Monthly Archives: April 2012

Farinata and a leap of faith.

Sometimes in life, you just have to take a leap of faith and believe that it will all turn out ok. I am not what you would call a worrier. I have discovered that the things you stay up all night angsting over usually never end up happening. It is those things it never even occurred to you to worry about that blindside you and whack you over the head. So I live my life somewhat like a turtle, not waiting for catastrophes to befall me. Disasters know where to find me if they need me.

Today’s blog post involves a recipe that takes a leap of faith to make. I was served Farinata (Italian Chickpea Flatbread) by my girlfriend Marla last week. I was visiting her in Toronto and she served me this unusual flatbread. It was a crispy and golden on top, and addictively chewy in the center. The bottom crust had a thin film of deliciously fruity olive oil and the flatbread was flavored with rosemary, salt and black pepper. She discovered the recipe on the lovely blog, Kalyn’s Kitchen.

My friend Marla is one of the brightest and accomplished women I know. She was recently named one of Canada’s Top Women Entrepreneurs. In addition to being smart as hell, she is also quite elegant and stylish. She drinks Champagne cocktails. And on top of all that, she is a fantastic cook. Everytime she cooks for me, I leave with exciting new ideas and recipes to try.

Farinata is a thin flatbread made from chickpea flour. It originated in the Italian region of Liguria. It is quite a popular snack there. Bakeries throughout the Ligurian region post the time in their windows that the farinata will be coming out of the oven and customers line up around the corner for a hot slice. I did not post a sign letting my family know when it was coming out of our oven, but somehow they knew exactly when to appear in the kitchen to devour it.

It is the perfect appetizer to serve with drinks. Marla suggested topping room temperature slices with arugula, shaved slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh figs and then drizzling the whole thing with a good aged balsamic vinegar. I was unable to find the fresh figs, but even without them, it was amazing. My friend Josh said it tasted like summer!

The leap of faith for this recipe comes when you mix all the ingredients together and look at the “dough”. Chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt are mixed together in a large bowl. I ended up switching to a whisk to make the batter smooth. The batter was so thin and watery I just couldn’t believe that this would turn into a flatbread.

After mixing, the batter is left on the counter to rest for several hours. I was quite busy and did not get back to it for about 8 hours. When I returned, it looked exactly as it had that morning. For some reason I had expected it to have thickened or at least risen or bubbled. But it still resembled a very thin crepe batter. I preheated the oven to 475° F and once it was hot I placed a 12 inch round pizza pan in the oven for about 10 minutes to get it blisteringly hot. While I waited, I chopped up some fresh rosemary and mixed it into the batter. You could also use a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet with sides.

Once the hot pan comes out of the oven, cover the bottom with a thin film of good olive oil. I used about a tablespoon. Pour in the batter, sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper and prepare to take a second leap of faith, that you will get the pan from the counter into the oven without spilling any batter. I placed my pizza pan on a sheet pan, but still managed to spill some on the bottom of my oven when I was sliding it in.

I kept turning on the oven light to see if anything was happening. I was convinced I was going to end up with chickpea soup. Sure enough, at around the 10 minute mark, it started to solidify around the edges, and after a further 10 minutes, I had a golden chickpea flatbread!

This is wonderful served plain without any toppings, but let your imagination go wild. Pecorino Romano, pears and honey would be fantastic. I would also love to try it with burrata, basil and ripe summer tomatoes!

Click here to print the recipe for Farinata.

Alice’s New Classic Macaroons

For me, it’s just not Passover unless we have macaroons.That’s macaroons, with two oo’s, the ones made with coconut, not to be confused with macarons, the French confection, with one o, which are typically made with ground almonds, powdered sugar and egg whites.

In fact, I love macaroons so much that I dressed up as a chocolate one several years ago.  My youngest sister, in Toronto, held a masquerade Seder.  We all had to come dressed as our favorite Passover character.  I took a little creative license and showed up dressed head to toe in chocolate-brown, topped with a very large pyramid-shaped cardboard hat, covered with macaroons.  A word of advice for anyone thinking of trying this – don’t!  I used canned macaroons (I didn’t want to waste the homemade ones for a craft project) and they became very heavy when coated with glue.  The overpowering stench of coconut and glue, as we drove from Ottawa to Toronto, left everyone in out van feeling quite ill.

However, it didn’t cure me of my love for all things coconut, especially macaroons. Cookbook author, dessert chef and Chocolatier Alice Medrich, created these incredible macaroons in her recent book, “Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.” Leave it to Alice to come up with a genius twist on this classic cookie. Instead of using shredded or desiccated coconut, Alice suggests using coconut chips. These are wide shavings of unsweetened coconut that can be found in most health and bulk food stores these days.

Chewy, toasty and supremely yummy! The pure coconut flavour really shines through in these stunning beauties. Alice suggests shoving a large chunk of bittersweet chocolate into the centre of each cookie to take a great cookie over the top!

Egg whites, coconut chips, vanilla extract, sugar and a pinch of salt all get mixed together in a large bowl. I used vanilla extract paste so you can see the flecks of the vanilla bean seeds in my mixture. The bowl then gets set in a large pan of simmering water, to heat the mixture through and thicken the egg whites.

I used a small ice cream scoop (about 3/4 of an ounce) to form the macaroons. I stuck a piece of 70% bittersweet chocolate in the centre of each before baking. Unfortunately they oozed right out once I baked them.

I got a little smarter on the second tray and carefully inserted the chocolate into the centre of the macaroon and used wet fingertips to make sure chocolate was mostly enclosed. It wasn’t until I baked them all that I reread the recipe and discovered that Alice inserts the chocolate after baking, while macaroon is still warm!

However you insert the chocolate, these macaroons are pure coconut heaven!

Click here to print recipe for New Classic Coconut Macaroons.