Roasted butternut, spinach, raisin and pine nut pie

Roasted butternut, raisin, spinach and pine nut pie

Roasted butternut, raisin, spinach and pine nut pie

I’m writing a novel. If you’ve spent any time with me you know this fact, because I go on and on about it to the point of tedium; ad nauseam, ad infinitum. I talk about it frequently, I think about it constantly, I dream about it every night. What I don’t do all that often is write it. I spent all day yesterday–all day–writing two scenes I’d thought about for ages, and I wrote…a couple of pages, maybe, and I’m not sure they’re any good. I wake up every morning determined to get on with it. I have a picture in my head of myself, in a frenzy of writing, spewing out page after perfect page. This doesn’t happen. I’m so easily distracted and discouraged. I’m so often plagued by saucy doubts and fears. I could write it now, but if I tried, instead, to write it in fifteen minutes, I’d write completely different words! I’d have completely different ideas! How do I know it wouldn’t come out better if I waited an hour, or a day, or a week. Maybe something would happen between now and then that would alter the course of history (in the world of my novel.) Well this morning, when I thought about writing my novel, I kept finding a song in my head, and I’ve decided that this is my new novel-motivational track. It’s Precisely the Right Rhyme, by Gang Starr. It’s about knowing that what you say is the right thing to say, and that you’re saying it at the right time. It’s about confidence. I’ve been thinking about confidence a lot lately. It’s not something I possess great quantities of, it’s not something I’ve passed down to my boys. Instead I’ve got a bizarre mixture of crippling insecurity and bafflingly misplaced arrogance. Confidence is not even something I admire, necessarily. I don’t respect people who are all cockiness and swagger. I’m attracted to humility and moved by human weakness. And yet, and yet…I’m starting to recognize confidence as an essential part of the creative process, if not of life. On Malcolm’s basketball team it was never the tallest or most agile kids that played best, it was the kids who acted like the ball belonged to them, the basket belonged to them, the whole damn court was theirs and everybody else was in their way. So that’s how I’m going to write, with “everybody else” being the twin demons of doubt and distraction who fly at me from every side. This understanding applies to all things. So maybe you’re not trying to write a novel (although, honestly sometimes it seems that most people are!) But whatever you’re trying to do, tell yourself you’re doing it just right, at just the right time. Tell yourself till you believe it! In the words of Troy McClure, “Get confident, stupid!”

And the words of Gang Starr,

    My subject matter and context are blessed
    Vocal inflection connects, it’s a slugfest
    Ladies approach to hear quotes from the spokesman
    Thoughts are like oceans for my lyrics to float in
    I’m absolutely astute so salute

    Just get with the words and the way I command ya
    Cause you’re in the right place, and luckily it’s the right time
    And since I’m inclined, I’ll kick precisely the right rhymes

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love greens, pine nuts, raisins and garlic. It’s the perfect combination for me. In this instance I’ve packed all that into a pie with some grated roasted butternut squash and some mozzarella cheese. I made this pie for a bunch of people to eat standing around without plates or utensils, and it worked well in this regard. It would be nice for a party or a picnic, I think, for this reason.

Here’s Gang Starr with Precisely the Right Rhymes.


1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water

1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl combine the yeast, sugar and water. Let sit in a warm place for about ten or fifteen minutes to get foamy.

Add the olive oil and egg and mix well. Add the flour, salt and pepper and mix till you have a workable dough, adding just enough warm water to make a dough you can knead. Knead the dough for about five minutes. Put it in a large clean bowl, lined with a little olive oil, turning the dough to coat it on all sides. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for an hour and a half or two hours, till it’s roughly doubled in bulk. Fold it down and let it rise again while you prepare the filling.


About 1/2 of a medium-sized butternut squash
olive oil to coat
1 T olive oil for the pan
1 clove garlic
2 t fresh rosemary, chopped
1 t dried basil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
4 or 5 packed cups baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped (it cooks way down)
2 eggs, beaten, reserve about 1 T to glaze the top
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella, or a combination of mozzarella and cheddar
pinch nutmeg
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Peel the squash and scoop out the seeds. Grate the squash. I use my food processor for this because I’m lazy. I think I had about 3 cups of grated squash. Toss the squash with just enough olive oil to coat it evenly. Roast for maybe half an hour, until it’s browned and crispy. Stir it frequently because the outside parts will brown first. In the end you should have a nice mix of soft and tender bits and brown and crispy bits. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Fry the garlic and herbs for about a minute until the garlic starts to brown. Add the pine nuts, raisins, and spinach, stir and fry until the spinach is wilted but still bright.

In a big bowl combine the squash, spinach mixture and cheese. Stir in the eggs (except for the reserved tablespoon.) Season well with salt and pepper.

Lightly butter and flour a large cake pan or springform pan. Divide the dough into 3/4 and 1/4 pieces. On a floured surface roll out the large piece to be about 1/8th inch thick, and large enough to fit up the sides of your pan. Fit it over the pan, and press the edges down and around to form a lower casing. Don’t worry about the edges being perfectly neat.

Spoon the filling into the pastry-lined pan. Roll the smaller piece of dough to be about 1/8th inch thick, and place this round over the top of the pie. Seal the edges lightly, and then roll the outside edge down over the inside edge. Crimp the edges with a fork, and poke the top of the pastry in a few places with a fork. Brush with beaten egg.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes till the top is puffed and crispy and golden brown. Allow to cool and set for a few minutes before turning it out of its pan.


3 thoughts on “Roasted butternut, spinach, raisin and pine nut pie

  1. All of your doubts sound familiar. You are thinking a lot about writing; that’s part of the process.. Once you start, you know, it’s right. Even if you have to edit it tomorrow.

    i have a lot of images stuck in my head. I am trying to paint them out.

    When I lived in Greenwich Village I had a neighbor, Eric Oxendine. He plays the guitar and bass He played the bass part in Van Morrison’s “Brown eyed Girl”. Sometimes we sat right down on the sidewalk or stoop and had interesting conversation. He has so many stories. One thing he said about creating is that if you have that “calling” you must create or it will turn inside of you and become destructive. Wow!

    Write for your life! (Hope I haven’t scared you).

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