As a former vegetarian, I can tell you that I don’t enjoy vegetables because they’re healthy – I enjoy them because they taste good. Not all vegetables mind you and certainly not all preparations of those vegetables. I find boiled vegetables a total snoozefest and I’m not usually over-excited about steamed ones either. Vegetables can of course be both healthy and delicious but I don’t really see the point of having them be healthy at the cost of taste. So I was pretty excited to see a recipe that defended this idea that the point of a vegetarian dish is not primarily to be healthy but rather, to be delicious and meat free.
This recipe for Broccoli and Gorgonzola pie in Plenty starts out with a story about the recipe’s original publication in a London newspaper. Shortly after, a reader wrote in to denounce the high fat content in the dish and accuse the chef of ruining the whole point of vegetables. The chef argues that the point of cooking in general is to make food taste good and that does not always mean it will be fat free (or particularly close to that). He argues that the recipe is delicious as is and if the goal is a healthy dish, to seek out a different recipe. I immediately fell in love with that sentiment and resolved to make this pie.
But when I looked through the recipe there were some steps I found unnecessarily time consuming and some ingredients I didn’t have. I changed a few things, thought about some substitute ingredients, and then I suddenly realized I had done the unthinkable – I had lightened the dish. It was embarrassing; after loving this dish for the fact that it was unapologetically an unhealthy vegetarian dish I had the audacity to remove some of the higher fat ingredients and replace them with healthier alternatives. Still, the changes do not push this dish into the realm of diet food and the final meal is still wonderfully creamy and rich.
The one step I removed that you might want to add back is blanching the broccoli. I took out this step because it’s quicker to cook the broccoli in the same pan as everything else and it saves me having to clean out another pot. But broccoli can be a bitter vegetable and if you are sensitive to that, it will benefit from a quick blanch in heavily salted water. Most bitter flavor compounds are water soluble so blanching the vegetable will leach those bitter tastes into the water and out of your final dish. Make sure the water is well salted though, since the salt will flavor the vegetable and also help cover any remaining bitterness. Also, if you’re not a bleu cheese fan you can easily substitute feta in this recipe – but I would really encourage you to try it if you’re on the fence about gorgonzola. This pie may just make you a convert.
Broccoli and Gorgonzola Pie
Adapted from Plenty by Yottam Ottolenghi
1 tbs mint
1 tbs thyme
1 lb broccoli, florets chopped into bite size pieces, stems peeled and chopped
2 leeks, well washed, halved, and finely chopped, top 5-7 inches of green removed
1 tbs olive oil
½ cup water
¾ cup yogurt
4 oz gorgonzola, crumbled
2 tbs mustard
3 tsp salt
2 recipes Flaky Pie Crust
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Saute the herbs and leeks together with 1 tsp of kosher salt until the leeks are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the broccoli, water, and 1 tsp kosher salt to the pan and cook for 5 more minutes or until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is dark green. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. After the water has evaporated, remove the pan from the heat and let the vegetables cool until they are only slightly above room temperature, about 10 minutes.
Mix together the yogurt, gorgonzola, egg, mustard, and remaining 1 tsp kosher salt in a large bowl. Add the cooked leeks and broccoli and stir to combine. Refrigerate the mix for at least 15 minutes.*
While the filling is in the fridge, preheat the oven to 400F and grease a pie pan. Roll out half of the dough to a quarter-inch thickness and fit in into the pie pan so that the edges hang out. Roll out the second half of dough to the same thickness and cut a few slits or shapes into the approximate center of the dough as vents. Fill the empty bottom crust and then drape the top crust over, centering the cuts you made previously.** Cut the overhanging dough from both crusts together so that only 1-2 inches remains on all sides. It you need to add extra dough to some spots to even out the overhang, do that now. Roll up the overhanging dough towards the counter and tuck it under so that the rolled up amount sits on the edge of the pie pan.
Bake the pie for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown on top. Allow the pie to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving so that it will keep its shape.
*If the filling is still warm when you put it in the pie shell it will start to melt the butter before the pie hits the oven. This will result in a soggy bottom crust.
** You can fold the top crust dough in quarters and then line up the middle corner with the middle of the pie for easy transfer.