Torta d'Erbette Miste
(Savory Tart of Mixed Greens)
This torta was always referred to as a "pie" in both our and my maternal grandmother's home. Usually it was made with whatever greens and herbs were either available in the nearby fields or at the greengrocer's . The Artisan Garden has an abundance of Dandelions (Dente di Leone) and Escarole at this time of year. After picking a basket of these vegetables, and acquiring spinach and beet greens at a local market, we decided to try to make one as good as Mom's or Grandma's.
Swiss Chard may be substituted for the spinach. Ingredients are described as "bunches" in some cases. That is because these vegetables come in bunches, i.e. a bunch of beets, a bunch of greens, etc. Actually the exact proportion of each green is not important, and the dish is still good when either ingredients or proportions thereof are varied.
2 Bunches Spinach - cleaned [ See Note 1] 1 Bunch Beet Greens 2 Heads Escarole - one if very large 3 Whole Dandelion plants sans roots. 2 Stalks Celery - cut into 2 inch lengths 1 Cup Prosciutto - diced: optional [See Note 2] 2 Cups Ricotta cheese - part skin is OK 1 Cup Parmesan cheese - grated 1 Lg. Egg - yolk and white 2 Lg. Eggs - whites only 1/4 Cup Milk
Note 1: Swiiss Chard may be substituted for the spinach. Note 2: Grandmother's and Mom's pies had no meat whatsoever. They might even consider the dish "ruined" with prosciutto. Feel free to leave it out.
Preparation of the Dough
There are quite a few basic pastry dough recipes in the literature that can be used for a torta. Most include eggs, shortening, and other ingredients commonly used for pastry doughs. While the recipe for the filling is one developed by The Artisan, the dough recipe was developed by Coleman Andrews, and is from his book "Flavors of the Riviera", Bantam Books, 1996, ISBN # 0-553-09159-X. In addition to this dough recipe, Flavors of the Riviera, included numerous great recipes, many not seen in other cooking books. It presents Mediterranean cooking in an erudite and clear manner. The Artisan staff highly recommends it for your book collection.
The recipe is presented here as Mr. Andrews presents it in his book. Please note that while the dough he makes is ostensibly for a Ligurian style torta, it can be used for any style torta, from any region of Italy.
For a standard Ligurian style torta dough, sift 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 Teaspoon salt into a bowl. With a fork or a small whisk, slowly beat in 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and then about 1 cup water - enough to make a smooth, elastic dough. Shape dough into 2 balls, cover with a damp cloth, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll out the balls as thinly as possible on a floured work surface.
Note: We did not sift the flour and salt, but simply mixed thoroughly.
Preparation of the Filling
Place each vegetable in a strainer or a basket that fits into a large pan to which about an inch of water has been added. Cover and blanch the Spinach for about 2 minutes then remove, then blanch the, celery, beet greens, escarole and dandelions, each for 5 minutes. Let the greens cool and then squeeze out as much water as possible from each. That accomplished, chop the greens into about 1/4 inch pieces. Chop the celery into the same size pieces.
Put all of the greens, the celery, the prosciutto, the ricotta, milk and the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. The consistency should be about that of small curd cottage cheese. If it is too dry add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. if too loose add 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, and mix again.
Preparing the Torta
Roll out the dough as described above. Lay one piece into a buttered 8 inch spring form pan, making sure that the dough rests on the bottom of the bottom of the pan with no air pockets. Let the dough hang over the sides for now. Spoon the filling into the pan, gently pressing it from time to time to remove air pockets. When the filling reaches about 1/4 inch from the top, wet the edges of the dough forming the bottom with either water or milk, and place the top piece of dough on the torta. Use the tines of a fork to attach the top piece to the bottom along the top edge of the spring form pan. Cut the excess dough hanging off the sides with a scissors.
Snip 3 or 4 small holes in the top of the dough to allow air and liquid to escape while baking. Place the pan in an oven preheated to 375° and bake for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 350° and bake an additional 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a rack. Allow to cool, then remove the torta.
The torta may be served warm, at room temperature or cold. We like it best served at room temperature with a good olive oil drizzled over it. It may be served as a main course or as an appetizer.
Last updated on:06/03/99 12:51:13 AM