“What is that?” my sister asked.
I had no good answer in Italian. I couldn’t retrieve the corresponding vegetable in my mother’s tongue. So we looked it up. In Italian, a parsnip is called pastinaca, a noun neither of us had ever heard before. Upon further digging, this vegetable, while fairly common in ancient times, is pretty much non-existent today in most of Europe.
Californian farmer’s markets can be daunting for outsiders. I know they were for me, to begin with, filled as they are with unfamiliar vegetables and fruits, or with obscure varietals of more familiar fare.
On the other hand, vegetables that are easy to find in the old country, can be challenging to find here. Take escarole, for example, a pale, curly green from the endive family, but much less bitter than Belgian endive. It took several trips to different markets to find some. My sister was insistent in wanting to make an escarole tart, which is a traditional dish from Naples.
This is the Roman version and a quicker one too. The traditional one – called pizza in Naples – is indeed made with pizza dough but, for the sake of putting dinner on the table within an hour, we used puff pastry.. A little bit different from your usual savory tart, it takes very little time to put it together and it’s extremely tasty.
2 puff pastry sheet
2 escarole heads, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 C black olives, chopped
3 T capers
1/4 C pine nuts
1/4 C raisins
1 anchovy fillet, minced
1 head of garlic, peeled and smashed
olive oil as needed
red pepper flakes to taste
1 egg, beaten
- Cook the escarole in salted, boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain well by squeezing all the water out.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the garlic. Drop in the escarole and sauté for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
- Transfer the escarole to a bowl and remove the garlic. Add the olives, pine nuts, raisins and the anchovy. Mix well.
- Spread the mixture on a puff pastry sheet, leaving a fairly large border. Cover with the second sheet and pinch the pastry together. Brush the top with the egg and, using a toothpick, prick the dough.
- Bake at 350F/180C for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and golden.
Top image: a proper escarole tart made with pizza dough