Anti-Inflammatory = Red Bell Peppers + Spinach

Torte Brand

I respect and appreciate French cuisine—that’s a fact. It may be because French was the second language that I learned, or that I first watched Julie & Julia with my mom and we have even since shared a special love for Julia Child’s whimsical flare. Actually, maybe this factuation grew as I volunteered more and more at a culinary school founded by a Frenchman and based on French culinary techniques, or just simply because I enjoy French wine with French cheese and baguette. Who knows! Whatever the reason(s), exploring healthy baking recipes based on classic French creations and ingredients is always an extreme delight.

I had a pack of puff pastry in the freezer, so I found a recipe, originally by Michel Richard, that called for using this pack as well as wholesome vegetables, fresh herbs, and some of my CSA bounty. Feel free to make your own puff pastry for this recipe, but I’ve learned from other trained chefs that using frozen puff pastry is nothing to be ashamed of if short on time, energy, or the interest to make it from scratch. I modified the recipe to clarify the directions and reduce some ingredients that have high saturated fat contents.

The vegetables used for this tourte are the perfect match to help promote an anti-inflammatory diet. Red bell peppers are rich in Vitamin C, making these peppers one of the best sources for this essential nutrient. The antioxidant properties and flavonoids in such foods help protect the body from free radicals, a result that has anti-inflammatory benefits. A plant showing dark green colors are also packed with Vitamin C. So red bell peppers, meet spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of Vitamin C as well, and has several flavonoids to battle inflammation. Furthermore, research shows that spinach leaves contain glycoglycerolipids, which helps protect the digestive tract from unwanted inflammation. In the tourte, we are also minimizing omega-6 oils and saturated fats while adding herbs to assist the vegetable couple in providing anti-inflammatory benefits!

Tourte Milanese

modified from

  • 1 pound puff pastry, chilled

For the Eggs

  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh tarragon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Filling

  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces smoked ham, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt

photo 3

Preparing the Pastry:

Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch springform pan. Cut off one quarter of the pastry, cover, and set in the fridge. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, nearly reaching the top of the pan around the edges. Place pan in fridge and take out the small piece of pastry that was already placed inside the fridge.

Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the tourte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the lid with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Save the scraps and put them in the freezer! Take out for another use by thawing in the fridge, sprinkling with grated, sharp cheese for a savory pastry or cinnamon and sugar for a sweet pastry, shape into a twist or other shape, and bake. An easy way to quickly make a crispy, simple treat!

Making the Eggs:

Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Gently but constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set into the center of the pan. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap.

photo 1

photo 2

The Filling:

Peppers: place whole and untrimmed, directly over the flame of a gas burner. As soon as one portion of a peppers skin is charred, turn the pepper. When black and blistered all over, place in a plastic bag and seal. After about 15 minutes, once cool, use your fingers to rub off skin. Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away the stem, open the peppers, and lay them flat. Trim away the inside veins and discard the seeds; season peppers with salt and pepper. Cut flat peppers into thirds, and set aside, covered, until needed.

Spinach: cook in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture (you may need to allow it to cool for a few minutes if still to hot for your hands). Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add a little whipping cream. Bring quickly to the boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted and set aside.

Assembling the Tourte:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the fridge and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: half the eggs, half the spinach, half the cheese, half the ham, and all the roasted peppers, laid flat. Continue layering in reverse order—ham, cheese, spinach, and eggs. With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan. Fold the excess crust in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust you’ve created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over the tourte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

Baking the Tourte:

Place the tourte on a rimmed baking pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan and release the sides.

spinach leaves

Notice how we’re using salt and pepper at each step in the dish. In order to properly season your food, practice seasoning as you cook for best results. You usually end up using less salt all together, as cooking with salt distributes its effects better than sprinkling on top of your food later. Taste as you cook, too, adjusting according to your tastes. Once finished, the first cut into this pie will make your elbows flap and toes wiggle, seeing the vibrantly colored layers that pay homage to Italy’s flag (shhh, don’t tell France). Bon ap, to anti-inflammation!

Photos courtesy of Flickr member faria!; “spinach leaves”


Antioxidants = Squash + Cloves

Stuffed Patty Pans

I’m sure I drink enough red wine to be comfortable with my antioxidant intake, but sometimes I might go through a dry spell, during which I’ll need to get my antioxidants elsewhere. Or sometimes there’s a flu going around the office, and I’m just a sitting duck, waiting for my turn to catch the cold and have 48 hours of misery. To take action, I’ll make a large, one-dish meal to add more antioxidants to my diet for a few days. Back off germs, you cannot get through this immune system!

So I’ve got Ikea meatballs in my freezer and they are simply amazing; only a few ingredients go a long way in creating this tasty treat. Meatballs don’t have to just go on pasta, though, nor do you have to douse them in a sugary sauce to incorporate them into your meal. Instead, chop up these little guys after cooking them and use them in stuffing! Brilliant! Use any meatballs or sausage meat for this recipe: Stuffed Patty Pan Saucers.

Patty pan squash is the perfect vegetable boat to take aboard handfuls of stuffing. These squashes come in a variety of colors, which are quite a site when corralled into a bin on the market tables. Their colorful skins are enriched with antioxidants, so make sure you do not shave off the skins of these beauties! Other squashes have similar properties, but I think that these spherical molds are perfect for holding stuffing (I recommend these scoops to help with pitting or hollowing out avocados, melons, or any other produce item). In order to boost up the antioxidant powers, the squash needs a sidekick in action. So patty pans, meet cloves! Cloves are one of the most healthiest spices for our bodies that are found as star ingredients in cuisines all around the world, from Indian to Greek. Clove oils are even used by medical experts to relieve pain and inflammation. Cloves can be added to both sweet and savory dishes, and add a burst of flavor when you use even just a little bit. In addition to the recipe below, sprinkle your cloves onto sauteed greens, potato bakes, Mexican hot chocolate, and more, to enjoy the benefits from cloves!

Get your oven mitts and baking sheet ready!

Finished Patty Pans

  • 1 1/2 lbs patty pan squash
  • 1/2 lb Ikea meatballs, or other beef meatballs or beef sausage
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 1/2 tomato
  • 1/4 panko, or more if you like more of a crunch
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  1. Cook meatballs according to package instructions and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  3. Wash squash and slice in half lengthwise. Trim the bottoms of the squash halves so that the squash can sit flat without leaning or rolling around. Scoop out the insides and roughly chop up. Make sure that you scoop out enough so that there is only about a 1/4- to 1/2-inch shell of the patty pan squash; otherwise, the squash may not cook thoroughly in the oven. Place chopped up squash in a bowl, and place the squash shells onto a baking sheet.
  4. Chop onion and mince garlic. Heat bacon grease (or oil or butter substitute) in a pan over medium-low heat. Saute onion and garlic for about 7 minutes or until translucent. The point of this step is to add more flavor and depth to your stuffing.
  5. Roughly chop meatballs, and add to chopped up squash along with the onions and garlic. Chop tomato and add to mixture. Add 1/8 cup panko and the rest of the ingredients. Stir well.
  6. Fill the squash shells with the stuffing. I know you can put it all in the shells and use it all up! Push down on the stuffing and pack it in well… you got this! They’ll look so plump and beautiful!
  7. Top stuffing in shells with the rest of the panko. Put your picture-perfect baking sheet into the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. If the shells are closer to 1/2-inch thick, add 5 more minutes to your baking time.

The smell of the cloves with beef and roasted vegetables will make your home smell oh so pleasant! Such a great recipe to have for guests as the shells can bake as you welcome your guests or as you prepare other items. Please remember your seasonal vegetables when creating this recipe, and feel free to adjust the stuffing accordingly. Bon ap, to antioxidants!