Saturday, January 12, 2008

Torta verde: a savory pie from Italy


Now and then a food magazine contains a recipe that becomes a standard in a household. Even more rarely, a single issue will contain two standards. The May/June 1998 issue of Saveur is one of those rarities, containing two recipes that I have made many, many times and consider critical parts of my cooking repertoire.

The first is clafoutis, a dessert of fruit embedded in a custard. The second is torta verde, a savory pie from the Liguria region of Italy.

Torta verde consists of an olive oil crust that is rolled very thin (1/16") and filled with a mixture of Swiss chard, feta cheese, onion, potato and eggs.

The torta was born out of necessity, according to the article that contains the recipe. The region in which it is a classic -- the rural areas of Liguria north of the Italian Riviera (e.g., the town of Triora)-- is a place where wheat flour has historically been quite expensive. That prevented pasta from being a staple food. The torta was created to allow families to stretch the flour budget.

I usually have too much filling for the torta, so I make the leftovers into a fritter by adding an egg or two, then cooking the mixture in a lightly oiled skillet. Some of such fritters are shown to the right.




Torta Verde
Adapted from "The Italian Torta," by Colman Andrews, Saveur magazine, May/June 1998

For the Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour, sifted
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Up to 1/2 cup cool water

For the Filling
8-10 large Swiss chard leaves, washed, stems removed, and finely chopped
Salt
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 T. minced fresh parsley
1 1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
Pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil

(Unit conversion page)

Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Drizzle the oil into the flour, mixing with a fork to combine. In measures of 1 tablespoon at a time, add water to the dough and mix. Continue adding spoonfuls of water until the dough to hold together -- try to add as little as possible because less water means a flakier crust. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and wrap in waxed paper or place in a sealed container. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Make the filling: Place the chopped chard in a colander, sprinkle with 1 1/2 T. salt, toss to mix, and set aside over a bowl or in the sink for 20 minutes. Squeeze chard to press out liquid.

Combine potatoes, onion, parsley, cheese, and drained chard in a large bowl. Mix in eggs and 2 1/2 T. oil and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Roll the dough: Lightly oil and flour a 14" pizza pan (or cookie sheet). Divide dough into two unequal pieces: one-third and two-thirds.

Roll out the bigger piece on a floured surface to about 15" in diameter. For a perfectly round torta, cut the dough into a circle using the pizza pan as a guide. For a more rustic preparation, leave it as is. Place bottom crust into the pan. Spread filling across the dough, leaving 1" of exposed crust around the edge. Roll the top crust to a 13" circle. Place atop the filling so that it drapes slightly over onto the bottom crust. Lightly wet the edge of the bottom crust, fold over the top piece, and crimp to make a seal. Use your fingertips to press down the filling and make indentations in the torta. Drizzle 1 1/2 T. oil over the pie. Using a fork, poke some holes in the torta to allow steam to escape during baking.

Bake the torta for about 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Variations:
The dough can be filled with many things. Here are two based on mushrooms.

Torta di funghi 1
1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden, a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender. Transfer to a colendar and allow to drain for 15 minutes. Add parsley and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Use as a replacement for the chard filling in the recipe above.


Torta di funghi 2
2 pounds fresh mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden, a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender. Transfer to a colendar and allow to drain for 15 minutes. Add parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Use as a replacement for the chard filling in the recipe above.




Random link from the archive: Durian

Technorati tags: Italy : Baking : vegetarian : Food

7 comments:

Grub_Eats said...

Oh, this was so yummy when you shared it with us. Thanks for the recipe and lovely picture.

Sorina said...

Those look and sound wonderful!

Sandi said...

Marc, thanks for sharing that. I will be adding it to my own kitchen staples.

shannon said...

Hi Marc,

In the last few months, you may remember receiving an email invitation to become a part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program. With all the recipe-writing and food photography to be completed, we know emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, so Foodbuzz would like to re-extend our offer of inviting you to be a part of our food blogger network. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at Shannon@foodbuzz.com.

And thanks for sharing the torta verde! I've had the clafoutis, but this is a new one for me to try. =)

Cheers!

Shannon Eliot
Editorial Assistant, Foodbuzz.com
shannon@foodbuzz.com

Anonymous said...

Hi,

My name is Lauren and I work with the BBC World Service on the programme, World Have Your Say. Today we are doing a show on food, asking the question, should we create healthy food even though it is usually more expensive or create cheap, usually unhealthy food to feed hungry people all over the world. If you have an opinion on the matter, we would love to hear from you. Please email me at lin.liu@bbc.co.uk with your number. The show will be on at 6 pm London time.

Thanks,
Lauren

Meals by Marlene Personal Chef Service said...

I made this torta last night and it was so good! In the spirit of using-what-I-have-in-the-house, I replaced the potato with yam. And I used whole wheat flour, since I don't even have that other stuff in the house.

It turned out great! Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I have loved the torta recipe and then lost that magazine! I was so glad to find it again.