Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baked Torta with Spring Greens

Right now our garden is exploding with good things to eat, and after waiting so long for spring to arrive, I can’t bear to waste a single lettuce leaf. Our bi-weekly share of amazing produce from Genesis Farm has also begun, so on occasion I’ll find myself with a fridge full of greens as well as bags full of them littering the kitchen floor. Like today, for example. When this situation arises, I do not panic. Our family can only eat so many salads, so I turn to this trusty recipe for a warm, flavorful torta that uses up to three pounds of spring greens and garlic. Served with a big communal bowl of snap peas that the kids gobbled in minutes flat, it was perfect for today’s cool, rainy weather.

This is a significantly adapted version of Marcella Hazan’s Baked Escarole Torta from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I don’t often use recipes to cook Italian food, but when I do, Hazan is my guru.

Baked Torta with Escarole and Chard
  • 2 2/3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 scant teaspoon active dry yeast, dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 3 pounds fresh escarole, chard, kale, or spinach
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (or 4 stalks garlic greens, or 2 heads young garlic, or even 1 cup chopped garlic scapes)
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 10 oil-cured olives, pitted and quartered
  • 7 flat anchovy fillets, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped walnuts
1. Mound the flour in a bowl (or on a work surface, if you’re feeling confident) and make a hollow in its peak. Put the salt, a few grindings of pepper, the dissolved yeast, and the olive oil into its peak. Pull together and knead for about 8 minutes by hand or in a standing mixer.

2. Shape the kneaded dough into a ball and put it into a lightly floured bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp, doubled-up cloth towel and put it in a warm, protected corner until the dough has doubled in bulk, 1 to 1½ hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°F and prepare a rack in the uppermost position.

4. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Wash the greens and slice thinly into 1-inch pieces. Put the olive oil and garlic in a large sauté pan, turn the heat to medium, and cook the garlic, stirring, until it becomes colored a pale gold. Add the greens, turning once or twice to coat it well. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes, turning from time to time. If the pan juices are watery, turn the heat up and reduce them quickly. Stir the capers, and then the olives, into the escarole. Remove from heat. Stir in the anchovies and nuts. Taste for salt, pour the contents of the pan into a bowl, and set aside to cool.

5. When the dough has doubled in bulk, divide it into 2 unequal parts, one twice the size of the other. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a circular sheet large enough to line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. To simplify transferring this to the pan, roll the dough out on a piece of lightly floured wax or parchment paper.

6. Smear the inside of the springform pan with butter. Transfer the large circular sheet of dough to the pan, covering the bottom and letting it come up the sides. Smooth the dough, flattening and evening off any particularly bulky creases with your fingers.

7. Pour all the filling from the bowl into the pan and level it off with a spatula.

8. Roll out the remaining piece of dough until it is large enough to cover the top of the pan. Lay it over the filling, covering it completely. Press the edge of the top sheet of dough against the edge of the sheet lining the pan. Make a tight seal all around, folding any excess dough toward the center.

9. Place on the uppermost rack of the preheated oven and bake until the torta swells slightly and the top becomes colored a pale gold, about 45 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, unlatch the pan’s spring, and remove the hoop. Allow the torta to settle a few minutes before loosening it from the bottom and transferring it to a serving platter. Serve either lukewarm or at room temperature.