The Gout Diet Challenge: Greens & Cheese Pie

UPDATE: Visit the new GDC Round-up for other gout-friendly recipes

While my dad is still here recuperating comfortably from his cataract surgery, I’m challenged with cooking with the limitations of his chronic gout condition, which includes bans on red meats, turkey, cured meats, black tea, preserved meats, shellfish, yeast breads, cauliflower, coffee, chocolate, refined sugars, refined salts, certain legumes, small fatty fish (anchovies, sardines, herring), carbonated drinks, white vinegar, fish sauce, and fried foods; as well as limiting amounts of asparagus, and mushrooms. (Thankfully the pre-op restriction on garlic is no longer in place.) Dad was a bit depressed on learning about all these dietary restrictions because he’s an inveterate improviser in the kitchen and he loves all kinds of foods. (Guess who inherited these traits?) I want to show him that these limits don’t condemn him to a life of bland meals. On the contrary, it’s often helpful to look to other cultures and cuisine to discover delicious new ways to incorporate the foods that support his management of gout. (See a complete list of foods to avoid and foods to help eliminate uric acid at

Just a brief word about gout (the condensed version of what I’ve learned in the last week). Gout is a form of arthritis distinguished by extremely high levels of uric acid in the blood that may cause sudden painful attacks in the joints. Uric acid is the metabloic by-product of purines, a naturally occurring substance in our body tissue and in some foods we eat. Normally uric acid is safely secreted out of the body by the kidneys, but if one’s metabolism is impaired (by medications, age, or disease) or if one consumes a consistently high purine diet with little exercise and insufficient water intake, gout can take hold. Unfortunately, dad’s condition has been poorly managed and has resulted in the formation of tophi, or deposits of uric acid crystals in the joints, which are particularly painful. Since he has been found to be allergic to the more aggressive pharmaceuticals to treat gout, proper diet management is his best resort now.

Cooked red amaranth

So what foods assist in the management of this condition? Well, one of the best foods is Watercress — always a favorite around here anyway (see Flash-cooked Watercress post) — and another is Amaranth. We sometimes see fresh amaranth at our favorite greengrocer, and we were in luck this week. At right is red amaranth, both raw and flash-cooked for the recipe below. Along with some watercress, and low-sodium cheeses (dairy also aids gout management) , the amaranth went in to a “pie” that is a variation one of our favorite stand-bys, Spanakopita. But I’ve recently learned that there is also a wild greens and cheese pie called Hortopita, which this will more closely resemble. With all due apologies to the real Greek chefs out there, this version will use a regular pie crust instead of filo, and cottage cheese instead of ricotta so it is something that can be duplicated when dad returns to Guam.

Because this pie is for the two most important men in my life, I decided to make it my early Valentines for them as well. This will be my entry to zorra’s “Heart for your Valentine” event at 1x umrühren bitte. If you’re looking for sweet or savory Valentine’s Day treats, check out zorra’s event for some wonderful ideas from all over the world (the round-up is updated as new entries come in, so check back often until the 16th).

I (heart) you, Dad and T!!!

(Inspired by Tastes LIke Home cookbook)

2 pie crusts or pate brisees (use your favorite recipe or commercial brand)

1 small tub (12oz, 340g) low-fat cottage cheese
Set a strainer over a bowl and drain cheese for at least 8 hours, or overnight, in refrigerator.

1 lb. fresh amaranth, cleaned
1 lb. fresh watercress, cleaned and trimmed
(or use 2 lb. of your favorite greens: kale, endive, dandelions, nettles, wild garlic (Baerlauch), mustard greens, etc.)
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBL. olive oil
sea salt

Cut greens into 2-in. (3cm) lengths. Heat wok over medium-high heat, swirl oil around edges and add garlic. Cook until just fragrant, do not brown. Remove garlic and add greens to pan. Season with salt, and continue to saute over medium heat. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until vegetables are bright green and just tender. Add garlic back and remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, squeeze gently to remove excess water. Set aside. This can be done up to 2 days in advance.

PRE-HEAT OVEN to 400F (200C).

4-8 oz. of feta cheese
2 large eggs
2 tsp. dillweed
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. chervil (optional)
1 cup fresh minced parsley
1 bunch green onions, chopped (about 1 cup, 150g)
sea salt and ground black pepper

Greens and Cheese Pie

Combine drained cottage and feta cheeses, eggs, herbs and green onions. Add drained, cooked greens, and sea salt and ground black pepper to taste (it will depend on the saltiness of the cheeses you use).

Roll out one pie crust and mound filling onto crust to within 1-inch (5cm) of the edge of the crust. Place second crust over filling and crimp bottom crust over the top. Brush with olive oil.
(For Heart-shaped pies, divide each pie crust into fourths (you will have 8 quarter-circles). Fold each quarter-circle down its center, and using scissors, cut out a heart shape. Repeat with other quarter-circles. Fill with about 1 cup filling for each heart, leaving about 1/2-inch edge. Cover with top heart crust, bring bottom crust over, and crimp. Brush with olive oil.)

Bake on middle shelf of pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350F/180C. Bake another 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. (Heart-shaped pies, bake another 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.) Cool before slicing. Makes a wonderful meat-less meal with a crusty bread and crisp white wine, or a vegetable accompaniment to a simple roast chicken or fish.

Healthy and Delicious Greens and Cheese Pie