“September Tomatoes, Bacon & Spinach Pie with Thyme-Pepper Crust”

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The September tomatoes…the ripe red ones that hang on vines starting to droop, vines heavy with green tomatoes that will never see red…these ripe homegrowns are the sweetest of the season I think. They are summer’s last gift before it is all a memory.

wee tomato bird

What to do with the last few tomatoes just picked? A BLT…a jar of tomato sauce…a pie? Yes. I love to make pies.  A deep savory pie it will be.

A crust using fresh lemon thyme from my garden along with some freshly ground black peppercorns is where I will start.

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I am a fan of the springform pan for tarts & pies as well as for cake. A straight sided savory pie is just so beautiful.

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Thick sliced homegrown tomatoes salted and draining on paper towels before adding to the pie helps pull out some of the water before using. I do not want this pie to be too watery.

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The spinach & ricotta filling  is creamy enough to hold up the next layers.

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Filling topped with thick sliced toms and crispy, thick sliced bacon torn into pieces.

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Creamy spinach filling, salty-sweet September tomatoes & crispy bacon. Let’s eat! DSC_1955

September Tomatoes, Bacon & Spinach Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached flour with a pinch of salt added
  • 1 stick cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
  • a few tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 med homegrown tomatoes sliced thickly/or 1 large tomato & some cherry toms
  • 1 cup whole fat ricotta
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh spinach steamed, drained & chopped
  • 4 slices thick bacon, cooked crispy & broken into pieces
  • sea salt & freshly ground black peppercorns

Directions:

  1. For crust put the flour, pinch of salt, thyme leaves & pepper in a food processor & pulse a few times. Add cold butter pieces, pulse a few more times until incorporated.
  2. With machine running drizzle in ice-cold water until a dough ball forms. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes before rolling out.
  3. In the meantime, place thickly sliced tomatoes on paper towels & sprinkle with some sea or kosher salt. Let sit for 20 minutes. This will pull some of the moisture out of the tomatoes. Right before adding to the pie pat dry again with dry paper towels.
  4. Preheat oven to 350. Roll chilled dough out on a floured board into a circle large enough to fit into & half-way up the sides of  a 9″ springform  pan.
  5. Spray pan bottom & sides with cooking spray. Fit dough into the pan bottom & half way up sides. Crimp and fold to make an even top edge. Set aside.
  6. In a mixing bowl whisk together the ricotta and eggs, 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper,  until fluffy. Stir in drained & chopped spinach. Mix well.
  7. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the bottom of the dough. Top with the ricotta-spinach mixture. Add tomato slices. Scatter the crispy bacon pieces over all.
  8.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until puffy & golden brown and center is set. Cover with a sheet of foil if the top starts getting too brown.  Let rest for 20 min. before cutting.

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“Speck-tacular Season”

Christmas Day 2010, Nashville

Speck, anyone? Not your familiar Southern pork product.

Waking up this morning to a backyard that looked like this:

Cafe Latte’s…..to wake up, walk the dog and make a special Christmas Day morning breakfast of Pannekoeken with Speck. More about Speck later…..first the coffee…

…next Ella…

…lucky dogs get new toys and walks in the snow.

Now to our breakfast….I have blogged about Wouter’s fantastic Dutch Appel Pannekoeken before, but not Pannekoeken with Speck.

A bit about Speck:

References to “speck” have been showing up in many of my cooking books and magazines from Great Britain & Australia recently…to my mind it was “just smoked cured bacon”….wrong!

Wouter has always talked about speck…the taste, how it is different from any of our regional bacons in the US, about not being able to purchase it here…my curiousity inspired me to request some from his last trip home.

 

 

 

 

 

Curing

Like prosciutto and other hams, speck is made from the hind leg of the pig, but, unlike other prosciutti, speck is boned before curing.

A leg of pork is deboned and divided into large sections called “baffe”, and then cured in salt and various spice combination which may include garlicbay leavesjuniper berriesnutmeg, and otherspices, and then rested for a period of several weeks. After this the smoking process begins.

Speck is cold-smoked slowly and intermittently for two or three hours a day for a period of roughly a week using woods such as beech.

USES:

Speck is ubiquitous in the local cuisine of the province of Bolzano-Bozen, and is also found in the AustrianCzechDutchCroatianGermanItalian and Slovak cuisines.

Speck can easily replace bacon or as a smoky alternative to Pancetta. The differences between speck and bacon include different time lengths of smoking, the technique of curing it, and the fact that speck cures for a longer period of time than bacon does.

I am sure there are shops all over the USA that sell Speck, but it will be in large city markets…otherwise you can just google “speck” and find many mail order shops.
Wouter brought this vacuumed packed back in his suitcase from Amsterdam. When I opened it this morning for the first time I was struck by the wonderful smokey, spicy, salty aroma unlike any of our bacons.

The slab of speck is cut into thin bacon-like slices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooked until somewhat crispy.
Meanwhile pancake batter is whisked together. You can use your favorite recipe or even a boxed mix as a last resort. If using a boxed mix add extra liquid so batter is runny.
Batter is poured over speck in skillet and cooked on both sides til golden brown and crispy.
One thing that just must be the real thing is the syrup…real maple syrup, not anything else.
This bottle was given to me as a gift from my daughter, Whitney. She knows how much I love maple syrup and even more when it comes in a charming bottle like this!
Pannekoeken with Speck drizzled with maple syrup for a cold Christmas Day morning.
The best Holiday gift!
Two of my favorite Santa Claus images from “Twas the night before Christmas” by Reverend Howard Finster.
Happy Holiday and New Year from Teresa at foodonfifth.com

 

 

 

 

 

Speculaas, Sinterklaas, Southern-style…..

December 5th, 2010

Photo of Sinterklaas coming into Amsterdam via boat with a stack of our freshly baked Speculaas.

Wrapped & ready to go.

The inspiration: Dutch Magazine “SINT”, Wouter brought this home from his recent trip full of wonderful old photos and new stories of  December 5th Sinterklaas celebrations & memories & recipes.

We don’t have any canals outside our house or boats for Sinterklaas to arrive at our home on 5th Avenue here in Nashville, but a few days before December 5th we invited a few friends & family for a small, last-minute “Sinterklaas Brunch” anyway. The Cumberland River is just a few blocks away so you never know?

Wouter made his spectacular, traditional Speculaas cookies to celebrate. We don’t have any of the “molds” normally used so we just made our own “free-form” designs.

“Wouter’s Speculaas”

First we made the spice mixture needed for the cookies and for this you will need:             2 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon; 1 tsp ground cloves; 1 tsp ground nutmeg; 1/2 tsp white pepper; 1/2 tsp ginger powder; 1/4 tsp ground coriander;  1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Put all ingredients into an airtight jar, shake well and set aside.

Ingredients & Instructions for Speculaas:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour; 3 tsp baking powder; 3/4 cup brown sugar; 1 1/2 Tbsp spice mixture; 1 cup butter (2 sticks); just enough milk to wet mixture to create a dough; 1 cup whole blanched almonds

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Add all dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into chunks and add to bowl.

2. Using fingers or a pastry cutter blend ingredients together until all ingredients are well incorporated and begin to form  a crumbly dough.

3. Drizzle enough milk over dough to form a ball.

4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface & pat into a flattened round. Using a rolling-pin that has been dusted with flour roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thick slab. As you roll, stop & pat dough into a rectangular shape. Dust board, dough & rolling-pin as needed with additional flour. Transfer dough to a buttered & lightly floured baking sheet.

5. Place whole almonds decoratively over surface of Speculaas dough, lightly pressing into surface.

We really like lots of almonds in our Speculaas so Wouter covered the surface. Notice how beautiful the dough is with all those “hand-print” impressions on the surface. This particular large shape Wouter calls “Broken Speculaas” as after it is baked you just serve and everyone “breaks” off a piece. A very beautiful organic dessert with a nice cup of coffee, tea or Cava.

6. Place in pre-heated oven. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until slightly puffed &edges are golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool a bit before serving. Great warm or room temp.

We wanted to give away a few Speculaas as well as send some to Wouter’s Mother, Elizabeth in Amsterdam, so we made a second batch (same recipe) except we made the cookies smaller.

Chocolate letters….a fun tradition…everyone gets their first name, first letter!

 

We had eggs baked with cream, Benton bacon, Apple Pannekoeken, chilled Cava & Blood Orange/Ruby Grapefruit juice.

This is the cookbook that has the recipe for the Speculaas. It is the cookbook that came with the gas oven Wouter’s parent’s bought in 1957. That same oven is still in their kitchen in Amsterdam. We use it when we are there and it works like a charm. The cover makes me smile.

Happy Holidays.

A bit of History: Speculaas (Dutch pronunciation: [spekyˈlaːs], French spéculoos) is a type of shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on St Nicholas’ Eve in theNetherlands (December 5) and Belgium (December 6). In recent decades it has become available all year round. Speculaas are thin, very crunchy & slightly browned.

In the United States speculaas are often sold as Dutch Windmill cookies.[1]