Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Early Spring Dish Torta Di Bietole (Swiss Chard Pie)

Hello everyone, Chef Elizabeth here.
 A couple of weeks ago, I taught my bi-annual, Italian Cooking class.  I do one in the Spring and one in the Fall.  I wanted to share with you one of the recipes from this last class as it is perfect for this time of year.  It is called:   Torta Di Bietole or Swiss Chard Pie.   This deliciously-satisfying pie presents you with another wonderful way to use Swiss chard and benefit from it, as it is a great source of nutrition. 

 This beautiful, leafy green packs a whollop of minerals, as most dark green vegetables do.  However, lots of folks only know one way to cook them.  Typically, sautéed with olive oil, then garlic added then drizzled with vinegar and usually with bacon.  This is quite good, but one needs to “branch out”.. oh man…. did I really just say that?
First off, you’ll need about  1, ½ Pounds of Swiss Chard. Silverbeet is a good variety, pretty red stems and thick leaves.  Wash the Chard in a large bowl of water to rinse off any of the sand that accumulates.  Store bought should be washed too as they never get all the dirt off.    Pull the leaves off the woodie stems , tossing the stems and reserving the leaves. 
Bring a large pot of filtered water to a boil add salt.  Once water is boiling, place all the chard into the pot and allow to cook for three minutes, or, until chard is wilted.  Remove chard from water and drain.  Reserve chard water for a refreshing cold tea…  (see more on tea, at end of blog.)
While chard is draining, you will need to make your crust.
2 cups flour, ½ cup salted butter, 2 to 3 tlbs. water or more if needed.
I typically make my pie crusts using a food processor.  Placing the flour and the butter in the bowl of the processor then pulsing until pea sized balls form.  I then drizzle the water as the machine is running until it forms a ball.  Once this is done, pull ball from processor and wrap  in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.   (Note) Sometimes, I just make the crust right away without refrigeration and it comes out fine.   However, the experts like the dough to sit and chill for better consistency.    
Once chilled, roll dough out onto flour-covered counter, then, place into either a tart pan, or a pie dish.  I did both.  The tart I made in the pie dish had a more rustic look as I did not play with the crust.  I simply folded over edges, coated with an egg wash and baked. 
Be sure to butter which ever pan you use, using one of the tlbs. of butter called for in the recipe.
 If using a tart pan: Press dough into pan and up against walls, so it takes on shape of pan.  Then using the rolling pin, roll over top edge of tart pan.  This will cut overlapping dough off.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
For Filling:   You will need:  1/4 pound of ham (sliced into matchsticks) 1/4 pound Emmenthaler Cheese (this is a swiss cheese) you can use a domestic variety.  (Slice into matchsticks)  3Tlbs salted butter, 2 eggs, one pinch of nutmeg, pinch of salt and pepper and 1/8 cup pine nuts.                                                  Squeeze all remaining water from chard.  Rough chop.  Place two tlbs. butter into non-stick skillet.  Add the chard and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes to take on some flavor.  Add the pine nuts to the chard and stir.  Meanwhile, add two eggs to a large mixing bowl and whisk.  Add the ham, cheese and nutmeg.  Mix well.  Add the chard and pine nuts  and mix well.  Pour all of this into the tart or pie pan. 
Remember if using the pie pan and going for that “rustic” look to fold extra dough over pie, then make an egg wash and brush onto of pastry.  This makes a beautiful pie.
Bake for 40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes for doneness, as all ovens are different.   If top of tart starts to brown too fast, cover lightly with foil. 
Once done, allow to cool on rack slightly.  If using a tart pan, remove from tart pan and onto a serving plate.  Makes a wonderful brunch, or even a wonderful appetizer with a good cold Pinot Grigio wine or a tall glass of cold water.
Chard Ice Tea:  The water you saved from when you cooked your chard is pink, if you used the Silverbeet.  This water contains lots of minerals and would be a shame to waste.  So here’s what I did:     I added 3 Cinnamon-apple tea bags to the hot chard water.  Plus, 5 cloves, a cinnamon stick and a couple of tablespoons of honey and the peel to from an orange.  This is best done while water is hot to dissolve and allow for the flavors to meld together.  Stir well and allow to sit for a couple of hours, strain and place into a pitcher and refrigerate. Serve cold and folks won’t notice the chard flavor.. however,  they will get lots of added nutrition.  I call this a “tonic” more than a tea and something we should all drink more of.   
I hope you will give this a try.  If you have questions you can always reach me by going to my website: www.theOPERASINGINGCHEF.com  Click on “contact us” at the top of the page.  I’d love to see photos and receive comments on how it went for you.  Don’t forget to check out my on-line gourmet kitchen store while you’re there.  The 25-year old imported Italian vinegars are amazing and excellent with Swiss Chard.

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