Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cossack Pie

During my short visit back to the States to see my sisters and their families I was struck with a bit of irony: while I enjoy staying with my sister Amanda (whose husband is a vegetarian) because I don't have to eat or cook meat every day (yay!) she looks forward to having another adult omnivore in the house. So while I spent my free time perusing the myriad vegetarian cookbooks in the kitchen Amanda would list the meat products she had bought (ground turkey, chicken breasts, roaster in the freezer - we could buy shrimp!) in anticipation of my arrival; we compromised with meat for lunch and vegetarian for dinner. Thank goodness, because it meant she was able to make the deceptively delicious Cossack pie for dinner one night, a simple (I suppose you could also call it "rustic") quiche-like dish that manages to be both light and filling. Imagine.

The Moosewood Cookbook is one of many hippie cookbooks owned by my brother-in-law but is by far the most imaginative (only rivaled by Mollie Katzen's other collections.) As anyone who's browsed through vegetarian cookbooks knows, the recipes can be repetitive: eggplant parmesan, ratatouille, grilled eggplant with ___ sauce, sauteed mushrooms, lentil soup, maybe even a lentil loaf - topped with eggplant. It can put one off. Though Moosewood includes these old soldiers their presence is tempered by more interesting recipes such as this pie. Sauteed vegetables mixed with cottage cheese, seasoned with basil, caraway and dill, topped with sour cream and sauteed mushrooms, then baked to crusty pie perfection - it's so good, especially if you like the idea of a quiche but can't stand the egginess of one (cough.) Even better is you can play around with recipe. While neither I nor my sister have tried it, I am certain sage would be delicious, as would rosemary and, of course, thyme. The addition of cauliflower and peppers couldn't hurt, but stay away from root vegetables: their density would remove the essential lightness of the pie.

And while it is obviously delicious straight from the oven, this pie also benefits from sitting in the fridge and allowing the flavors to meld. It's possible that, after a few martinis with your sister, you may seek out the leftovers like a guided missile and stuff them into your mouth with your bare hands. Not that I'd know, but it's possible.

Cossack Pie
Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
1/4lb fresh mushrooms or rehydrated shitakes
1cup chopped onion
1cup shredded green cabbage
1cup thinly sliced broccoli
1cup thinly sliced carrot
1 finely chopped scallion
3tbsp butter of vegetable oil
2tbsp flour
1/2tsp ground caraway seed
1/2tsp basil
2tbsp dry white wine
1/2tsp dill weed
1/3cup pot. farmer's or cottage cheese
2 eggs
3/4cup mixed sour cream and yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Remove stems from mushrooms. Slice caps and set aside. Chop stems finely. (Include chopped stems, not the caps, in step 2.)

2. In butter, saute all vegetables except the scallion until just tender. Salt lightly and add spices. Remove from heat and toss with flour and wine.

3. Puree the eggs and cheese in a blender; add salt and pepper.

4. Add egg-cheese mixture to sauteed vegetables, along with chopped, raw scallion. Mix well. Spread into crust.

5. Saute the mushroom caps in a little butter for about 5 minutes, until the shrink slightly.

6. Spread sour cream-yogurt mixture on top of vegetable filling. Arrange mushrooms caps on top. Dust with paprika.

7. Bake 40 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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