We expected to be on the road (and the soccer pitch) a good chunk of the weekend but when a change in circumstance gave rise to a free Saturday at home, my husband hit the yard and I started putzing in the kitchen. A nest-worthy day if ever there was, the cool drizzly weather helped seed my meanderings into an eight hour session of baking and cooking.
I started with two different batches of flourless peanut butter cookies (yes, I’m on a bit of a quest), made and photographed this savory quinoa pie and then moved on to play with a grain-free version of chicken piccata (so good!).
In the end, we gravitate towards the things we love.
By the time all was said and done, I had used up every pot, pan and mixing bowl in the house, the walls were spattered and not an inch of counter space was left ungummed (that’s actually a word). In the midst of it all, I started looking to the floor for real estate expansion but our eagerly promenading four-legged friends put an end to that option.
Can I tell you the best thing that happened though? (other than the eating part I mean)… following a day of digging trenches and moving rocks, my man offered to clean my mess from head to toe while I sat on my very contented behind with feet up sipping a glass of wine (that he poured for me!)… now that’s love in my books folks. But truly, one of the kindest gestures you could ever offer someone (and a perfect mother’s day gift).
Now this savory pie… I came across it in one of my homie magazines and was immediately intrigued. But I did have doubts about whether it would hold together. Maybe because it was billed as a riff on risotto, I had a sinking feeling that the interior wouldn’t gel; that it would remain soft and ooze out as soon as I cut into the tart — good tasting maybe but not intact or servable as a pie slice.
Happily, the experiment worked out much better than anticipated. So much so that it invigorated me to share it with you.
First off, I love the presentation – although my pies will never be Martha-esque in appearance and I’m always tempted to add the word “rustic” to the title as a caveat, I’m still taken by its visual beauty and have arrived at a point in my progressive term on earth where I view oddities and imperfection as a lot more interesting. This pie format is a fresh way to enjoy a favorite side (or light meal) that also allows you to work in some veggies and benefit from the additional protein from the cheese and eggs. The interior remains moist but has good structural integrity so that the overall texture remains intact. The sweet potato is sliced thin enough to cook to softness (and also makes slicing a snap) and the variety of seasonings (including the broth in which the quinoa is cooked) delivers the flavor.
I view this recipe as having huge experimental potential ~ I made another batch last night with thin sliced purple potato, rosemary and olives that was delish.
The next time I make it I will incorporate some beans or lentils and maybe swap out the cheese for some salsa. The overall density and wet/dry ratio is always something to be aware of with these sorts of recipes but that’s what experiments are all about. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but I like to keep playing and not worry so much if it ain’t perfect.
- 2 cups vegetable broth or broth of choice (I used chicken)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa (renders approximately 3 cups cooked)
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 (or more) garlic cloves, minced
- 2 large eggs
- ⅓ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp ground thyme
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- ½ tsp herbes de provence
- pinch salt and coarse black pepper
- 1 or 2 sweet potatoes (longer is helpful), peeled and thinly sliced into rounds (about ⅛" thick)
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Cook quinoa according to package directions substituting broth of choice for water.
- Meanwhile in a small pan, sauté onion and garlic over low'ish heat with 1 Tbsp or so olive oil until translucent (about 5 minutes).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk: eggs, mustard, salt and pepper until well combined. Add ricotta and sautéed onion and garlic and whisk again.
- To this mixture, add the thyme (ground and fresh) and herbes de provence and finally the quinoa - hand-mixing to combine.
- The original recipe calls for a tart tin with removable bottom (if you have one, wonderful), I did not so I used a regular 8" tart pan and lined the bottom with parchment paper (simply lay tin over parchment and trace the base - you will end up with a circle the size of the base - cut and apply. The most important part is making sure you coat the base (on top of the parchment) with olive oil and especially the sides to prevent sticking ~ it will make it much easier for your pie to slide out of the pan.
- Arrange the sweet potato slices in concentric circles in the bottom of the pan, overlapping slightly as you go, making sure to cover the entire bottom. Gently add the quinoa mixture overtop of potatoes, being careful not to displace the disks too much. Spread the mixture out to cover the full length of the pan using a cake knife or the back of a spoon to flatten and smooth.
- Bake the savory quinoa pie uncovered for 35- 45 minutes until it begins to acquire a golden color and is just firm to the touch.
- Remove from oven and cool for 5-10 minutes before covering the pie with a plate (large enough to cover full surface of the pan). Carefully invert the pie pan onto the plate (flip it) allowing the pie to drop onto the plate before gently removing the pan. If you have greased the sides of the pan, you should have no problem with this but if the pie doesn't drop, panic not. Simply flip the plate back over again, use a flat knife and run it along the edge of the pan to loosen. Try the plate inversion again.
- Slice the savory quinoa pie and serve immediately.
- While you can reheat this pie from the fridge, it tastes best from the oven.
Slicing the Sweet Potato: I used a sharp knife to slice the potato (no mandoline required) it's quite easy to slice through raw sweet potato and at that thickness, you shouldn't have a problem.
The Concentric Circles: a little imperfection adds a bit of charm to this pie. Don't worry too much about the design - the important thing is to cover the base.
Applying the Quinoa: there may be some movement of the potato disks while applying the quinoa layer. You can try to minimize this as you apply but if some displace, you can gently tug as needed once the pie cools to bring them back in line (or use a sprig of thyme to cover a bald spot!).
Herbs: the thyme comes through nicely in this recipe but if you know it's not your thing, simply replace it with an herb/s of preference - sage would be another nice complement but it's really a matter of personal choice.
Carrageenan: carrageenan is a food additive used as a thickening agent in processed refrigerated foods/beverages (not just dairy - almond milk too). It has been implicated in inflammatory processes in the body. While I have no interest in supporting exaggerated and unfounded claims (particularly when they are being promulgated by various interest groups), I do think there is enough evidence to keep an eye on carrageenan as more studies are conducted. My approach is to avoid it when I can by selecting brands that don't use it.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in ~ Leonard Cohen