Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Torta or Timbale

I don't think I have done this in years and years. The last time was before I divorced. I took this to a party. There are endless varieties of Tortas in Italian cooking and in fact what I do here is probably not strictly a Torta. There is a sort of stuffed Pizza that is indigenous to areas south of Rome that would be very similar to this though thinner. If I find the name of it, I will certainly post it for you. Tortas can be made with all sorts of shells and a similar affair can be done without a shell at all, relying on the viscosity of the filling to hold the whole thing together. I love this version, but if I find a good recipe for pastry that is authentic to this sort of thing I will certainly add it on so you can experiment. If you have a pastry dough that does not have sugar in it, you might try it that way. I was reading that many of the traditional recipes that were done in the islands are slowly being standardized and named, for the benefit of the tourists. The problem is that the recipes done at home and in our grand parents' homes were very flexible. You certainly could not be frustrated by the fact that peas were not in season when trying something like this, you would just substitute broccoli, grated and drained zuccini, artichoke hearts or some other vegetable. I am doing this recipe with ground beef made into a meatball meat. What would stop you from taking all the ingredients in Chicken or Veal Piccatta and using those to create a filling along with all the veggies and pasta that you would normally serve. How about Saltimbocca? I just don't like the idea of veal or lamb, so I try to avoid it, but Chicken Saltimbocca could be imitated with ground chicken, mushrooms, Marsalla, butter, flour or crumbs, and a handful of sage. Use something like Fontina for the cheese. Be creative; they were.
Use my Pizza crust recipe found elsewhere in the site.

My Torta

I used one recipe of meatball mixture from Carolyn Cusolito found here in the site.
Make it ahead and make sure it is at room temperature.

Saute/caramelize one large onion. I don't think red onion would look good in this.
When it is translucent add a couple of mashed garlic cloves and a pint of whole grape tomatoes. Continue to cook till the onion colors and the tomatoes burst. You could use roasted tomato or even sun dried.. Set aside to cool.

Cook and cool your choice of greens(frozen or fresh) like spinach, arugula, chard or even savoy cabbage that has been shredded. A blend of two would be nice too. Drain and squeeze the greens dry. Set aside to cool.

Grate two carrots finely and saute in oil till tender but not soft. Add a cup of fresh or frozen peas and minced or mashed garlic half way through. Set aside to cool.

Cube or shred a pound of Mozzarella Cheese. Choose the variety and cost that you like. Substitute any easily melted cheese...You could easily double this amount if you like.

The one warning I can offer, is that you should think the combinations of filling ingredients through. Think about the blend of flavors that you would like together. If you had to put a traditional meal together, put stuffing ingredients together that you would like if you were just putting a plate on the table. Also, try not to use too many things that will be terribly dry. The bottom of the pan should not have a lot of moisture sitting in it. The crust will get soggy.

Oil, butter or spray a large Spring form pan.

Roll out 2/3 to 3/4 of the once risen bread dough, I would think you would want this to be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Like a fruit pie, line the pan with the dough. It should not go all the way to the top of the pan. Press it into the corners. Brush the inside lightly with olive oil. Make a large disk with half of the meat mixture or small meatballs. Cover the bottom of the pan with this. Make a layer with the onion mixture and add salt and pepper. Make a cheese layer(this could be a favorite Ricotta and egg mixture) Make a layer of the meat mixture again. Cover that with the carrot mixture(seasoned), then cheese and spinach. Dust it liberally with Parmesan, Pecorino Romano or other favorite grating cheese.

Roll out the remainder of the bread dough and cover the top. Try to pinch together the edges to seal, then cut a hole in the center. The pan should be about 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for an hour to an hour and a half till a meat thermometer comes out at about 150 degrees. You may want to cover the torta with aluminum foil if the top is browning too fast. You want the meat to cook through. If you have used precooked meats like ham or bre-baked meatballs or Prociutto you can get away with a lower temp.

Allow the Torta to cool for about 20 minutes while you put a quick sauce, appropriate to the filling together. I just do a quick Marinara, though different combinations might warrant different sauces or none at all.

Un-mold the pan and slide the Torta off the pan base onto a serving platter. Cut in wedges to serve. This is great hot or cold. If you plan to serve it cold, you should over season it a bit.

How about a layer of hard boiled eggs showing the cut cross section in the middle when it is served. Go Crazy!

Peas, prociutto and mushrooms.
Bacon(pancetta), peas and mushrooms.
Cabbage, onions and Pork or ham.
Sausage, greens and roasted tomatoes.
Chicken, chestnut and sausage stuffing.
Roasted mixed veggies(zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers)that you have soaked in beaten egg, cheese and cream.
Peppers, scrambled eggs and sausage or pepperoni. Do you remember doing this combo for breakfast?

You could eliminate the bread crust and instead, line the pan with grilled Eggplant slices (cut the long way)overlapping and right over the top in a nice pattern.

Do the same with Zucchini slices.

Do an entire pasta meal with pasta, meats and sauce mixed together with cheese of your choice, and use that as your filling. You could also do this with beaten egg mixed in with cooled filling. The egg will bind the whole thing together in a firmer slice.

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