This recipe was inspired by one found here for a savory tomato-pesto pie (with lots and lots of cheese). When I read it, I instantly thought of summer, of warm summer flavors and a carefree day with friends, of sharing light conversation and juicy tomatoes. And as we had weather in the 50's (practically summer for Boston!), I had a hankering to veganize this dish. So, with a Saturday free for experimentation, that's just what I did. And boy howdy did it turn out near perfect!
I think from now on, this is going to be one of my staple dishes to bring to a small potluck or dinner-at-a-friend's. It's easy and doesn't take much longer than most casseroles, but has a warm and cozy day-spent-cooking sort of look and feel to it. And everyone loves pies, amiright?
The primary hurdle was to think of how to replace the cheese while still maintaining the light and juicy essence of the pie (simply omitting the cheese would leave a pie consisting of nothing but tomato and pesto, which would be a bit... dull). I think in the original recipe, the cheese probably provides a mild flavor and a juicy chewiness (via the mozzerella), maybe a bit of tang as well (from the romano).
I decided to use summer squash and zucchini to provide the mild flavor (to contrast with the bright flavor of the tomato and the zip of the pesto) and creamy texture. Plus it sticks with the summer theme (like the tomato and basil). And as luck would have it, I had some squash and zucchini already in my fridge.
To provide a little additional creaminess and tang, I added some silken tofu, cashews, and a bit of nutritional yeast to my pesto recipe.
All combined, this turned out wonderfully. The squash filled its role perfectly, and the pesto turned out nicely both in the pie and eaten as a dip for chips.
Savory Summer Pie (Vegan)
2/3 Cup Pine Nuts or Raw Almonds (if you want to save some cash)
1/4 Cup Cashews (optional - you can replace with more pine nuts)
3 TBSP Olive Oil
4 Cups Fresh Basil
3 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Container Silken Tofu
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast (optional)
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tomatoes, diced
1 Summer Squash
6 Plum Tomatoes***
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 Cups Flour****
3 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Earth Balance
1 Cup Soymilk
* If you wish, you can sub in your favorite pesto recipe here. You can then add tofu or not, depending on how creamy you want it. It will work just fine with just regular pesto (no tofu).
** You could just use 2 Summer Squashes (or even 2 Zucchini) if you prefer.
*** Plum Tomatoes are meatier than regular tomatoes, so there's more tomato and less juice. I agree with the author of the original recipe - plum tomatoes probably work better than regular ones for this recipe (although use whatever you have, i'm sure it'll be tasty).
**** You can use half (or even all) Whole Wheat Flour or just use All Purpose Flour.
First, make your Pesto. To do this, toss all of the pesto ingredients minus oil in your food processor and process until combined. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while processing, and pause to scrape down the sides when necessary. If you find that it isn't as smooth as you want it, you can remove at this point and blend it some in a blender.
If you have a sweet Cylon Blender like I do, then instead you need to start with just the nuts and olive oil and blend. Then add all of the other ingredients and blend til smooth and delicious.
Now you want to get the squash going. Get a large skillet going on Medium heat with a little bit of olive oil or spray. Slice your squash and/or zucchini into thin slices (about 1/4 inch) and toss into the skillet. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and saute until the squash is very tender and kinda see-through. It'll take several minutes at least. Be sure to give it a stir once in a while so it all cooks evenly.
While that's going, slice your tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices as well and set aside.
When your squash is done, remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Now to make your dough. Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the Earth Balance in tiny pieces and then cut into the flour, and/or just use your hands to thoroughly mix in the Earth Balance. The flour should become coarser. Now add your other dry ingredients and mix.
Slowly add the milk (as you may not need all of it) and mix until you have a good dough that isn't too sticky but is wet enough to stay in a cohesive ball when you tell it to.
Split the dough into two pieces, one just a little bit smaller than the other (see below).
Cover the smaller ball with saran wrap and set aside.
On a well-floured surface, roll out the first ball into a circle about 12 inches in diameter (see picture). It is better to err on the side of larger than smaller. You want the dough to be about 1/4 inch thick, maybe a little thinner. It depends on how thick or thin you like your crust, really (taking into account that it will thicken a smidge when cooking). I made mine very thin, and in the end I wished it had been a bit thicker.
Now lay the dough down in a 9" pie pan and cut any extreme excess dough from the edges. Keep in mind you want it to have a wee bit extra beyond the lip of the pan, but not much. In the picture below, you can see that I actually did a terrible job and had areas with too much edge and edges with not enough. In this case you can cut off the excess and use it to patch up the areas with not enough. Same thing if the dough tears - just stick it back together and patch with a little extra dough if you need to.
Now take your pesto and a spoon and spoon it onto the crust. Use the back of the spoon to spread it out. You don't need a really thick layer, but don't skimp either.
Next, lay down your squash slices on the pesto so that they cover the whole bottom.
Top with a layer of tomato. Then top that layer of tomato with more pesto (no skimping!) and then another layer of squash, another layer of tomato, and a final layer of pesto. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Now the fun part! Set that aside and get out your other ball of dough. Roll it out on a floured surface until it is about 9" in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick, or a bit thinner.
Carefully lay it down over the top of the pie - it should ideally fit right inside and be the same diameter as the pie pan. If it's a little large, just snip it down a little.
Now take that little bit of dough from the bottom crust which extends just beyond the rim of the pan and fold it over towards the middle overtop of the edge of the top dough layer. Basically you want to seal the pie by connecting the bottom dough with the top dough.
If you want to be fancy (which I was not), you can crimp around the edges with your fingers. Actually I would have done this, but my bottom layer didn't extend high enough to fold back atop the upper crust very well, so I had to work pretty hard just to seal it, much less to make fancy crimps.
Using a knife to cut a few slits in the top of the dough so that steam can escape during baking. This is important.
If you want to be cute, you can use the knife to cut a quarter-size hole from the middle of the crust. Then cut out a similar size (but every so slightly bigger) slice of tomato and place it in the hole. Tuck it just under the dough.
As the pie bakes, the tomato slice will cook a bit and darken, and it will look really pretty. Most importantly, this will indicate that it is a savory pie, and not a fruit pie (lest someone be surprised and disappointed upon cutting into the pie).
Now you're all set to bake!
Throw the pie in the oven at 400. Bake for 30 minutes. Check the pie. If the crust is getting too dark, remove from the oven and cover the edge of the pie with a strip of aluminum foil. Replace and bake for another 10 minutes. Check the pie again. If the crust is nice and browned (or if you used whole wheat flour, you'll just have to guess a bit at this point) and firm and feels cooked through, remove from the oven. If it needs a few minutes, feel free to give it another 5-10 minutes and then remove.
You should have this:
Serve and enjoy! I bet it would be great with some sweet iced tea and the company of good friends.