Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kale, Spinach, and White Bean Pie

As I've often mentioned, my mother was an English girl who married a Greek-American GI. So imagine my delight when Busted Tees began offering a t-shirt featuring my ethnic and cultural profile! (Needless to say, we bought several.) I've always felt fortunate to have a strong sense of both my families' backgrounds, passed on through anecdotes, songs, literature, and - that most immediate of cultural signifiers - food, which played an enormous role in our household.

After my parents married and settled here in the States, my Thessaloniki-transplant grandmother began teaching my Warwickshire-transplant mother some traditional recipes. Before long, the pupil surpassed the teacher, and it is axiomatic amongst family and friends alike that my mom made the best Greek food this side of Mount Olympus. This was especially true of her spanakopita and baklava - my middle son called the latter "the essence of goodness" -  which were both high points of holiday meals as far back as I can remember.

Of course, these old-school recipes were labor intensive and absolutely loaded with eggs and dairy, so it's been years since I've actually eaten either of them. But I still have fond memories, and the fact that I no longer eat those things doesn't preclude the occasional craving (particularly in the case of spanakopita, since I don't really care for sweets).

That being the case, and with the winter holidays approaching, I came up with this loose - okay, quite loose - adaptation, which hits a very similar spot to the spinach pie of auld lang syne. I added kale to the traditional spinach, mashed white beans for protein and texture, upped the garlic quotient, and opted for puff pastry because A. I didn't have any filo, B. it's easier to work with, and C. I'm bone lazy.

I'm pleased to report that the end result was excellent: substantial, nourishing, and delicious. In fact, I need to make it again ASAP, since it disappeared in less than 24 hours and I only got two pieces. So, while my wonderful niece has taken on the labor of ensuring my mother's recipe appears on our holiday tables, I happily add this new tradition. Now all it need is a snappy name; suggestions are welcome!

Kale, Spinach, and White Bean Pie
~ 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 cup chopped onion
~ 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
~ 3 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 19 oz. can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed (a potato masher will do)
~ 2 tsp. dill
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, basil, parsley, marjoram, oregano
~ 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
~ 1 big bunch kale, stripped, cleaned and chopped
~ 1 10 0z. package spinach, chopped
~ Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 packages frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions (this will be four sheets).

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a large, deep skillet, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for about two minutes.
~ Add the scallions, mashed beans, and seasonings, and cook another few minutes.
~ Begin adding the kale in batches, stirring after each addition until just wilted; continue cooking about 5 minutes.
~ Stir in the lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Combine thoroughly, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.

And now...
~ On a large, greased baking sheet, lay two leaves of the puff pastry flat, and divide the filling between the two, leaving about 1/2" margin around the edges.
~ Place the other two sheets over the top, and crimp along the edges to form a seal. With a sharp knife, make a few short slashes along the top of each to let steam escape.
~ Bake at 400 for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and bake another 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown (watch carefully to be sure it doesn't burn).
~ Allow to cool about 10-15 minutes. Cut into small squares to serve as an appetizer, or into big slices for an entree. This is great warm, at room temperature, or even chilled (I ate a hunk straight out of the refrigerator for breakfast the day after I made it!).


  1. Delicious. How about 'no-pita'?

  2. That sure sounds good! I think I'd prefer your version over the tofu ones I've seen in some of my cookbooks.

  3. This sounds FAB. I was lucky enough to visit Greece a few years ago and it is a wonderful place.One of the best things was mezes!