Best Ever Garden Pie

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Serves At Least One

I often make vegetable pies, using various ingredients depending on the season and what the garden has to offer. High summer pies are lighter and fresher tasting than the rich, toasty pies of winter, but this one, my new favorite, seems to capture the best of both sides of the year. It may seem like a lot of work but it really isn’t, and the result is so amazingly toothsome you won’t grudge a minute of the half-hour or so of prep (cooking time doesn’t count as work in my world). Depending on your choices, it can be vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten free, and any way you slice it, it will make a memorable meal!

The roasted cauliflower adds a distinctive texture, especially if you roast the florets until they are truly well-browned, crisp and chewy. If you can stop yourself from eating the whole batch, you’ll be delighted with the way they change up the pie from ho-hum to oh-my. The fresh corn also comes as a sweet surprise, bright and unexpected, while the mushrooms create that deep, solid  base that vegetarian dishes often lack.

Remarkable Vegetables Taste…Remarkable!

I used yellow Carola potatoes, a German hybrid that shines any way you use it, whether boiled, baked, hashed or mashed. Carolas are excellent keepers, retaining their crisp texture and full flavor for months after harvest. My best carrots this year are Mokum, which stay sweet and crisp despite the intense summer heat we’ve had. I use a lot as youngsters in salads, but they can eventually get very long, though they remain slender and crisp even as hulking 2-footers. My red peppers are Italian Sweets, long, meaty creatures that grill beautifully and crunchy and peppery-sweet raw and meltingly velvety when roasted.

Oh My Garden Pie

2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut in small florets
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 small carrots, thinly sliced (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 medium potatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon smoked hot paprika (or any)
12 large mushrooms, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
kernels cut from 1 ear sweet corn
1/4 cup wholewheat pastry flour **
1 pie crust (vegan if desired)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rub a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil, add cauliflower and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and roast at 400 degrees F until lightly caramelized (30-40 minutes). Meanwhile, put carrots, potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic in a pot with water just to cover, bring to a boil reduce heat to medium and cook until fork-tender (12-15 minutes). Drain, reserving cooking liquid, and set aside. In a soup pot, heat remaining oil over medium high heat, add onion, 1/8 teaspoon salt, smoked paprika, and remaining garlic and cook, stirring, until soft (3-4 minutes). Add mushrooms, sprinkle with remaining salt, cover pan and cook until mushrooms have reduced in volume by about half (10-15 minutes). Stir in red pepper and corn, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, stir to coat and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in 2-3 cups reserved carrot cooking water to make a thick gravy, reduce heat to low. When cauliflower is done, gently stir it into the vegetables and spoon mixture into a deep pie dish. Cover with crust, flute edges, and slash crust to release steam. Bake at 350 degrees F until crust is golden and crisp (40-50 minutes). Serves 4-6.

** Gluten Free Thickeners

For a gluten free version, obviously you will be using a gluten-free pie crust. For the thickening agent, substitute one of the following for the wholewheat pastry flour. The usual gluten-free thickeners include organic cornstarch (no GMO, thanks all the same), arrowroot powder, potato starch, and tapioca flour. The first two work fine for making gravies and sauces and in both cases, you blend the dry thickener with an equal amount of cold water, then slowly drizzle the mixture into the warm liquid you are thickening, stirring all the while. Cornstarch will taste raw unless cooked for 2-3 minutes in a gravy or sauce, and it will reheat a lot better than arrowroot, which tends to lose its staying power if re- or overheated. For a savory pie that will be baked after the thickener has been added to the gravy, either potato starch or tapioca flour will be the most stable. For lumpless results, blend either one into a slurry with cold liquid before adding it to the warm liquid you want to thicken.

1 tablespoon cornstarch thickens 1-1/2 to 2 cups liquid
2-3 teaspoons arrowroot thickens 1 cup liquid
1 tablespoon potato starch thickens 1-1/2 to 2 cups of liquid
2 tablespoons tapioca flour thickens 1 cup liquid

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