Spinach Pie, Take 3
I'm a sucker for spinach pie. I like it as a hand-held snack or portable lunch, along the lines of a Middle East fetayer and I like it as a larger entity, baked in a pie plate, kinda Greek-style with greens, onions and feta cheese, but without the greasy phyllo.
While working on an Easter Sunday brunch menu last week, I dreamed about spinach pie, but also wanted to try something a tad bit different, a little tweak to the routine, if you will. An intriguing variation on the theme emerged as I thumbed through Molly O'Neill's "A Well-Seasoned Appetite." In her version, the dough is made primarily from chickpea flour, which got me thinking about socca, a popular chickpea crepe sold on the street in the south of France (In Italy, it's called farinata.) This I gotta see, I decided.
In addition to the chickpea flour, O'Neill's recipe calls for the addition of chickpeas, which are seasoned with onions and balsamic vinegar. The end result was a sweet and sour effect, which Mister MA loved but I could have done without. As much as I love chickpeas with spinach, I found them a bit distracting here.
Below, the recipe details, for which I've added my own notes and thoughts on omitting the chickpeas. The best part of all is the chickpea crust -- this is my new favorite thing for savory pies. When summer comes, I'd like to try one with zucchini, tomatoes and peppers. Doesn't that sound good? Mushrooms would be nice in this as well.
In the original recipe, O'Neill suggests three layers of dough which I think is an extra step not worth doing; besides, the dough yield doesn't completely cover three layers, as I learned yesterday.
If you're a spinach pie hound like me, share your favorite variations in the comments area below. There is no such thing as too much food for thought.
Spinach and Chickpea Pie
Adapted from "A Well-Seasoned Appetite" by Molly O'Neill
2 cups chickpea flour (also sold as gram or besan flour in Indian groceries)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into dice (Earth Balance spread would work equally well here)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 teaspoons salt
black pepper to taste
3 bunches spinach, thoroughly washed and stemmed
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
Make dough: Combine flours, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Rub in butter until flour mixture looks like peas. Add yogurt and milk and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Flour your hands and gather dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about one hour.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soften and slightly golden but not burned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir to combine.
Add chickpeas, vinegar and pomegranate molasses, turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus pepper to taste. Set aside. (KOD note: The chickpea-vin-molasses step can be omitted, along with the salt, and you can proceed directly to spinach prep.)
Steam spinach until just wilted and drain in a colander, pressing out as much water as possible. Coarsely chop spinach, place in a bowl, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Add feta, half of beaten egg and toss.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a nine-inch pie plate or spring form pan with oil spray.
Remove dough from refrigerator and dust work surface with flour. NOTE: Dough is really sticky. Keep hands floured, too. Cut dough into half and work with each half one at a time. With your hands, press dough into a 10-inch circle, then fold in half and lift into prepared pan. Press dough into bottom and trim off excess if necessary.
Spread spinach mixture over dough. Top with chickpea-onion (or just onion) mixture. Roll out remaining dough and lift onto top and pinch crusts together to make a seal. Brush top of pie with remaining egg. Make small steam vents on top crust with the tip of a sharp knife.
Bake until crust is brown, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake, as results will be dry. Cut into wedges and serve.
Serves six as a main course.
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