Friday, May 20, 2011

Greek Picnic Pie

Quiche meets spanakopita, but with beautiful layers.

serves 6

adapted from Main Courses 365 edited by Jenni Fleetwoowd

The Ingredients:
1 pie crust, thawed if frozen
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large eggplant, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
6 oz spinach, washed
4 eggs
3/4 c crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp plain yogurt
6 Tbsp heavy cream
2 c cooked white or brown rice
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Roll out the pie crust thinly and line a 10 in quiche pan (my pryex pie plate fit the bill just fine). Prick the base all over and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is pale golden. Alternately bake blind, having lined the pastry with baking parchment and weighted it with a handful of baking beans.

Heat 2-3 Tbsp of the oil in frying pan and cook the eggplant slice for 6-8 on each side until golden. You may need to add a little more oil at first, but this will be released as the flesh softens. Lift out and drain on paper towel.

Add the onion and garlic to the oil remaining in the pan and cook over a gentle heat for 4-5 mintues, until soft, adding a little extra oil if necessary.

Chop the spinach finely, by hand or in a food processor. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the spinach, crumbled feta, Parmesan, yogurt, milk and the onion mixture. Season to taste with salt an pepper and stir to thoroughly mix.

Spread the rice in an even layer over the base of the part-baked pie. Reserve a few eggplant slices for the top, and arrange the reminder in an even layer over the rice.

Spoon the spinach and feta mixture over the eggplant and place the remaining eggplant slices on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve the pie warm, or cool completely before transferring to a serving plate or wrapping and packing for a picnic.

My Modifications:
I used a little more feta, and little less Parmesan than recommended. I did not have fresh Parmesan on hand; instead I relied on the grated shaker variety sadly seen at every pizza place and lower quality Italian bistro...

I also upped the garlic to 3 cloves. Seriously, who doesn't love garlic?

The rice of choice was brown, and the pie crust was from scratch...recipe courtesy Better Homes and Gardens.

We also did not eat this right away...having miscalculated the amount of time it would take to make (if your starting from the beginning, you have to remember to figure in time to cook the rice and let if cool slightly...unless you're using minute rice, that could be almost an hour). The pie finished baking right about the time we had to run for a meeting. We left the dish to cool while we were gone, and upon our return were greeted with dinner just a hair above room temperature. Having set a while made it a breeze to cut, allowing all the layers to shine through.

The Review:
Even those who dislike eggplant will likely enjoy a piece of this pie! The layer of the veggie between the spinach/feta mixture the rice really acted a a barrier between the to, without imparting the bitterness or sogginess some occasionally associate with eggplant. Instead we were treated to a rich oven roasted veggie flavor. As a foot note, the recipe does suggest zucchini as a substitute for the eggplant if that aubergine colored veggie still turns you off...

The dish truly was a marriage of quiche and spanakopita...all the flavors of the later in the presentation of the former. And the layers were fun to see when I cut into the pie. I had first expected the egg mixture to seep into the rice, but was pleasantly surprised to see how well the eggplant acted as a barricade between the two.

I would have liked a little more of the egg/spinach filling and a little less rice though. Overall it was incredibly filling...more so than many quiches I've had in the past. In a way, perhaps that's where the rice comes into play. Not only is it a's also very filling. And by using brown rice, the pie had a nice nutty quality.

One thing I wish I had done (and hadn't noticed suggested as a footnote until after the fact) is to add a bit of oregano to the pie crust before blind baking. Really, when making a crust from scratch the add in options are limitless. I was a bit surprise to see a Greek dish without this herb added, but in the end the pie was incredibly flavorful without it.

This Greek treat was a bit time consuming to prepare...start to finish (including making the crust, cooking the rice, mixing up everything and baking) took about an hour and a half...closer to 2 hours if I hadn't been able to multitask while other parts cook or cooled. So you really do need to plan a bit ahead...

But really there are few complaints . It tasted wonderful fresh while at room temperature. It reheated very well the next day. And even served well as a cold lunch. A true find all around...

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