Bake a Harvest Pie

October is the month to close down your Missoula vegetable garden and enjoy the harvest. One of the best ways to enjoy your bounty is to make a harvest pie. Many folks think of pie as a dessert, and while it surely can be, pie as dinner’s main dish is delightful!

Before I start, let me state that harvest pie is free-form cooking at its best: use what you have on-hand and make a point of not going to the grocery store unless you absolutely have to.

First, you’ll need pie dough, that is, if you want a pie crust for your pie. If you don’t eat wheat or don’t have the time to mix-up dough, just skip it. For basic pie dough you’ll need: 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup shortening (this is the only time I use Crisco — though there are some great partially hydrogenated oil free alternatives — one is made by Spectrum and available at the Good Food Store—, either way, vegetable shortening makes the best pie dough unless you have lard), 6-7 tablespoons ice water (dip your water out of a glass of water and ice). Sift the flour and salt together in a medium bowl, cut the shortening in with a pastry cutter or two butter knives “crisscrossed” through the shortening & flour until you have a crumb-like texture. Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, mixing each time until the dough makes a ball. Knead very lightly, just to pull the dough together, and then divide it into two balls. Wrap each with plastic wrap; refrigerate one and freeze the other for later use.

Chill the dough for 15-20 minutes in the fridge, roll out and line a 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Set aside while you make the filling.

Now for filling, what has your garden provided you? What leftovers do you have in the fridge? To fill the pie, you will need about 5 to 6 cups of chopped/sliced and precooked vegetable filling, 6 eggs, and 1 to 2 cups milk. You can add 1 cup chopped ham, crisp bacon, cooked chicken, pork, sausage, cooked/canned pinto, black, or kidney beans and/or grated cheese if you wish.

Sometimes, I make harvest pie with just one or two vegetables, onions and potatoes, when I’m cooking during the winter. But in October, I’ll make the pie with zucchini, carrots, Swiss chard, onions, garlic, potatoes, peppers, kale, chives, garlic, fresh basil and beets and any other vegetables I have. The vegetables need to be cooked before adding to the pie. Cold potatoes or beets left over from another dinner work well. Zucchini, carrots, peppers, and Swiss chard should be chopped and cooked a few minutes in the microwave and drained of any extra juices or sautéed until they release most of their moisture and are just barely cooked through.

I cook each vegetable on its own and then layer it into the pie crust. Once I’ve “filled” the crust with meat and vegetables, I sometimes add a layer of cheese – cheddar, mozzarella, or parmesan, whatever I have. Now, beat six eggs and 1½ cup milk together in a small bowl, add salt and pepper to your taste. Pour this mixture over the vegetables in the pie crust. If your egg and milk mixture doesn’t cover the pie ingredients, beat another egg and ½ cup milk and add. (Note: this is a good way to use up slightly sour, but not yet “chunky” milk.)

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 to 60 minutes, test the center of the pie with a toothpick – it should come out of the pie “clean.” If the toothpick  has wet egg and milk on it, your pie needs to cook for a few more minutes. Cut the pie into eight wedges, a serving is one or two pieces.

Below, I’ve listed a few vegetable and meat combinations that have been well-received in my house, but feel free to mix and match based on what you and your family like to eat. An all-vegetable pie tastes great!

Potatoes, Italian sausage, Swiss chard, onions & garlic, carrots, red and green bell pepper, parmesan cheese.

Beets, goat cheese, dill (chopped, fresh or dried), carrots, kale, onion. Serve with sour cream & horseradish sauce.

Zucchini, onion & garlic, Swiss chard, black beans, green beans, grated Monterey Jack cheese. Serve with salsa.

Cooked shredded chicken, broccoli, grated cheddar cheese, chopped Swiss chard stems and kale.

Ham, mushrooms, onions and garlic, red & green bell peppers, cheddar cheese

Be creative and include whatever cooked vegetables you and your family like. Harvest Pie makes a comforting and filling fall dinner that can be tailored to everyone’s tastes.

This blog post is adapted from an article that originally ran in the October 2013 Issue of The Regular Joe.