Lemony Ricotta, Zucchini + Caramelized Onion Torta

By special request. Erica Levis Thorp, this one’s for you. Namaste.

Lemony Ricotta, Zucchini + Caramelized Onion Torta

Serves 8


  • 1/2 recipe pâte brisée  (recipe follows) or one pre-prepared 9″ pie shell, taken out of the pie dish and rolled out to a 12 inch round.
  • 1 whole Vidalia onion, skinned, and sliced thinly
  • 2 whole (10″) zucchini, halved lengthwise, tough seeds removed, and sliced into 1/8″ slices
  • 16 oz. whole milk ricotta
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 6 – 8 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. fresh thyme, leaves only, stems discarded
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat on the stovetop. Once the oil is hot, add the thinly sliced onion. Sauté over medium high heat for about ten minutes, until onions are softened and have turned a lovely caramel color. Take care the heat is not to high, they will cook too fast, or burn. Reserve.
  2. In large mixing bowl, toss zucchini slices with 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the fresh thyme leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.
  3. In mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, one egg, the nutmeg, the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.
  4. Place a piece of parchment paper on a large sheet pan.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of the the pate brisée into a 12 inch round. Brush off additional flour with a pastry brush.
  6. Place the pastry round onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet.
  7. Spoon the caramelized onion, and any oil that is left, onto the center of the baking sheet. Spread it evenly to a diameter of about 10 inches.
  8. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the center of the pastry sheet. Spread it evenly over the caramelized onions, to a diameter of about 10 inches.
  9. Beginning at what will be the outside of the torta, place zucchini slices, just barely overlapping, in a circle about 10 inches wide on top of the ricotta.
  10. Repeat making an inner circle, this time with the zucchini skins going in the opposite direction.
  11. Cover the center of the torta with zucchini in a flower-like manner.
  12. Turn the 2 inch exterior of the pastry circle onto the zucchini, bunching and pinching and overlapping where necessary.
  13. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. Brush the exposed pastry with the egg mixture.
  14. Bake in a preheated 450° oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325° and bake for an additional 35 minutes.



Pâte Brisée

Makes 2-12 inch rounds ( or 2-9 inch pie crusts)


  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces (16 tbs. or 2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup ice water


  1. Using the steel blade in a food processor, add the flour and salt and pulse on and off once.
  2. Add the butter, pulse on and off 5 or 6 times to break up the butter.
  3. Pulse until it resembles crumbs.
  4. Add the ice water, pulsing on and off until the dough comes together. It should hold together in a ball.
  5. Dump the dough out onto a work surface and form into two disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour. This can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for several days.

Sicily + Piedmont, October, 2015

Yes, my bags are packed again. This time, we’ll be bookending the best of Italy in October as we explore western Sicily, and then venture north to Turin and Barolo country and truffles! What could be better? You joining us, of course!

This trip is sold out. But please read on!

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Beat That, Bourdain #3

signore cucchiaraSunday morning. For me, another city, another hotel. What’s constant is that everyone, in every culture, has their Sunday morning ritual. Here, at the Ace Hotel in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, pork-pie hatted hipsters and their bleary-eyed companions, some with very telling shades perched on their noses, sip cappuccinos while trying very hard not to seem to try too hard.

Caseficio Cucchiara sign, Salemi, Sicily makers of pecorino

Makes me miss Sicily. If I were in Salemi, in the mountains outside of Marsala, I’d be hanging out at the Azienda Cucchiara, feigning nonchalance while near bursting with excitement, in a group of authentically breezy middle-aged men. They stand in small circles, comparing notes on Serie A, or the family, or the olive harvest, or, in a particularly loud moment, the state of Italian politics. Now and again, they turn to look at a young man in knee-high rubber boots patiently stirring a simmering creamy liquid in a giant pot. They know he’s backed by three generations of cheese-makers. In fact, his nonno is supervising from a nearby chair. They know what’s coming will be worth the wait. Continue reading