When I started working on BAKING WITH DORIE, my idea was to write a book on savory baking. In fact, when I search for recipe docs, they’re still filed in my computer under SAVORY BOOK. I had a list of 125 savory recipes that I wanted to make. I began in the most orderly way (as I do with so many of my projects) and quickly devolved into semi-organized chaos (as I do with many of my projects). I’ve written 14 books and all but one (BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS) was created by what I call whim-work: An idea strikes, I set to work on it and at some point, years later, I have a book that doesn't resemble my original outline at all. It's an on-the-edge way to work, but it seems to be my style.
With BAKING WITH DORIE, I started savory, swerved sweet and ended up, as the subtitle says, with sweet and salty recipes, all of them simple. This Spinach-Mozzarella Pie with Parm Crumble is one that’s salty and simple. I remember that I made it shortly after the start of the pandemic, when Joshua and Linling came to live with us in Connecticut. Linling was pregnant with Gemma and we all spent a lot of time in the kitchen, deciding what to make for dinner, making dinner, talking over dinner and cleaning up after dinner. I miss that part of those odd times, but I have the pie – and so many other recipes we enjoyed together – as touchstones.
The pie’s main ingredients are spinach (or kale), mozzarella, onions and garlic, all held together with a little custard. Kind of a cross between a pizza and a quiche. It’s a hearty pie – I love how the mozzarella pulls the filling together, making it a little stretchy, a little chewy and a lot of fun. But my favorite part of the pie was a last-minute addition (refer back to whim-work): The Parm Crumble. Think savory streusel. Think the best part of a crumb cake, but cheesy. Think snackable. You make the crumble just as you would streusel. And, if you end up loving it as much as I do, you might even want to make it on its own – bake it in clumps, eat it like popcorn, be happy (scroll down for the recipe).
When the team from CBS Saturday Morning, The Dish, came to shoot in my Connecticut kitchen, they choose a bunch of recipes that we could make and share during the segment and one of the first that the producer, Marci Waldman, requested was the Spinach-Mozzarella Pie. Here it is laid out on the table with a mix of other brunch-ish recipes from Baking with Dorie: Gouda Gougères, both puffs and sticks, Potato-Parm Tart, Western Frittata (from EVERYDAY DORIE), Crumb-Topped Ricotta Coffee Cake and the cover-cake, the Lisbon Chocolate Cake, because what is a meal, any meal, without chocolate?
I loved talking – and eating – with Dana Jacobson. And later we got to make World Peace Cookies 2.0 together. It was a great day!
Whether you make the pie for brunch, lunch or supper, I hope you’ll love it as much as we all did. Bake away and I’ll see you back here on Friday.
The spinach/greens: I usually buy a bag of washed, ready-to-use baby spinach for this pie, but you can choose other greens if you'd like. Baby kale is great, as is any other kind of kale as long as you cut the leaves away from the thick stems and slice them thin. Ditto chard or even broccoli rabe.
The cheese for the crumble: The volume measurement for the Parmesan (1 cup, not packed) is based on fine, powdery Parmesan, the texture you get when you buy it ready-grated. If you want to grate your own cheese, do, but please weigh it: You want 3 ounces (85 grams). Also, it's best if you stick to Parmesan or Grana Padano. You won't get the right texture if you use moister, chewier, stretchier, cheeses.
The crumble: In order for the crumble to form the little chunks and clumps that make it so appealing, you have to chill the mixture for at least 2 hours before you bake it.
The temperature: I know this seems odd, but I think the pie is tastier at room temperature than it is hot or warm, making it a terrific do-ahead, good for picnics and potlucks.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
About 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
1 large shallot, finely chopped, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
3 garlic cloves, germ removed and finely chopped
Pinch of sugar
4 cups (200 grams) baby spinach (or other greens; see above)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 9-inch deep-dish piecrust made partially baked and cooled, or use store-bought pie dough (see above)
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup (21 grams) finely grated Parmesan
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup (87 grams) finely cubed mozzarella
Parm Crumble (see below), chilled
Working in a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Drop in the onion, shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not colored, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the pinch of sugar, add the spinach and turn up the heat. Toss the spinach around, adding a little more oil if you think you need it, until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and spoon into a strainer set over a bowl. Press against the mixture to dry it as best as you can and let cool. (You can refrigerate the spinach mixture, covered, for up to 1 day.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Put the crust on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat.
Working in a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, yolk and Parmesan. Season lightly with salt and generously with pepper, then stir in the scallions.
Press the spinach mixture against the strainer again, and if there’s still liquid coming out, ball up the spinach and squeeze to dry it. Spread the spinach in the bottom of the crust. Pour the filling into the crust and scatter over the mozzarella cubes. Break the Parm crumble into small nuggets and cover the top of the pie with them.
Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and puffed all the way to the center; a tester inserted into the center should come out clean. Transfer the pie to a rack and allow to cool for at least 45 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature.
STORING: You can keep the pie at room temperature for up to 8 hours before serving. Leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for about 2 days.
Makes about 1 2/3 cups
3/4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces; 100 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 14 pieces
1 loosely packed cup (3 ounces; 85 grams) finely grated Parmesan (see above)
Fine sea salt if needed
Put the flour and cold butter in the food processor and pulse about 5 times, just to coat the butter pieces with flour. Add the Parm and work in long bursts until you have a moist curds-and-clumps dough. Taste the dough and add a little salt if you think it needs it. Pack the dough into a covered container and chill for at least 2 hours before baking as directed in whatever recipe you’re using.
STORING: Refrigerated, the crumble will keep for about a week. It can be frozen for up to 2 months and used without thawing.
PLAYING AROUND: PARM CRUMBLE NIBBLES. Form the dough into nuggets about the size of popcorn and chill. Spread the pieces out on a lined baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree-F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Check a couple of times during the bake, and if the nuggets have spread and are sticking together, break them up. Cool on the baking sheet.