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Pie for Dinner: The Mediterranean Pleasure

January 30, 2002|MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

8 servings. Each serving: 310 calories; 441 mg sodium; 99 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 6 grams fiber.

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Provencal

Pumpkin Torte

Active Work Time: 45 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 hours * Vegetarian

In Provence, many of the vegetable tortes are bound with rice, which gives them both substance and texture, and makes them easy to slice, thus very portable. This wonderful torte is seasoned with sage, one of winter squash's favorite companions. The filling also makes a terrific gratin, without the crust, and it can also be made as a galette.

Yeasted Olive Oil Pastry

2 to 2 1/2 pounds winter squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1/2 cup cooked Arborio or medium-grain rice

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese, tightly packed (2 ounces)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)

3 eggs, beaten

Salt (about 1/2 teaspoon or more)

Freshly ground pepper

Halve the squash and scrape away the seeds and membranes, then cut the flesh into 4-inch-square pieces. (If using butternut, cut it in half crosswise, just above the bulbous bottom part, then cut these halves into lengthwise quarters and scrape away the seeds and membranes.)

Steam the squash until tender, 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer to a colander and allow to cool and drain for another 15 minutes (butternut squash will not be watery). When the squash has cooled, peel and place in a bowl. Mash with a fork, a large wooden spoon, a potato masher or a pestle.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic. Cook until fragrant, another minute or two. Remove from the heat and toss with the squash, sage, rice, parsley, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, all but 2 tablespoons of the eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 10-inch or 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or springform pan.

Roll out two thirds of the pastry and line the pan with the edges overhanging. Fill the crust with the squash mixture. Top with the remaining pastry, then crimp the edges of the top and bottom pastry together. Cut 4 small slits in the top crust with a sharp knife, brush with the reserved beaten egg and place in the oven. Bake until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. This can also be served at room temperature.

6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 371 calories; 496 mg sodium; 114 mg cholesterol; 17 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 46 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams protein; 6.55 grams fiber.

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Yeasted Olive Oil Pastry

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus 1 hour rising

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Yeasted crusts are easier to manipulate than short crusts. They don't crack and tear. Just be sure to roll this nice and thin so that it doesn't become too bready. When making the tortes, prepare the pastry first, then make the filling while it's rising.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 egg, at room temperature, beaten

1/4 cup olive oil

2 to 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour, or use half whole-wheat flour, half unbleached

3/4 teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the sugar and allow to sit until the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and the olive oil. Combine 2 cups of the flour and the salt and stir into the yeast mixture. You can use a bowl and wooden spoon for this, or a mixer; combine the ingredients using the paddle, then switch to the dough hook. Work the dough until it comes together in a coherent mass, adding flour as necessary. The dough should be springy and not stick to your hands. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, adding flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth; do not overwork the dough. Shape into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gently knead a couple of times and cut into 2 equal pieces (or as directed in the recipe). Shape each piece into a ball. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes, then roll out into thin rounds, as directed in the recipe, and line pans. If not using right away, freeze the dough to prevent it from rising and becoming too bready. The dough can be transferred directly from the freezer to the oven.

Makes enough for 1 (10- or 12-inch) double-crusted torte or 2 (10-inch) tarts.

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Greens and Potato Torta or Galette

Active Work Time: 1 hour * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 55 minutes * Vegetarian

This luscious pie works well with a number of greens--chard, rapini, beet greens, spinach, whatever looks best in the market. It's quite dramatic as a galette.

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