This month’s SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient is spinach. The choice of spinach as the challenge’s ingredient really kick started my efforts to makeover my long time favorite recipe for Spinach Mushroom Pie. There is nothing like a challenge for motivation – thank you Ricki and Kim! Be sure to check out their sites for lots of other healthy recipe submissions by other bloggers.
There was such wonderful feedback from my taste-testers on the texture of the Sweet Potato Pie ‘Cheesecake’ at the end of March that I printed out both of my recipes and started splicing. It always helps to have a plan of attack even if you eventually deviate from that plan.
The blender and I had another ‘go-round’. And the red spatula lost a few more bits. The red shows up and is easy to pick out of the blended mixture so from now on all of my spatulas are going to be red!
The cashews were soaked for well over twenty-four hours. The spinach was leftover from a batch of sautéed fresh spinach with garlic. The mushrooms were fresh. There was cooked quinoa on hand to use somehow in place of ricotta but I wasn’t too sure about how that would work out. And hazelnut meal was ready to stand in for grated Parmesan to provide taste and texture. Whew! That’s a lot of ingredients to bring together.
So the first order of business was to prep the mushrooms. Clean, slice, sauté and put them in the mixing bowl with the spinach. Add 1/2 of the quinoa, hazelnut meal, and seasonings.
Drain and rinse the cashews, warm in the microwave briefly (so they don’t solidify the coconut oil) and place them in the blender jar. Pulse the blender gently to begin the breakdown process. Add the warm coconut oil and the remainder of the quinoa also slightly warmed – and work the blender pulse control. This is where I had to improvise. The mixture became too thick sort of like super library paste so I warmed a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk (I was out of almond milk) and added it to the mixture. This was better but still way too thick. So in went another two tablespoons of warm coconut milk (how did we ever function without a microwave?). This was still incredibly thick but at least it was manageable. This is where I considered adding more liquid but the spinach and mushroom mixture had its own liquid going so I just dumped and scraped the nut mixture into the spinach mixture and stirred it all together.
The pie plate was previously prepped with a coating of hazelnut meal stuck on with coconut oil (far left in the ingredients picture). Next all of the filling was carefully spooned into the ‘crust’, smoothed over, and moved into the 350*F oven where it baked for 45 minutes. I had no clue as to ‘how long’ to bake it – the ‘cheesecake’ had taken an hour. The pie was tested at 30 minutes with a thin knife and returned to the oven for another 15 minutes. After that test I returned the pie to the oven with the heat turned off so that the remainder cooked on residual heat. So it took a full hour like that ‘cheesecake’. Did I mention that the kitchen now smelled deliciously of all the herbs?
After removing from the oven (total oven time was 60 minutes) the pie sat on a cooling rack while my guilty conscious drove me out into the yard to pull weeds and cut back the stems on the bloomed-out irises. Plus I was afraid of burning my tongue if I tasted this experiment too soon and all of you know what that is like! Finally it was cool enough to put in the fridge so I could ignore it for a while longer and allow the seasonings to mellow. And it was so worth the wait . . .
Spinach Mushroom Pie Goes Vegan
3 tablespoons hazelnut meal
Cooking oil or spray to coat a 9” diameter pie pan
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 24 hours (1 1/3 cup expanded)(138 g)
2 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut butter, slightly warm
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup cooked quinoa, warm
1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk, warm
2 cups chopped, steamed fresh spinach
or 1 package (10-16 ounces) chopped, frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
or 1 can spinach, well drained
1 8-ounce package sliced fresh mushrooms, sautéed
or 1 8-ounce can sliced mushroom, well drained
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground dried savory
Plan ahead: At least one day before put the cashews to soak and cook enough quinoa so that you will have 1 cup for the pie filling. Store the quinoa in the fridge and the cashews as well if they soak for more than the 24 hours (and that’s OK).
Prepare a 9” pie pan by coating it with oil or spray. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of hazelnut meal into the pan and then tilt and rotate it to distribute the meal to create a very thin ‘crust’. Do this maneuver over the bowl for mixing the filling so that any spills are saved – set the pan aside. Turn the oven to 350*F.
Put the spinach and mushrooms in your mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of quinoa, hazelnut meal, and dried herbs. Stir well to distribute the seasonings.
Drain the water from the cashews. If they have been refrigerated then warm them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Dump them into the blender jar. Add the coconut butter, sea salt, the 1/2 cup warmed quinoa, and 1/4 cup coconut milk. Start the blender and begin to break down the cashews, pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. Dial up the blender speed and begin to puree the mixture; again pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed.
Add the remainder of the coconut milk only if you really need it but do not hesitate if you do need it. The worst that can happen is that it takes a few minutes longer to bake. When the blender mixture is perfectly smooth like nut butter then add all of it to the vegetable/herb mixture and stir so that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared pie plate and smooth down the top. Transfer the pan to the oven and set the timer for the first test (about 30 minutes). It will not be ready unless you have a really hot oven. Testing is similar to any other baked item – the knife should come out relatively clean. Add another 15 minutes and test again. If it is still not ready then put it back, turn off the heat, and go away for 15-30 minutes.
Cool the dish on a rack before cutting into serving portions. This recipe provides 4-8 servings depending on the rest of the meal. I cut it into 8ths so that it lasts more days for breakfasts and snacks!