Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Torta d'erbe (green herb tart)

I'm always buying those big containers of baby salad greens because they look so fresh and pretty, but, regrettably, though we eat plenty of greens you don't see much green salad here at the Airy Way. I keep meaning to rectify this, and so buy more and more salad greens, but usually end up cooking them in one way or another. Why wouldn't you, though, with recipes like this, such an excellent way to use up large amounts of greens of all kinds—and healthy, pretty, and delicious to boot?

Plus, you can really improvise something like this, which is what I did, based on the recipes for torta d'erbe and yeasted pastry from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and the recipes for the tofu ricotta and almonzano from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Italian Kitchen.

The yeasted pastry dough is fun. Some authors claim that if you make it right, it is as light and flaky as short crust pastry, and can be used in fruit pies and other sweet dishes. I don't find this; my dough always remains "bready," but in a savory dish like torta d'herbe that's nice. My version is a veganized adaptation, and made quite a bit more than I needed, but this is what I did. I used my mixer with the dough hook attachments, since the dough is quite sticky:

Yeasted tart dough
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm soymilk
2 cups flour, approximately
4 tbsp Earth Balance, slightly softened

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the soymilk in large mixing bowl and let stand until bubbly. Turn on the mixer and begin adding the flour and Earth Balance alternately, continuing to beat until the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl, about five minutes, adding a little more soymilk if you need to to make a soft, smooth dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to an hour. Now punch it down and use it as you would pastry dough.

While your dough is rising, make the filling. It's hard to give measurements for raw greens, but I ended up with about 3 cups of filling and cooked the tart in a small 7-inch cast iron frying pan. For the greens part, anything goes, but I used:

mixed salad greens (spring mix)
bok choy
1/2 white onion

Other great additions would be:

beet greens
mustard greens
turnip greens
you get the idea

The other ingredients are:

2 tbsp Earth Balance or olive oil
1 cup tofu ricotta (I used Bryanna's recipe)
2 tbsp almonzano (again from Bryanna)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the greens and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Heat the Earth Balance or olive oil in a large skillet or wok and sweat the white onion, if using. Add the scallions, dill, and greens and continue to cook, turning constantly, until they have cooked down and are tender, and there's no more water pooling at the bottom of the skillet.

Stir in the ricotta, almonzano, and nutmeg, and taste for salt and pepper. Now, if you're like me, you'll have your first idea of how much filling you have and what size pan you need to cook the tart in!

Roll out enough dough to make a bottom crust (about 1/8 inch thick) and drape it over a pie pan or cast iron skillet. Trim the edge so that it's a little larger than the pan. Add the filling.

Roll out another circle for the top crust. This one should be the same size as the surface of the tart. Place it right on the filling, then fold the longer piece of dough over it. Crimp the edges. Using the tip of a paring knife, score the top of the tart in a crisscross design without cutting through the dough. Brush with a little soymilk.

Bake at 375F until the top crust is well browned, about 35 minutes for a small pie like mine. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Though there are lots of steps, this dish is actually very easy, especially if you already have the ricotta and almonzano made, and it's hard to mess up. Short crust pastry can be rather perilous in my experience, but the yeasted pastry dough is a delight to work with. The fact that it's best served at room temperature (and it really is) makes it a great dish to take to gatherings or picnics.


  1. Oh my! Is there any leftovers? This looks incredibly delicious!

  2. Thanks, katee! Alas, there are no leftovers. But one day I'll make some for you...and serve it on a blue plate ;-)