Torta salata con pomodori, olive e ricotta salata

Cooking in summer is more fun than in any other season.  The flavors are explosive and intense, the days are longer so dinners are later, and everything is more relaxed.

This weekend at the lake we cooked in our swimsuit coverups and we ate outdoors on the patio while watching the Azzurri cheerfully knock England out of the Euro 2012 soccer quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals against Germany.  It was reminiscent of warm Sunday afternoons at Stefano’s parent’s house near the sea, when we’d all sit around the table under the portico of the house with la partita  (the soccer match) playing on a little black and white television that sat upon a table at the far end.
Our cooking inspiration came from a recipe in the most recent edition of Italia, a British magazine about Italian culture, cuisine, and property.  It’s a a rustic tart, but a lighter, summertime version of the one we wrote about this past spring.  Easy-to-use puff pastry makes up the base, which is topped with a colorful mélange of red, yellow and orange cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and black olives.  The flavors are as bright and intense as the colors, and ricotta salata adds to the rustic simplicity of this tart.

for two tarts

2 sheets of puff pastry
250 grams (approx. 1 pint) of red, orange and yellow cherry tomatoes
125 grams (4.5 ounces) pitted black olives*
100 grams (3.5 ounces) sun-dried tomatoes**
50 grams (1.75 ounces) ricotta salata shavings***
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

*Choose a high quality Italian or French black olive, or Greek Kalamate olives.

**You can use dried tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes in oil.  If use use dried tomatoes, rehydrate them before use according to the directions on the package.

***Ricotta salata is a dried, hard cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano or Feta will also work, for variation or if you cannot find ricotta salata.

Preheat your oven to 220° C, (425° F), with a baking sheet inside.  If frozen, allow your puff pastry to thaw according to the directions on the package.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl.  Drain any liquid off of the olives, and add them to the bowl,  Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into halves or thirds, and add them to the mixture as well.  Pour the olive oil over the tomatoes and olives, and salt and pepper generously to taste.  Stir together.

When the oven is preheated, remove the baking sheet and carefully place the puff pastry on top of it.  Use a fork to prick holes over the surface.  With a slotted spoon, arrange half of the tomatoes and olives over the tart’s surface, spreading them out into a single layer and avoiding the juices that have developed so that the tart does not become soggy.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, while you repeat the process for your second tart.  This torta salata can be enjoyed warm or cold.

Pasta fredda al salmone e sedano (Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad)

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve posted a new recipe on Due Spaghetti.  The pace of summer is supposed to be slower and more relaxed, but June has been a whirlwind so far.  On a positive note, we are getting closer and closer to moving back into our house.  Our friend Tiet, a true artisan cabinetmaker, is almost done making our walnut kitchen cabinets, and they are beautiful.  The hardwood floors are in, and we’re picking out paint colors.  If all goes well, we will return from our July trip to Italy and move back in.

We are looking forward to that trip, to spending time with family and friends and to finally slowing down.  We’ll spend a week in Rome with Stefano’s family, celebrating the 3rd birthdays of our nephews Davide and Flavio, and catching up with our 8-year-old nephew Damiano.  Nonna Maria will have all 5 grandsons home at once, and the cousins will be happy to be together again.

We’ll spend the second week touring Northern Italy.  Our first stop will be Trentino, in South Tyrol along a road called the Strada del Vino  in the midst of vineyards and wineries.  The kids will stay with Nonna Maria and enjoy the pool at Schwarz Adler Turm Hotel, while we will tour the Alois Lageder winery.  The next day, we will travel down to Veneto and have lunch with Lucia from Villa Monteleone winery.

Next, we’ll head east towards Piemonte, and Barolo country.  We will stay at Albergo Castiglione, with its pool overlooking the vineyards of the Langhe countryside, and visit the winery of Paolo Saracco, producer of fine Moscato and Pinot Nero.  Finally, we’ll end our trip in the Cinque Terre, where we’ve rented a small apartment in Riomaggiore right near the sea, from Signora Edi Vesigna.

This weekend we made a summer pasta salad that reflects the the simplicity and the slow pace of the warm months.  Smoked salmon is the primary focus of this pasta salad. Chopped celery gives it a mild, cool flavor and lemon zest and juice provides a hint of summertime freshness.

1 box of Farfalle or any other short pasta
200 grams (7 ounces) smoked salmon
1 stalk of celery
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 handful of coarse salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place a large pot of water over high heat to boil.  In a large bowl, break the smoked salmon into small pieces.  Chop the celery finely, and add it to the bowl with the salmon.  Add the zest and juice of one lemon, and set aside.

When the water boils, add a heaping handful of coarse salt to the water, and then the pasta.  Cook al dente according to the time on the package.  Drain the pasta and rinse it well under cold running water, mixing it with your hands until it is evenly cool.  Drain well.

Transfer the pasta into the bowl with the salmon mixture.  Stir in the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. The pasta salad is best when eaten right away.

Pasta fredda is the perfect summer time lunch or dinner.  Here is another Due Spaghetti pasta fredda recipe you might like.