Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ricotta Vegetable Pie

Much of my cooking is based on refrigerator management; that is, using what's available in my fridge or, more likely, what needs to be used right now. This week, we received a bounty of vegetables from our CSA, including a load of yellow squash and a big bunch of escarole. Escarole? I also harvested the first couple of zucchini from my own garden, so I was feeling under a little vegetable pressure.

Recently, I discovered some recipes for Mediterranean vegetable pies in the New York Times and found them a great way to control the vegetable levels in my refrigerator. Although I took some inspiration from those recipes, this recipe differs in several respects. First, there is no crust. There could be a crust -- it would be delicious -- but I wasn't in a crust-making mood. Second, I had a big tub of ricotta cheese (it was on sale) that needed to go, so this pie is decidedly cheesier. Lastly, this is not a purely vegetable pie, I used a bit of prosciutto, but the meat could easily be eliminated.

Actually, this pie is perfect for substitutions. No escarole? Use spinach or Swiss chard or some other greens. Don't have any Gruyere cheese? Try Mozzarella or Swiss or Fontina. Fresh basil is great, but any fresh herbs or combination of herbs would do. You could also add chopped sun dried tomatoes or roasted peppers or sauteed mushrooms or a heaping tablespoon of pesto to the mix. Go wild and clean out your fridge.

1-1/2 lbs. zucchini or yellow squash (or combo)
1 head of escarole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 slices prosciutto, chopped (optional)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated cheese, such as Gruyere
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground pepper
salt, to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped basil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grate zucchini or squash. Place in a colander, salt generously, and let drain for about 1 hour, pressing down on it occasionally to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take up handfuls and squeeze out moisture. Set aside.
3. Thoroughly wash escarole and slice leaves in 1/2-inch strips. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion and prosciutto, if using. Cook, occasionally stirring, about five minutes. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add escarole, cover pan and cook until wilted, about 7 minutes. Add zucchini/squash, mix and cook uncovered, another 5 minutes. Drain any excess liquid from vegetables, I let them cool a bit and put them in the colander to drain.
4. In large bowl, mix cheeses, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and basil. Add vegetables and mix well. Pour into a lightly oiled (can use oil spray) 10-inch pie spring pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool 15 to 30 minutes. Slice in wedges and serve.
One 10- inch pie serves eight to ten.

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