Homemade Crust: Be Not Afraid

I admit, when first faced with a recipe requiring a crust, no small amount of panic sets in. Like tempering chocolate or tiptoeing around a souffle, turning flour, butter and ice water into something elatingly edible is supposedly a feat so finicky it requires a windfall of luck rarely found anywhere but on the shoulder of a true professional. Usually, before I fully commit to tackling the daunting task, I entertain the idea of picking up something emblazoned with Pillsbury's blue and white logo; a ready promise of ease and success. But then I remember, that somehow, without any recollection of it being too traumatizing, I've done it before, and that the savory bites it imparted were worth it.

So I start slicing butter into flour, and no more than ten minutes later, with a bowl full of smooth dough ready-for-rolling, I think, "Now, what was the big deal about that?"

Honestly, this whole notion of crust being a frightening undertaking is nonsense; perhaps a myth first preached by that dough boy donned in a chef's hat (a reasonable and smart marketing tact from his perspective, no doubt). It may not look as pretty as his, the edges may not be fluted (I, for one, can rarely be bothered with that), but I assure you, the taste is far-superior.

To start you off, I give you my favorite crust recipe, inspired by one of Nigella Lawson's for savory tarts. I used it for the base of a Spinach Pie adapted from a Wild Oats recipe. Enjoy.

Cornmeal Crust

3/4 cups flour (I tend to use a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose)
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3-4 tablespoons ice water, or enough to bind

Pulse dry ingredients in a food processor, then add butter, diced into small pieces. Pulse till it looks like breadcrumbs, then add enough ice water to form dough, gently pulsing just till combined. Form dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Spinach Tomato Pie

10 ounces chopped spinach
1/4 sour cream
1/2 chopped onion
1 cup evaporated milk
2 egg whites
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons basil
6 ripe cherry tomatoes
1 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fit crust into 10-inch quiche plate.

Mix spinach, sour cream, onions in mixing bowl. In separate bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and spices. Stir 1/3 cup milk mixture in spinach mixture. Mix half the cheese into the spinach mixture. Spoon spinach mixture into bottom of prepared crust. Add layer of tomatoes, and top with cheese. Pour remaining milk mixture over cheese. Place pie plate on baking sheet.

Bake 45 minutes, or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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