Updated: Oct 5, 2020
This homey encrusted vegetable torte hails from the mountainous Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany. Chiucco is typically filled with potatoes, zucchini, onions and a lot of leafy greens. Local folks in Camaiore are rumored to forage for wild greens for this satisfying dish.
I nudged my chiucco healthier by omitting the white flour, oil and eggs, using whole white wheat flour, flax eggs and aquafaba instead. I included roasted cherry tomatoes and baby peppers for added color, flavor, and nutritional heft. If wild greens are not an option, don’t worry; just use a mix of tender herbs, arugula, chard and spinach. In fact, feel free to use other seasonal veggies in your chiucco to enjoy this tasty torte throughout the year.
A slice of chiucco makes a delightful appetizer but, for me, it’s best enjoyed as an entrée (so you go back for seconds!).
Prep time 1 hour Baking time 60-75 minutes Makes a 9” torte
9” springform cake pan, preferably nonstick
300 grams, about 2 ½ cups, white whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons freshly ground golden flaxseed mixed with 6 Tablespoons water and 4 Tablespoons aquafaba •
1 teaspoon aka (red) miso ••
About ¼ cup very hot water
1 pound baby mixed color bell peppers, cored and roasted
1 pound mixed color cherry tomatoes, sliced in half and roasted
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
1½ pounds, almost 700 grams, of dill, flat parsley, arugula, tender greens like Swiss chard, spinach or baby kale
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon aka (red) miso •, dissolved in hot water
1 pound baby red and yellow potatoes, halved
1 large yellow onion, cut in ⅜” slices
3 smallish zucchini and/or yellow squash, cut in ⅜” slices
Grinds of black pepper
4-5 mini yellow bell peppers, cored, roasted, blended
• Aquafaba is the viscous liquid produced by cooking or canning chickpeas (and white beans). High in protein, it behaves rather like egg whites. If you use canned beans, choose sodium-free cans. If you cook dry chickpeas, do not salt the cooking water, though you can use bay leave or other herbs and garlic if you like.
•• Miso is a good salt alternative that helps to lower blood pressure
Mix your “flax eggs” by combining the ground flaxseed with the aquafaba and water, stirring well. Set aside.
Add all ingredients except the ¼ cup hot water to the bowl of food processor and run for a minute. If the mix is crumbly, add some of the very hot water and run for another minute. If still crumbly, add a bit more and repeat. It takes my processor about 1½ minutes to gather into a soft, smooth ball of dough. Remove from bowl, wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you prep your veggies.
Preheat oven to 400°F/204°C. On a baking sheet lined with parchment roast peppers for 15-20 minutes or until they soften, begin to collapse, and their skins are lightly toasted. Reserve 4-6 yellow peppers for your glaze. Transfer the rest to a board and crudely cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Raise oven temp to 425°F/218°C oven. Place tomatoes on the same parchment-lined pan, cut side up, and roast for about 25 minutes or until they have softened, partially dehydrated, and browned on their cut edges. Set aside.
In a large deep skillet dry sauté the diced onion and thyme leaves over medium heat. When the onion begins to brown and darken the pan, add the miso dissolved in water to deglaze the pan, scraping up the carmelized onion sugars from the pan. Lower heat to medium-low, add all the greens, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the greens are tender, and have released their liquid, transfer the sauté to a bowl, When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as possible (you can reuse these juices in another dish). Chop leaves roughly. Set aside.
In a high-speed blender liquify the reserved yellow peppers, adding enough water to create a smooth, light, liquidy glaze. Set aside.
Compose and Bake the Chiucco
Preheat oven to 325°F/163°C.
Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Cut off ¼ of the dough and set aside, covered with plastic to prevent drying. On a large board lined with wax paper, roll the rest of the dough into a large circle, about 1/8”- 5/16” thick.
Lift gently from the wax paper, fold in quarters and reopen the dough, centering it over the pan. Press it into the pan, allowing the excess dough to flop over the sides of the pan.
Layer your veggie fillings now, alternating colors and textures. I started with the roasted tomatoes, and followed with sliced onion, chopped greens, potatoes, zucchini, and finally, the chopped peppers. Top with grinds of pepper. Press the filling to lightly compress it.
Flip the excess dough back over the filling, partially covering the filling.
Now roll out the remaining ¼ of dough in a disc around 10-11” in diameter. Place this over the top of the pan, tucking the excess inside the pan’s sides, overlapping the dough on the chiucco’s sides.
With a pastry brush apply a nice coating of the glaze. You’ll reglaze the top several more times.
With a skewer or toothpick make a ¼” hole in the center of the top to allow steam to escape as the chiucco bakes.
Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 45 minutes. Remove to apply second coat of glaze. Return to the oven and repeat after 15 minutes. If the torte is not sufficiently darkened and golden, reglaze again and bake for a final 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven. If juices have accumulated along the perimeter of the torte, use the pastry brush to brush them over the top of the torte. Otherwise, reglaze with the glaze one final time.
Place on a rack and cool partially before cutting to allow the torte’s interior juices to cool and congeal. It will make for easier release from the pan and slicing. Run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan before opening the springform to free the torte. Then cut pieces with a sharp clean knife.
You can make chiucco in advance and reheat in the moderately hot (300°F/148°C) oven for about 20 minutes.
Serve following a soup or a nice big salad and buon appetito!