Ciao amico! Can you guess where I’m writing to you from?
Let me give you a hint. I’m currently in my favorite country on earth – the boot-shaped country that has food so deeply embedded in its culture that you can’t visit it without talking, eating and tasting its delicacies.
Need more hints? How about this….Where did pizza and pasta originate?
Yes! You got it! I’m writing to you from La Bella Italia, Italy, the land of my Tuscan dreams and food fantasies.
We’d flown into Rome early Saturday morning, got our passports stamped and checked in at our hotel. For the next few days, we did the typical tourist sightseeing (I’ll might tell you about that in another post) and we later drove down south to Naples and the Amalfi Coast (it is so incredibly beautiful – gorgeous sunny skies and turquoise waters among the backdrop of natural cliffs – also in another post). Italy is definitely blessed with plenty of beauty.
But you know what really hypes me up, apart from Italy’s natural beauty? I’m so taken away by the fact that in this incredible country, food has its own pedastal in Italian culture.
Juan and I have eaten so much, and will continue to eat our fill of Italian food during this trip.
And yes, while pizza and pasta are the international icons of Italian cuisine, there are plenty of other foods which are deeply rooted in the country’s culture – things that are less well-known amongst foreignors but no way less worthy.
Today I’m bringing you a recipe for rosemary farinata, which is basically rosemary chickpea flatbread that has its humble beginnings in Genoa, but then later became a popular street food along the south Tuscan coast, particularly in Linguria.
If you find it familiar, it may be because you may have tried or heard of its cousins socca (originated in France) or faina (as they call it in Argentina).
As with many foods, farinata, which is also known as “torta de ceci” or “cecina“, was first created as food for the poor.
As it is made with just chickepea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper, its affordable ingredients made it an extremely accessible snack for the lower social classes. This article gives an in-depth description of this gluten-free chickpea-based food that you might be interested in.
I found this recipe from Rachel’s blog, after going through her delicious archives while preparing for the trip to Italy, and made it just a week before flying to Rome.
Farinata is very filling, and can be eaten both alone as an appetizer or as a full meal, accompanied with roasted veggies or other ingredients of your choice.
To be honest, I liked it more as an appetizer sprinkled with freshly ground blackpepper and an extra shake of salt, but am not sure if I could eat it as an entire meal.
Because chickpea has a very distinct and particular smell and taste, it may affect how much you like farinata.
The taste may be a bit too strong for some palettes. But if you like hummus, which is made of pureed chickpeas, I’m betting you’ll also like farinata. (My verdict is this: while I liked the texture of the farinata, I’m not so sure I liked the taste of chickpeas enough to make it again.)
Ok amico, I have to leave you now…the warm sea waters and Italy’s beautiful beaches are calling me.
Buen Apetito and Ciao for now!
ROSEMARY CHICKPEA FLATBREAD (FARINATA)
Serves 3-4 as an appetizer
Barely adapted from: Rachel Eats
1) 200g of chickpea flour
2) 600ml of water
3) Generous shake of salt
4) 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
5) 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves only
6) Black pepper, to sprinkle on when serving
1) Whisk the chickpea flour, water, and salt together in a large bowl, until you achieve a smooth batter. Let the batter to rest at room temperature for two hours.
2) Pre-heat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit (180 deg Cel). Remove any froth that has risen to the surface after the batter has rested and then whisk batter until smooth again.
3) Pour the oilive oil into a baking tray/dish/cast iron pan. Tilt the dish/tray/pan so that the olive oil coats every part of the surface (as well as the sides).
4) Pour the batter into the oiled dish/tray/pan, and use a fork to mix the batter and oil together. It will not incorporate fully and will look quite bubbly.
5) Sprinkle the fresh rosemary leaves over the batter
6) Bake batter in the pre-heated oven for at least 30 minutes (or more) until it is set firm and golden on the surface. If you like a crispy crust, turn up the oven to 400 deg Fahrenhei (200 deg Cel) and bake some more until crust is crispy to your liking (if necessary, use a paper towel to dab away excess oil).
7) Allow the farinata to cool for at least 5 minutes before you slice it and use a spatula to ease it from the dish/tray/pan.
8) Grind plenty of black pepper over the slices of farinata and serve while still warm.
Note: In the pictures, the farinata is not crispy on top. While it still tastes good like that, I suggest baking the farinata for as long as necessary to achieve the crispy crust, so that the outside texture constrasts with the soft, starchy inside.