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Pasta e Ceci (Pasta and Cickpeas)

Monday, October 17, 2011
Pasta e Ceci

After tasting this, someone wanted to label it An Ode to Rosemary (to each their own PR...). For me it's even more: a memory of home, an essential staple on the Christmas table, the aromatic reliability of flavors and affection.
One of those recipes that doesn't hide anything, and we like it this way, naked, simple, and without any makeup: a little pasta, and lots and lots of chickpeas.

Pasta e Ceci
for 6-7 people

dried chickpeas 500 gr
garlic 2 cloves
rosemary 1 sprig
parsley 1 sprig
vegetable bouillon cube 1
cherry tomatoes 8-10
wide egg noodles such as fettuccine 1 handful
olive oil, salt, pepper, chili pepper, parmigiano cheese as needed

Put chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with water and allow to soak overnight. Drain, put them in a pot, cover with more water and bring to boil. Cook slowly until tender, skimming occasionally and adding more water if necessary (it will take about 2 hours).
When chickpeas are done, add garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half, bouillon cube, salt, pepper, a little olive oil, the herbs tied together with twine, and cherry tomatoes. Let simmer for another half hour, then add pasta, broken in small pieces, and cook until al dente. Discard the herbs and serve, sprinkling each plate with a little bit of grated parmigiano cheese and chili pepper to taste.

Indian Soup with Red Lentils and Yellow Split Peas

Thursday, September 15, 2011
Indian Soup with Red Lentils and Yellow Split Peas

Orange, as happiness. Hot, as the summer that's going away, or the one that never really got here. Tasty and spicy like only an Indian soup can be.
Someone like it hot. Can you really blame them?

Indian Soup
with Red Lentils and Yellow Split Peas

for 4-5 people

red lentils 200 gr
yellow split peas 200 gr
onion 1
garlic 2 cloves
carrots 2
fresh ginger one 3"-long piece
ground turmeric 1 teaspoon
ground curry 2 tablespoons
ground coriander 1 teaspoon
cardamom seeds 6-7
cumin seeds 1 tablespoon
tomato paste 2 tablespoons
water or vegetable stock as needed
olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, fresh cilantro as needed

I left you with a soup, I'm coming back with a soup. Could this be my new obsession?

Wash and drain lentils and peas. Set aside.
Finely chop the onion and cook it in a tablespoon of oil along with the garlic cloves cut in half for about 10 minutes, until it's soft and transparent. Combine finely grated ginger and the rest of the spices, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes, lentils and peas, and tomato paste diluted in half a cup of hot water or vegetable stock. Cook for few minutes, then cover with the rest of the water or stock, season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil. Continue to cook over medium-low for about 40 minutes or until lentils and peas are tender, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary. In the end discard garlic cloves and cardamom seeds, and adjust the amount of spices according to your taste.
Serve hot sprinkling with some chopped fresh cilantro.

Cold Zucchini Soup with Mozzarella and Anchovies

Thursday, August 18, 2011
Cold Zucchini Soup with Mozzarella and Anchovies

The little things that make a difference.
The soundtrack of a road trip; a mint leaf in a cup of coffee at Philz; freshly laundered bed sheets; popcorn with brewer's yeast served in a wooden bowl at the Red Vic Cinema (... trust me, people, have I ever lied to you?). And - why not - even the duo mozzarella&anchovie over a cream of zucchini otherwise slightly pale and sadly dietetic: the magic touch that brightens the day, warms up the soup, and saves your face.

Cold Zucchini Soup
with Mozzarella and Anchovies

for 4-5 people

zucchini about 1,5 kg
onion 1
garlic 2 cloves
mozzarella 1
oil-packed anchovies 4-5 fillets
day-old country bread 2 thick slices
vegetable stock, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano as needed

Slice the onion and peel the garlic cloves. Sauté them in a little bit of olive oil, and then add the zucchini, trimmed and cut into small pieces. Cook for few minutes, then cover with hot vegetable stock and cook for about 10 minutes longer. Turn off the heat and puree with a blender until soup gets smooth and without lumps. Season with salt and pepper and let cool down.
Meanwhile cut mozzarella into small pieces, dress them with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with some oregano. Cut the bread slices into cubes, toss them with a little bit of olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until nice and crisp.
Serve the soup at room temperature, topping each bowl with diced mozzarella, one anchovy fillet cut into pieces, and few bread croutons.
(Recipe courtesy of La Cucina Italiana, ed).

Blueberry Jam

Thursday, August 11, 2011
Blueberry Jam

Back to basic.
Blueberries, sugar, lemon. Delightfully, passionately blue.

Blueberry Jam
for approx. 6-7 medium jars

blueberries 2 kg
sugar 600 gr
lemons 2
green apples 2

Wash blueberries and mix them with sugar and juice of two lemons. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, place them in a large pot along with the green apples' peel. Cook at low-medium heat, stirring occasionally and skimming if necessary, until jam reaches the desired consistency (about 45-60 minutes). Discard apple peel, and while jam is still hot, pour it in previously sterilized glass jars, close tightly and place them in a pot full of water, boiling for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars cool down in the same water to create the vacuum.

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho

Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho

I've had a thought that talks about you
everything dies but you
you are the dearest thing I have
and if I bite a strawberry
I'll bite you too...

(Vasco Rossi, And; listen to it here)

Beautifully red. Curiously sweet.
My other gazpacho.

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho
for 4-5 people

strawberries, net 650 gr
cherry tomatoes 150 gr
red bell pepper, small 1
cucumber 1
olive oil 1 tablespoon
balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons
salt, pepper to taste
To serve: old day bread, olive oil, strawberries, cucumber, basil, honey or agave nectar, salt, pepper as needed

Wash strawberries and cut them in pieces. Peel cucumber, cut it in half and remove seeds. Cut bell pepper into strips and remove seeds. Blend fruit and vegetables with one tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar until you get a smooth and homogeneous puree. Season with salt and pepper, cover with plastic and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Cut the bread into 1/4" cubes, dress them with a little bit of olive oil and toast in hot oven for about 10 minutes or until crisp. Cut some strawberries into small cubes and season them with chopped basil, salt, and a few drops of agave. Peel half of a cucumber, remove seeds and cut into cubes. When ready to serve the gazpacho, decorate each bowl with a handful of toasted croutons, diced strawberries and cucumbers, and sprinkle with black pepper.

Beet Cake

Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Beet Cake

Falling in love at first sight.
With a stranger met on the street; a pair of shoes seen in the window of a cute retro store; an annoying cat found behind a bush. Or with this thing below, discovered by accident thanks to a friend's recommendation.

beet cake from tiger in a jar on Vimeo.

Now, tell me if this is not the most chocolaty romantic, deliciously intriguing and wonderfully nostalgic video-recipe you have ever seen.
For something like this you can forgive everything. Even beets in the batter.

Beet Cake
for a round cake pan of 9" diameter

red beets, cooked and pureed 2 cups
flour 2 cups
dark brown sugar 1 1/2 cup
semisweet chocolate 4 oz.
butter, room temperature 1 cup
eggs, room temperature 3
baking soda 2 teaspoons
salt 1/4 teaspoon
vanilla 1 teaspoon

Cook beets by boiling them in slightly salted water until tender. Peel them and puree them with a food processor. Allow to cool and set aside. Coarsely chop the chocolate, place it in a small pan and melt it in a double boiler.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar with the butter, cut into small pieces, until mixture is smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, then beets, warm chocolate and vanilla. Keep beating until the batter gets puffed and fluffy. Add flour, previously mixed with salt and baking soda.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured round baking pan and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes, until your toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool off on a wire rack and then dust the surface with confectioners' sugar.

And now, at the end of the story, how did this cake behave, you may ask? I'd say it's been a very interesting experience, with a super soft subject, spongy and moist, a slightly chocolaty flavor and not at all beety (at least for me, but I'm a sucker for beets, so maybe my opinion doesn't count...). It's worth risking the adventure just to enjoy all the preliminaries, and most of all that super romantic pink batter.

Roasted Baby Eggplants

Monday, August 1, 2011
Roasted Baby Eggplants

Roasted eggplants comeback. Only, this time a little tinier, rounded and softer.
While searching for raspberries at the farmers' market, I instead let myself get swept away by this avalanche of purple tenderness.
Honey. Olive oil. Chilies. Salt and pepper. Thirty minutes in the oven and they win you over.


You understand me?

Photo (Satur)Day: Fragoline

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A childhood memory. The taste of happiness.

Sweet Little Thing

Cashew Basil Pesto

Friday, July 29, 2011
Cashew Basil Pesto

Not only pine nuts. Not always spaghetti.
Long live the Pesto.

Cashew Basil Pesto
for one medium jar

basil a whole lot
(but hey, how can you say? a huge, huge amount of fragrant basil, I'd say a big fat bunch)
cashews 30 gr
garlic 1-2 cloves
grated parmigiano cheese 20 gr
olive oil about 125 ml
lemon juice few drops
salt, pepper as needed

As always, do as you like with pesto: mortar, elbow grease and summa cum laude; or else mixer, power on and whatever. In the end, I haven't told you anything, but most of all, tell me who will notice.
So, in summary, throw everything into the container of choice and pound with joy.

Photo (Mon)Day: Desire

Monday, July 18, 2011

...or weekend's chaos?

Cold Sugar Snap Pea Soup

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Cold Sugar Snap Pea Soup

Here comes another minimal recipe, fast and super simple, perfect even for the laziest of foodbloggers and the skimpiest kitchen. Plagiarized directly from The Minimalist, a truly self-explanatory name. By now you should all know - at least I hope - who this phantom Minimalist is, and if you don't know it, I'll say it one last time: it's Mark Bittman, yeah, always the same one who made No Knead Bread famous around the web, one of the few non-original recipes included in the New York Times column that he's gloriously taken care of for years.

The thing is, this Mark Bittman and I started being serious only few months ago, when I went in a real trip with his simple dishes, at times even a little heretics, but always compelling and of guaranteed success.
Love happened by chance when I first heard these three or four basic facts:

1) Mark Bittman, perhaps the most famous food journalist of the NYT, the same one that has experienced, tested and published thousands of recipes, he has the smallest kitchen, so small it almost competes with mine (I said almost);
2) Mark Bittman is an avid marathon runner, and as such he even has his own column on runnersworld.com;
3) Miss Bittman, daughter of the more famous Mark, apparently works as a waitress in a famous San Francisco pizzeria, and she lives in the Mission (thus getting another 10 points, for free);
4) Mark Bittman named La Ciccia one of the best Italian restaurants in San Francisco, confirming that he and I are right on the same page, and almost making me faint to the discovery that he actually had dinner there, just a stone's throw from my skimpy kitchen, and maybe just as I was walking by him going to the bus stop.

Andwhatdoyouwantmetodo? He is just the umpteenth Mark that gained the right to enter my collection of i-like-this-guy, after Mark Z., Mark G., and - oh - Mark M./ Mark M.
To each one his own soup; hot or cold, it doesn't matter.

Cold Sugar Snap Pea Soup
for 2-3 people

sugar snap peas 500 gr
vegetable stock about 3 cups
salt, pepper, sour cream, fresh parsley as needed

The hardest part of the recipe - speaking for myself - was trying to understand what the Italian equivalent for sugar snap peas is, since I, such a good foodblogger, had never seen nor heard of these peas back there in my homeland.
And since I've already done all the work for you, what are you waiting for? Hands down to the blender and let's soup.

Wash sugar snap peas and place them in a large pot with the stock. Slowly bring to a boil and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, until peas are quite tender. Turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Blend peas and stock together until they are puréed. Strain the mixture through a strainer or a meshed sieve to remove fibers, season with salt and pepper and let cool in the refrigerator. Serve the soup adding a dollop of sour cream and a little bit of fresh chopped parsley in each bowl.

Cherry Peach Jam

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Cherry Peach Jam

Jam mode totally on. Round two.

I make no promises 'cause I know I can't keep them; I don't swear on my pantry that these jars will be the last of the season, 'cause setting your foot in a farmers' market during summer is like falling in love for the first time (now tell me who's never fallen head over heels for the sweetness of apricots, the color of raspberries, or the aroma of the last strawberries); I don't have the courage to say that's enough, because even if I don't have any room for new shoes, a new jar of jam I always know where to throw it.

I love jam and I surrender. You in?

Cherry Peach Jam
for approximately 8 medium jars

cherries, net 1500 gr
yellow peaches, net 1500 gr
sugar 900 gr
lemons 2
green apples (peel only) 2

Pit cherries an cut them in half if they are big. Place them in a bowl and mix them with the juice of one lemon and half the sugar. Peel and pit peaches and then cut them in small pieces, put them in another bowl and mix them with the juice of the other lemon and the remaining sugar. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, place cherries and peaches in two separate pots, adding the peel of one green apple in each. Cook fruit separately, stirring occasionally and skimming if necessary, until each mixture reaches the desired consistency (about 45-60 minutes for peaches, one hour and a half for cherries). In the end discard apple peel, combine the two mixtures and cook for another few minutes. While jam is still hot, pour it in previously sterilized glass jars, close tightly and place them in a pot full of water, boiling for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars cool down in the same water to create the vacuum.

Blueberry Mango Jam

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Blueberry Mango Jam

Summer day, day made of nothing,
clusters of leisure dance slowly with me,
the sun is a golden dream, but evanescent,
you look at it for a moment and almost don't know if it's still there.

(F. Guccini, Summer day)

First day of summer: an extremely favorable celestial convergence put fog on stand-by, giving me blue skies, tropical temperatures and blueberries on sale. I'm canning this vanishing dream before - cruel - it'll dissolve.

Blueberry Mango Jam
for 6 medium jars

blueberries 1200 gr
mango, net 1200 gr
sugar 720 gr
lemons 2
green apples (peel only) 2

Wash blueberries, place them in a large bowl and mix with the juice of one lemon and half the sugar. Peel mangoes, cut the pulp in small pieces, put it in another bowl and mix with the juice of the other lemon and the remaining sugar. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, place blueberries and mango in two separate pots, adding the peel of one green apple in each. Cook fruit separately, stirring occasionally and skimming if necessary, until each mixture reaches the desired consistency (about 45-60 minutes). In the end discard apple peel, mix blueberries and mango and cook for another few minutes. While jam is still hot, pour it in previously sterilized glass jars, close tightly and place them in a pot full of water, boiling for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars cool down in the same water to create the vacuum.

Photo (Sun)Day: Cherries

Sunday, June 19, 2011
Cherry Love

   luscious bold sweet sweet tempting love

Prawn & Tomato Stew

Monday, June 13, 2011

I believe in miracles where you from
You sexy thing (you sexy thing-you)
I believe in miracles since you came along
You sexy thing...

(Hot Chocolate, You Sexy Thing)

And what can you do? One blog-free month and I get some strange mental associations, 'cause prawns, until proven otherwise, are just like oysters, lobsters, strawberries and chocolate: better when not alone.
Incidentally, this dish is signed by Donna Hay: if one must really go back to the hard life of a blogger, it's best done with style, isn't it?

Prawn & Tomato Stew
for 4-5 people

prawns, unshelled about 2 lb.
carrot 1
celery 1 stalk
onion 1
garlic 2-3 cloves
whole peeled tomatoes 2 cans
dry white wine 1 cup
olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh parsley as needed

Clean prawns and prepare a broth by boiling their shells for about an hour with peeled carrot, celery stalk, some parsley, peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Strain the broth and set aside.
Finely chop the onion, peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half. Sautee them in a tablespoon of oil for about 10 minutes until onion becomes transparent and sweet. If necessary, add a little bit of the broth to prevent sticking.
Add whole peeled tomatoes, mashing them with a fork (OK, OK, for those of you lucky enough to have fresh tomatoes already red and sweet and flavorful and delicious, forgetabouttomatoesinacan, do I need to say it? But I'm telling you anyways, to clear any doubt...), white wine and two cups of broth, and cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit (but not too much, remember, this is a stew!). Season with salt, pepper and fresh chopped parsley, then add the prawns and cook for 5 minutes longer. Serve with slices of country bread, toasted in the oven and rubbed with garlic (or not, depending on how your evening is going).

Caserecce With Lamb Sauce

Sunday, May 8, 2011

No need for Easter, and to tell you the truth, there's no need for a Sunday either. Despite everything, we're going to make a good ol' lamb sauce (... and whatdoyouwantmetosay? good, it's good...), and let a new week begin! May it be aromatic, powerful, and maybe even a bit like this... sinful.

Caserecce With Lamb Sauce
for 4 people

small lamb ribs about 350-400 gr
onion, medium size 1
red wine 1/2 glass
tomato paste 2-3 tablespoons
whole peeled tomatoes 1 can
olive oil, salt, pepper, red chili pepper, thyme as needed
caserecce pasta 360 gr.
aged pecorino cheese to finish as needed

Trim the fat from the meat and cut it into very small pieces. Finely chop the onion and sauté it for few minutes in a little olive oil until it becomes transparent. Add the meat and cook until it darkens on all sides; add a dried, seeded chili pepper and a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and deglaze with red wine. When alcohol has evaporated, add tomato paste and stir until melted. Mash whole peeled tomatoes with a fork and gradually pour them into the sauce, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to minimum and let it simmer very slowly for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and the sauce restricted. If necessary, from time to time add a few tablespoons of water to prevent it from sticking. At the end add few more thyme leaves. Cook pasta al dente, dress it with the sauce and sprinkle with some aged pecorino cheese.

Photo (Thurs)Day: Guacamole

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ripe avocado, red onion, tomato, lime juice, salt, pepper, chili, cilantro. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Focaccia Genovese with Onions

Monday, May 2, 2011
Focaccia Genovese with Onions

Abbiamo già tutto quello che ci serve per vivere meglio. Basta sceglierlo.

We already have everything we need to live better. You just need to choose it.

(R. Arbore, Focaccia Blues)

Round, rectangular, from Bari, from Genoa, from Recco, but also from Cerveteri, Villorba and - why not? - San Francisco, tall, thin, with cheese, with rosemary, with onion, without onion, warm, cold, dipped in a latte, with beer, on the beach, at the park, on the Golden Gate or on a bike, copied from the Simili sisters (see below), stolen from your mother-in-law, wrapped in newspaper or nibbled with oily hands, there is a whole world of focaccia out there waiting for us. The choice is yours.
Me? I choose focaccia.

Focaccia Genovese
with Red Onions

for a 12 x 15 inches pan*

type O flour 500 gr
lukewarm water approx. 275 gr
fresh yeast 10 gr
salt 10 gr
extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon
red onions 3
olive oil and water for brushing, salt, pepper as needed

In a bowl combine the yeast with some water, then add a little flour, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and yet the remaining flour and water in two times, alternating them and always beating the dough. Place the dough on the table and knead it for 7-8 minutes, then put it in a oiled bowl, and let it double in size (it will take about two hours, ed).
Place it back on the table and form a loaf, which will be transferred on to the baking pan. Let it rest for 15 minutes, and then flatten it with a short rolling pin and with the palm of your hand, until it covers the bottom of the pan almost entirely. If you want, you could flatten the loaf right after it's been placed on the baking pan, but this will require more effort, because gluten is livelier and offers greater resistance when the dough has just been kneaded. Finally, let it rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the onions, slice them thin and sauté them in a pan with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a clove of garlic if you wish. Allow them to cool down, and then sprinkle them on top of focaccia. Press your finger into the dough, creating on the entire surface deep imprints down to the bottom of the pan; cover focaccia with 3 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with 3 tablespoons of water and salt, and allow it plenty of time to double in size (this will require about one hour and a half). Bake at 390 for 25-30 minutes.

*I halved the quantity of the original Simili's recipe. The explanation, as usual, is copied from their book.

Grissini Stirati - Stretched Breadsticks

Monday, April 25, 2011
Stretched Breadsticks

My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get".
(T. Hanks, Forrest Gump)

Let me add, life is also like a stretched breadstick, crunchy and soft, you never know what's in for you at the next bite.
Forget the chocolate; today breadsticks - whether stretched or chubby - are, for me, the real ode to life, my New Age metaphor, the smell and memory of everything that's good in the world.
That's all I have to say about that.

Stretched Breadsticks
for 30 breadsticks approx. 16" long

type O flour 500 gr
lukewarm water 250-280 gr
fresh yeast 15 gr
salt 8 gr (one full teaspoon)
olive oil 50 gr
barley malt 1 scant teaspoon
semolina flour, olive oil for brushing as needed

The peculiarity of these breadsticks, pulled strictly by hand, is that they're very irregular: the thinnest pieces cook quickly and become crunchy, while the thicker parts stay rather soft. Every bite is a surprise.
The recipe, which I'm copying literally, is not my own work, but it comes again from the Simili sisters' book, which one can never exploit enough.
May the bread be with me until yeast last.

Make a well in the middle, mix all ingredients and knead for 8-10 minutes. Dough should not be too soft.
Shape it into a loaf and make a rectangle about 4x12 inches out of it; keeping the shape as regular as possible, place it on a layer of semolina flour and coat the surface and the sides thoroughly with olive oil, and then sprinkle with more semolina.
Cover with a bowl and let it rise for 50-60 minutes. With a chef's knife or a large spatula, cut from the short side pieces of dough about 3/4" thick; without shaking it too much, grab each piece in the middle with your fingers, and stretch it out by pulling gently and moving your fingers towards the edges as the piece gets thinner.
Place the breadsticks on a baking sheet a little apart and adjust their thickness with the fingers to even it out. If you've used too much dough and the breadstick is too long, cut out the edge part, and bake the piece as it is because it can't be kneaded twice. Place immediately in the oven and bake at 390 for 18-20 minutes.

Stretced Breadsticks

Hello. My name's Forrest, Forrest Gump. You want a chocolate grissino?

Soft Focaccia From Bari

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Soft Focaccia From Bari

"Focaccia in Bari is prepared by mixing wheat flour, salt, yeast and water. The result is a fairly liquid batter that is poured into a round baking pan, seasoned with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and olives, and then baked in the oven. And because the mixture is liquid, pieces of tomato and olives sink into the dough, creating and filling small, soft holes, which become the best part of the focaccia. It is eaten warm but not hot, wrapped in a piece of paper, coming out of school, at the beach, for dinner or lunch (or as a snack or even at breakfast, but this is stuff for experts): fast, cheap and deliciously greasy.
Focaccia is one of the best things in the world. I refrain from saying that it is the best thing, to keep a minimum of perspective and to avoid the parochial ravings. There are the thin and crunchy ones, the tall and soft, those with the addition of potatoes or rosemary and many other variations. But the real focaccia is the one with tomatoes, olives, charred edges and nothing else. It should be paired, if possible, with a nice bottle of very cold beer. If you really want to enter the realm of high cuisine, the supreme pleasure is warm focaccia stuffed with thin slices of mortadella. Mortadella, when sliced thinly, coming into contact with the warm and fragrant crumb, releases a scent that makes the salivary glands go crazy.
Unlike many good things, which are often scarce and expensive, focaccia, in Bari, is found wherever there is a bakery. Which is everywhere, and everybody can buy it.
Focaccia, in Bari, is a metaphor for equality and one of the few symbols (among them, worthy of note are raw mussels) in which people from Bari recognize their collective identity.
A few hours earlier, Paolo had said that what he missed the most was the smell of focaccia".

(G. Carofiglio, Neither here nor anywhere else, one night in Bari)

Soft Focaccia from Bari
for two round pan of 10" in diameter*

The Starter
type O flour 80 gr
lukewarm water 60 gr
fresh yeast 1 g (a small piece)

The Dough
semolina (durum wheat) flour 1 kg
lukewarm water 800 gr
olive oil 30 gr
fresh yeast 15 gr
salt 20 gr, 4 tablespoons
cherry tomatoes, cut in half 1 kg
black olives, weighted with the pit 400 gr
olive oil for the pans, salt, oregano as needed

Getting hooked on focaccia's recipes - and the one from Bari in particular - is taking a dead end street. Tall, thin, wheat flour, semolina flour, with olives, without olives, with potatoes, without potatoes. Variations are endless; a quick googling is enough to understand that you wouldn't get out of it alive. Especially if you've never been in Bari, if the sea for you has always been only an interlude, and - even worse - if few years ago you moved to the other side of the world, where the Mediterranean and its aromas have become a metaphor of undefined contours.
For this reason, I've decided to rely upon an original recipe signed by the Simili sisters, which - besides being of secure outcome - also frees me of any liability. And there I rewrite it below, exactly as it is recited in the Bible in their book. Roll up your sleeves and knuckle down, because this focaccia, whether or not from Bari, really kicks ass!

The starter:
Mix the ingredients in a bowl, cover and let rise for 18-24 hours.
The dough:
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and the starter with half the water, and mix well; add a little flour, salt, and then begin to beat. Combine the remaining ingredients, alternating flour and water and continue beating vigorously until the mixture "boils" (that is, until you see large bubbles forming, that will break immediately) and the texture of the semolina flour is dissolved (about 10-15 minutes). The dough should be very soft. Cover the bowl and let it rise for 30 minutes.
Pour some oil in each of two baking pans, put your hands in covering them completely; grasp half of the dough and roll it while suspended, keeping it in one hand while the other collects the dough that's falling from the side, inserting it underneath in the middle, and transferring everything from one hand to another.
Don't worry if at first the gluten is relaxed and the dough comes down very quickly; after two or three manipulations the gluten wakes up allowing you to work more comfortably for two to three manipulations. Place this ball in the greased pan and repeat with the second half of the dough. Let it rise for about two hours, then cover the surface completely with tomatoes and pitted olives, taking care not to press down, otherwise you lose the rising gas and the focaccia will be less soft. To avoid this unfortunate circumstance, pinch a little dough by lifting it up, then put a piece of tomato or olive underneath. Sprinkle with salt [and oregano, I'd like to add ], drizzle with oil and bake at 450 for 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the pan few minutes after it's baked and place it on a baker's rack.

*I halved the quantity, obtaining one round pan only. I prepared the starter with the quantities described above, but then I used only half of it for the final dough, which I've made with half the quantities transcribed here.

Photo (Sun)Day: Eggs

Sunday, April 17, 2011

But what about the chocolate ones?