October 21, 2013

Pies and Tarts With Heart: review and recipe


I'm not much of a pie baker. I admit it. I make a pie now and then like the obligatory pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, or an occasional cream pie for a review, but I have issues that generally distract me from pie baking. The biggest one is that I balk at adding large amounts of fat to food, and pie crusts are one of those foods that usually have a lot of fat. I have also been hesitant about rolling out a gluten-free crust, preferring instead to find a way to avoid a pastry crust in favor of a nut crust, grain crust, or other press-in-crust affair. Not to mention that I've never had much of a sweet tooth. I can work around these issues on my own, but here I am reviewing a pie book! When I review a book, I like to make the recipes as written, not adjust them to my preferences.


In spite of my reservations and fears, that's exactly what I did with Dynise Balcavage's book, Pies and Tarts With Heart, and all I can say is, WOOHOO! I made two pies from the book, including one with a rolled-out gluten-free crust, and one with a mashed-potato crust, and you have to believe me when I tell you that they were both amazing, and I wasn't thinking about fat as I devoured them. Because I'd just recently reviewed a dessert book, I was feeling like making something savory, and the book had so many tempting options it was hard to choose just the two I had time to make. Seriously, having a pie book with so many gorgeous photos should be illegal. Truthfully, I kept wavering between the sweet pies and the savory, but finally couldn't resist the Aloo Palak Pie with a mashed potato crust. Oh my. The pie was pretty easy to make, and tasted amazingly delicious. It was all I could do not to eat the whole thing myself. I can see myself making this again and again — with and without the crust. I served it with a side of chickpeas, and it made a wonderful meal.


Although the book is not specifically gluten-free, Dynise provides lots of options for GF baking, and my next pie-making adventure involved making that scary GF single crust. It rolled out pretty easily, and was nice and flaky, but as you can see, it did crack a little after it was baked — I'll need to troubleshoot that. I made the Red Pepper Onion Tarte Tatin, and not only did I have to roll out a crust, I had to bake the pie with the crust on top and flip it over when it was done. I didn't understand from the directions just how much of the crust to trim, so I ended up with quite a bit of overhang. In spite of the technical difficulties, the taste was excellent. We enjoyed our tarte alongside black beans and steamed kale.

Pies and Tartes with Heart has lots more savory recipes like Cornish pasties, Mexican Tortilla Pie, Quiche, etc. etc. etc., but let's move on to the sweet stuff. Every manner of traditional fruit and sweet vegetable pie, including one made with only your favorite jam and a crust, fills the first section. Some examples are Cherry or Blueberry Pie, Gingered Pear Pie, Shoo-Fly Pie, Retro Strawberry Pie, and Pumpkin Pie. Then there are the cream pies — like Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie, S'more Pie, Frozen Spumoni Pie, Frozen Chocolate Mudslide Pie, etc. Next we have citrus pies and tarts like Lemon Fluff Pie, Lemon Bar Pie, and Chocolate Orange Curd Pie. There's also a collection of raw pies, nut pies, fancy pies, and pie toppers, plus of course, recipes for multiple types of pie crusts. All in all there are more than 60 recipes.

In addition to the 60+ recipes, there's a section covering pie-making 101, where Dynise provides all the information you need about ingredients, techniques and equipment to have you up and rolling in no time. Recipes that can be made gluten-free are noted, as are fast, low-fat, kid-friendly, raw and no-bake recipes. And, there are handy tips and informative notes throughout the book. Pies and Tarts With Heart is lavishly illustrated with beautiful photography by Paul Runyon.

Dynise Balcavage is the author of two previous cookbooks, The Urban Vegan and Celebrate Vegan. She blogs at urbanvegan.net.

Quarry Books has graciously allowed the recipe for Aloo Palak Pie to be reprinted. It is copyrighted material. Please do not reproduce without permission from the publisher.


Aloo Palak Pie with Mashed Potato Crust

Mashed Potato Pie Crust (one 9-inch crust)
We usually think of vegetables as pie filling and not pie bases. But I like to flip things upside down on occasion. Some vegetables, like the potato family, make wonderful savory crust bases. Carbolicious and comforting, mashed potato crusts are economical and an interesting way to transform leftovers into a literal meal base. You can use mashed white potatoes, sweet potatoes, or even mashed turnips or rutabagas. Or mix and match.
  • About 5 potatoes, peeled and baked, or "nuked"
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (28 to 42 g) margarine
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 ml) nondairy milk (to bind, if needed)
  • ½ teaspoon salt or more, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place the potatoes in a large bowl. Mash with the margarine and milk until creamy. (Use a potato ricer to save time!) Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Aloo-Palak Pie

Aloo palak without ghee is one of the darlings of vegan Indian cuisine lovers. This 'reconstructed' version uses all the flavors of aloo palak that you love, in an unexpected pie presentation. It’s loaded with vitamins and it’s cheaper than takeout.
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) tart

For Spinach Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red hot pepper flakes (optional, but I use the full Monty!)
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 cups (360 g) roughly chopped, trimmed spinach or baby spinach, preferably organic
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC, or gas mark 4).

Press the crust into the pan. Set aside.

To make the filling:
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the spices, then the garlic and onion, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt if the mixture starts to dry out.

Add one-fourth of the spinach, let it wilt, stir, and repeat until all of the spinach is in the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes. Spread into the crust.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of the book. All opinions are my own. I was not paid for my review.

30 comments:

  1. What a pretty cookbook cover, and same here not a pie baker but I like to eat all sorts of savory and sweet pies, hehe. That's great that the cookbook provides GF baking options. I would love to try the Pumpkin Pie & the Mexican Tortilla Pie. Mmmm, the mashed potato crust looks so good...what a fantastic idea!

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    1. Lots of great pies in the book, and I'm looking forward to trying more of them.

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  2. I don't often make sweet pies (mainly because I will just work my way through a whole one if left unsupervised) but it's actually savoury ones that appeal more. I do like potato pastry, and the spinach filling is such a clever idea.

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    1. The spinach filling was so good I was in danger of eating it all on the spot. Had to force myself to share!

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  3. Thank you for posting the Aloo Palak Pie! It is freeeeeezing cold here today and anything savory and spicy with a mashed potato crust makes me want to munch it up, then happily hibernate. :)
    The book sounds superhelpful and creative...it's definitely going on my wishlist. Cheers!

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    1. You're welcome. It's the perfect pie to turn a winter day around.

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  4. Agreed, SO glad you were able to post the aloo palak recipe! my god it looks incredible!
    I'm not big on baking pies either - they are NOT easy! I always make a huge floury mess and break the crust. I'll have to see if i can get my hands on a copy of this, though, and flip through. Gorgeous pictures, Andrea - the onion looks perfect!

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    1. Not only incredible, but easy to make. Both pies were pretty easy, really — much easier than I was expecting. Even the rolled out crust came together without any trouble. I think I just had too much overhang — should have used a tart pan but didn't have the right size.

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  5. Thanks for the review and recipe! I love Dynise's other books and need to pick this one up. The aloo palak pie sounds delicious and the red onion one is gorgeous!

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    1. You're welcome. I have all of Dynise's cookbooks and I agree with you — they're really fun and creative. I loved both of the pies I tried.

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  6. Pies are still quite a mystery to me, especially the sweet ones with that flaky crust. So I am always happy about a new vegan pie book!

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    1. The crust I made was flaky, and would have served well for a sweet pie or savory one. I think Dynise's book can make a pie baker out of anyone, including me!

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  7. Oh yum! I love Indian food--thank you for sharing that recipe. It looks fantastic!

    Courtney

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    1. It IS fantastic. Both my husband and I couldn't stop exclaiming about it.

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  8. I just about died when you said "mashed potato crust". Good lord that sounds amazing!!

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    1. I know. There really wasn't any chance of choosing another recipe after I saw it.

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  9. Glad to see the cookbook has savory pies as I'm not a big sweet pie eater. Oh sure, I'll have a slice if offered one but I won''t go out of my way just to make one. But that pie with the mashed potato crust is a must make. Thanks for including the recipe. :-)

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    1. I was immediately drawn to the savory pies, especially the ones with alternative crusts. I've heard the quinoa crust is great!

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  10. Love pie, but don't get to eat it a lot as a gluten-free (and vegan) gal! Completely craving one now!

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    1. The rolled crust I made tasted just like regular crust, and the mashed potato crust was delicious. Lots of pie choices in the book that everyone will love.

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  11. Yet another cookbook to add to my Christmas wishlist! You just can't beat a good pie, savory or sweet, and your pictures have instantly sold me on this cookbook.

    Nothing wrong with crust overhang - in fact, I support crust overhang 100%! :)

    Thank you for posting the recipe! I have to make that Aloo Palak Pie soon!

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    1. Seriously, is there no end to the cookbooks we need? I always think I have enough, and then one more comes along that I want.

      I just ate the remains of the onion tart complete with overhang, and I'd have to agree with your sentiments. As for the spinach pie, that barely lasted two days. You should make it.

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  12. Not much of a pie maker, well you changed that! These are real beauties. Extra crust is always good in my book! Overhang is better than a hangover.

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    1. When you put it like that, I'd much rather have an overhang.

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  13. You had me at mashed potato crust. So happy when people post WITH permission. It's disconcerting when I google a recipe just to remind myself what cookbook it's in and I see that 28 people have posted it indiscriminately. People work too hard developing these recipes to have them reposted by folks who claim ownership just because they made the recipe. End rant.

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    1. I'm surprised by that, too, especially when I see the recipes on all the recipe collection sites without even an attribution. I'm going to add a note about this on the post.

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  14. Wow, what a fabulous cookbook! I love all manner of pies. Lucky you for receiving this! Your last photo is stunning.

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    1. It's pretty great — I just hope I can make myself try other pies instead of making the spinach one again and again. Thanks for the compliment. :)

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  15. Holy crap. Holy crap!!! Thank you for this recipe. It looks amaaaazing! I can't wait to make it. I want that book.

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    1. No kidding. I just bought a new supply of spinach!

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