The fourth and final entry in the 2012 Seashells and Sunflowers Argentine Recipe Contest comes from Norma Torres of New York, New York, USA. Norma, a Latina blogger with ties to Spain, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, offers up her take on Latin cuisine at her blog Platanos, Mangoes and Me!
Before I present Norma's recipe, I'd like to say a few words about Norma herself. I first connected with her in May 2010, thanks to our mutual blog friend Joan of Foodalogue. Despite our frequent online contact, with the significant distance separating us, the opportunity to meet in person had never presented itself. Last year, when Norma learned that I would be visiting my hometown of Philadelphia at the holidays, she very graciously extended an invitation for me to stay at her home in New York City for a couple of days. With the Big Apple merely a hop, skip and a jump away from Philly, I just couldn't refuse.
Norma struck me as your stereotypical New Yorker; she's a bit brash and in your face. She drinks. She smokes. She curses. She's funny and self-assured. And I quickly confirmed what I'd already surmised from the mouthwatering posts on her blog: Damn, this woman knows her way around the kitchen.
I eventually came to the conclusion that Norma is the Latina version of Anthony Bourdain.
Yet it's apparent that, like me, Norma's love of food, family and friends lies at her core. She's got a heart of gold, and she treated me like a queen during my visit. I was wined, dined and sent home with a goodie bag filled to bursting, and more importantly, I left with tons of great memories and the joy of having turned an online friend into a real-life one. If you'd like to check out photos from my Manhattan foodie adventures with Norma, take a look here.
If you're a long-time follower of the blog, you may remember that Norma participated in last year's recipe contest with her delicious version of matambre arrollado. This time, she offered up a recipe for tarta pascualina, a hefty spinach pie packed with vegetables, ricotta cheese and eggs.
Tarta pascualina enjoys popularity in both Argentina and Uruguay. Italian immigrants who voyaged to South America to gamble on a new life brought with them the recipe for this tasty and filling pie. The tarta pascualina's origins lie specifically in the region of Liguria, Italy, where the dish can be traced back to the 16th century.
Most recipes for tarta pascualina call for the ricotta to be combined with the spinach, but in this recipe, the ricotta stands as a separate layer. The recipe also incorporates carrots, which I had never seen included in this dish. I must say that the results were quite pleasing, and I could barely keep Daniel away from the spinach pie while I was photographing it! He had two large helpings at lunch, and he seriously thought about a third. The leeks and garlic really boosted the flavor, and the carrot provided a little pop of color to break up all that green and white.
Here's what Norma had to say about her recipe:
A very dear friend used to make this tarta pascualina for me many years ago. I have been meaning to make this but never had a chance until you decided to do this contest again. I lost my friend to cancer, and it's a way to remember her.
La famosa tarta pascualina de mi amiga Marta | Marta's Famous Spinach Pie
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), cut into thin rounds
6 cloves garlic, chopped
a few tablespoons of olive oil
2 lb fresh spinach
2 carrots, peeled into ribbons [I used 1 large carrot.]
2 lb ricotta cheese, drained in a fine-mesh sieve
2 packages puff pastry or 1 package tapas de hojaldre para tarta
8 eggs (6 for the pie, 1 to mix with the cheese filling, and 1 for the egg wash)
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the leeks and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted. Allow the spinach mixture to cool, and then remove as much liquid as possible by draining in a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Add the raw carrot ribbons to the spinach mixture, and set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta and 1 egg. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a springform pan with baking spray.
Roll out the dough, joining together 2 sheets of puff pastry for the bottom crust [not necessary if using tapas para tarta]. Carefully line the springform pan with the dough, leaving about an inch overhang.
Spoon half of the spinach mixture into the pan, and then add all of the ricotta mixture. Smooth out the ricotta, and make 6 deep, evenly spaced depressions in the filling. Crack an egg into each hole [hold back a bit of the white if it looks like it will overflow]. Spoon the remainder of the spinach mixture over the cheese and eggs.
Roll out another sheet of dough, and cut it into a circle that fits into the top of the pan [not necessary if using tapas para tarta]. Cover the filling with the second piece of dough, and seal the crust by crimping it or making a decorative edge. Vent the crust with a sharp knife, and decorate the top with leftover pastry. Brush the crust with beaten egg.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown [Note: My edges were browning faster than the rest of the dough, so I covered them with aluminum foil to keep them from burning.]. Allow the pie to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving, or enjoy it at room temperature.
Stay tuned for contest voting instructions—coming up in the next post!
Previous Posts about the Recipe Contest:
2012 Argentine Recipe Contest
Happy 4th Birthday to Seashells and Sunflowers! [contains list of finalists]
Estofado de carne | Beef Ragu
Tarta de dulce de membrillo con mascarpone | Quince Paste and Mascarpone Tart
Pollo relleno de Inés | Inés' Stuffed Chicken Roll