Posts Tagged ‘Cinque Terre’

Spring, one way or the other

March 21, 2013

Trenette al pesto

Today was the first full day of Spring. It was, unfortunately, gray, cool and we had snow flurries this morning.

We haven’t had a bad winter, and I don’t mean to complain. Still we are ready to be done with the cold and the gray.

In an effort to welcome the season despite the weather, we opted to have a dish for dinner that reminds us of sunny, warm climes.

On our 2011 visit to the Cinque Terre in Italy, we had the local favorite known as “trenette al pesto.”

We’re all familiar with pesto, that wonderful sauce of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese. The traditional presentation in and around Genoa is to use the sauce to dress a bowl full of pasta (trenette, the Genovese “fettucini“) along with sliced, boiled new potatoes and fresh green beans.

Really! Pasta and potatoes in the same dish. And green beans for good measure. All dressed in fragrant, rich pesto. How could this not be good!

So, tonight, with company coming over and a real need for something to make us “think spring,” we whipped up a batch.  It did the trick.

Trenette al pesto

  • 1 pound fettucini
  • 4 new potatoes, boiled until just done and then peeled, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces fresh green beans, cleaned and cooked in salted, boiling water until just crisp tender
  • 1 cup of your favorite pesto, more or less to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. When done, drain, reserving 1/3 to 1/2 cup pasta water. Stir pasta water into pesto until blended. In large bowl, toss pasta with potato slices and cooked green beans. Add pesto and toss again.

Serves 4

Enjoy!

 

A journey to discover a great snack

November 12, 2012

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

NOTE: Recipe edited to reduce the amount of oil used.

This one was tricky.

On our trip to Italy in 2011, we spend time in the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Coast. The Cinque Terre, (literally, the five lands) are five villages situated among vineyards and olive groves that line the rocky slopes above the Ligurian Sea, a branch of the Mediterranean Sea.

On the day we hiked from Corniglia (the middle village, high up on a bluff over the sea) back to Monterosso, we stopped for rest and lunch in Vernazza. Just before leaving town for the next segment of our hike, I stopped into a pizzeria that advertised the local specialty, farinata.

Sold by the slice, in small shops, farinata is a large pancake made from ceci (chick pea) flour, water, salt and olive oil, baked in special pans in wood fired ovens. It’s also known as socca (France), cecina (Tuscany), or fainâ (Genoa). Most often eaten by hand, farinata is sometimes served as the filling for a sandwich or on top of a slice of traditional pizza. We like it just fine straight from the oven and a couple of pieces can be quite filling. Farinata is high in protein, but gluten free. It lends itself to doctoring up with toppings or, my preferred, just eaten plain.

Good stuff!

A slice of rosemary infused farinata

This past summer, I embarked upon a quest to make my own farinata. Turning to the internet, I found numerous recipes and several videos suggesting ways to prepare this dish. About the only thing they all had in common was the basic ingredients. After that, everyone had a different take on the best way to make it.The first problem for me was, what to make it in. In Italy, farinata is baked in circular pans made of tinned copper. Some recipes suggested using cast iron skillets, some said try a rimmed cookie sheet. My first attempt was made in an aluminum pizza pan that we had on hand. It was a little too shallow to hold the thin batter without making a mess. I remembered that we had an enameled paella pan and tried that. Better. Much better.

The next obstacle seemed to be the cooking procedure. I immediately discarded the notion of doing it on the stove top, even partially, as in some recipes and one of the videos I had found. Baking was the way to go, but at what temp?

I tried high heat, but that didn’t seem to work. The farinata got a nice top and bottom crust but was either under cooked in the middle or crispy through. Trial and error led me to a process that seems to work for my pan, oven and patience. You may have to play around a bit to find what works for you, but it will be worth it.

Farinata

  • 600 ml of water (approximately 2 1/2 cups)
  • 200 grams of ceci flour (approximately 1 2/3 cups)  NOTE: make as much batter as is needed, just keep the 3 parts water to 1 part flour ratio
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary (or sage, or a combination) to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus enough oil to just coat the pan you cook the farinata in (up to another 1/4 cup) oil for the pan (use a good quality oil as it lends quite a bit of the character to the finished dish)

Mix the ceci (garbonzo bean) flour into water with a whisk. Let stand at room temperature for at least three hours or over night.

Pre-heat oven (with pizza stone, if you have it) to 475. Place the empty pan on the stone in oven so it can heat up while finishing the batter prep.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the foam from the top of the mixture. Stir chopped rosemary, salt, fresh ground black pepper, olive oil into batter. Mix well.

Add enough olive oil to pan to cover the bottom, swirl to coat evenly. Return the oiled pan to the overn and let it heat for just one minute.

Stir batter very well one more time, pour into hot, oiled pan. Immediately reduce heat to 350 and bake for 20- 25 minutes, turning pan once or twice for even cooking. Top should just be turning golden.

Kick on the broiler (high) and broil until top is a deep golden brown (turning once or twice to make sure it cooks evenly).

After about 7 – 10 minutes, removed from oven and sat on rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Gently loosen edges and bottom of farinata. Remove from pan and serve.

This will make a 12 inch diameter farinata that is a nice snack for four to six people. Served with a small salad, it could make a nice light meal.

We’re back

October 2, 2011

It has been a busy stretch for us and I have neglected this blog.  Hopefully, you haven’t gone hungry waiting for tidbits and teasers from me.

One of the “distractions” of the past few months was our recent trip to Venice, the Cinque Terre and Milan. Obviously, we ate.  We ate well.  There will be reports about that later.

Tonight, I noticed a number of notes on Facebook from friends describing their various Sunday night dinners.  Although varied, they had in common a turn towards cool weather foods.

Our own meal this evening was what I would consider “transitional” between the summer and fall seasons.

Tonight, we had homemade fettucine in a burro oro e salvia (butter and sage) sauce, chicken breasts with fresh herbs and salad and pecan pie for dessert.

The cool weather inspired Ann to make the pasta.  With an abundance of herbs in the garden, why not use them in the sauce.  Butter and sage, while good anytime of year are rich and savory and comforting enough on a damp, chilly night.  The Rosemary and oregano were begging to be used as well, and what better way to flavor the chicken breasts.

We chopped the herbs and mixed them with salt, black pepper and olive oil.  The mix was then placed into a plastic bag with the boneless,  chicken breasts and left to marinate for an hour or so before being cooked over medium heat in a frying pan and a little more olive oil.

For the burro oro e salvia, I took about 5 tablespoons of sweet butter and melted it in a small pan over medium heat.  When the butter was completely melted and the foaming subsided, let it go a couple of minutes until it picks up a golden color. Toss in 6 to 8 leaves of fresh sage and remove from heat.

At about the time we put sage in the butter, we placed our fresh pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water.  The pasta  should be done shortly after the water has returned to a boil and the fettucine has risen to the top.  Drain, toss with the sage butter and serve.

Sunday, season bridging dinner. Homemade, part home-grown; comforting; quick.