If there’s a savory pie that cries out to be made in September, when the garden is practically catapulting forth zucchini and squash at a rate of one per hour, it’s Swiss Pie. It calls for zucchini or squash or a mixture of the two, as well as onions and parsley, which I also have in abundance. The only things the garden won’t give me are the cheese, eggs, Worcestershire sauce and pie crust, though at this point, the garden might well start growing Popsicles and paper towels and open its own grocery store.
Why is this pie Swiss? One can only assume it’s because of the Swiss cheese, though a substantial part of the pie’s heft comes from zucchini and squash. This is an ideal pie to serve during the waning days of summer when outdoor dining is still pleasant. If you’ve got some roasted potatoes and a green salad, you’ve got a hearty vegetarian meal. If you’ve got roasted potatoes and bacon, you’ve got breakfast.
You can use a store-bought unbaked pie crust or make your own. I planned to use a store-bought crust, but tragically, there’d apparently been a run on crusts and the store was all sold out. I made my own single crust but I won’t regale you with the details because my pie crusts are so bad they don’t merit description (see the burnt, malformed edges in the accompanying photos for proof). The important thing is not to use a pre-baked crust, because this pie’s contents, like any quiche, must be poured into a piping-hot, just-baked crust before being put back in the oven for the final bake.
To prepare the crust, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line the unbaked crust with a double layer of aluminum foil. You can also use ceramic pie weights or beans instead of foil, just add a layer of parchment or foil between the ceramic beads or beans and the pie. (If you’re curious, the purpose of weighting a crust when blind baking is to keep the sides from collapsing as the butter in the crust warms up.) Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes, then remove the foil and put the crust back in the oven for another 5 to 7 minutes. You should be just finishing up your pie contents when the buzzer beeps to let you know your crust is done.
My mother’s Swiss Pie recipe calls for 1½ pounds of squash or zucchini, cut into slices, but in my case, the squash and zucchini are too big to slice, just absolute monsters, so I peeled, seeded and grated them. I am going to say, rather arbitrarily, that 1½ pounds of squash or zucchini, sliced, equals 2 to 2½ cups grated squash or zucchini. Either way, I’m going to use up a lot of zucchini, and that’s what counts.
Saute the squash and zucchini with ¼ cup diced onions, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a dash of salt in a big skillet until tender (the squash, not the skillet — if your skillet gets soft, you’ve been sauteing that squash for far too long). My mother’s recipe says to drain and mash the squash and zucchini, but I prefer to simply cook the liquid off, since I think that confers more flavor upon the filling. I also added one small diced sweet red pepper and a handful of scallions, though pepper might make the pie less Swiss-y.
Pour the cooked squash and zucchini into a large bowl. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon lemon pepper. Stir in ¼ cup chopped parsley, or you could give this pie some Italian flair and use fresh basil. Or add both! My feeling about herbs is the more, the merrier.
Now is when you should get that crust in the oven.
In a separate bowl, beat together 2 eggs, ½ cup milk and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. If you don’t have Worcestershire sauce, don’t sweat it; this isn’t a test, it’s just an excuse to eat a lot of cheese. You could use soy sauce in place of the Worcestershire sauce, or even a tablespoon of pesto. Use Tabasco or Sriracha sauce if you want a spicy pie. It won’t exactly be Swiss anymore, but I promise that no one from Switzerland is going to come knocking on your door complaining that you’ve broken the Pan-European Flavor Code.
Next, grate 8 ounces of Swiss cheese, or about 2 cups, and toss it with 2 tablespoons flour. This keeps the cheese from glomming together in your pie, allowing the cheesiness to be evenly distributed around the filling. Now mix the egg-and-milk mixture into the squash-and-zucchini mixture. Lastly, fold in the flour-coated grated cheese.
Allow me to pause here and say, yes, use whatever cheese you like. I’m a staunch supporter of diverse cheese use and consumption. If you have cheddar but don’t have Swiss, by all means, use cheddar. Use any semi-soft or sort-of firm cheese, from Monterey Jack to Gouda to havarti. If you use Emmental, which comes from Bern, Switzerland, and is also full of holes, you’ll be right in the spirit of things. If you use a saltier cheese, adjust the salt down to ¼ teaspoon.
As you’re mixing the cheese into the pie filling, the buzzer should beep on your crust, assuming you’ve timed everything correctly. (If you haven’t, relax, the stakes are very low. It’ll still come out fine even if the crust cools a bit. I speak with the voice of experience.) Immediately pour the filling into the hot crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes then bake at 350 degrees for another 25 to 30 minutes. The pie should be firm when it comes out of the oven; jiggliness in the center is a bad sign. If a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, it’s done. Let it cool for about 20 minutes (be strong; it’s hard to wait) then cut into wedges and serve. Excuse yourself and go take a nap because this cooking stuff is exhausting.