For the picnic last weekend, I made and brought the food. The two most popular dishes–sweet and savory, respectively–were pies. In the savory department it was an Ithaca pie that I made using beautiful rainbow chard from my CSA. As for sweet, the crowd favorite was sour cherry pie.
A note on cutting chard. When cooking chard, you want to be able to enjoy both the leaves and stem, however, the problem can be that they cook at different rates. Instead of winding up with perfectly cooked leaves and undercooked stems, or well-cooked stems and over-cooked leaves, try separating them so they can both be cooked properly.
First, remove the leaves from the stem:
Then, stack all the leaves on top of each other and roll them up:
Next, cut through the roll so that you wind up with thinly shredded pieces (this cut is called chiffonade):
Lastly, dice up your stems as you would celery:
When you go to cook the chard, cook the stems first. Once they are almost done, add the leaves and cook until tender. This way, both parts will be cooked perfectly, yet you will be able to eat them together in one dish.
I’ve been wanting to put this tip in for a while, and now I finally have a recipe with chard. While it doesn’t call for the stems (I saved them for pickling), I thought I would share anyway. Back to the Ithaca pie. It’s similar to a Greek spanakopita in that it has greens and feta, but the crust of the Ithaca is a bit more hearty as is the filling thanks to the addition of rice.
After sauteing the filling, you roll out the dough, assemble the pie, and bake.
The result is a deliciously flaky crust, chock full of chard (or whatever other greens you may decide to use), accented by pungent dill and salty feta. (See recipe below.)
As for the sour cherry pies (I made two), I sat for an hour or so (catching up on my TV) pitting three quarts of sour cherries.
Once the tedious job was out of the way (my dough was already resting in the fridge), I macerated the fruit and filled my pies.
The cherries were quite juicy, which led to a significant amount of juice overflow. Definitely take the recipe’s advice to place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet. I didn’t, and now have an oven bottom full of cherry juice (which began to burn on the bottom of the oven and set off the smoke alarm, oh the joys of NYC apartment cooking). But, the pies came out just fine, and tasted wonderful. My mother has already requested one of her own.
Here’s a link to the Epicurious sour cherry pie recipe I used.
Adapted from In Season by Sarah Raven
Serves 12-15 (as a main course)
(I used this recipe in a 12″ x 15″ x 3″ pan, and still had some dough left over, so you should be able to halve it and make the pie in a standard 9″ x 13″ pan. If you do this, check the pie at 30-45 minutes. If you do experiment, please leave comments to let us all know how it worked out.)
For the crust:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
For the filling:
2 pounds spinach, chard, kale (one, or a mixture of all, of these greens)
Large bunch of dill, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped mint
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup olive oil
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
1/2 cup long-grain rice (I used brown rice for the picnic, but have also made this with bulgur and actually prefer the result)
6 ounces feta (optional)
Salt and pepper
1. Sift the flour with the salt and rub in the butter or pulse in a food processor until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add enough beaten eggs and ice water to bring the dough together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (can be done a day in advance).
2. Remove the tough stalks from the spinach, chard, and kale. Coarsely chop the leaves and mix with the finely chopped herbs. Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil in a large pan until tender. And add all the greens, including the scallions and leeks. Mix well with most of the remaining oil. Incorporate the uncooked rice (or bulgur) and take off the heat. Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Divide the dough in two (one piece slightly larger than the other) and allow it to warm up for a minute or so. Roll out the dough–on a floured surface–as thinly as you possibly can.
4. Roll the larger piece around a rolling pin and transfer it to the base of your baking pan. Make sure that there is some pastry hanging over the side of the pan.
5. Add the filling and crumble the feta over it (if using). Cover with the other layer of dough. Crimp the two layers together by brushing with a little water and pinching around the edge.
6. Brush a little oil over the top and scatter with sesame seeds (if using). Prick the surface with a knife. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for just over an hour, until the top crust is golden brown.
This is delicious once it has cooled a little and is perhaps even better eaten cold the next day. It’s also excellent for feeding lots of people at a picnic.