15 March 2017

Pi Day Cookery

Many geeky people celebrate March 14th as "Pi Day", because the number begins 3.14.  Many of my friends talked about the pies they were making for lunch or supper, ranging from simple names or descriptions to photos of pies with "π" cut into the top crust, or with the number cut or stamped around the border.

Because we were having a bit of weather here (Blizzard Stella, or whatever it was called), I continued my pantry cooking plans.  Having given up gluten for Lent meant I could not do my usual quick pie crust and bake something yummy.  I didn't think to pick up potatoes, or a Shepherd's Pie would be the easy answer.  Then I realized I've had some spaghetti squash waiting to be used, so a Spaghetti Squash Pie it would be!

First. baking the squash.  Into the oven in a baking tray with some water in it at 350°F.  Then a colleague needed help and it was almost two hours before I got back to them, which was more time than needed but luckily they didn't explode or get mushy.  This was on Monday, and I had some with a quick tomato sauce and the last couple slices of provolone from an Italian cheese tray.  Not bad.  The rest I seeded and fluffed and put into the refrigerator for Tuesday, along with a package of tomatoes from the freezer, so they would have time to thaw.  It happened to be the package from which I have taken tomatoes for other recipes, so was a bit under two cups of roasted tomatoes.

There seemed to be a pinhole in the bag, because when it thawed some of the juice ran out.  I didn't mind because this left the pulp and saved me having to simmer it to concentrate the sauce.

Before cooking, I did a quick bit of research for vegetarian spaghetti pies, to get some idea of the proportions of egg and so forth.  Most agree on two eggs although some say you can use more.  This was my starting point for the dish:
The cheese is a local product, a hard, aged cheese that I thought would sub well for Parmesan: Niantic Abbey from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm.  It has been in the 'fridge since I bought it at a farmers' market last summer, and I decided to use it so I can get some fresh this year.  I had to carve off the rind, which had gotten a bit moldy, but the cheese was fine.
I grated it on the shreds side of my new(ish) box grater.  When I was almost moving last year, I bought it (on sale for $4.99!) for my temporary apartment.  After I returned, I decided it was time to retire (recycle) my old box grater, which was not stainless steel and hard to clean.  This one is a treat!

First I shredded about a quarter cup of cheese to go into the crust, then finished the rest and set it aside for later.  I guessed at how much spaghetti squash would be equivalent to the pasta used in the recipes.  Then I mixed these with my hands, patted and spread it in the pie pan which I had oiled, and put it into the oven for about ten minutes while I made the sauce.

For the sauce, I sliced the scallions (left from St. David's Day) and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil with some minced garlic.  Then I added herbs and spices, including basil from my CSA which I had dried to keep through the winter, and some oregano, fennel seeds, hot pepper flakes, a bit of parsley.
I cooked this together for about a minute, then added the tomatoes.  I pulled out the rack with the crust on it, and spread the sauce in it.  Then I baked this for about twenty more minutes.

After that, I spread on the rest of the shredded cheese.  I thought I'd have some for later, but nope!  It's hard to see in the lefthand photo, but the crust was getting solid and crusty next to the pie pan.

After ten minutes, it was toasty, and the cheese had released oil.
I let the pie sit for a few minutes and the oil was absorbed.  Letting something like this sit for a few minutes is necessary so that it will slice neatly:
It's tasty, and the intensity of the roasted tomatoes and the intensity of the cheese play well with each other.  The other flavours are very subtle by comparison, and if I had not been hungry I would have played with the herbs a bit more.  The onion cooked down and was quite mellow.

And now I have pie to eat for lunch all week!

If you want to know how much snow we got, this picture shows the same view just after dawn, when it had been snowing for a few hours already, and just before sunset:
There had been no snow in this area the night before.  Total in my town was 14.5 inches, officially.

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