Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tuscan Sweet Spinach Pie

My DH heard about this pie on NPR and suggested I try it. It is an Easter treat at some Italian tables. I found the recipe at All Things Considered's Found Recipe series. “During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Italians didn't divide courses the way we do now. It wasn't unusual to have something sweet at the beginning of the meal. They thought balance with every course [would] keep the appetite interested throughout the feast." This was very tasty. The dough was rich and tender, almost like shortbread or sugar cookie. The spinach was a little sweet and savory.

Serves 10 to 12

For the crust:
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon OR ½ tsp lemon extract
1-2 Tbsp ice cold water

For the filling:
12 ounces frozen chopped spinach or 1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 cup almonds, finely ground
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup Triple Sec or other aromatic liqueur
2 tablespoons pine nuts

In a large bowl, lightly mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse sand. With a fork, stir in egg yolks, lemon and just enough water to form dough. Pat the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cook the spinach in a few ounces of salted water until tender. Allow to cool. Squeeze out all the cooking liquids and chop. OR Thaw frozen spinach and squeeze out most of the liquid.

In a medium bowl, beat the yolks with 1/3 cup of the sugar until creamy and light yellow. Add the almonds and beat until well combined. Fold in the spinach, lemon and liqueur until well combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks form, then add in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until it forms a glossy meringue. Slowly fold the meringue into the yolk mixture.

Lightly coat a 10 to 11 inch deep dish pie plate with canola oil spray.

Take dough out of refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roll out 2/3 of the dough, making it large enough to hang well over the sides. Trim overhang to about an inch. Roll up overhang and pinch to make rim. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1 inch wide strips for lattices over the top of the filling.

Pour prepared filling into the pie crust. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and top with the remaining dough in a lattice pattern.

Bake for about 1 hour, until golden.
Cool to room temperature before serving. (It was good while still warm.)

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