Pondering the Fungi – Shiitake and Crimini Mushroom Cheese Crust Pie

Looking through the latest issue of Donna Hay magazine while pondering what to eat for dinner I turned a page and beheld the most fabulous photographs of savory pies, crusty quiches, deep dish tarts…whatever you want to call them…and knew exactly what we would be having for dinner. A quick trip to the market and a couple of hours, and much pondering later, our Shiitake-Crimini Mushroom-Cheese Crust Pie was in the oven.

While I was taking photographs of the mushrooms and later while the pie was baking I spent some time pondering nature and how fantastic it is that we have environments where these little, almost precious looking, edible fungi thrive.  Relaxing musings.

This  led to me pondering about what would make any foolish person or persons in charge of overseeing the balance of our natural world want to change, damage or undo environmental policies that protect such environments. Anxious thoughts.

This line of thinking led me to reading about the world of mushrooms. I needed a diversion from the political path I was going down while  waiting for my pie to bake.  I was pretty happy to learn how adaptable they are to multiple and risky environments. Fungi can adapt in amazing ways to changes in the earth and still thrive. Happy ponderings.

Which led me to realize we humans are not in any adaptable league with fungi.  Sad thought.

The last 10 minutes of bake time I spent writing a note or two to a few congressman and the White House about their recent disregard for the environment, fungi and life on earth as we know it.  Hopeful Act.

Pie ponderings. No matter how much I cook I still learn new “tricks” that make so much cooking sense.  Such is the making of this crust. Once the springform pan is prepped and the cheese dough is well-chilled I grated it into and over the bottom. It’s so much easier to press down and up the sides. Grating the chilled dough also created a finished baked pie with a ruggedly ragged crust that is very striking. Thank you Donna Hay.

It looks a lot like fresh pasta doesn’t it?

Sauted mushrooms, Gruyère shredded, eggs, cream, fresh thyme leaves fill the crust……

….to be baked to a toasty brown perfection.

This is one of the best things I have made in a while. Crisp crust, velvety filling with the earthy mushrooms and the sharpness of Gruyère cheese. After all that pondering so very satisfying with a salad and glass of wine. Delicious thoughts.

Shiitake and Crimini Mushroom Cheese Crust Pie


Ingredients for crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon salt mixed in
  • 1 1/2 cups cold butter chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded aged white Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg
  • a few tablespoon cold water if needed
  • parchment paper cut to fit 9″springform pan
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter for springform pan
  • a smear of Dijon mustard for the baked crust

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped small
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt & 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound mixed shiitake and crimini mushrooms, trimmed
  • 1 cup heavy cream, warmed in the microwave
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (divided)
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Directions for crust:

  1. Place all ingredients except for the ice water in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Remove lid and using fingers test dough to see if it will hold together. If not, replace processor lid and drizzle in, by tablespoons, cold water until dough starts to hold together. It can still be loose and slaggy.
  2. Dump dough onto a flat work surface and form into a firm ball. Cover with plastic and chill for 1 hour. (This could be done the day before just as well.)
  3. When ready to make pie preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan. Place in pan and butter paper.
  5. Grate well-chilled dough over the bottom of the pan evenly. Press in bottom and up sides of pan halfway leaving an uneven somewhat ragged edge.
  6. Line dough with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, fill with pie weights or beans and bake for 25 minutes on a large sheet tray.
  7. Remove the paper and weights and cook for another 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Turn heat to 325.
  8. While crust is cooking saute onion and garlic, salt and pepper in olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat until onions are softened. Remove and set aside.
  9. Melt butter in same skillet and add mushrooms. Saute until lightly browned stirring often. Remove from heat.
  10. Slowly add the warm cream to the eggs, whisking as you add. Stir in half of the Gruyère cheese and thyme leaves. Add the cooked onion mixture.
  11. Smear the Dijon mustard over the bottom of the baked crust. Sprinkle mushroom over the crust. Gently pour the egg cheese mixture over the mushrooms. Sprinkle remainder of Gruyère and additional thyme if you like over the top.
  12. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, on a sheet pan, or until the center is set and pie is golden brown and puffy. Remove to a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes to cool before cutting. Serve cut into wedges to serve 4 or 6.

Adapted from a recipe from Donna Hay magazine.

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

tomato pie 2

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.


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.



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.


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


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


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

September Tomatoes, Bacon & Spinach Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

DSC_3215tomato pie 2DSC_1962


  • 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


  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.


An Homage to White Asparagus & Elizabeth

There are foods that I connect to specific people. Do you do this as well? When I see White Asparagus in a supermarket, farmer’s market or a photograph in a magazine I think immediately of Wouter’s Mother, Elizabeth Feldbusch. Every year when we visited her in Amsterdam, usually in mid or late Spring, she would always prepare a meal with White Asparagus in a very traditional Dutch way. We would go to the market and pick through the boxes, choosing carefully the best stalks in a somewhat ritualistic manner. And, unlike here in the United States, it is only eaten when in season, which is how most foods really should be eaten. This approach makes food more special and anticipated.

white asparagus

I am telling this story about White Asparagus as an homage to Elizabeth, who died this past week at the age of 93.5 years. Wouter and I have been partners for over 16 years often traveling to his childhood home in Amsterdam enjoying a couple of weeks with Elizabeth. For me this was a very magical time in a magical country. Every kitschy post card you have ever seen of a windmill or of wooden shoes or canals in reality is very beautiful and true. Elizabeth was always very enthusiastic to show me her country and for that kindness I am very appreciative.

Here are photos of Elizabeth’s “White Asparagus, Ham & Egg Dinner” served very simply with melted butter to drizzle over everything (instead of Hollandaise)  & wine, of course, from our visit last May.

Market fresh.
Elizabeth carefully trimming the large stalks.
See those scraps…later we will make soup!
White Asparagus with warm butter, boiled eggs & ham. A fine and wonderful dinner it was. Lots of laughs, stories with Elizabeth, Cees, Annemieke, Wouter & me.

Here is my riff on Elizabeth’s traditional Dutch White Asparagus dinner. I took the same basic ingredients…well chosen White Asparagus, local farm eggs & some organic thinly sliced ham to make a “White Asparagus &  Ham Savory Pie”


Here is what you will need:

1 lb of fresh White Asparagus

1 pie crust either home-made or store-bought

5 eggs

5-6 ounces of thinly sliced ham, chopped

6 ounces of white cheddar or gouda cheese, shredded

1 tbsp grainy mustard

1/2 cup heavy cream mixed with 1/2 cup whole milk

Thyme leaves

salt & pepper

Optional: a few small kale leaves


How you make it:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fit pie crust into a well buttered 8 or 9 inch springform pan or deep dish pie plate.

2. Rinse asparagus under cool running water & pat dry. Cut or break each stalk from the top down into 3 inch pieces more or less. These are the tender tops that we will use for our pie. Set aside the bottom part of the stalks and I will give you a tip for them a bit later.

3.  In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cream & milk, thyme leaves, salt & pepper.


4. Brush, or with fingers, smear the mustard over the bottom of the pie crust.


5. Sprinkle half the shredded cheese on top of the mustard coated crust. Top with chopped ham & remaining half of the shredded cheese.


6. Gently pour egg mixture over the cheese & ham layers. Tap the pan lightly to allow eggs to sink down to the bottom.

7. Add the White Asparagus tops in a pin wheel or other decorative pattern over the top, scattering a few small kale leaves over the top.


8. Bake for about 40 minutes or until puffy & golden brown and set in the middle. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan if using. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into wedges.


This is a story without an end as long as there is White Asparagus isn’t it?

“Quick White Asparagus Soup” / Tip for Scraps

Take scraps and put in a pan with 2 cups chicken stock & one cup water. Add some salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer & cook for about 30 minutes on low. Remove from the stove & let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully, working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain & put back in the pan, adding a splash of milk or half milk & yogurt whisking to blend. Just a bit of creaminess not too much. You will have a delicious White Asparagus soup! No waste is good. Thanks Elizabeth.

A Little Gallery from our visit last May:

Looking out the front window in Elizabeth's home where Wouter & his brother, Johan, grew up.
Looking out the front window in Elizabeth’s home where Wouter & his brother, Johan, grew up.
Another front window view.
Another front window view.
Plates from Elizabeth's travels adorn the kitchen wall. I think this is beautiful.
Plates from Elizabeth’s travels adorn the kitchen wall. I think this is beautiful.
Reading & Art, reading & art...and white asparagus!
Reading & Art, Music & Art…and white asparagus!
Always tulips on the table...always.
Always tulips on the table…always.
Wouter & Elizabeth posing for me.
Wouter & Elizabeth posing for me.
Bon Voyage Elizabeth, Bon Voyage.
Bon Voyage Elizabeth, Bon Voyage.