Pi(e) Day: Zucchini and Fontina Pie

Slice of Zucchini PieToday is a very special holiday for all my fellow nerds of the world. It’s Pi day! As in 3.14…But if you are a fellow nerd, you already knew that.  Of course, it is ever so appropriate that on Pi day, the tradition is to bake a pie. Let it be known that I am 100% ok with this tradition. In fact, in some parts of the country, they even have full on pie baking competitions to commemorate Pi day. As luck would have it, I happen to have an award-winning pie baker in my very own family!

At this point, I’ve lost count of how many years in a row my super-talented sister-in-law, Kathy, has won awards at the annual Pi Day competition at Qualcomm, where Brian, my brother-in-law and her husband, works. She is quite skilled at pie decorations, and a couple years ago, she won with a “Q”aramel Apple Nut Pie, that was decorated with a cinnamon-striped serpent coiled on top, complete with a pie-dough tongue slithering out. She didn’t miss a single detail, with the snakeskin design and beady eyes. It was pretty impressive, and even kept its shape after baking. But if Kathy’s decorations are good, her pie flavors are even better. Let’s put it this way… I’m not a huge fan of cherry pie, but I like the cherry pie that she makes. And don’t get me started on her apple pie, with its perfectly flakey crust bursting with rich, fall, flavors.

To make a long story short… when it comes to pie, Kathy takes the cake. That’s why, this year for Pi Day, I decided to go in a different direction. Instead of trying my hand at a more traditional pie, I thought I’d give a savory pie a whirl.

Zucchini and Fontina Pie

Zucchini and Fontina Pie in all its glory.

My zucchini and fontina pie was inspired by taking a gander at what I had in the fridge, and throwing it all into a pie crust. It turned out very similar to a quiche, but with the way the silky ricotta dances with the melted fontina cheese in the filling layer, this pie resembles more of a savory cheesecake than a baked omelette. And while I’m not skilled enough to turn my zucchini slices into a snake, I tried my best to coil them around the top in a decorative layer.

Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, with this dish, we can celebrate Pi Day all day long!

Zucchini and Fontina Pie
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 6-8
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Celebrate Pi day (March 14th) with this savory pie.
Ingredients
  • 1 prepackaged pie crust, uncooked
  • 1 15 oz container part-skim ricotta
  • 8 oz fontina cheese, grated
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cups thinly sliced zucchini
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Roll out the pie dough, and press it into a greased pie pan.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, ½ of the fontina cheese, the parmesan cheese, eggs, milk, oregano, basil, and garlic. Add a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pie crust, and use a spatula to even out the top.
  5. Gently place the zucchini slices on top, creating whatever design you'd like.
  6. Sprinkle remaining fontina cheese on top of zucchini.
  7. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown, and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

 

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Farro: a love letter to my vegetarian friends.

Farro with broccolini and mushrooms

Every once in a while, I’ll throw together a dish using only ingredients I find in the pantry and fridge.  And every once in a while, I hit a home run good enough that Kenny requests the dish time and again. I did it with my “Tilapia a la Jenny,” and not too long ago, I did it with farro. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this ancient Roman grain, allow me to introduce you, because farro is making a comeback in a major way. High in fiber and protein, its slightly nutty flavor and chewy texture make it a favorite amongst vegetarians and carnivores alike. Best of all, its super cost-effective nature, meaning a little goes a long way, makes it ideal for feeding a crowd.

Even though my “crowd” consisted of just the two of us, that bag of “10-minute” farro was calling my name from it’s hiding spot tucked away in the black hole known as my pantry. It was one of those nights that I came home from work exhausted, and hadn’t had time to run to the market. So, I did what I do best, and I foraged throughout my kitchen, pulling an onion from the basket on the counter, that pint of meaty crimini mushrooms that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days, and that bunch of broccolini I’d been meaning to use. Since I had never tasted farro before, I was a little apprehensive about its flavor, but then I remembered a rule of thumb my mom taught me ages ago. Whenever I cook grains whose directions suggest cooking them in water, I always add a boost of flavor by swapping the water with a corresponding stock. Often times, I use chicken stock, just because I always have it on hand, but vegetable or beef stocks are interchangeable in this particular recipe.

Once I got the farro going in the stock, I made quick work chopping and sauteing the onions and mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. I added the broccolini at the very end, because I didn’t want it to lose all of its crunch. As soon as the farro was done cooking, I mixed in the vegetables, and topped it all with a nice snow of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

As Kenny and I sat down for dinner, I was a little nervous to serve this to Mr. Meat-and-Potatoes, but my worries quickly subsided when I caught him serving himself a second helping. Lucky for me, he left enough leftovers for me to indulge with breakfast the next day. And oh, was I ever thankful. Topping this dish with a poached egg and watching the runny yolk drip over the farro might just be my new favorite way to start the day.

This is how we do breakfast in my house.

This is how we do breakfast in my house.

 

Farro with Onions, Mushrooms, and Broccolini
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4-6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Consider this dish a love letter to vegetarians (but know that carnivores will love it, too).
Ingredients
  • 1 cup farro
  • chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 pint crimini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 bundle broccolini, coursely chopped
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook farro according to package instructions, swapping the stock for the water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat olive oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms, and cook until the onions are transluscent.
  3. Add broccolini, and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Season vegetables with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and add the cooked farro. Mix well, and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  5. Serve immediately.

 

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