By RACHEL SHENK
Sometimes I have to go and see for myself and not just take someone’s word for it. So it was this weekend. On a whim, we went to visit our daughter in Baltimore using some of those frequent flyer miles that just add up. It worked out well since our lives will be quite busy for the remainder of the spring and summer and Baltimore’s weather is warm at this time of year.
My daughter and son-out-law were accommodating and kind hosts. We spent a very relaxing time in their company. Our granddog and grandcat welcomed us also and made us feel less homesick for our pets left at home. Good food, green and blossoming trees, time spent by the water took us away from our filled calendar and helped us to see our world from a different perspective.
But I still had one thing to do: I wanted to see my sister and her husband in their natural setting.
It has been a year or so since they purchased a house, not too far from Baltimore. I saw the photos, heard the descriptions, knew the address but had still not visited and seen with my own eyes. So I told her we were coming and she promptly invited us for supper on our last night in Baltimore.
Always the welcoming hostess, she invited our daughter and her fiancé also. I brought along some Belgian pralines, carefully guarded from our trip in February. We were often tempted to eat them but managed not to. They were also saved from the jaws of Lilah, the chocolate lab, who spilled the secret of the chocolate to my daughter!
So over we drove and found a quiet street with a cozy house and a warm welcoming party. We toured the house, finding familiar items here and there. It was nice to see them comfortably installed: Crissie’s art and craft room, Tim’s piano and office space.
My sister had prepared a wonderful meal, both in taste and sight. An all-in-one savory torte, a perfectly dressed mixed green salad, a fresh fruit salad topped with bright raspberries and fresh mint, a plateful of layered crisp biscotti along with the famous pralines and chocolate frozen yogurt. My brother-in-law served up the wine and the coffee.
Yes, we laughed, listened to music, looked at the garden, shared excellent food. But, most important, I now see my sister in my mind, baking in her kitchen, digging up bulbs in her front yard, playing with her cat. I see my brother-in-law in my mind, typing at his computer, going up the stairs to bed, dancing by the dining room window. And it all makes sense. Everything is right with the world.
Here is the recipe for the torte. I hope you get to spend time around a table with whoever is your family and see them with your own eyes.
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 to 4 T. cold water
1 1/2 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. feta cheese
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 c. parsley, chopped
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
2 t. fresh oregano, minced
2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 lb. sliced ham
1 10 oz. package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 7 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained
Crust: In a bowl, mix flour, cornmeal and salt. Cut in butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Beat eggs with 3 T. water and stir into flour mix until dough holds together. Add a little more water, if needed. Shape dough into two flattened rounds, 1/3 and 2/3 of dough.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Filling: In a bowl, mix cottage cheese, crumbled feta, Parmesan, egg and herbs.
Roll out the larger round into a 15 inch circle and place it in a springform pan. Trim it with a 1 inch overhang. Press lightly against bottom and sides. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella over the bottom. Place 1/2 of the ham slices on top. Spread the cottage cheese mixture, then sprinkle with spinach. Cover with remaining ham slices. Press down gently to pack layers. Add red peppers then top with remaining mozzarella. Roll out remaining dough to cover the top. Bring the overhang down to edge of top crust. Seal. Brush with a beaten egg and cut several small slits in top crust. Bake for 1 hour in a 375 degree oven or until crust is deep golden and pulls away from the sides. Let cool for 20 minutes before removing pan sides.