Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Torta Rustica (Savory tart with Greens)

This kind of tarts are typical of this time of the year. Specially in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.

For the dough:
  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the filling:
  • 1 leeks, scrubbed and finely sliced
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 2 bunch Swiss Chard, steam removed 
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • one lemon, juice and zest 
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
To make the dough, blend all the ingredients together in a food processor or in a stand mixer set with paddle attachment until they form a ball.   Remove it from the bowl, knead it until smooth it out, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 1 hour.

To make the filling, sauté the onion, leeks and balsamic vinegar in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil over a medium heat until they become translucent. This can take about 15 minutes. Add about one teaspoon of salt. 

Blanch the chards in boiling water for 4 minutes. Let them drain.

Add the chards to the onions and toss thoroughly ensuring everything is mixed well.

Cook for 5-7 mins more and remove the mixture from the heat.
Add the parsley, lemon zests and juice, salt and pepper.
Mix and set aside until everything is cool. Add parmesan cheese if you want.

To assemble the torta rustica, remove the pastry from the fridge and divide into 2 parts.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the 2 parts of dough into a circle, ensuring one is slightly larger than the other.
Place the larger piece of dough into a well oiled pan. Add the greens mixture and smooth it out.
Add the second layer of rolled dough and proceed to seal the edges in a decorative patterns if you want.

Brush generously with olive oil, and cook for about 50 mins or until golden brown.
Let it rest on a rack before serving at room temperature.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Viva il Carnevale 2015!

Many traditions have been replaced or disappeared, but masquerades and fried pastries are still the protagonist of Carnevale in Italy. This year Carnival falls on Feb 17th. While in Venice and Viareggio everybody is getting ready for the sumptuous masquerades and opulent festivals, I am here in California trying a new recipe for a fried pastry to join in the celebration. This year is Frittelle di Mela or Apple Fritter. These pastries are a classic from the Veneto region, loved by all ages and they make a delightful snack or dessert. As a dessert I like to serve it warm with vanilla Ice cream.

Frittelle di Mela

- 4 granny smith apples
- 1 lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon dried yeast
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 orange zest
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

Peel and core the apples, then cut them into 1/4-inch rings crosswise, so as to obtain a great number of doughnuts.

Place the apples in a bowl covered with water and the juice of one lemon.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm milk (110 F).

Stir in the flour, salt, zest, sugar, eggs, the rest of the milk and the vanilla. Whisk everything together until combined. Let the batter rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 hours. Heat the oil until it registers 350 on a thermometer.

Dip slices of apples into batter and deep fry until golden on both sides.

Remove with slotted spoon and blot dry with paper towels.

Serve immediately covered with powder sugar.

Buon Carnevale!

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Fresh butter at home

What is the difference between good and great butter? it is in the milk. If you have access to organic grass fed milk and cream I encourage you to try making your own butter at home. Homemade butter not only taste better than the commercial one, but also contributes to a better flavor and texture in cakes and other pastry items.  It is also fascinating to watch the transformation of cream into butter.

Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh cream, to separate the butterfat from the buttermilk. It is very easy to make at home and the only ingredient required is fresh heavy cream.

Pour any amount of heavy cream into a bowl of a food processor fitted with the whisk attachment (I used a pint of cream and got 6 ounces of butter and 10 ounces of buttercream).

Whisk the cream until it breaks down into small curds and liquid collect on the bottom of the bowl. This could take about 10 to 15 minutes.

At this point, strain the mixture to squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. This liquid is buttermilk and can be used for baking or cooking.

Whip the solids again until the butter begins to stiffen and clump together and more liquid collects in the bottom of the bowl. At this point the solids start to change color to yellow.

Strain again and then squeeze out the excess of liquid with absorbent paper towel. Press it into a ball or any other shape you like. You can also knead the mixture with salt or herbs.

Amazing on country bread!

Refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.