Melissa Clark writes a wonderful weekly food column called A Good Appetite for the New York Times. Her acclaimed cookbook, “In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite,” includes essays and recipes based on her column.
Clark’s most recent book “Cook This Now,” is a personal collection of inventive comfort food. Clark has written 32 other cookbooks, many of them in collaboration with some of New York’s most celebrated chefs including Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Claudia Fleming, and Bruce and Eric Bromberg.
Her collaboration with chef Peter Berley, “The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen,” received both a James Beard award and Julia Child Cookbook award in 2000.
Clark believes the easiest way to get everyone to appreciate cabbage, which Clark aptly describes as a challenging vegetable, is to wrap it in pastry and bake until golden brown.
Clark insists the reason this combination works so well is that much of the pleasure of any savory pastry lies in the warm, salty crust, which crumbles and flakes when you bite down.
“Then you hit the cabbage filling, which is soft and silky, slightly sweet from caramelized onions, and creamy from a hefty dose of grated fontina cheese. A handful of diced smoked ham, if you use it, adds a note of brawny complexity to the mix, but you wouldn’t miss it if you left it out.”
Clark notes that to keep the crust crisp, you need to cook as much of the moisture out of the cabbage as possible while sauteing it with the onions.
“Do this in batches if your skillet is small, and take your time. Another bonus to the long saute time is that the browner the cabbage gets as it cooks, the sweeter it will be.”
To ensure a crunchy crust, Clark layers the cabbage mixture with bread crumbs that she seasons with garlic and thyme. The crumbs absorb any residual moisture and add a garlicky, herbal flavor.
This delectable torta is filled with browned onions, cabbage, and plenty of creamy fontina cheese.
Clark says this torta recipe will also work with other fillings, such as browned mushrooms, stewed tomatoes and peppers, and potatoes and olives.
1 hour 45 minutes
475 grams all-purpose flour (4 cups)
60 grams whole wheat flour (1/2 cup)
12 grams kosher salt (about 2 1/2 teaspoons), more as needed
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/4 cup olive oil, more as needed
1 large Spanish onion, halved and sliced (2 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 pounds Savoy or regular cabbage (1 small head), cored and sliced
Black pepper, as needed
2 teaspoons cider vinegar, or to taste
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons thyme leaves
8 ounces fontina cheese, grated (2 cups)
2 ounces diced smoked ham such as speck (optional)
1 large egg yolk
1. To make the pastry, combine flours and 7 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in butter until it forms coarse crumbs. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups very cold water, working it in a few tablespoons at a time, until mixture just comes together. Form dough into a ball, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir in cabbage, a handful at a time, waiting for each addition to wilt slightly before adding more. Season with 5 grams (1 teaspoon) salt and some pepper. Cook until cabbage is tender and any liquid has evaporated, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar and cook until evaporated, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Taste and add more salt, vinegar or both, as needed.
4. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and stir in bread crumbs, garlic and thyme. Cook until bread crumbs begin to color, about 1 minute. Scrape into a bowl.
5. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Oil a large baking sheet.
6. On a floured surface, roll out dough into a 17-by-12-inch rectangle. Transfer to the baking sheet. With the long side facing you, spread half the bread crumbs evenly over right half of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with half the cheese, then cover cheese with half the cabbage mixture. Repeat layers. Sprinkle ham over the top if desired.
7. Dab edges of dough with water. Fold left half over filling and use the tines of a fork to seal edges. Brush crust with egg yolk. Using a knife, cut several slits in the center of the top crust. Transfer pie to oven and bake until crust is golden brown and firm, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm, or reheat before serving.
YIELD 6 to 8 servings
NOTE: Measurements for dry ingredients are given by weight for greater accuracy. The equivalent measurements by volume are approximate.