December 6, 2021

A la Carte: More About Pie, Plus a Tart for Vegetarians

Lee White

Okay, my friend, Lisa, suggested what I make for Thanksgiving: two pies—one apple and one pumpkin. Easy-peasy. Also green beans and corn bread. 

I also want to let you know that I am not going away for the holiday, just a short drive down I-95. So, if you have questions, think of me as your own Butterball Hotline. You have my e-mail below the column, so if you have a question between now and turkey day, I’m around.

So, today’s column is the last word on pies … at least for 2021. 

When it comes to apple pie, the more different kinds of apples, the better. I used to buy my apples at a little orchard in eastern Connecticut. The white paper bag said baker’s choice, or something like that. I don’t know if is still around, but I do suggest a farm market that grows a variety of apples.

You want tart and sweet and hard and soft. If you don’t have a cheat sheet, ask the cashier at the farm market. I buy at least five pounds. You don’t need all five, but you can eat the rest.

Depending on the size, peel and core the apples. Cut them into 6 to 8 wedges. Place in a bowl and toss with lemon  juice. That will keep them from browning. Here is the recipe:

Apple Pie

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a sheet pan onto the oven rack. Place bottom pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate, leaving about half an inch over the edge of the pie plate.
  2. In that bowl of apples, add ½ to 2/3 cup brown or white sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, ½ tablespoons corn starch, 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon (some people prefer vanilla instead of spices, so you can use a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract) and toss.
  3. Place the apples in the bottom crust and dot with maybe 3 tablespoons butter.
  4. Place the second crust over the apples. With your fingers, make an edge with the two crusts.
  5. Using a knife, cut a few slits over the top of the crust (for steam and to make it pretty). I cover the edge crust with pieces of foil to keep it from browning too fast. (Remove the foil about 10 or 15 minutes before pie is done.) After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake the pie until done, 45 minutes to an hour in all.

Photo by Dilyara Garifullina on Unsplash.

Pumpkin Pie

For a pumpkin pie, it is even easier, because it is just a one-crust pie.

  1. Buy a 15-ounce can of 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s). Do not buy a can of pumpkin pie mix.
  2. Follow the recipe on the can of pumpkin.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a sheet pan onto the oven rack.
  4. Place the crust in the 9-inch pie pan; with your fingers make a pretty edge.
  5. Add the pumpkin mixture.
  6. Carefully place the pie on the sheet pan in the oven.
  7. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife blade inserted into the center comes up clean.
  8. Cool for at least 2 hours.

If you are making a chocolate cream pie (or something like that), you may be asked to blind bake a pie. One woman on the internet suggested freezing the unbaked crust (maybe for two hours or even longer), then adding foil up to the top and then pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. 

Again, as I mentioned in last week’s column, you can use a frozen pie crust. I love Oronoque. It comes two to a package. There are always a few packages in my freezer. They come in their own pie pan so you don’t have to ask your friends please to return the good one. I cannot tell you how many I have bought, and they are not inexpensive.

Again, I am here through noon on Thanksgiving. On that day, when you get my column, there will be two recipes for leftover turkey and sides.

***

Over the last week or so, I thought about friends who are somewhat, or totally, vegetarian.

A new friend is vegan; had I known that, I would not have served pasta with marinara and pepperoni. My Times editor is a vegetarian, but eats seafood and dairy. My friend Nancy is vegetarian, but eats chicken,  seafood and dairy. My other editor in Madison eats healthy, and I think she is more vegetarian than carnivorish.

My first boss at Connecticut College was a vegetarian, but didn’t like tomatoes. 

I am a carnivore, but I love animals and think people who hunt for fun, including those who like fishing for catch-and-release have a character flaw. I will cook mussels and clams and oysters, but have never boiled a lobster.

I, obviously, am a hypocrite. 

If I ask people for dinner, and do not know what they will or will not eat, I will cook for them. I was allergic to lobster and crab, but am not anymore. I have a friend who has celiac disease, and when I find a nice recipe for her, I will make it for her.

I also have a few dessert recipes that are gluten-free. I pay little attention to people, who do not eat sweets, so Libby doesn’t eat my desserts.

Going through some of my old recipes, I found a vegetable tart recipe that doesn’t even require a crust and, like many of my recipes, is yellowed with age. This Thanksgiving I will be with friends who aren’t  picky. After that holiday, I will make this tart for my vegan friend. 

Harvest Vegetable Tart
Adapted from Thomas Keller in Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1996
Yield: serves 6

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons minced shallots, divided
3 teaspoons minced, garlic, divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon, dried, divided
¼ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
8 tablespoons chicken (or vegetable) broth, divided
1 medium eggplant, quartered lengthwise
1 large beefsteak tomato, quartered
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 tablespoon chopped nicoise (black) olive (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, 2 tablespoons shallots and 2 teaspoons garlic; cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in half the thyme plus 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Brush bottom of a 12-inch deep-dish pizza pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Combine 2 tablespoons broth, remaining shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in cup. Sprinkle over mixture in pan.

Cut eggplant, tomato, zucchini and yellow squash into 1/3  inch-thick slices. Beginning in the center of the pan, arrange vegetables in overlapping circles, equally distributing them over pan.

Sprinkle tart with onion-pepper mixture. Combining remaining broth and broth and oil in a cup and drizzle over top; sprinkle with olives, if using.

Cover tart and bake 45 minutes;  uncover and bake 35 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender; cool. 15 minutes. Drain any liquid into glass measure. Invert into a platter, drizzled with reserved liquid. Cut into six wedges. [This this would be delicious at room temperature, too.]

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

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