BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Pie-Eyed

Pie, a beloved comestible known in countless forms across the globe, is as ubiquitous across cultures as it is indefinable. Sweet or savory; open-faced or closed; family-style, or single-serving; ornate, or humble; there is no single definition for the concept of pie, but I think we can agree that all permutations are entirely delicious. Every 14th day of March, otherwise known as Pi Day (3.14,) gives the otherwise mathematically averse a reason to bust out the rolling pins and embrace the pastry of honor.

Food historians generally agree that the earliest pies were more closely related to enriched flatbreads with various toppings than deep-dish desserts, which illuminates the link between pie and yet another universally cherished provision: Pizza. In fact, old school establishments still refer to them as hybrid “pizza-pies.” The lines become increasingly blurry depending on who you ask, the general consensus being that all pizzas are pies, but not all pies are pizzas. Got that?

Nomenclature notwithstanding, I was inspired by my Connecticut roots on this particular Pi Day, recalling the inimitable New Haven invention known as white clam pie. Leave the tomatoes behind and instead load up on the cheese, garlic, and herbs. Adding squishy morsels of seafood into that matrix might sound downright repulsive on paper, but once veganized with briny marinated mushrooms, the combination suddenly makes perfect sense.

Re-imagined as a genuine pastry-clad pie, a flaky pastry crust supports a base of soy ricotta, generously seasoned with satisfying umami flavors. Skewing ratios to favor the filling, what was once a decadent, buttery pastry is now a rich yet balanced dinner entree. Even the thinnest slice will prove surprisingly filling, considering the serious protein packed into every square (or should I say circular?) inch. Though not a perfect mock for mollusks, the cruelty-free clams bear an impressive oceanic flavor profile, adding all the right salty, savory notes.

No doubt, there will be a plethora of crusted wonders for dessert today, but why wait for the last course to begin the festivities? A savory dinner pie will start things rolling in the right direction.

White Clam Pie

Vegan Clams:

1/2 Pound Small Cremini or Button Mushrooms, Quartered
1 Tablespoon Vegan Butter
1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Stock
2 Tablespoons Vegan Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Capers
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 Teaspoon Celery Seeds

Okara Ricotta:

1 Cup Plain, Unsweetened Vegan Yogurt
6 – 8 Cloves Roasted Garlic
3/4 Pound Dry Okara*
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Finely Chopped
3 Tablespoons Fresh Basil, Finely Chopped
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

For Assembly:

Your Favorite 9-Inch Pie Crust, Rolled and Shaped but Unbaked
Fresh Parsley, Finely Minced
Lemon Zest (Optional)

*If you can’t find okara in local markets and don’t make your own soy milk, you can substitute one 14-ounce container or super-firm tofu instead. Press it for at least two hours to extract as much liquid as possible, and crumble it finely before using.

To prepare the “clams,” begin by melting the vegan butter in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, until softened and aromatic. Introduce the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes to infuse the mushrooms. Uncover, and continue to cook gently until any remaining liquid has evaporated. Discard the bay leaf and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

For the filling, mix together the vegan yogurt and roasted garlic in a large bowl, mashing the cloves thoroughly into a rough paste in the process. If you would like a smoother finished texture, move everything into the bowl of your food processor, but if you’d something with a bit more character, continue stirring by hand. Add in the okara and mix thoroughly to incorporate, being sure to break up any clumps. Introduce all of the remaining ingredients for the ricotta, stirring well until the mixture is is homogeneous. Fold in the mushroom “clams” last.

Transfer the white clam filling into your prepared pie crust and smooth it out into an even layer. Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set but slightly wobbly, almost like a firm cheesecake. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Top with freshly chopped parsley and lemon zest, if desired, and enjoy.

This pie is an ideal make-ahead meal, since the flavors only improve with age and it’s easier to slice after it’s had more time to rest. Simply cover and chill after baking for up to 5 days. To reheat, pop it back into the oven at 350 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes, until heated all the way through.

Makes 8 Servings

Printable Recipe


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The World is Flat

When it comes to pizza, flatter is simply better. Having been raised on nothing but thin and crispy New York-style crusts, it seems like sacrilege to even consider deviating from that delicious formula. Never has this household seen the likes of deep dish, an abomination of doughy flat bread and vast pools of sauce. Perish the thought! Quite the contrary, the pizzas my dad rolls out for special occasions are so ethereally thin, each slice can sometimes seem like no more than a delicate wafer cracker, brushed with just a whisper of the red stuff. Thus, it’s a scandalous, shameful thing I have done in the name of dough just recently… Forgoing the rolling pin and long waits for the dough to rise, I made a quick and dirty pan pizza.

Lacking the grace of a paper-thin pie, it however makes up for this shortcoming in ease of preparation. Practically instant, there’s no down time waiting for the dough to rise, and you can go from zero to dinner in just about 30 minutes. Pleasantly chewy and sturdy enough to support whatever toppings are piled on, I think there’s room in my heart for this thicker, heftier crust, too.

Inspired by Vegalicious, I found the idea of a super-speedy white sauce completely irresistible, and with a container of plain, unsweetened soy yogurt sitting patiently in the fridge, it was clearly meant to be. Laughably simple yet complex in flavor, it’s subtly cheesy, almost gooey, and all too perfect to keep to myself. Who needs tomatoes on pizza anyway? You’ll forget all about that red spread with this gem of a sauce.

White Pan Pizza with Mushrooms

Pizza Crust:

1/4 Cup Oil, Divided

1 Cup Warm Water
2 Teaspoons Instant Yeast, or 1 1/4-Ounce Package Rapid Rise Yeast
2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

White Sauce:

3/4 Cup Unsweetened Plain Soy Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Tiny Pinch Ground Nutmeg

1/2 Pound Button Mushrooms
1/4 Pound Shiitake Mushrooms

Fresh Parsley or Basil

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and use 1 tablespoon in each of 2 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Place all of the ingredients for the crust into your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or food processor, and start on a low speed or pulse to combine. Once everything is more or less incorporated, allow the machine to run and “knead” the dough for about 5 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes while you prepare the sauce and toppings.

In a medium bowl, stir together the soy yogurt and spices so that you have a smooth, homogeneous mixture. Slice the mushrooms and chop your herbs, and then set both aside.

Pull the dough out of the machine, and cut it into two equal pieces. Roll them briefly between the counter and your hands to round out the lumps, and then place one in each of the oiled cake pans. Use your finger tips to smooth the crusts into the bottom of the pans, so that they’re evenly covering the entire bottom. If the dough resists and pulls back, just leave it alone for 5 or 10 minutes and then try shaping it again. Brush 1 tablespoon of oil cross the top of each round of dough, and slide the pans into the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes and pull them back out. Distribute the white sauce equally between the two pizzas, and smooth it evenly across the surface, leaving just a small edge bare so that you can pick up the slices later. Sprinkle your sliced mushrooms on top, and return the two pies to the oven. Bake for 8 more minutes, and then switch to the broiler. Broil for 5 – 8 minutes longer, until the crust is golden brown.

Let cool for at least 5 minutes before sprinkling your fresh herbs on top, slicing, and digging in.

Makes 2 9-Inch Round Pan Pizzas

Printable Recipe

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