Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rustic Finocchio and Spinach Torta

Florence fennel and spinach pie!

     Tortas are a very popular Italian entree.  Italian tortas can be very simple and rustic or they can be very fancy.  Many Americans and europeans enjoy simple rustic style food for a home cooked meal.  Rustic style food is not pretentious at all.  Rustic style food spells out simple old style comfort!
     There are many different recipes for making a torta crust.  Some are like a pate brisee and some are like a puff pastry dough.  I used some puff pastry dough to make a savory entree a few days ago and the puff pastry dough scraps were saved.  The puff pastry dough sheet was a quality pre-made frozen puff pastry dough that is stocked at common grocery stores.  Once puff pastry scraps are rolled out as a sheet for the second time, much of the original puffing ability of the pastry dough is lost.  "Flat" re-rolled puff pastry dough is perfect for making a torta crust!
     Rustic Puff Pastry Torta Shell:
     Lightly dust a counter top surface with flour.
     Gently press some puff pastry dough trimmings and scraps together.
     Use a rolling pin to roll the puff pastry dough into a thin pastry dough sheet that is about 11" in diameter.
     Brush a small 4 1/2" to 5" pop-ring mold lightly with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the pastry sheet over the pop-ring mold and gently press the pastry against the insides of the mold.
     Gently press any folds of dough flat and even.
     Drape the excess puff pastry dough over the outside of the ring mold.
     Run a rolling pin over the rim of the ring mold to trim off the excess pastry dough.
     Brush the top edge of the pie crust with egg wash.
     Pinch a thin strip of the excess puff pastry dough onto the top of the pie crust in the ring mold, to create a rustic looking crust.
     Score marks on the crust with a knife.
     Fill the pastry cup with dried beans, so the pastry dough stays in place while baking.
     Place the ring mold and pastry on a baking pan.
     Bake the pastry crust in a 375º, till it becomes firm and till it becomes a light golden color.  The pastry shell is only par baked and halfway cooked at this point.
     Let the pastry completely cool.
     Pour and scrape the dried beans out of the pastry shell.  Pop the ring mold and remove the pop-ring.
     Gently slide the pastry shell off of the ring mold base.
     Brush a piece of parchment paper with melted butter.
     Place the parchment paper on a baking pan.
     Place the par baked rustic torta pastry cup on the parchment paper.
     Set the pastry crust aside.
     Finocchio and Spinach Preparation:
     Cut 1 cup of small chopped fennel bulb.
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add the sliced fennel bulb.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Saute till the fennel bulb starts to become tender.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Simmer till the fennel becomes tender and till the liquid is almost evaporated.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped baby spinach leaves.
     Saute the mixture, till the spinach becomes wilted.
     Set the mixture aside and let it cool.
     Rustic Finocchio and Spinach Torta:
     Place the fennel and spinach mixture into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 egg.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese.
     Whisk the ingredients together the ingredients together.
     Pour the finocchio and spinach filling into the pastry shell, till it becomes full to the top.
     Place the torta in a 350º oven.
     Bake till the torta filling becomes fully cooked and firm.
     Note:  Stick a toothpick into the filling.  If the toothpick pulls out clean, then the filling is done baking.
     Use a spatula to place the rustic finocchio and spinach torta on a plate.
     No garnish is necessary.
     The delicate anise flavor of finocchio combines with the spinach to create a nice aroma and flavor.  This is a very light lunch style torta.  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna    

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