The Teacup Chronicles

Month: November, 2011

Farinata

When it comes down to it, the impoverished have traditionally been the ones who really know how to eat. Their food, free of fussiness and pretension, devoid of extravagance, is food that is real:  just basic, wholesome ingredients, prepared simply and humbly, prepared from necessity, crafted out of thrift. Food pared down to its very heart and soul. It is this sort of food that often happens to be the most satisfying, the most heart warming, the most nourishing sorts of food. The kinds of things you crave when you are truly hungry, when your spirit is hungry.  Poor man’s food. 

Farinata is just that – simple, wholesome, hearty – a sort of pancake or unleavened bread, made of chickpea flour, oil and water,  started on the stove top in a large cast iron skillet, and then finished in the oven.  It is a specialty of Genoa, where the fisherman  eat it for breakfast in the wee hours of the morning, before heading out in their boats for the day.

Traditionally, farinata is cut into wedges and adorned with rosemary, sea salt and a liberal shake of black pepper – or sometimes with crumbled gorgonzola dolce and a drizzle of olive oil. I’ve tried it both ways and can vouch for them both. I also have been known to top a slice with a chunky tomato sauce and a few torn pieces of mozzarella, place it under the broiler for a minute, and eat it like this, which I also quite like. The other night, I took it a step further and buried it under butternut squash from Kingsbury Market Garden that I roasted, marinara and torn bits of fresh mozzarella. It was the sort of meal that I think I might dream of if I were lost in the desert, starving. It was divine.

When I eat it, I like to imagine a grizzly bearded fisherman crouched over a little fire, pipe hanging lopsidedly from the corner of his mouth, cooking farinata for his breakfast in the predawn darkness. I like to imagine that he wraps what is left in a little cloth, slips it in his pocket, and eats it later out at sea with the salt spray on his face and his boat rocking with the waves. I can’t say why, but it tastes even better when I think of such things.

Farinata

Adapted from My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell. Serves 6. 

  • 1 cup (225g) chickpea flour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • a few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon for cooking
  • 1 cup (225ml) water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the chickpea flour into a bowl with the rosemary, salt and pepper and mix well. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil and water. Stir well until you have a smooth, thick batter. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Place a large cast iron skilled over medium heat. When heated, add the oil and distribute evenly over the pan. Spoon the batter into the pan and then use the back of the spoon to smooth it out into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Let the pancake cook for a few minutes on the stove top, and then transfer to the middle shelf in your oven. Let bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Slide the farinata onto a plate and cut into triangles, like a pizza. Drizzle with a little extra oil, sprinkle with salt and garnish with some extra chopped rosemary to serve.

Quinoa salad with cauliflower, pomegranate and mint

There is something nice about a Sunday. Something quiet and still, something sleepy. I went for a long, Sunday drive this morning on my own, something I don’t often do. But I felt like exploring, and I needed to find some good apple trees to pilfer for the apple butter  I plan to spend my afternoon making (a chair pulled next to the oven, a wooden spoon, a cup of tea, a book). I liked seeing people gathered at kitchen tables through warmly lit windows, I liked the smoke curling out of the chimneys, I liked the way the grass glowed in the cloudy November light.  It left with me a feeling that only a Sunday can.

I came home to be snug at my own kitchen table, and ate a bowl of this delicious salad – a beautiful contrast of crisp vegetables, mint and tart pomegranate with the heartiness of quinoa – that I think I may be eating quite a lot more of this winter.  Especially since I now have my first ever bottle of pomegranate molasses in the cupboard. Have you tried it? Amazing stuff that.  I can’t believe it took me so long to try it.

Quinoa salad with cauliflower, pomegranate and mint

Adapted from a recipe in Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark. 

Serves 4. 

For the salad:

  • 1 cup red or black quinoa
  • 1/2 medium sized cauliflower, broken into tiny florets
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 6-7 radicchio leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/8 cup finely chopped mint
  • seeds of 1 pomegranate, all membranes removed

For the dressing:

  • 1 smallish shallot, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1/3 cup walnut oil (or other mild oil like sunflower or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir occasionally until fragrant and nutty, and then cover with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Cover, let come to a boil, and then turn down to a gentle simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy.  Discard the water by dumping the quinoa into a large mesh strainer, and then rinse with cold water until cooled.

While the quinoa is cooking, whisk together the ingredients for your dressing in a small bowl.

Place the quinoa and remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well. Taste and add more salt, pepper or a trickle more pomegranate molasses if desired. Serve garnished with a few torn mint leaves over the top.

P.S. On a side note, my friend Iris of Blue Flag Medicinals and I are offering a Winter Herb Share (a box of handmade herbal goodies designed for winter wellness) for those of you who live in Vermont. For more information, send me an email at teacupbotanicals@gmail.com.

Ah is this not happiness?

A scone – still warm from the oven – split in half and heaped with spoonfuls of jam I’ve made myself. I taste not just the sweetness, the sharp brightness of the lemon, but all the memories of the day I made it – the crispness of a February morning spent standing over a steaming, sticky pot with snow falling gently outside – a flavor that cannot be found in any jam but this.  Ah is this not happiness?