July 27, 2005
Zucchini Pie

zukepie2.jpgI've been feeling kind of uncreative lately and it made me a bit guilty because uncreative in the kitchen equals a boring blog. I guess everyone goes through stages like that from time to time. But one of the many benefits of the blog is that it sometimes spurs you to try something new solely in order to have something interesting to say. So we can add this to the list of "What has blogging done for me?"

On Monday I realized when I got home that I didn't have anything planned for dinner and the refrigerator looked ominously empty. (Well, actually, our fridge is always pretty full but it's mostly condiments and sauces and preserves and bowls of fruit or vegetable purée for the boy.) I called the Critic who, in his usual brilliant problem-solving way, suggested ordering pizzas. With some reluctance I agreed it was probably going to be that kind of night, though I was aware of the fact that it would mean another "blank" day in terms of cooking creativity.

And then I thought, Well this is silly. Surely in this kitchen full of ingredients, I can come up with something to make.

And so I did.

One of the things I usually fall back on when I want a quick way dinner is a pre-rolled puff pastry. You can throw onions and Brie or blue cheese on it, spread a variety of vegetables on it, sprinkle anchovies and top with Parmesan, or make a chicken pie. But I didn't have any puff pastry. I had some frozen pastry but it would require 2 hours to defrost according to the package and I didn't think it would respond well to the microwave defrost function.

So I thought of Barrett and his wonderful cornmeal pastry. That would go extremely well with the two zucchini in the vegetable bin. And some cheese (of course). And maybe a little tomato sauce, a little thyme. Perfect.

Actually, it worked even better than I expected. One problem I often have with my vegetable pies, especially with watery tomato sauce and zucchini, is that they release water and make the crust soggy. With the cornmeal crust, however, the excess moisture was absorbed while still leaving a crusty bottom. If anything, the crust simply became better because it was more flavourful.

And so I felt proud of having created something very tasty out of "nothing". The Critic actually asked for seconds! (Though I think I heard muttering about "would have been better with anchovies"...)

Zucchini Pie

For Barrett's Cornmeal pastry:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn meal
8 Tbs butter
1/4 cup ice water
pinch salt
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme

For the filling:

2 small zucchini
6-7 shallots, sliced in thin sticks
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
1 cup (or more) Beaufort cheese or some other sharp hard cheese
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, sliced finely

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f. Using a pastry cutter or a food processor, process the butter in the flour roughly. Lightly mix in the salt and the thyme. Add ice water until the dough forms a fairly stable ball. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

While the dough is refrigerating, slice the zucchini in thin rounds. Grate the cheese and slice the garlic.

Roll out the crust and fit it into a pizza baking sheet. (I found this had the exact height I was looking for on the sides of the pie - a little over a centimeter.) Prick the dough and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes. (Barrett calls for 15, but I got impatient. It seemed to work.)

Remove the crust from the oven and spread the tomato sauce over it. Sprinkle it with garlic and sliced shallots. Artfully arrange the zucchini rounds in a circular pattern over the sauce. Sprinkle them with thyme and top with the grated cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes in the oven (which you hopefully have not turned off, as I didn't tell you to) until the cheese is starting to brown and the crust is crispy.

Tip: Wait 10 minutes or so before slicing this pie to give the cheese time to set. It's much easier to cut, easier to eat and prettier to look at if you do.

The tomato sauce soaked into the thyme-infused crust and made a wonderfully savoury base to the pie. The zucchini and cheese and garlic topped it off perfectly in a Med vegetable feast. And the reviews were pretty good. As I mentioned tonight that I was posting the recipe for the pie, the Critic said (somewhat grudgingly), "When I saw it, I thought I wasn't going to like it. There was too much zucchini. But actually it was pretty nice." For him, this is the equivalent of four stars out of five. Success.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at July 27, 2005 5:05 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Zucchini! You've got to love the stuff, expecially if you like healthy cheap eats.

I'm afraid we're going to innundate our readers with zucchini and summer squash recipes. I have a summer squash soup to be posted soon that had a very nice bitter component.

Posted by barrett on July 28, 2005 at 8:54 AM

Meg, I made a version of this last night when I, too, thought there was nothing much to eat in the house. I was driven to some substitutions (basil for the thyme, Parmesan for the Beaufort, scallions for the shallots), but it was just as beautiful and fragrant as you promised. Wow! A new staple dish. Thank you!

Posted by Elsa on August 1, 2005 at 11:09 AM

I learned a trick this weekend from a James Beard book that makes the crust even less susceptible to sogginess.

For savory pies, brush dijon mustard on the crust after you blind bake it and put it back in for 2-3 minutes. The mustard adds a layer of protection.

Posted by barrett on August 1, 2005 at 12:00 PM

Elsa, I'm so tickled when someone tries a recipe I've created and likes it! Somewhere deep inside of me there's an adolescent self who's sure that anyone who tries to reproduce one of my dishes will think it's awful...

Barrett, I will definitely be trying the mustard trick. Adding flavour and simultaneously protecting the crust sounds like a perfect solution! Have I mentioned that my Critic is a mustard fiend??

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 2, 2005 at 3:41 PM

I've now made this three times, once for a grateful hostess and twice for my greedy self, and it has officially shot to the top of my roster of summer dishes. I will be making it again next week for my birthday dinner/ family reunion, and I will sing your praises when people tell me how delicious it is.

Posted by Elsa on August 6, 2005 at 9:58 AM

can you tell me what food store chains still sell Barrett's Corn Meal.

my mother's used this brand for years and she says she can't find it anywhere here in Charlotte, NC

thanks from mom's #1 son

lee dennis

Posted by lee dennis on October 20, 2005 at 9:56 PM

I'm looking for a tomato zucchini pie recipe that has a shredded potato crust, sliced zucchini, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and some spices. Does anyone have a recipe like this?

Posted by Peg on August 14, 2006 at 5:03 PM
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