Archive for January, 2010
Farinata ai Carciofi
There are somethings that easily get lost in translation so it’s better not to attempt to translate farinata. It is called different things in different places, such as Cecina or Torta di ceci in Tuscany but I will refer to it as Farinata as it is most widespread in Liguria.
Farina is the Italian word for flour, and in this case it’s chickpea flour. Farinata closely resembles pizza and is usually eaten as stand up, casual finger food.
I first saw farinata on the Italian coastal stretch of the Cinque Terre in Liguria and it was love at first sight. You can walk between the five coastal towns and stop off for a serve of farinata at each if you really felt like it. This kind of behaviour might be a bit obsessive but it has been known to be done, just so one knows where to find one’s most preferred farinata on one’s next visit to Cinque Terre. (For my money it’s the upper most shop on the hill in Rio Maggiore).
Crespelle di Saraceno con Crema di Patate e Carciofi
Weather: Cold, wet and windy.
Mood: Tired and hungry.
Thoughts: Eat anywhere that is open.
In the Santa Croce area of Florence there are plenty of restaurants, bars and caffés to choose from but two days before Christmas, lots of them have sealed shutters making options pretty limited. The streets were vacant and quiet, and on a cold wet night all you really want to do is be inside as cozy as possible. Gauging a restaurant by peering through its window is a skill you either have or you don’t and it’s always an awkward feeling trying to back out of restaurant you have entered and then realise that maybe it’s not where you want to spend a few hours, especially if you have already been seated. Fortunately we stumbled upon Boccanegra which, even from across the road, with its wooden exterior and handsome signage appeared welcoming and warm. With a quick peek, it seemed that we could really have a nice relaxed dinner under a very homely candlelight, surrounded by an extensive wine collection sprawling through the two wooden and stone dining rooms, and alongside a hip Florentine clientele being served by groovy looking waitstaff.
One great thing about visiting these major cities at this time of year is that they are not swamped by tourists. You really do have more of the city to explore as you won’t need to line up at museums that would usually have you spending at least 4-5 hours of your time queuing. So you gain all this time to enjoy the city and fit in a couple of extra features that summer visitors normally can’t. There is one place that will usually have a queue no matter what time of year, It’s a tiny little institution for lunch a few steps for the central markets (mercati centrale di San Lorenzo) called Mario. Every Florentine knows about it, and the astute tourist will do their best to find out about it. It’s hit or miss whether you will find any artichokes on the menu but that shouldn’t stop you from having lunch there. They aren’t open at dinner so you need to schedule carefully between museum or church visits.
Risotto in Florence
A quick stop in Florence. We arrived early in the morning and had a tight schedule for the following 36 hours. In eating terms, that’s two lunches and one dinner. Breakfast always seems to be a stand up coffee and croissant so they don’t count.We lived in Florence for a year a while back so navigation was not a problem in terms of finding the right places to hit for lunch. The first stop was at Nerbone which is an institution in the central food markets (mercati centrale di San Lorenzo)of the city. Cheap, fast but you have to get in quick or be patient and wait for a cold, hard, metallic seat to free up. You order cafeteria style, taking a tray from the counter to share a table with a mixture of locals who know where to get a quick, quality lunch, and curious tourists visiting the food markets for the first time.
Carciofi alla Giudea / Artichokes Jewish Style
Carciofi alla Giudea rolls off the tongue a lot easier that Artichokes Jewish Style so I will refer to them by that name in this post.
Now if I had to name my all time favourite artichoke dish, this one would have to be in the top two or three to choose from. Even though I don’t have children, I reckon they’d be a hit with the kids. The leaves become golden and crunchy and are fun to eat, kind of like eating potato crisps. You can work your way around the crispy leaves of the artichoke until you reach the soft tender heart. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t loved these artichokes. They are absolutely unique and instil excitement and curiosity into the eating experience, (or maybe that’s just me).