Saturday, June 23, 2007

Artichoke Torta

Yields one 8-inch torta; serves six, plus leftovers.

This dense frittata-like torta takes a bit of time to prepare, but it’s quite easy to cook and the results are terrific: moist, tender and full oil cheesy, herby flavors. It’s a great do-ahead dish that wants to be served at room temperature. You can make it up to a day in advance.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
One 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and very roughly chopped
Juice of ¼ lemon
½ cup water
Kosher salt
1 bunch (10 oz) spinach, cleaned and stemmed
8 large eggs
½ cup half-and-half
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup grated creamy Havarti
½ cup grated Parmigianino Reggiano cheese
1 small bunch fresh basil, stemmed and coarsely chopped
2 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin and cut into small squares

Heat the oven to 375 ˚F. In a nonstick medium frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook about 1 minute. Add the artichokes, lemon juice, water and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until the artichokes are fully tender and the flavors have blended, 5 to 6 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated. Let cool.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spinach for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and refresh with cold water. With your hands, squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and chop it finely.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl, pour in the half-and-half, and whisk to combine. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. Add the cheese, chopped spinach, basil, prosciutto, and the artichoke mixture and stir well.

Choose a baking dish or a small roasting pan large enough to hold an 8-inch non-stick frying pan. Add hot water in the dish to cover about one-quarter of the frying pan’s depth. This will act as a water bath for cooking the torta.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat until a drop of the egg mixture sputters when added to the pan. Add the egg mixture and cook for 4 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat. With a spatula, lift the torta away from the edges of the pan to gauge its progress; when you see that the torta has browned nicely all around, remove the pan from the heat and immediately put it in the water bath to stop the browning. Put the pan and the water bath in the oven and bake until the torta is firm in the center, 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove the frying pan from the water bath and turn out the torta, bottom side up, on a cutting board. Let cool for at least 20 minutes and then refrigerate if you’re making it ahead, or cut it into 1-inch chunks to serve right away. Serve the torta pieces, top side up, at room temperature.

From “The Best Recipes of Fine Cooking: Dinner with Friends 2004”, page 54.

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