Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Enzo's Insalata di Farro Estiva - Summer Farro Salad

Farro, or emmer, was an almost mythical grain for me until a few years ago. In my native region Campania in the South of Italy we don’t grow this cereal any more. I only knew of its existence through my primary school textbooks. The old story is that the Roman legions marched on farro and conquered the world on it. A couple of thousands years ago Farro (triticum dicoccum) was the most widely spread crop in the Mediterranean basin. It was replaced by wheat, which produces a much higher yield, for centuries only surviving in certain secluded areas for local consumption. Production is slowly expanding as farro becomes trendy because of its healthy  properties. It is high in fibre and protein and low in calories and fat.

Farro is often confused with its closest relative Spelt (triticum spelta). It can easily be cultivated organically because it does not need fertilisers as it can grow in very poor soil and is resistant to pests and even fungi.
I have used for this recipe farro grown in Garfagnana, an historical area in the province of Lucca. 

This summer salad recipe is a cold nourishing dish and not too heavy. Farro is obviously used in winter dishes as well, soups in particular, but it so torrid at the moment that I can’t even think of something like a steaming potage.

For the recipe, I have used Tuscan ‘Olive Nostrali’, “our local olives”. They are quite difficult to stone so I have shaved the soft part with a small knife. It takes a few minutes but it was worth the effort as they are full of flavour with a lovely bitter tang. Equally good are Gaeta’s olives, which are similar. If you cannot find them, get strong flavoured olives.

Mint. I have picked wild mint from the countryside. I cannot define it. It seems to be hybrid of spearmint and peppermint.

Our red onions are rather mild. I put just a couple of thin slices but if you have stronger onions you should reduce the amount unless you like a strong oniony taste but be careful not to overpower the other delicate flavours.

Farro comes as Farro sbramato (milled faro) or farro perlato (pearled Farro), which having had more external fibres removed can be cooked more quickly. For this recipe I have used Farro Perlato as it is more readily available.

Insalata di Farro Estiva - Summer Farro Salad
(Vegan Recipe)


(4 people)

250 gr. Farro
10 cherry tomatoes
30 olives – stoned
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
Red onion
Two tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh mint

1. Rinse the farro in a colander under fresh running water

2. Put the farro in a saucepan and fill  with water 4 times its volume at least

3. Put the saucepan on a stove and bring it to the boil then turn the flame down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes (unless stated otherwise). Add a teaspoon of salt a few minutes before cooking is completed

4. Drain the Farro and let it cool

5. Finely chop the carrot and the celery. Cut the tomatoes in medium/small pieces

6. Stone the olives and chop them in smaller pieces

7. Thinly slice and  chop the onion.

8. Chop the fresh mint.

9. Put the Farro in a bowl or a pot. Break any lumps with a wooden spoon.

10. Now add all the chopped ingredients: carrot, celery, tomatoes, onion, olives and fresh mint

11. Add the olive oil and toss until all the ingredients are perfectly amalgamated.

You may prefer it with more olive oil and more salt. It’s up to you.
This salad needs to repose for a couple of hours so all the flavours can develop.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sculptures in Piazza

I like this sculpture against San Michele Lucca

July is always a culturally active month in Lucca. The main Piazza is taken up with the stage for the Summer festival but the smaller piazzas this year have been filled with sculptures, now this happens every so often but I think some visitors are surprised that the works of art are not sculpture out of our most famous local raw material Carrara marble used through the centuries by the worlds most famous artists but cardboard.

 Paper is indeed a very important local industry and it is right that it should be celebrated in the provincial city however I think personally a little more quality control would haven’t gone a miss!!

I suppose as my career has been based on paper and glue I do rather hate messy edges with seeping glue marks !! 

To be fair some of them are amazing my favourites are the giant hand, head and mobile in Piazza San Frediano. The sculptures produce fun shapes and contrast in front of ancient buildings . The large hand and head are amazing operas done to a very high standard of craftsmanship. Lets just hope it doesn’t rain during the exhibition so the PVA finish doesn’t turn white like a few years ago. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sweet 16

The school year is now over in Italy: the Quadri (results) have been pinned up outside the middle and high schools. Congratulations and tears have been shed and the Maturità will soon be over too. The children have slogged it out all year with few high days and holidays and are now rewarded with three long months of carefree days.

My daughter is sweet 16 and loves reading. Summer is her moment for uninterrupted literary immersion without the call of homework. The first days of the holidays were spent discussing the books. Sweet 16 is that amazing age on the cusp of womanhood to read the great romances without being tainted by too much of life's brutal reality. It brings to me a sense of excitement as she reads the great classics for the first time and we talk about them. First I realise how many of the details I have forgotten and secondly, yes there is slight envy as she plunges herself into these wonderful sagas of life for the first time.

Last year Anna Karenina was the book. As she went through the pages I too relived the struggle of Anna so this year obviously it must be War and Peace.
War and Peace she has decided is her book for travelling because sweet 16 is also the age you can travel alone like an adult. So great adventure awaits her as she takes her first international steps alone, luckily to land in the arms of her much loved Godmother. The two will be holiday and literally companions and as she starts her travels in Somerset I had to introduce her to Tess of the D’Ubervilles for her June reading. As I pick up the book strewn on the garden table I recall the beauty of Hardy language. Bella can’t believe Tess’s ability for passive suffering unlike our more reactive Anna.

I find It interesting to observe that this bilingual being loves the English classics as much as me. Her early teens were spent under the spell of Jane Austin. I am also amazed sometime by the choice of English Books given by the Italian school,  Kim and Ivanhoe don't seem the most obvious introduction to English literature. Kim seems very far removed from Italian culture and strangely old fashioned.  Ivanhoe too seems a strange choice but I was firmly put in my place by being told that its structure was used by Manzoni as a model for his historical novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), which every Italian child has to read at school.
This year her summer text for school is Chanson de Roland, a French mediaeval text, and after trying 8 bookshops in Florence in 37 degrees so I have turned to the internet for a copy.
I will feel, I expect the same as I did when she went to nursery school for the day when we take her to the airport full of pride and tearful as yet another landmark is passed.

I will also be able to keep in touch with her through her new blog Korakale, which you too might like drop by on http://www.korakale.blogspot.com

Buone Vacanze e Buona Lettura