Greek Pumpkin Pie

This version of pumpkin pie, incorporates winter squash or pumpkin, with gently cooked onion, feta, spearmint and filo, traditional Greek foods. Well the pumpkin is a little unusual but I have frozen winter squash left from last year. There are versions that are sweet as well as savory. I plan to make it again and will add half a cup of golden raisins, and ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper not so traditional but I think the flavors will compliment. Aleppo pepper is offered by Nichols and is a Syrian hot sweet paprika that is coarsely ground. I use a lot of this in my cooking, it’s a gentle intensely flavored pepper not widely available in this country. The coiled design is traditional but if you are in a hurry cook it as you would Spanakopita with a few layers of filo, then filling topped with 6-8 sheets of filo.

4 cups baked or canned Pumpkin or Squash, pureed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ large onions sautéed in olive oil

¾ lb. feta cheese ,crumbled

1 ½ tbls. dried spearmint,

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 heaping tablespoons dry breadcrumbs or panko (see preparation notes)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1lb filo defrosted and allowed to sit out of refrigerator for one hour

1 10” Spring form pan coated with olive oil

Preparation: I used Sibley Squash which is not as moist as fresh or canned pumpkin. If you are using pumpkin try to pour off any visible liquid and include breadcrumbs which will be unnecessary with many squash.

Sauté onions finely chopped (a whirl in the food processor is fine) in olive oil for about 8 minutes at medium heat. Combine pumpkin, cooked onion, cheese, spearmint, crumbs, salt & pepper and taste. Note: eggs are added last so you can safely taste this mixture and check seasoning. Last stir in eggs.

Turn oven to 350 degrees and have a rack in center

Unwrap package of filo, and cover sheets with a tea towel.

On a clear work surface take first filo sheet, place it horizontally in front of you and very lightly brush with olive oil. Sheets do not need to be evenly coated. Place a second sheet on top of first and make an even strip of filling 2” above the lower edge and filling to the left and right margins. I used a scant ½ cup for each strip. Fold filo over the filling and roll over lightly brushing each turn with olive oil until you have completely rolled your first coil. Place this along the inside edge of pan. Lay each coil next to the last end and work to center until the pan is filled. Should you have extra filling wrap separately in filo and bake. If it looks as though you’ll run short start using a little less filling as you finish. Mine did come out exactly even with these amounts.

Lightly brush top of pie with olive oil and place in preheated 350 degree oven. Cook for one hour and check. If dough is still looking pale continue cooking and check at ten minute intervals until nicely browned. Carefully remove the pan ring, first running a knife blade along edge.  Allow to cool for twenty minutes and then transfer to serving plate. Run a spatula all under pie to loosen before transferring. This recipe runs rather long because these steps will be new to most readers. If  you have access to sheep milk feta buy it,  as it produces a superior result. this pie served with a little salad is an adequate dinner and also a good side dish. This is good hot or cold. Reheat in a warm oven. A microwave does no favor to filo based dishes as they lose the delightful crisp quality and begin to steam.

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Unsweetened Pumpkin Tart – “Citrouillat”

It was in the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook that I first encountered a very old recipe for a savory, unsweetened pumpkin pie. While this tart contains a bit of butter it’s far less rich than Ms. Toklas’s with a cup of heavy cream and rich crust.
Last night we cooked a magnificent 8# Queensland squash and of course there was a good amount left to enjoy. Any of your favorite winter squash or pumpkins may be used for this pie. When your squash is precooked just scoop out 3 1/2 cups and add small chunks to the onions and herbs. When pressed for time use a conventional pie crust or or even a dozen sheets of filo as I plan to do today. This recipe is listed on our http://www.nicholsgardennursery website.

When using filo sheets, remember they only need the lightest buttering with a combination of melted butter and olive oil. A 1″ pastry brush gives you good control. Since I’m using a circular pan I’ll offset each piece a few inches so the entire pan is covered. Then the top sheets will be handled the same way and rolled up at the edge. A photo will follow but I’m off to the kitchen.
Serves 6 – 8

Pastry
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3 tablespoons butter, melted or olive oil 1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add yeast to lukewarm water with 1/4 cup flour. Stir and let sit in a mixing bowl until bubbly, about ten minutes. Mix 2 tablespoons butter and egg into yeast mixture. Gently add flour and salt to the yeast mixture. It should have the consistency of a soft dough. Do not knead because you do not want to develop the gluten. Form into two balls one slightly smaller than the other. Roll out the larger piece and place in an oiled 10” springform pan or ceramic tart dish. Brush with some of remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Cover loosely with a damp kitchen towel. Set dough for top crust aside until you are ready to fill the tart.

Pumpkin Filling

2 pounds pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and diced or 3 1/2 cups 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons instant rice or 1/4 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese

Sprinkle pumpkin or squash with salt and cook in a steamer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain steamed pumpkin in a colander while onion is cooking. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet set on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is tender and translucent about 5 minutes. Add pumpkin, thyme, sage, and pepper. Adjust heat to medium high and staute, stirring occasionally until pumpkin dice barely begin to break apart. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir in rice and cheese and place filling in shell. Lightly roll out the top crust and cover, pinching the edges well together, brush with remaining butter. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes on the medium rack until golden brown. Let sit on a cooling rack for ten minutes before serving. Serve warm or cooled as a picnic dish.

High Omega-3 Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin CupcakesEach cupcake contains two grams of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids from canola oil, flax seed, squash, and walnuts. Eggs may or may not be high in Omega-3’s depending on how the hens are fed. A good reason for free range hens to have a mixed diet that’s high in greens.

I developed this recipe after reading Susan Allport’s excellent book “The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them”.

Servings: Makes 12 cupcakes or one tea loaf.

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
*½ teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup cooked pumpkin or winter squash
½ cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
**1/3 cup Baker’s Cut candied ginger or chopped candied ginger
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil and flour 9×5 inch loaf pan. For cupcakes prepare 12 slots. I use paper liners in my tins to avoid oiling and flouring.

Sift first 7 dry ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat oil with sugar and then beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin, flax seed and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture alternately with milk, beating after each addition. Stir in ginger and nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan or cupcake tins.

Bake loaf cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely.
Bake cupcakes for 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean, they will still look barely moist on top. Let cupcakes cool in pan for three minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

POWDERED SUGAR GLAZE (optional)
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp. liquid (milk or cream.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla, optional

Combine ingredients and mix until smooth. Lightly spread on cooled cupcakes or loaf. I dusted my glaze with a small pinch of Vietnamese cinnamon on each cupcake.

*Vietnamese cinnamon is very dark and fragrant. For many years it was unavailable in the US but now that trade has resumed with Vietnam, we have access to what is considered the finest baking cinnamon. **Baker’s Cut Ginger, is minced candied ginger. A real step saver, no more sticking to the knife or gnarling up in the food processor.