Scarpaccia viareggina (sweet and custardy courgette cake from Viareggio, in Tuscany)

It took a leap of faith and my avid curiosity to try this cake: could a basic sweet batter and some grated courgettes make a good cake? No nuts, no sultanas, no spices…really? A resolute “yes!” is the answer.
This is a most unusual and excellent cake come dessert: delicate, plain and light, but not at all boring, with a delicious custardy quality. Burnished golden outside, yellow with specks of green inside, it is also pretty.
Scarpaccia  means “nasty/old shoe” and no one really knows why such an uninspiring name; it is possibly something to do with the appearance of this dessert: a genuine scarpaccia should be a fairly thin and crusty affair – like an old, over-worn shoe. It is the contrast between the sugary and crusty exterior (due to a good drizzle of olive oil) and the custardy, vanilla scented interior that make this unposessing looking dessert sing.

It is a Tuscan speciality and you will not find anywhere else in Italy – Continue reading

Cavolfiori al pomodoro alla napoletana (Cauliflower with tomatoes, from Naples)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A basic and yet rewarding dish from Naples, almost embarrassing in its simplicity. It comes from the splendid La Cucina Napoletana, the book that is considered the bible of Neapolitan cooking, written by Mrs Jeanne Carola Francesconi in 1965 – if you read Italian, you must get it.

I long resisted cooking this, as it always did sound too elementary. Can cauliflower florets cooked with tomatoes  be only few notches way from boring? Continue reading

Biscotti di mandorle al vino (almond, white whine and olive oil biscotti)

Out of curiosity, I have been experimenting with vegan baking lately. Most efforts went into the bin, lacking any real good flavour and/or texture.  I then had a eureka moment when I remembered the traditional ciambelline al vino from Rome. They are sweet, crunchy, little pastry rings, made with whine (red or white, it does not matter), olive oil and anicini (aniseed  seeds) – here a good version I tried. They are really moorish and una tira l’altra, as we say:  you cannot stop eating them. I decided to play around that theme, Continue reading

Grano al sugo di pomodorini (wheat berries with cherry tomato sauce from Apulia)

A simple and tasty recipe from Puglia, the heel of Italy: wheat berries boiled till al dente and then simmered in a cherry tomato sauce, with garlic, chilly pepper and parsley. Straightforward and delicious. I prefer using semi-polished berries here, the ones that have had the outer, inedible husk removed but with some of the bran still attached. I also tried cooking with whole grain berries in the past I have always found them boring and far too chewy. If you soak the berries the night before, the cooking time will be very short indeed. Continue reading