Artichokes make tasty savory pie

Midway through my first cooking course in college, we came to the pie-making segment. Luckily, I was blessed with two lab partners who were just as interested as I in pursuing the more, shall we say, creative aspects of cookery than the average college freshman. So on the morning when we had to formulate our shopping list for the following day’s pie-making session, Joanne, Margie and I were once again in sync. While the rest of the class continued to pour through cookbooks looking for just the right fruit or chocolate cream pie we just sat there, our task already complete.

When the instructor checked our list she had only one question: “Artichoke pie?”

We showed her the recipe from “The Sunset Cookbook,” and she agreed it sounded unusual yet tasty.

The following day, however, after all the pies had been in their respective ovens for about 40 minutes and the heady aroma of baking apples and berries filled the air, our resolve waned a bit. Maybe a vegetable pie was a dumb idea after all. The tubs of ice cream the rest of the students had readied to ‘a la mode their little treats was the coup d’grace.

But when our savory artichoke pie was pulled from the oven it had its own distinctive aroma. By the time we gently lifted the top crust and poured the velvety white sauce - flavored with just a whisper of tarragon vinegar - over the mixture of cooked artichoke hearts and onions, a small crowd had gathered around our table, plates and forks in hand.

As you might expect, I’ve been partial to vegetable and meat pies ever since, which is why the original Sunset recipe that the three of us made in class has remained in my files all these years. I’m sharing it with you now, along with a couple of other savory offerings.

I also created a spin-off version of the artichoke pie in honor of that first experience. The addition of marinated artichoke hearts, with their slight tang, provide the perfect foil to the rich veloute sauce. All this baby needs to become a meal is a simple tossed green or spinach salad and a fine Oregon pinot.

Ice cream would be optional.

Artichoke Pie

Here’s the pie that captured our hearts in my college foods class twenty years ago.#

Pastry for 2-crust pie

2 packages frozen artichoke hearts

1/4 cup minced onion

2 teaspoons minced parsley

5 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup light cream

1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar

Prepare a 2-crust pastry. Cook artichoke hearts according to directions on the package. Line an 8-inch pie pan with half of the pastry. Trim pastry and seal edges to rim of the pan. Add the drained artichoke hearts; sprinkle with onion and parsley. Dot with 3 tablespoons of the butter, top with crust (rolled thicker than usual so it won’t break), and cut to fit the top of the pie. Lightly press top crust to rim of bottom crust, but DO NOT SEAL EDGES. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until crust is brown.

Just before time to serve pie, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk in flour and cream; cook until thick, stirring constantly. Then stir in the vinegar, drop by drop. Lift upper crust carefully (I’ve found that if you gently slide a plate under the crust for additional support as you’re lifting it, then the crust won’t break) and pour sauce over the artichoke hearts. Replace top and serve at once. Yields 6 servings.

Recipe from “The Sunset Cookbook,” by The Sunset Editorial Staff.

Vegetable Pie A la Joanne, Margie & Jan

This is the delicious spin-off of the original Sunset pie we made in class twenty years ago. Instead of frozen artichoke hearts, we went for the marinated variety, for a bit more zing, plus we added a bit of broccoli and fennel, which added depth in flavor.

5 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

1-1/2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup scalded heavy cream (see note below)

About 1/2 pound broccoli

1 cup chopped fennel bulb (about 1/2 medium-sized bulb)

1 cup chopped yellow onion

3/4 cup diced ham

2 (6 ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped to measure 2/3 cup

3/4 cup shredded cheddar

1 unbaked 8-inch pastry shell

In saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. With wire whisk, blend in the flour, and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the chicken broth in a steady stream. Return the pot to the burner and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in the scalded heavy cream, then remove pan from heat. You will have about 2-1/4 cups of sauce. (Note: The sauce may be prepared up to 24 hours ahead. Before refrigerating, let it cool for about 4 minutes, then gently place a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap on the surface so the sauce won’t form a skin.)

Peel the broccoli stalks and cut enough stalk and flowerets to measure 3 cups of broccoli pieces. Place the broccoli in a steamer rack along with the fennel and onion; cover and steam over rapidly boiling water for about 8 minutes (broccoli will be softened but not completely tender - do not overcook). Place the steamed vegetables in a bowl and combine with the ham, artichokes and 1 cup of the sauce. Stir gently to blend. Stir in the cheese, then spoon the vegetable mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. Pour the remaining 1-1/4 cups of sauce on top of the vegetable mixture, gently spreading it out with a spatula so that it reaches down in the corners around the crust. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour, or until top is golden and the filling bubbling and thickened.

Remove the pie from oven and let it stand for 20 minutes before serving. (NOTE: this is an important step, because the filling needs this time to “set up”; otherwise it will be too runny. Don’t worry, even after 20 minutes, it is still very hot.) Yields 6 servings. Delicious as a light supper, along with a tossed green salad and glass of Pinot Noir Blanc, or other dry, full-bodied white wine.

NOTE ON SCALDING CREAM: The term “scalding” means to heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat just until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge. Do not bring the milk to a boil.

Broccoli Pie

A spectacular brunch or light dinner, accompanied by garlic bread and crisp green salad.

1-1/2 pounds of broccoli

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sour cream

1 cup cottage cheese

2 eggs

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 Roma tomatoes (the pear-shaped variety), thinly sliced

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Peel the broccoli stalks by stripping away the tough, fibrous skin with a paring knife, then cut all of it into small chunks and flowerets. Steam the broccoli until crisp tender; arrange on the bottom of a greased 9-inch pie plate. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, oregano, and salt; whisk in the sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, and melted butter and beat until nearly smooth. Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli. Top with the tomato slices and sprinkle the grated Parmesan all over the top. Bake in 350 degree oven for an hour, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving for the pie to firm up. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe from “Season By Season - The Sonoma County Farmers Market Cookbook,” compiled and edited by Hilda Swartz, Margaret Terian, and The Committee.

Cauliflower-Cheese Pie, With Grated Potato Crust

Potato Crust (recipe follows)

1 cup chopped onion

1 medium clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoon butter or margarine

Dash of thyme

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 medium cauliflower, broken into small flowerets

1 heaping, packed cup grated Cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

Black pepper


Prepare the Potato Crust; set aside.

Saute onions and garlic in butter for 5 minutes. Add herbs, salt, and cauliflower and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spread half the cheese into the baked crust, then add the cauliflower mixture, then remaining cheese. Beat the eggs and milk together and pour over the vegetables. Dust the top with freshly ground black pepper and paprika. Bake in 375 degree oven until set, about 35 to 40 minutes. Yields about 6 servings.

GRATED POTATO CRUST: Place 2 cups of packed, grated raw potatoes in a colander over a bowl. Salt with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and leave for 10 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and then combine the potatoes with 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup grated onion. Pat the mixture into a well-oiled 9-inch pie pan, building up the sides of the crust with lightly-floured fingers. Bake in 400 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until browned. After the first 30 minutes, brush the crust with a little oil to crispen it.

Recipe from “Moosewood Cookbook,” by Molly Katzen.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.

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