A rustic cheese pie for Thanksgiving

November 05, 2008|By CINDY SUTTER / Scripps Howard News Service

Mushrooms often take center stage in a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast. And well they should, with their rich taste and satisfyingly chewy texture. Wild mushroom risotto or polenta with mushroom sauce are rich and delicious.

Last year, however, I was struck by a recipe in a luscious cookbook, "Vegetarian Suppers" by Deborah Madison. It's a Feta and Ricotta Cheese Skillet Pie. In the summer, Madison suggests serving it with roasted peppers and olives, in the spring with a shaved fennel salad and in the winter with braised black kale, also called Tuscan kale, lacinato kale or dinosaur kale.

If you serve it with the kale, make the extra effort to find black kale. The taste of the dark green leaves with a silver tint is earthier and more intense than the kale you generally see in the grocery. Or buy a blend of kales to braise.

Now to the cheese. Make sure you buy the good stuff. Buy a well-made sheep's-milk feta or try a locally made goat feta. And, since this is Thanksgiving, buy a whole-milk ricotta.


Note that it's called a skillet pie. That's because it's made in an iron skillet, which allows the pie to develop a crunchy, cheesy exterior. If you don't have an iron skillet, get one. They're now sold pre-seasoned, so you don't have to spend years getting that nice black finish. They're cheap, usually about $25, and they will last for years.

I have an iron pot and skillet that were my mother's. One drawback: you can't put it in the dishwasher. But a simple rinse and dry is all that's required. A big advantage: After several uses, the pan is virtually non-stick (Cook's Illustrated tests say so), meaning you can cook eggs without using a pan made with chemicals.

The pie may seem a little farmhouse rustic for a Thanksgiving feast, but that makes it all the more appropriate. It's a meal that embraces friends and family, and served in a skillet that can do heavy duty for years to come. A good reminder that the simple things are often worthy of the most gratitude.


3/4 pound feta cheese, preferably sheep's milk
1 pound ricotta cheese
4 to 6 eggs
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped dill

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix three-quarters of the feta with the ricotta in a medium bowl, without worrying about getting it perfectly smooth -- you'll want some chunks. Beat the eggs into the cheese, then add the flour and milk. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and the 1 tablespoon dill.

Butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Pour in the batter and crumble the remaining cheese over the top. Bake until golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with your chosen garnish.

- "Vegetarian Suppers" by Deborah Madison

The Herald-Mail Articles