Whether you are a gardener drowning in winter greens or you are the person who dutifully buys kale and swiss chard every week only to throw it out the next week, this recipe is for you. I discovered the torta in Andrew Colman's Flavors of the Riviera. The torta was once made in a region so poor that flour and therefore pasta was a luxury, and with a handful of flour, some cheese, and whatever is growing in your garden, you have a meal.
This tastes like a cross between fresh pasta and spanakopita, and once you've made it, you will see that you can fill this with nearly anything in season as long as it isn't too moist. I made this a second time with sautéed mushrooms (which I then strained), goat cheese, thyme, thin slices of zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. It was sooo good. Be forewarned, however, that the dough is supposed to chill for at least an hour, and while this isn't complicated, it takes a little time to roll out, assemble, and bake.
The directions call for this to be made on a 14" pizza pan, but if you don't have one just do this on a baking sheet and make it a rectangle.
Ingredients for the Dough:
1-1/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients for the Filling:
a bunch of Swiss chard with the stems removed and the leaves finely chopped
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled, and diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1-1/4 cups crumbled mild feta
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt to taste
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Mix the salt and flour together with a spoon. Drizzle in the oil, and then add water a little bit at a time, up to a half cup. I did this all in the bowl. Cover it with a damp cloth and refrigerate it for at least an hour.
2. While the dough is chilling, prepare all of the filling ingredients and stir them together- EXCEPT for the olive oil.
3. Preheat the oven to 375.
4. Divide the dough into 2 balls, one comprised of one third of the dough and the other of two thirds of the dough. If that sounds too complicated, just make one a little bigger than the other and you'll be fine. On a lightly floured board, roll the larger ball out into a 15 inch circle. Oil and flour a 14 inch pizza pan, and then lay the dough over it. Spread the filling out over the dough. Roll the second dough ball out to 14 inches and top the filling with it. Wet the edge and then fold the bottom layer over the top dough layer to seal it all. Smoosh it down a little with your fingertips to create some indentations, and then drizzle it with the olive oil. Prick it with a fork in a few places to vent steam when it cooks.
5. Bake it for about 35 minutes.
I compromised everything I believe in and bought conventionally grown red bell peppers at the farmer's market. They were 4 for a dollar, and I guess if the price is right...
I've read about massa de pimentão, a Portuguese paste used to marinate meats, but I've only made my own, so I can't tell you how much this resembles the original. I've tried this with chicken and pork, and while both were good, the pork was mouthwateringly delicious. Once the meat is tender, you finish cooking it on a bed of potatoes that absorb the juices from the bell pepper sauce and the meat. It's very simple, and very good. In fact, it only uses 5 ingredients: spareribs, bell peppers, potatoes, salt, and pepper.
So when bell peppers are seasonal and cheap, buy a lot of them and make enough of this paste to freeze for later. It's incredibly simple, but it is something you have to do ahead of time. This is a wonderful, warming winter dish but the bell pepper paste gives it a bright note.
I followed the recipe (more or less) from Saveur. There were a few things I changed slightly- I cut the recipe in half, used less salt because 1/2 inch of salt between layers of bell pepper really seemed excessive, and I couldn't get the same cut of ribs. It didn't matter! I peel bell peppers because the skin is so hard to digest and these weren't organic, so I'm hoping this cut down on the pesticide residue.
Bell Pepper Paste (Massa de Pimentao)
For the Red Sauce:
8 bell peppers, peeled and sliced
Layer the bell pepper strips in a strainer with plenty of salt. Put the strainer in a bowl, cover it with a plate, and weigh it down. You can put it in the refrigerator and leave it for a couple days or leave it out on the kitchen counter overnight.
Take out the bell pepper and wipe off as much of the salt as you can. Blend it in a food processor and freeze or refrigerate.
Braised Spareribs with Potatoes (Entrecosto no Forno con Batatas)
1-1/2 to 2 cups Bell Pepper Paste
3 pounds spareribs
about 1-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
freshly ground pepper
Sure there are slow cookers, but what about a slow cooker meal that serves up three courses and doesn't even require a crockpot? Way more impressive. This meat stew is the work of brilliant Jewish women who needed to serve a hot meal on the Sabbath without lighting a fire. It is from Gloria Kaufer Green's The Jewish Holiday Cookbook.
There are probably many more ways to serve this, but the traditional way is to eat the eggs and potatoes together, possibly for breakfast, the rice and meat together as a second course, and then the beans and broth as a soup. I served it once after church on a Sunday with a green salad, and I was impressed even if no one else was. Next time I make this I think I will use it for three full meals: toast with eggs and potatoes for breakfast (if I include the rice next time, otherwise I'll save the potatoes for the meat), tacos with the meat and rice (and avocado, lime, etc.) for lunch, and finally I'll serve the bean soup with a salad for dinner.
You can make this either in the oven or in a slow cooker. I left out the rice this time because I couldn't find my cheesecloth stash, so I'm sorry it's missing in all the pictures. Use your imagination. Because the chickpeas have to soak, you need to start this recipe early- so for a Sunday afternoon meal, soak the chickpeas from Saturday morning or even Friday night. I let mine soak for 24 hours sometimes out of sheer laziness.
1-1/2 cups dry chick peas
2-1/2 pounds chuck roast cut into 4-6 large pieces
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup rice
6-8 small new potatoes
about 7 cups water
1. Soak the chickpeas in a bowl with water to cover by at least 2 inches. Leave it for 8-24 hours. Drain before using.
2. In the bottom of a large slow cooker or a big Dutch oven, spread the soaked and drained chickpeas. Layer the meat on top of the chickpeas. Scatter the onions, garlic, dates, and spices (cinnamon through pepper) around the meat. Cut a big square of cheesecloth from a double thickness and tie the corners together to form a bag around the rice. Make sure there is plenty of room in the bag since the rice will swell to 2 or 3 times the original size. Put the bag in the center on top of the meat, and surround it with alternating eggs and potatoes. Add enough water so that everything is almost covered, but be sure there is at least 1 inch of headroom at the top of the pot.
3. If you're doing this in a Dutch oven, bring the dafina to a boil over medium heat, cover it tightly, and put it in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake it for one hour, then lower the temperature to 225-250 degrees and bake it for another 12-20 hours. Don't stir the dafina while it's cooking. If you are cooking this in a slow cooker, put it on hight heat for 1 hour, and then turn the heat to low and cook it overnight.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!