Comida Porteño: Tarta Pascualina (Spinach Tart)

spinach torta

What, vegetables? Si, our traditional Argentine meal has been authentically meat-heavy.  Pero Chef Chris surprised us towards us at the end with a lovely spinach and chard torta, with a delicate filling lusciously enrobed in golden flaky pastry.  Look what a fresh and lovely contrast it is to the assertive and equally lovely steak (coming next time!), which is keeping those green vegetables at a neighborly distance on their shared plate.

This is what Chef Chris had to say:

Tarta Pascualina– Spinach Ricotta Pie

Adapted from recipe on From Argentina with Love. In her blog, Rebecca states that Pascua is the word for Easter, so Tarta Pascualina literally means ‘Eastertime Tart’. What makes this dish extra-special is that under the crust, little wells have been made in the filling, and eggs are cracked into each well. When the Pascualina is served, each slice has a cross-sectioned hard-cooked egg in it.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

We used a combination of chard and spinach, about  a 50/50 split.

2 tarta shells or pie crusts (we purchased La Saltena at Evergreen Market in the Mission District, San Francisco. Look for hojaldrades style which makes a flakier crust)

1 bunch each of fresh spinach and chard, deveined and chopped into large pieces. (you can also use 2 packets of 9 oz. frozen spinach instead)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons milk

6-8 eggs

butter, for greasing pan

Technique

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Wash spinach/chard thoroughly. Steam in pot for a few minutes until just tender. Drain water and let cool. (or, defrost frozen spinach by heating in the microwave or in a pot on the stove top over medium heat.  Heat the spinach to defrost, but do not heat it up too hot.  Let cool before handling. Place the spinach in a linen towel, and squeeze out to drain the moisture from the spinach.  Not until it’s totally dry, leave a little moisture).

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the spinach/chard, crushed garlic, ricotta, and the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.  Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper, and mix well to combine.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk, and add the milk mixture to the spinach and cheese mixture and stir well until incorporated.

4.  Traditionally, Tarta Pascualina  is made using a spring-form pan.  However, a regular pie plate also works fine.  Grease the bottom of your pie pan or spring form pan with butter.  Line the bottom of your pie plate or spring-form pan with one of the tarta shells.  Put the filling into the shell.  Make 6-8 indentations in the filling (about one inch apart, and one inch from the edge of the pan) and crack an egg into each indentation.

5.  Cover the pie with the other tarta crust.  Seal the edges by pinching together the two shells with your thumb and forefinger making an indentation, as you would seal an emapanada.  Slice a few vents in the top of the pie.  Optional: brush the top of the crust with beaten egg to give it shine.

6.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust has turned a golden brown on top.  Make sure not to undercook otherwise the crust will not be flaky.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

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This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Come back next week for another delicioso recipe from Argentina!

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Asian Mash-Up: The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

220px-Singapore_Sling

image via Wikipedia

We started the party with the perfect cocktail for our “Asian Mash-Up” theme: the Singapore Sling.  This drink was created in the storied Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, long a favorite of British Colonials in the era of Somerset Maugham.  None of us had had one before, though one of us had made an attempt (see below).

Thanks to the internet, we found a recipe that involved many liqueurs, but ended up tropical, fruity and bright, without excess sweetness.

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And now for the story, from Spicebox Travels:

The story behind this is the tale my husband has heard thousands of times over the last almost twenty years, the one during the telling of which he actually will cover up his ears, even in the company of people we might want to impress, or at least not scare away. I refrained from sharing it in the company of the new Spicebox Supperclub, lest it dampen the mood.

In 1991, I was a student (i.e. poor) from a liberal university (i.e. a little bohemian), and it was hot (definitely no stockings for me, regardless of the dress code). I had been living as a study abroad student in Singapore for at least four months at this point, and while I was no longer dripping sweat constantly, I could not wear the sweaters and tights that the local girls could, as if they were in merry old England. There was a lot of excitement surrounding the grand re-opening of the famed Raffles Hotel, which had undergone its first major renovation in the years prior to my arrival. This is the place that invented the Singapore Sling and the former hangout of Somerset Maugham, in the days that tigers might have still been found roaming the streets of this former jungle. It was the archetype of British colonial architecture and society. As such, “she” was considered a venerable institution, to be respected.

So I combed my hair, which went crazy wild in that humidity, put on a neat outfit of a top and shorts, and excitedly walked inside, where I saw lots of other tourists milling about, in similar or even more casual attire. I gazed at the beautifully restored woodwork, and made my way back towards the famed Long Bar to have a taste of the Singapore Sling, at its birthplace. But I didn’t quite make it there. I was stopped by a uniformed employee, who gently directed me outside. “No shorts are allowed. This is an expensive hotel.”

“Pardon me?” I asked. “What about all those other people?” I gestured to the scruffy long-haired Australians in their board shorts and flip-flops, lounging casually and having a raucous good time.

“They are guests here.”

I was embarrassed, but wondered what made me look like someone who could not possibly be a guest at “an expensive hotel.” It wasn’t my clothing that made me stand out. In fact, I suspected that my welcome was because I didn’t stand out– I looked like a “local.”

I discussed the incident back in the hostel’s canteen (dorm cafeteria) with my local friends. They immediately and unanimously concluded that it was the customary discrimination against locals, while pandering to Western (appearing) tourists. They shrugged it off, it was such a commonplance occurrence to them. But I was enraged, on my own behalf but also theirs.

I wrote my first ever letter to the editor to The Straits Times, the local/National newspaper (it’s a very small country), in which I implied that the hotel had race-based double standards. I kept the clippings from my letter, which I think still emanates heat almost thirty years later. In it, I concluded, “It reminded me of what the glorious Raffles must have been like in colonial times– attentive Asian staff catering to every caprice of their esteemed Western guests. Perhaps the newly renovated Raffles hotel should also update her thinking.”

Like a harbinger of blog posts gone viral, this letter generated a month of responses. A few sadly sympathized that there were post-colonial attitudes, but the vast majority threw insults at me, someone they had never met or seen. I was called “scruffy and sloppy.” The best insult was “Raffles hotel is no place for… scruffy or unkempt visitors. For these people, there are lots of coffee houses, beer lounges, karaoke joints and perhaps even hawker centres.” The Sunday Times had a full editorial dedicated to the subject of… Me. And the major tabloid did an investigative report where they sent two journalists, separately, to re-enact my actions. One was Caucasian, one was a local Singaporean Chinese. They were both dressed in bike shorts (I would never!), and each went in the lobby, as I had done. In the end, both were thrown out, though the Chinese one by a good ten minutes earlier. The conclusion was that there was no discrimination. Yes, these were my fifteen minutes of infamy.

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So, decades later, I was overjoyed to finally have a chance to enjoy a Singapore Sling, in the comfort of the Spicebox Supperclub.  And now you can, too.  No dress code.

Cheers!

The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

Recipe from chinese.food.com

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce cherry heering
1/4 ounce Cointreau liqueur
1/4 ounce benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters

Method

1.  Shake with ice.

2.  Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass

3.  Garnish with pineapple and a Maraschino cherry

Thanks for coming by! To see the rest of the Asian Mash-Up menu, read here.  Check back next week for another recipe from the menu.