Dandelion Pie

featuredThis pie is a riff on my spanakopita recipe. Being Greek I grew up eating a lot of dandelions, mostly wild, which are quite bitter. I love bitter greens, and that’s a good thing given the markets are full of them this time of year.

The pie is rich and delicious and pretty simple to make. An easy thing to throw together the night before and serve for lunch with salad or soup.

You can use any greens you like. If you like the taste of a particular type of greens on their own, they’ll be perfect for this pie. And though I’ve used the word bitter many times, this pie isn’t. It’s earthy and cheesy and buttery.

Dandelion Pie (serves 6 as a main dish, 8 as an appetizer)

For the pastry:
2-1/4 cups (540ml) all-purpose flour
3/4 stick (85g) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) salt
6-8 Tbsps. (90-120ml) ice-cold water

For the filling:
1 big bunch of dandelions
Washed, dried and chopped the greens should measure about 3 cups (720ml)
3 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
8 oz. (225g) sheep or goat’s milk feta cheese*
1 bunch green onions/scallions, green and white parts, chopped (about 3/4 cup/180ml)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

*I’ve said this before, but for those who don’t want to revisit my lengthy feta cheese lecture here, I will try to be brief. When you have a recipe made up of so few ingredients, the quality of those ingredients is important. You want earthy, gamey, salty, briny cheese. I’ve found Greek, French and Bulgarian sheep and goat’s milk fetas to be the best. There is a lot of angry debate about what can be called true feta based on origin, etc. I’m not going to bother with that. I care about what it tastes and feels like, and for the most part cow’s milk feta tastes bland and feels like rubber. And never ever use the super dry and chewy feta that’s been pre-crumbled. If for no other reason than you’re paying more to have someone crumble your cheese for you. Give your fingers some exercise, save some money, eat better quality cheese. Enough said.

To make the pastry:

For a visual of what things should look like step-by-step, go here.

Cut the butter into the flour and salt using a food processor, pastry cutter or fork. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together when pinched. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least several hours.

Make the filling:

Thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly wash and thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly dry the greens. Greens are dirty, and biting into grit is a disconcerting thing. I take a big bowl full of water and completely immerse the greens. I give them a good swish and let them soak for 10 minutes or so. I drain them in a colander and give them another good rinse. A salad spinner works best for drying, but minus that I put them in a towel, roll them up in a tube, grab the ends and–with my arm hanging out the window, spin them around, letting centrifugal force do the work. You’ll give your neighbors a lovely little story to tell…

To trim the greens… You need to remove any tough stems. Dandelion stems are fairly tender from the tip to about the middle of the stem. From there they get a bit woody. What I do is chop off the top half and strip the leaves from the bottom half. It’s a little time-consuming, but not that bad. Do it while you’re watching that show. You know the one.

Using a food processor or knife, chop the greens. At this point it’s a good idea to remove any remaining water by squeezing the greens with a paper towel or clean dish cloth. Set aside.

Cook the onions in 1 tablespoon/15ml olive oil over medium heat until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

In a bowl, combine the greens, onions, crumbled feta, eggs and a few grinds of black pepper. If you are making this the day before it’s best to make the whole thing and reheat it. Don’t mix the filling together until the last minute or the salt in the cheese will draw the moisture from the greens and the filling will be very soupy.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Once chilled, roll the pastry into a 12-inch/30cm round. If you do this on waxed or parchment paper it will be easier to move.

Transfer the dough to a pie plate and gently press the dough all the way down making sure there aren’t any big pockets of air between the dough and the plate.

Add the filling and spread it evenly across the plate.

filling

Gently maneuver the dough over the filling, folding and crimping as you go. It doesn’t have to be perfect, this is a rustic pie.

folded

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is firm.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting. The pie can be served hot or room temperature.

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