Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Erbazzone: The flavors of Emilia-Romagna

Although a traditional Italian meal usually has several courses, including appetizer, first course, second course, salad, and fruit or dessert; Italians don’t eat this way every day. The multi-course banquet is reserved for Sunday’s family reunion or for special occasions. But most Italians, especially those with more demanding jobs, have a quick snack at the closest bar (coffee shop) or forno (bakery) before heading back to work. Most of those places sell panino (sandwich usually made with cheese and cold cuts) and pizza al taglio (pizza sold by weight or by slice) but there are also local specialties that define the gastronomy of the region.

For example, at Reggio Emilia, in the Emilia Romagna region, Erbazzone is really worth a full mention. The locals from Reggio are particularly proud of this savory pie filled with spinach, swiss chard, onions, lard and of course, the famous Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The Erbazzone is a great dish for any occasion, rich in flavor, appetizing and aromatic. It is a perfect snack or meal, any time of day.

• 1 cup All Purpose flour
• 4 tablespoon olive oil
• 50 ml milk (about ¼ cup)
• Pinch salt
• 2 pounds chard leaves
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 6 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 1 small onion (finely chopped)
• 1 clove garlic
• pepper
• salt

To make the dough, knead the flour with the oil and milk to obtain a stiff dough. Knead for about 10 minutes, wrap with plastic and keep in a cool place for about one hour.

To make the filling, clean, wash and drain the chard well and dry thoroughly. Chop the chard coarsely. Lightly sauté the onions with olive oil and salt. When the onions are transparent add the chard and cook for about 15 minutes.
Put in a bowl and let cool. Add the garlic and, if necessary, a pinch of salt and pepper.
To assemble the tart, lightly coat a spring form pan or a pie pan with olive oil. Split the dough in two balls, one larger than the other one. Roll out the bigger ball with a rolling pin and make a disk large enough to line the baking pan (bottom and sides).

Arrange the chard in layers, sprinkling each layer with grated cheese. Roll out the remaining batch of dough, making a disk larger than the diameter of the baking pan. Roll this disk around the rolling pin and unroll over the chard. Pinch the edges of the two disks of dough together; brush with olive oil and bake at about 400ºF for 40 mins.

In Emilia, a piece of hard-lard is sometimes used instead of oil to dot the dough. Erbazzone can be served either hot or cold.