Essia’s Spinach Pie

14 Sep

Spinach PieTomorrow, Z’s first and greatly beloved au pair, Essia is leaving to go home to Germany. Essia has become part of the family, and today was one of those days of laughter and memory, tears and bittersweet melancholy. Its a time of change, not just for Z,  but for M + B who watch their surrogate daughter leave with ache and love. I think its easier for babies … they love those who love them. Z is adjusting well to Julia, her new love… For the adults though… We have been through partings before, and we know the heart soreness that accompanies leave taking. We understand that change is a part of life, that loving and loss are intertwined. We accept it, but its difficult. It hurts.

And there is not much that makes it better. We just have to live through it, and be thankful for knowing and loving one another. Essia is a special, bright and beautiful young woman, and her departure from this home will be felt deep down in its bones. But she will always be connected to Z, to us, to this family. We know that too, and we look forward to the joy of seeing each other once again.

There isnt much that makes it better… but I can do the one thing I always do, during times of celebration and times of sorrow. I cook. So I made Essia dinner. At her request, Trader Joe’s Truffle brownies (which I jacked up a bit with a sinful amount of white and milk chocolate and some coffee from the pot). And this spinach pie. It was at once rich and comforting, and hopefully conveyed how much we love Essia and will miss her. Sometimes I am not good with words. Sometimes, when I want to offer a hug, I replace it with a pie. I did that here and I hope Essia knows how much she is beloved.

This spinach pie had a secret ingredient. Underneath the spinach layer, I added caramelised onions, simmered in olive oil and balsamic, and a touch of sugar. The onions softened the spinach and made the pie take on layers of love and missing. This pie made me happy too because it had the beautiful greens of the end of summer – when baked in the oven, the spinach goes dark emerald green. So gorgeous. With it, I served a simple salad of raw white corn, fresh and sweet, with chopped carrots and minced garlic chives and wheat grass. A simple balsamic vinaigrette just to bind the flavors. It was the perfect sunshiney juxtaposition to the pie.

As we sat around the table and remembered life together, knowing that tomorrow will bring leave-taking, we were joined by our communal meal. It was such an honour to be able to provide it, not just for Essia, but for M as well.

This pie will serve 6 – 8 people. I made it in a spring form cake pan (9 3/4″) but you can make it in a pie or tart pan if you like. I have also notated how to make this pie vegan – a few simple switches between butter and margarine for the crust, and soy creamer / coconut milk with the spinach. Enjoy with those you love.

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar or ground almonds or walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or Earth Balance margarine (or other vegetable shortening), frozen or very cold from the fridge
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp ice cold water (for vegan version, if needed for vegetarian version)

In a small bowl, toss together the flour, cheddar (or ground nuts), salt and oregano. Grate the frozen butter (or shortening) over, and toss lightly with your fingers. The mixture should resemble oatmeal.

If you are making the vegetarian version, beat the egg lightly and mix into the flour mixture until the dough comes together. If you are cooking vegan, add the ice water, and combine until the dough comes together.

Preheat your oven to 200C (400F)

Refrigerate for at least ten minutes to let the dough rest.

Once the dough has had some time relaxing in the fridge, take it out and roll out on a clean surface. Transfer to your baking tin, and make sure the edges are even. Using the tines of a fork, poke multiple holes in the dough, making sure to go up the sides!

Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the crust has browned well. Set aside to cool.

Filling – Caramelised Onions

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (plus, if you have it, some truffle oil for added richness and depth of flavour)
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, sliced into thin rings
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar (or agave syrup if you are vegan)
  • 3 – 5 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or wine if you like)
  • Water

In a large, non stick pan, over medium heat, sautee the onions in the olive oil until they begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the sugar and a few tablespoons of balsamic, and bring the heat up to high. Cover the onions completely with water, and let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and let the onions simmer until all the water has been incorporated, at least 15 minutes or so.

Taste. Sometimes, if I want a deeper darker flavour (as I did here) I will do this a second time, adding more balsamic and more water, and simmering down again. The first time you go through this process, you will have quite distinct rings of caramelised onion. If you do it a second time, you will have almost jammy caramelised onion, sweet and thick and almost like a sauce. Thats what I wanted, so thats what I did. I leave it to you to decide depending on your sense of taste, and occasion.

Once the onions are to your liking, set aside.

Filling – Spinach

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 6 cups raw spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup “cream” (and by this I mean: half and half or sour cream or ricotta or soy milk creamer or cream of coconut or almond milk or … well, you get the idea. You can mix as well – so a bit of half and half with ricotta, etc. Just decide what you like and add about half a cup)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan (optional)

In a pan or saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic until just softened, over medium high heat. Add the spinach, and stir until it wilts. You dont want to over cook it, but you do want to encourage it to let go of its liquid. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.

Set a sieve over a bowl, and transfer the spinach to the sieve. Let the water drip through for about 5 minutes or so. You can encourage it by pressing down on the spinach solids. Discard the water, and transfer the spinach to the bowl. Add the cream, and taste. Adjust seasonings.

Using an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender or food processor), cream the spinach well. You want it to emulsify, and you want the garlic and spinach to combine completely. It does not need to be totally liquidised… I quite like it a bit chunky.

Add parmesan if you are using, and taste again for seasoning. You could add some chili flakes if you like a bit of a kick. Set aside.

Assembly

  • Prebaked pie crust
  • Caramelised onions
  • 1/2 cup of grated cheddar (totally optional – if you are vegan, you could use the wonderful Daiya melting cheese)
  • Spinach

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F).

Spread the caramelised onions all over the base of the pie crust. If you are using, sprinkle about half the grated cheddar over. Pour the spinach into the pie shell, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheddar.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or longer. The pie is done when it no longer wobbles ferociously when shaken 😉 or when a knife inserted into the spinach comes out clean.

Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. I prefer this at room temperature or even cold.

Eat with love and loved ones. Enjoy the time you have together!

2 Responses to “Essia’s Spinach Pie”

  1. shanthini September 14, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    would love to receive recipes via email- thank you

    • delectableblog September 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

      Hi Shanthini … Im glad youre enjoying the blog! If you look on the right hand side of the blog, there is a place where you can input your email address to get daily blog posts via email. I have signed you up, but you need to confirm it. You should get an email in your inbox. Love, P

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