over with a fork. Line the crust with foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Place pie weights on top of the foil. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the foil and weights. Bake 5-8 minutes more or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven. (The filling can be prepared while the crust is baking.) Reduce oven heat to 350 F.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until the onion is beginning to brown. Stir in the carrot and sherry. Cook and stir about 2 minutes more. Stir in the parsley and black pepper. Remove from the heat.

3. In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the ricotta cheese and milk. Stir in the carrot and onion mixture.

4. Brush or spread the Dijon mustard over the baked pie crust. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the mustard. Pour the egg mixture over the crust.

5. Place the filled pie plate on a large baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes before slicing to serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Layered Turkey and Bean Casserole

Well, it looks like I’ve been away from the computer again. It’s that darn day job thing that’s killing my creative performance. I recently changed positions at work (technically, it was a promotion – hooray!), so my schedule also changed. I used to work ridiculously early (5:45 am – 2:15 pm) but now…let’s just say coming home at 6:30 pm requires some adjustment in the dinner department.

And so I’m now trying to work out how to make ahead as much as I can, without having to dedicate weekends (and I have to work every other weekend) to stocking the freezer with nourishing but mediocre casseroles. Instead, I’m trying to see what sauces or mise en place or other things I can prepare in the morning or the night before that can be tossed with their accompanying pastas or other ingredients or side dishes, hopefully getting things down to a 45-minutes-or-less supper.

I’m also playing around with the timed baked functions of my oven. That’s what I used to bake this Southwestern-themed layered casserole. There’s a layer of browned and seasoned ground turkey with tomatoes and green chiles, plus layers corn, refried beans (I used homemade re-cooked beans), and, of course, cheese. It’s easy to put together and can be made a day or two ahead and heated up on the day you need it.

This casserole is deliciously savory with really complex flavors for its relative logistical simplicity. Even though the weather is getting warmer, I might keep this hot dish on the menu. The leftovers reheat nicely so I can get a couple meals out of it. It might just save me from eating way too many frozen pizzas in the coming months while I figure out just how late I’m willing to have my suppertime be.

Layered Turkey and Refried Bean Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2002

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups frozen (or fresh) corn, thawed
16 ounces refried beans
1 ½ cups Colby-Jack cheese

Taco-style toppings, such as salsa, chopped tomatoes, black olives, green onions, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large skillet, combine the ground turkey and onion. Cook, stirring often to crumble the turkey until the turkey is fully browned. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt and garlic. Cook about 1 minute more, stirring often.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and green chiles. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.

3. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray, or grease it with oil. Spread the turkey mixture evenly into the bottom of the dish. Top the turkey mixture with the corn in an even layer. Carefully spread the refried beans over the corn. Top the beans with the cheese.

4. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the casserole is heated through. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving. Garnish each serving with your choice of toppings.

Makes about 6 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Corn and Bean Skillet Pasta

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Oatmeal Cherry Bars

Oooh, these bars! I’m a sucker for bar cookies anyway, but these! They’re just simple oatmeal crumble bars with dried fruit, but somehow they are surprisingly delicious. I think it’s the filling.

I can’t remember why this particular recipe clipping was in among my “try it now” recipes. It did offer variations in which different dried fruits could be used (it was originally written for dried cranberries), which is my kind of recipe. I had some really good dried cherries I wanted to use as part of a pathetic attempt to clear out the pantry, and this seemed like a great place to use them. I didn’t use the citrus juice and zest in the original recipe, instead adding some extra butter to replace the juice (Shame on me!) and living without the zest.

It’s nothing particularly new to have an oatmeal-based crust on the bottom of a pan of bars, some of which is set aside to make a crumble topping. What seemed unique to me, however, was the makeup of the filling. Maybe I’m out of touch, but I couldn’t remember seeing a filling for bars with a sweetened sour cream base. And it’s really, really good!

The crust and topping get firm upon baking, but not overly crunchy. They stay fairly soft and not too crumbly. The filling is moist and fruity just the right complement to the oat-y base. These bars are not too sweet, and I might even eat them for breakfast. After all, they’re loaded with oats and fruit. That sounds like breakfast to me!

Seriously, though: if I’m the only one in the world who hadn’t heard of this kind of bar cookie before, I stand humbled. And relieved that I don’t have to live without them anymore. They could be endlessly varied with all kinds of dried fruit, other flavor additions, and, perhaps, even chocolate. My kind of recipe, indeed!

Oatmeal and Dried Cherry Bars
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

For the crust and crumble topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup quick-cooking oats
8 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon almond extract

For the filling:
1 large egg white
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 1/3 cup dried cherries

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray or grease it with butter. Set aside.

2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the 1 cup flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk together. Whisk in the brown sugar. Add the oats and stir to combine well.

3. Pour in the melted butter and ¼ teaspoon almond extract. Stir together until the dry ingredients are completely moistened. The mixture will be crumbly.

4. Reserve ½ cup of the oat mixture and set aside. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Set aside.

5. In another medium-size bowl, lightly beat the egg white. Whisk in the sugar and sour cream until smooth. Whisk in the flour. Whisk in the vanilla and ½ teaspoon almond extract. Stir in the dried cherries.

6. Pour the filling mixture over the crust in the baking pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly over the filling, squeezing together to from clumps.

7. Bake at 325 F for 40 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes about 16 bars.