Leek, Onion & Fennel Tart - Gluten & Egg Free

My memory must be fading... like a distant memory.  I can't recall what exactly prompted me to make up this tart. It might have been that I was craving a tart-like something, or maybe I saw a quiche and had slice envy.  All I remember is a deep desire to eat crust. The solution for when you have a hankering for something?  Go shopping.

It's been stated that you should never shop when you are hungry but I was on a mission, which helped keep this buying event to a minimum.  I was lucky enough to find a gluten free tart shell that didn't have a lot of crap in it. Happiness in the frozen section propelled me with glee back to the produce isle. 

There I found leeks and fennel which were looking fresh and seemed like a fine fit for my crust craving creation. I knew I had onions and goat cheese (which apparently are in endless supply in my house).  Last item needed to make myself a luscious tart that would halt my hankering for quiche was cream. I don't eat eggs.  Pity me.  Yes, pity me because I love eggs and they are in EVERYTHING. But alas, eggs don't love me.  An epic unrequited love story.

Since no eggs, no quiche.  No problem. This tart was going to kick the butt of any egg laced tart dish. 
And yes, although this is gluten and egg free, I did not say calorie free.  So this one may not be my healthiest share but it might become a special favorite for when indulging is on your mind.

There aren't too many steps to this making this, minus a little slicing.  But you have to do that in most recipes, so stop any belly-aching. Homemade food does require a tad of effort.

Ingredients

Pie Crust 9" (I used Wholly Gluten Free)
4 c leeks, sliced and thoroughly washed
1 heaping c onions, sliced
1 heaping c fennel, sliced
4 oz. goat cheese
1 c heavy cream
fresh thyme, optional
1 T butter
Magic 3 (Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper)

The onion family ready to be tarted.

The onion family ready to be tarted.

Instructions

Using a fork, pierce holes in the bottom and sides of the crust.  Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown.  Set aside.

Prep the crust by making fork holes to prevent from bubbling up.

Prep the crust by making fork holes to prevent from bubbling up.

Perfectly pre-baked crust

Perfectly pre-baked crust

While the crust is baking, slice the leeks and soak them in water. Removing and rinsing several times.  (Leeks are laden with sand and you want to ensure there isn't a grain left.  When changing the water, remove the leeks from the water using a strainer or big slotted spatula as opposed to dumping the water and leeks into a strainer.  If you do the latter, all the sand will go right back through the leeks.  By removing the leeks, the sand stays at the bottom of the water. Then just dump and refill with fresh water. )

Wash, soak, dump water. Wash, soak and dump again. Do this until no more sand appears at the bottom of the bowl.

Wash, soak, dump water. Wash, soak and dump again. Do this until no more sand appears at the bottom of the bowl.

While the leeks are soaking, slice the onions and fennel.  Once all vegetables are ready, sauté in butter and oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.  If you decide to use the fresh thyme, add it now. Cook these until fully caramelized. 

Onion slices

Onion slices

Fennel slices

Fennel slices

The best combo. Butter and Oil

The best combo. Butter and Oil

All veggies in: fennel, onions, leeks

All veggies in: fennel, onions, leeks

Sauté slowly until they are completely broken down and beautifully caramelized.

Sauté slowly until they are completely broken down and beautifully caramelized.

Now with all the items ready, fill the pie crust with the vegetable mixture, top with tons of goat cheese and pour in the cream. You can also just mix all these ingredients together in a bowl and then fill the pie.  Your choice.  I didn't mix it because I envisioned the pie I saw layers in my head.  Silly me, it truly makes no difference.

Vegetable mixture, goat cheese, heavy cream and crust waiting to join forces.

Vegetable mixture, goat cheese, heavy cream and crust waiting to join forces.

Fill the bottom with the sautéd vegetable mixture. (Or you can mix the veggies with the cream and goat cheese and then pour in.)

Fill the bottom with the sautéd vegetable mixture. (Or you can mix the veggies with the cream and goat cheese and then pour in.)

Lots of cheese and creamy goodness tops this tart off.

Lots of cheese and creamy goodness tops this tart off.

Place the pie in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until center stops wiggling and when tested with a toothpick it comes out clean.

Let it cool slightly to allow it to set.  You can serve it warm, at room temp or even cold.  Slice and pair it up with a soup or salad.  This is ideal for brunch, lunch or dinner side dish.  I made it when my friend, Emilce came for an overnight stay.  We both had a slice, leaving the rest of the pie all to myself for days.  Bliss!

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Cream Cheese Cake... I Mean Pie

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Have you ever had a dessert that was so yummy it formed a mental flavor print in your mind? So much so that when someone even mentions it your taste buds start screaming?  I have witnessed this effect whenever my mom has suggested that she make her cream cheese cake.  Which really isn't a cake at all, but a pie. Yet calling it a cheese pie just sounds weird.  Whatever the name, this dessert is like Kryptonite for some people.  Just push it near them and they begin to quiver.  Place a slice in front of them and they turn to mush.  

Over the past several decades my mom has gained legions of fans as she baked this simple, delightful dessert for a variety of different occasions.  Always being a staple on her Thanksgiving dessert menu.  So with that calorie laden holiday steaming down the highway, I wanted to share this super... and I mean super easy recipe with you.  Mind you, I have no idea where from where this recipe emerged.  I only know that she and my family have been making it for quite some time.  It's now one of those desserts that my friends ask if my mom or I will be making.  A while back, a friend who has a catering company enjoyed a slice at one of my parties.  Upon tasting it, she hired me to make this dessert among some of my other baked goods for her one of her clients. 

This 'pie' isn't that light fluffy cheese interior of a cake, but instead offers up a rich dense filling topped with a sour cream glaze.  It's creamy and velvety, and you are gonna want a second pie.  So maybe double the recipe below.  One for your guests, and keep one for yourself! 

 

So simple. It has but a few ingredients

So simple. It has but a few ingredients

Ingredients

For the pie filling:
12 oz. cream cheese
2 eggs, large
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla
9" Graham cracker crust
(Make your own or buy a pre-made version)

For the topping:
1 pint sour cream **
1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

**The original recipe calls for 8 oz sour cream. If you want a thin layer, then use this amount.  If you like the tangy flavor, the use 1 pint version.  It will give you a layer as thick as the layer of cheese.

 

Instructions

In a food processor, or with a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla until smooth and all combined. (Note: It helps if the cream cheese is room temperature.)

Fill the graham cracker crust with the cream cheese filling and smooth out to create an even surface. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the center is fully cooked. Check by piercing the center with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, the pie is done.

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While the pie is baking, combine the topping ingredients together and stir until well incorporated.

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Check your pie doneness by piercing the middle with a toothpick.  When it comes out clean, it's ready for the topping.  Photo credit: Rob Perri

Check your pie doneness by piercing the middle with a toothpick.  When it comes out clean, it's ready for the topping. Photo credit: Rob Perri

Once the pie is done, pour the topping onto the pie. Using an offset spatula or even flat butter knife, spread and smooth the sour cream topping over the entire top, completely covering the cream cheese filling.

That's a whole lotta LOVE right there by way of falling fluffy goodness.    Photo credit: Rob Perri

That's a whole lotta LOVE right there by way of falling fluffy goodness.   Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Photo credit: Rob Perri

Then place the pie back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes, just until the topping sets.  Remove and let cool.

This pie has crunch, tart, sweet and tang.  How many dessert can deliver on all that? Even though I've shown a lot of photos, this pie is but a few easy steps. Mix, fill, bake. Top, bake, eat! 
So, if you are hosting, adding this dessert to your menu will not add stress in the least.  (And it can be made well in advance.)  And If you are a guest, volunteer to bring dessert.  You will definitely be invited back and requested to bring this decadent cheese cake again.  I mean pie!

Happy Sweet Tooth.

Since I used a store bought pie shell in a tin I felt the final presentation needed a little fancy schmancy.  Using some parsley greens and tangerines tucked around a cake stand upped the 'pretty factor', giving it that holiday theme color pop. Please don't stress out thinking you need to fancy up this dessert. If it's not your thing, just slice it up.  That said, go ahead and try copying my idea and build your confidence with styling. There's nothing wrong with imitation.  Or find your own way to stylize your final presentation.

Since I used a store bought pie shell in a tin I felt the final presentation needed a little fancy schmancy.  Using some parsley greens and tangerines tucked around a cake stand upped the 'pretty factor', giving it that holiday theme color pop. Please don't stress out thinking you need to fancy up this dessert. If it's not your thing, just slice it up.  That said, go ahead and try copying my idea and build your confidence with styling. There's nothing wrong with imitation.  Or find your own way to stylize your final presentation.

Zucchini Orzo Pie - Baked with Pure Love

It may have taken me a year of promising you this "pie" mentioned in my About page, but finally here is the recipe that was the genesis of my 'something from nothing' style.  It was hatched oh so long ago when my sister, Jill, needed help using up a boat load of zucchini that was given to her.  When I use the term boat load, I don't feel it to be an exaggeration.  The fact that we made zucchini bread, muffins, fried zucchini, you name it, yet when all was said and done we STILL had zucchini spilling over. Thus began the search for what else can we toss together to cook the zucchs up before they went belly up.  I started rummaging through her refrigerator and cupboards in hopes to find inspiration.  Mind you, my sis did not use fresh herbs or have an abundance of fresh items from which to select.  My search turned up the following:
A box of orzo, canned chicken stock, grape tomatoes,  frozen pie crust and mozzarella, plus the usual suspects, salt, pepper, garlic, dried oregano and oil. (Thank goodness for the oregano!)

Ingredients

1/2 box Orzo  (6 oz)
1 deep dish Frozen pie crust
1.5 c grape, cherry or your favorite tomatoes  
1 - 1.5 c Mozzarella, shredded
2-3 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
3 qts Chicken or Vegetable stock, you can also use water
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 t dried oregano
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Olive oil
and of course, ZUCCHINI (2-3 medium, cubed)

Sure, I could have just made a pasta salad I guess, but I was feeling creative, adventurous and let's face it the universe was providing me with a golden nugget that would materialize 20 years later. 

Instructions

In a 350 degree oven, blind bake the crust, dotting with a fork the sides and bottom so it doesn't bubble up. Cut up the zucchini and tomatoes and grate the cheese and set them aside.

Sauté the zucchini in garlic and olive oil. Add salt, pepper, dried oregano and cook until tender. That's right, dried oregano because that was the only kind of herb my sister had in her house.  


Once the zucchini is cooked add the chicken or vegetable stock and the orzo. Cooking it together like this really help the flavors to cozy up and get to know one another nicely. Once all the liquid is absorbed and the orzo is tender, spoon it into the pie crust.  

 

Cooking the zucchini first then adding the stock and orzo let all the flavors meld together.

Cooking the zucchini first then adding the stock and orzo let all the flavors meld together.

Fill 'em up.

Fill 'em up.

Top with the chopped tomatoes and the shredded mozzarella.  

Top each pie with tomatoes and cheese.

Top each pie with tomatoes and cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree until the cheese is nice and bubbly.  Let cool slightly before slicing it up.

I will admit to you that after that "experimental" day years back, I never made that pie again.  Not because it wasn't good, but it was created to solve the problem of the moment;  too much zucchini. Since that problem didn't arise again, plus add the fact I could never eat an entire pie on my own, I thought the recipe was a one off.  Jokes on me, since much to my surprise, my sister Jill, recently told that she has been making it regularly ever since. Her girls LOVE it and they make it together all the time.  And since her husband loves this too she has to make two at time since they disappear so quickly.  Even her girls' friends have come to love the 'zucchini pie'.

So in honor of our first making of this pie, my sister and I embarked on making it together again for the photos on this post.  What a joy to recreate this with her and two of her daughters.  And full disclosure.  Since I haven't made this pie in YEARS, I had to rely on Jill for measurements and instructions.  This gives her a good giggle since the tables were completely turned with me asking HER for info.  That said, I am tickled pink that she still makes it but the icing on this pie is that it is a hit with her family and has become a tradition.  

Please remember, this is a rustic pie but one that can fill up your family in a pinch.  Serve it up for a lunch or dinner with salad or veggies on the side.  As with most of my recipes, swap out for what you have.  Here are some ideas.

Orzo = Israeli couscous, Pastina, Arborio rice
Zucchini = summer squash, spinach, escarole, eggplant... well any vegetable really
Mozzarella = Fontina, goat cheese, feta, 
The possibilities are abundant, so enjoy your rustic pie anyway you like.