A Pie for Pi Day

Vegetable TartToday is Pi Day! Celebrate the beauty of the mathematical constant for the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter! Yeah, beautiful. Geometry class was a circle, too…a circle of Hell. Just thinking about pi conjures up a curious mixture of anxiety and ennui. Perhaps I’ll join the Tau Movement.

Celebrating 3/14 by baking a pie is much more fun than thinking about circles and ratios and angles. Although most pies are round. And those wedges…they’re triangular! Oh, for the love of a2+b2+c2! There’s no escaping pi! This is why I’m a math athiest.

I chose a savory tart for this year’s pie – mostly because we have a lot of grilled veggies hanging around (this tart is perfect for leftover veggies) and because I like to use my tart pan with the removable bottom, for a classy look.

The press-in pastry is a favorite, especially for people who don’t have a lot of experience with rolling pie crusts. A little rye flour – just a couple of tablespoons – makes the crust seem more rustic. Or something. Now, I know that some of you will drag out one of those refrigerated, pre-rolled things. As a pie snob, I would never use one; as a pragmatist, I understand that we’re all busy, etc. What worries me is, how does Pillsbury achieve that smooth, Play-Dohesque consistency?

It’s a mystery, like math itself.

Grilled Veggie ‘n Feta Tart
(9” or 10” tart)

1 recipe Press-in Tart Pastry (see recipes)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
1-1/2 Cups grilled veggies (peppers, zukes, etc.)
2 large eggs
¾ Cup heavy cream
Small handful fresh herbs, minced
Fine dry breadcrumbs
4 ounces feta, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400OF.  Prepare the pastry and press into the tart pan. Partially blind-bake the pastry for 10 minutes; remove weights and bake 5 minutes longer. Cool.

Saute onions in oil 5 minutes. Add the veggies and stir for about 1 minute – just to warm them through. Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and cool.

In a bowl combine eggs with cream, herbs and salt and pepper.

Place the tart shell on a baking sheet. Sprinkle bottom of pastry with breadcrumbs. Spread veggies in the shells; crumble cheese on top. Pour egg-cream mixture over the top.

Lower oven temperature to 350OF. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set. Cool 5 minutes before cutting.

Press-in Pastry
(9” or 10” tart shell)

1 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 Cup cold butter or solid Crisco, or a mix of the two
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg

Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until fine crumbs form.  Add egg; mix with fork until dough begins to hold together.  Add 1-2 t. very cold water if mixture seems too dry.  (You can do this all in the food processor, too.)

Spray a 9″ or 10″ tart pan with removable bottom with Pam.  Press dough into bottom and up sides of pan.

TO PARTIALLY BLIND BAKE:  Dock pastry well with a fork.  Line tart shell with foil, shiny side down.  Weight shell with 1 Cup dry rice or beans.  Bake @ 425 degrees F for 10 minutes; remove foil and weights; bake 5-10 minutes longer.

Egg Sandwich Sermonette

The title of this blog is Cacklefruit – which is diner-speak for eggs, a subject I’m passionate about. (It was almost named Deadeye, which is a poached egg, but I didn’t want to limit myself). And on that note, today’s homily concerns the egg sandwich.

Many moons ago, I came across a little self-published cookbook on the joys of midnight snacking. A great subject but the author blandly stated that the egg sandwich was not an appropriate midnight snack. Blasphemy! As a kid, I can remember waking in the middle of the night, certain that I was dreaming of eggs frying in butter, the smell was so immediate. But a light from the kitchen downstairs revealed the reality: my mother in her fleece bathrobe, frying up an egg sandwich in her little cast-iron skillet. The type of bread escapes me – white toast? – but the beverage of choice (chocolate milk) and the plate she served it on (a folded paper towel) were always part of the ritual. It seemed to be the perfect thing to eat in the middle of the night.

McDonald’s brought the egg sandwich to the world with their Egg McMuffin. I still love them and bet DaVinci would have, too: the Vitruvian Egg, perfectly inscribed in both the square of semi-melted processed cheese food and the round pink meat disc. And nestled between two flabby semi-toasted English muffin halves, all for 99 cents (probably about 20 florins for ol’ Leonardo). The McMuffin is usually hot enough to burn the hell out your mouth, too.

If Micky-D’s is too plebeian for you, there are versions like the one I had the other day at a little vegetarian coffee shop on Salt Spring Island: a folded omelet, local goat cheese, and roasted peppers on an incredible slice of artisan foccacia, all schmooshed together in a panini press. Described on the menu as handcrafted, which is the sort of inane restaurant speak that makes me grind my teeth but is sure to please egg sandwich snobs like you.

I seldom find egg sandwiches that are awful; there are so many good ones out there and it’s hard to pick a favorite but my mom’s Three-Decker Club is a winner. It’s composed of omelet, deli ham, American cheese, bacon, iceberg lettuce, and sliced tomato, on toasted white with mayo. It’s a stack of heaven that erases the line between madness and genius.

The egg-cholesterol thing was something I ignored for years, thanks to my mother. (And my cholesterol level is fine, thanks for asking.) Now eggs are back in vogue and appearing everywhere. Egg sandwiches! I love ’em hot, cold, plain, and fancy. They’re appearing on hamburgers and on veal schnitzel, in burrito wrappers, with or without cheese, fried or scrambled. You can even hard-cook them and make a sliced egg sandwich, although egg salad itself doesn’t truly classify as an egg sandwich, midnight-version. Oh, and egg-whites? Well, no, but if that’s your thing…

Recently, the fried egg sandwich became my go-to meal of choice when working late. It’s fast, cheap, proteiny, and easy to do. Mine consists of an over-easy egg, lotsa pepper, two slices bacon (optional), a slice of Hoffmans’s Sharp cheddar (non-negotiable), a schmear of Hellman’s Light, and three dashes of Choula’s Hot Sauce – all on a bulkie. Once assembled, the bulkie is flattened as much as possible with the flat of the hand (handcrafted, no?). The bulkie is critical; where I’m from, it’s called a Kaiser roll and forget the whole wheat version – that’s too sweet for this kind of sandwich. (Kaiser rolls are also essential for a Philly surf ‘n turf – a hot dog and deep-fried crab cake together on a roll. Are you drooling? Or reaching for the Pepto?).

So, I say unto you, yea verily, eat more eggs. Eat them often, nay, daily, in the form of an egg sandwich (if it’s after 9:00 PM wherever you are). Eat them in all their infinite varieties and cease to worry about nutrition – the Devil can quote cholesterol ratios for his purpose! Go forth and indulge yourself in some eggy goodness – Mom and Leonardo would be proud.