Pies for dinner: Start with savory, finish with sweet

By Evan Kleiman

A slab pie filled with swiss chard makes an impressive yet light dinner. Photo by Shutterstock.

Given that we have pie on the brain, I was fantasizing about what pies I could make that would constitute a complete dinner. The meal would consist of a main course savory pie, followed by a sweet pie for dessert, which meant there would have to be a few parameters. Many savory pies like the famed and beloved chicken pot pie have several steps, so take a while to put together. We need something simpler if we’re to also tackle a dessert pie. In order to enjoy dessert, the main course pie would have to be on the light side. And to meet the criteria of something lighter, perhaps concentrating on vegetables would be the way to go. 

Swiss chard has more depth of flavor than many greens. And the variety of textures you get when combining the stems and the leaves makes for a satisfying chew. I always use green chard instead of the rainbow or red varieties. I prefer the flavor and enjoy the larger stems. By using both leaves and stems and adding some dairy for richness, you get greens that I find as satisfying as meat. I’ve chosen a recipe from Kristin Donnelly’s book “Modern Potluck” that Tejal Rao, critic at large for the New York Times, featured in an article on savory pies. The pie is made as a slab and can feed a bunch of people, but you can easily adapt it to a single pie pan by using any extra peppery dough and chard filling to make hand pies that you freeze for later. A very happy two-fer. If you read the “community notes” on the recipe, you can see how easy it is to adapt the filling to either what you have in the pantry or to your taste. Serve with a salad made of tender lettuces dressed with a sharp vinaigrette.

Raspberries and rhubarb turn a pie into the perfect sweet-tart finish to a meal. Photo by Shutterstock.

And now for dessert, the punctuation to the meal. Let’s celebrate the onset of spring with a rhubarb-raspberry pie. Both rhubarb and raspberries are harbingers of spring, and they combine to create a lovely marriage of tart and sweet. The color is pretty too. Look for the reddest rhubarb you can find. There’s no flavor difference between the two, but the color will be different. Save the green parts of the stalks for making a compote to serve with pork or turkey. Or you can do what I used to do as a kid, and dip a stalk in sugar for the ultimate sweet-tart snack. High fiber too.

And if you think that two full-sized pies are too much for your needs, did you know there is such a thing as a Split Decision Pie Pan? It’s a pie pan divided in two that allows you to make two completely different half-pies in one pan. Perfect for the indecisive or an all pie meal for two or three.