Cooking exercise before travelling. Focaccia and Farinata

To prepare your visit to Genova you need to train yourself a little bit on the local cooking tradition to better understand what to expect from your visit and what to pick from the restaurants’ menus. Genova and its region, called Liguria, offer an endless variety of local products and, being on the seashore, most of it culinary art involves fisheries. However the area is also well known for the extreme high quality of its olives called “taggiasche” and the local olive oil, which is pretty good for those suffering from high colesterole. Therefore it is impossible for me to pick the most representative recipe of this city as I have a choice of dozens. What I am recommending you are 2 recipes that I consider the flagships of Genova and some of the more tasty food in Italy.

Focaccia: there might be a lot to say about this genoan recipe but it’s better to make it rather than talk about it. Do not mistake it for a white plain pizza because it’s a completely different food. You may find it in other areas of Italy also, although the mastery of focaccia making comes from Genova. No doubt about it. The recipes here below is my own personal version of the Focaccia Genovese. Try it and let me know…

Ingredients: 500 gr Manitoba flour, 300 ml of water, 8 gr. of dry brewer’s yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 30 gr. of salt, 30 ml of olive oil.

For the  salt solution: 120 ml of water + 2 tablespoons of olive oil + a pinch of salt.

Focaccia Genovese – Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Procedure: it takes some time but the final result is worth the work and the wait Mix the brewer’s yeast with water and sugar and put them together with the Manitoba flour and the water into your mixer. When the dough will be ready, add the olive oil and mix again for a while, then take the dough out of the mixer, put it in a bowl and let it rest for 24 hours at room temperature until it will be well leavened and elastic. Put the dough in a baking tray without stressing it too much: make gentle movements with your hands, then let it rest again for approximately 1 hour. Press with your fingertips on the dough by creating small holes on the surface (not too deep), then let it rest again for 1 hour. Now take the salty solution you have previously prepared and spread it on the dough, then let it rest again for some 40 minutes until the dough absorbs some of it. Spread some more olive oil drops on the dough and bake it at 220° C for approximately 30 minutes (baking time may vary depending on your oven, you’d better check it from time to time: when the dough turns into a golden colour, your focaccia will be ready). You can have it plain or you may stuff it with some ham and/or with cheese. Where do the native Genoans buy their focaccia? Try “Il Focaccino”. Probably the best in town.

Farinata. Photo courtesy of Tantì

Farinata: most of the people outside Liguria and lower Piedmont, including some Italians, are not aware of this unique food. It is as simple as can be but at the same time as delicious as can be. You can find it pretty much everywhere in Genova and, despite the fact that the ingredients are fixed, you can interpret this recipe based on your favourite texture and palate. Ingredients: Chickpeas flour – 300 gram Water – 1 liter Olive oil – 160 ml Salt – 1 or two teaspoon.

The procedure is very simple: take a big bowl and put the chickpeas flour in it, then add the water and the olive oil and mix the whole with a whisk until you get a homogeneous mixture. It will look pretty liquid and it is correct, don’t be afraid. Add the salt and whisk a little more. Let the mixture rest at room temperature. After approximately 4 hours a mild foam will be visible on the top of the bowl: remove it. Now take a big, round and low copper baking tray and pour the mixture gently in it until the liquid is well distributed with a thickness of approximately 0.5 cm. (not more than that or it won’t bake correctly). If you do not have the copper baking tray you can use a regular one but cover it with parchment paper and pour some olive oil on it. Bake for approximately 10 minutes at 220° C, then cut irregularly with a roller creating some half-moon shaped slices and serve it very hot with a sprinkle of black pepper. You can have it plain or you can add some onion slices, or  whitebaits or creamy cheese such as certosino before baking it.

Once in Genova you will find farinata everywhere but my favourite place is Sa’ Pesta a very traditional local trattoria hidden in the caruggi of the old city. If you stroll in a supermarket in Italy you may also find a prefab mix than will ease your exercise. Try the brand Tantì, a small family-run business with a love for farinata.

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