26 March 2008

Mini Spinach Picnic Pot Pie

Monday 24 March was Pasquetta in Italy, which in my mind has come to mean picnic day. I had every intention of getting this post in the blog for Monday, but then work got in the way. Guests arrived and everything changes. That's OK, cause that's what keeps it all interesting.
Anyway, Italians don't celebrate the Friday before Easter, but take Monday off as a bank holiday and the family piles into the car and drives somewhere to go for a wander and a picnic lunch, come h...or high.... you know the rest of the saying I think. It doesn't seem to matter what the weather is doing. People just want to get out and about, put winter behind them and maybe walk off a bit of Easter's feeding frenzy before tucking into the Pasquetta ample offerings. If though you are not in the mood to brave the weather, then there's always the restaurant option as a lot of opted for that option for the looks of all the cars parked next door at the restaurant. It looked just as busy as Easter Sunday. There was a steady flow of cars with picnic hampers in the back up and own the road all day. It seemed like spring was in the air. Recently, I have been making a series of oil crusted pastries and enjoying the results, repeatedly. I thought that this particular combination might lend itself to making it's entry into the Mini Pie Revolution that has been going since the first of the year. Ann and Jack of "Redacted Recipes", and Karyn of "Hot Potato" started the revolt for pies versus cupcakes and this time suggested savory pot pies. My ricotta spinach pie I think is savory enough to qualify. It's great hot out of the oven, but still just as satisfying at room temperature and when they are mini sized, it's easy to eat more than one. This particular version of savory ricotta pie I added some speck, which is a smoke cured ham for a contrast to the sweet mild ricotta that I so love here, along with some really exceptional flavored fresh spinach purchased from my favorite older market couple that I love buying from. I'm going to do a whole post on them one of these days when I get more of their life story. Both are over 80 and sell their food at the market every day of the week except Sunday. Amazing and inspiring. this recipe is pretty free form and lends itself well to numerous variations. I couldn't resist making little star cutouts for the top crust.It just made it that more festive. Hope you enjoy this pie and I can't wait to make a few more variations with all the different greens coming in, dandelion, borage, nettle, just to name a few. Feel free to adjust all to your taste.
Make your favorite pastry pie crust or, if you're feeling adventuresome, try this one I found on Recipezaar, that is strictly oil based.
Perfect oil pastry recipe here. I used all olive oil the first time with good results. The second time I used a mixture of olive and corn oil. If I could find a high quality natural corn oil like I use to purchase in the natural foods stores in the states, I'm sure I would love an all corn oil crust. Non commercial corn oil is so buttery tasting, that it's an excellent choice for oil based pastries. Line your favorite small tart pan or muffin cup with your pastry. Fill with ricotta filling top with lattice strips or cut out small stars or other shapes to make a fun tart for one. the pastry recipe should make at least 4 mini pies.

Ricotta Spinach Filling

250 g fresh ricotta (1 1/2 c)
50 -100 g fresh grated Parmesan (1/2- c or more if you like)
1 large egg or 2 medium ones
1/2 kilo spinach, fresh and lightly cooked, squeezed dry (1 pound plus a bit More) and chopped. 150 g speck, smoked cured ham, optional or something else that suits you (1/2-1cup cut into batons)
50 g sun-dried tomatoes that have been soaked in hot water to soften (1/3 c)
Nutmeg, be generous (grate half a nut )
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut your speck into batons by cutting two thick slices of ham.
Cut across the width of the ham into cubed lengths about 1 inch long
Cut your sundried tomatoes into lengths across the wide direction
Mix fresh ricotta with the parmesan.
Add your egg
Then all the other, speck, spinach, and tomatoes.
Mix well.
Season with nutmeg and salt and pepper.
Pour into your prepared pastry top with cut out pastry.
Or lengths to make a lattice.
Brush with an bit of egg wash for shine if you like and
Bake in a 350* moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes or till golden brown.
Again depends on the oven and size of your pie.
Great hot or cold.
If you don't make your filling too souply it sets better over night with out making the pastry soggy.

Ready for you very own picnic.


Rowena said...

It's been a long time since I've made an oil-crust pastry and it sounds like the perfect match for your ricotta pie. Too chilly to work outside in the garden today...I'll send the MotH a shopping list and request that he bring home some fresh ricotta!

Rowena said...

Oh-oh! Just thought I'd let you know that the link to the crust recipe is incomplete.

Rowena said...

Right-O on the link! And I notice that also the top image is changed. It was sunny on Pasquetta and we went for a ride to a natural reserve further north. Not that we saw much...it was blustery and the birds were staying put, probably hiding in the reeds.

Would've made an interesting experiment to attach Maddie to a kite though. Kidding!

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thanks Rowena, I'm still figuring out how ot pos from google docs intact with out losing links and titles, but still have a ways to go. Think I've got it sorted now.

The Passionate Palate said...

I love making tortas like this! I love the Pasquetta tradition. I heard it was raining and very cold in many parts of Italy making picnicking next to impossible. I'm glad your area was nice. Now, if I can only convince the Americans that a quiet day munching on leftovers and relaxing is a worthwhile holiday!

Anonymous said...

I love this little savory pie, Marla. Dandelion greens..I love them! I have been making all my pastry with olive oil and it gives a fine result..even on sweet pies. It seems a natural. Hope you had a fun little Easter :)

Bella Baita Marla said...

Jeni, Americans embracing the Thanksgiving leftovers tradition of leftovers , they just add shopping in there instead of picnicking.
Maryonn, I did have a nice Easter. I'm still working on a sweet oil pastry that I like. Butter crusts for sweets are hard to beat.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Marla, I love your little pie, so savory and so cute! I'll have to give this one a try.

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