This monthly cooking series features husband and wife team Barry and Kelley Courter.
BARRY SAYS: A torta to me is like a chicken potpie's French cousin.
This particular recipe is one of my favorites (though Kelley rarely does anything the same way twice). The blend of artichoke hearts, Italian sausages, fennel, leeks and toasted pine nuts is delicious. The baked sweet potatoes were also a great side. The broccoli rabe, however, was not to my liking. This veggie, also known as rapini, tasted like fresh dandelions.
KELLEY SAYS: I agree with you on the broccoli rabe; it wasn't my favorite either. I could overlook the bitterness, but it tasted like horseradish. I'm guessing it is supposed to. However, I think I should have picked up the Broccolini instead.
I should make the torta more often. It really comes together quite simply and reheats well if you have leftovers. I think that you could switch out the ingredients for more pizza-type flavors, such as pepperoni, peppers and onions.
BARRY: I like trying new things, and now we can say we've tried the rabe.
You are right about reheating the torta. It was great the next day for lunch, and I could easily imagine it redone pizza style or a couple of other ways.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fresh bulb fennel, sliced thin
2 leeks (white part only), sliced thin
4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 can artichoke hearts, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
Small handful golden raisins
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
4 links sweet Italian sausages
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup white wine
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream
Black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
For filling: Sauté in oil the fennel, leeks and mushrooms until limp. Remove from pan and place in a large bowl. Add artichoke hearts, green onions, raisins and pine nuts to bowl. In the same skillet used to cook the veggies, place sausages (casings removed), and brown until somewhat crispy. Once browned, drain sausage on paper towels and pour off remaining grease from pan. Add sausage back to skillet along with fennel seeds. Cook for one minute, then deglaze pan with white wine. Let mixture cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add this mixture to the bowl with the veggies, and let cool. Beat eggs with cream and pepper. Once mixture in bowl has cooled, add the cheeses and beaten eggs.
To assemble: Remove one sheet of thawed puff pastry and roll on a lightly floured table to make a larger square and fit it inside a springform pan. Make sure the pastry is not too thin and the sides almost reach the top.
Pour filling into pan.
Roll out second pastry. Using the pan as a guide, cut a circle around the base of the pan and place on top of filling. Crimp edges together so that the filling is encased in the pastry dough. Use excess pastry to make decorative leaves or other design on top of pastry. Make 3 small slits in pastry for steam to escape, and brush the entire top with an egg/water wash.
Bake in oven 30-35 minutes or until golden. Let the torta sit about 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Slice into wedges and serve. Serves 6-8.