Today is the last of the holiday season holidays in Italy. We have Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Santo Stefano is the 26th which is also a holiday. These create long weekends, letting everyone sneak off for some skiing or just sightseeing locally.
There is just enough time to get hungry again after the Christmas food orgies to be ready to celebrate New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and then those that can, ride it out until the Epiphany, also called the Befana today, January 6th. The Befana is a sort of hag that brings the stockings filled with chocolates and sweets if you were good or coal if you were bad. Of course only in Italy is the coal, carbone, made from sugar!
One of my favorite Befana festivals is in Piazza Navona in Rome. Filled with stands selling stockings stuff with sweets, artisans teasing you with the smell or cooking sugar and fresh hot brittle being made with hazelnuts, almonds or pinenuts. I am a sucker for croccante!
This year I skipped everything and was bedridden with the killer flu, so escaped the food panic, shopping and cooking and was able to relax.
When I finally felt better, we started back slowly with some lovely light salads. One of my favorites is a one course meal ( foto above) using curly endive lettuce, sliced oranges,radishes, sliced raw fennel, smoked fish (herring in this case), thin apple slices and my own cured olives. Each bite is a symphony of flavors.
Today I was feeling better and turned on the oven and made one of my favorite local treats, Cecina, often known by the name Farinata or Socca.
So many of my students adore this dish which is hard to find in Florence. It has an almost eggy like quality, so vegans can use it as a omelet. And for Celiacs of course it is also a lovely way to enjoy a floury crepe-like dish. Downtown Florence, there is a wine bar, Cantinetta di Verrazzano, which serves the cecina slice slathered in truffle butter, a slice of prosciutto and some arugula leaves, then rolls it up! AHHHHHH perfection on a plate!
Traditionally it is baked in a special shallow copper cooking pan, in a wood-burning oven and served hot with fresh grated pepper on top as a mid-afternoon snack.
I have seen tons of recipes, with varying ratios of chickpea flour to water.
Here is my simple recipe:
500 grams stone ground chickpea flour.
1 liter water
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt.
Whisk the water slowly into the flour.
Let sit for 4 hours to over-night.
Remove any foam that forms
Whisk in the oil and add salt.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees( or as hot as possible, here this is traditionally in a wood-burning oven) I used my regular oven.
Pour the batter into a pan, only 1/2 inch high, this recipe made 2 round cecina pans.
Bake until the cecina pulls away from the side of the pan and is golden on top.
Serve hot, with freshly ground pepper.
Top with thinly sliced red onions and finely chopped rosemary.
It is a very rich dish.
I think this would also make a great batter for frying!