enticing bears

I was laying in bed the other morning debating the merits of getting up versus staying hunkered in for a few more minutes when I heard an unmistakable noise outside the front windows. It was the sound of “someone” getting into “something.” Debate over. I got up to investigate with Hoops the cat in tow and discovered a mama bear with two cubs rooting around our little shed. Mom was standing up on hind legs helping herself to the remains of an autumnal display window box that I hadn’t got around to cleaning out yet. The kids were busy sticking their noses into buckets and knocking over flower pots. The whole trio was adorably cute.

Hoops has seen his fair share of bears and there is a reason why he has lived to see 14 years. He retreated immediately and waited uncharacteristically patiently for breakfast to be served. Meanwhile, I fumbled with my camera, forgetting that it was set on full manual mode. Needless to say, most of my shots were as foggy as my morning brain. Photos or not, I decided watching the bears’ shenanigans was a delightful way to wake up and start the day. But when mom stood up tall to knock out a glass block window and junior started swinging from the window box, my husband Mark decided it was time to bust up the fun. He shooed them away. Mom ran off but the kids followed their instincts and went straight for the nearest tree. Eventually they shimmied down to chase after mom.

Coffee in hand and brain fully awake I headed out for a tour of the estate. I had foolishly left some bee equipment in the yard – most of which is now punctured with cute little claw and teeth marks. The bird bath was upturned and one of the pond plants had been uprooted. The goldfish looked nervous. I laughed. Basically, the yard and garden looked like the aftermath of a big ol’ party. A black bear party. It looked like a good time. I wish I could have attended.

All in all, they were fairly well behaved guests. Sure, they chewed on a few dried up old gourds, sampled some flowers, and had a taste of what I can only imagine is divine smelling bee equipment. But the important thing is this: they didn’t touch the spinach. All three rows were upright and perky upon inspection. Which is good. Because I had designs on making my favorite spring spinach pie for dinner. The dill appeared to be in good shape too. Another point for the bears. I’m not saying I want our yard to become the new party shack or anything, but at least they had the sense not to mess with the spinach. I’ll give them that much.

Oh but if those bears only knew the potential that spinach holds. Combine it with some fresh dill, a handful of feta, a few eggs, a splash of milk, and turn it into a pie shell. Now there’s a party. With tender spring spinach and fresh dill, the flavors of this pie truly come alive. It has become one of those dishes that I look forward to making each spring. When the dill is big enough to safely pillage I know its time.

The recipe is adapted from Fresh Market Wisconsin by Terese Allen – a sweet little paperback cookbook that highlights Wisconsin’s best. Market growers and producers from around the state showcase their favorite ways to cook with fresh produce, fruits, berries, honey, maple syrup, wild rice, fish, meat and dairy. There are some real gems in it. And if there were ever a cookbook meant for a bear, I’m pretty sure this would be the one. I know it’s where I’d turn if I ever wanted to entice anybody back for another friendly backyard shindig. But, sorry bears. I promised Hoops I wouldn’t.

Spinach Feta Pie 

1 medium chopped onion, preferably a spring one
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
10 ounces spring spinach, washed and chopped
6 ounces feta, crumbled
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 healthy tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked *

Heat butter or oil in a large skillet and saute the onion over medium heat until soft and translucent.  Raise the heat to high and add the spinach. Toss and cook until the spinach has just wilted, about 5 minutes. Turn of heat and let the spinach cool for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle feta over spinach.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, dill, salt and pepper together. Fold the spinach and feta into the egg mixture.
Line a 9 inch pie tin with the crust and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the bottom of it. Pour the filling into the crust. bake in a 350º oven for about 45-50 minutes until the center is just set. Do not over bake.
* A note on the pie shell: after trying many recipes and methods, I have finally settled on Alice Waters’ pie dough in The Art of Simple Food as my standby. It is easy, straightforward, and has yet to let me down. But a frozen store bought shell would work just as well.

1 Response to “enticing bears”

  1. 1 Julie Buckles June 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    A bear family! What fun at the O’Neill household.

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