It’s hard to believe that half of October has already passed and I have yet to talk about my Flavour of the Month for October 2008: Carol Field’s Italy in Small Bites.
I’m a big fan of Carol Field. I have a number of her cookbooks and have always had great success with them. To me, she’s one of those cookbook authors who just knows how to write a good recipe.
Italy in Small Bites is among my favourite Italian-themed cookbooks.
I chose this book for two reasons. First of all, ever since returning from my summer vacation, Italy is never far from my mind. And secondly, since Italy is never far from my mind, I seem to have zeroed in on Field’s book quite a bit since being back.
The basis of the book is an exploration of Italian snacks (hence the “small bites”). By snack, I refer to the concept of “merenda“. In Italy, la merenda is a mid-afternoon snack that tides you over until dinner, which is usually later in the evening (8:00 or 9:00 p.m. and sometimes even later). In my family, we would have merenda around 4:00 or 5:00 and it would almost always be something simple like a slice of bread drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, some coffee and cookies or a plate of fruit. Regardless of what our merenda consisted of, it would always be something small. Merenda is never a huge meal.
Italy in Small Bites is essentially a tour through Italy with glimpses of the incredible variety of foods that would be served at merenda. Now I should point out that Italians approach merende (the plural of merenda) in a multitude of differing ways. The snacks found in this book are not exclusively for mid-afternoon. As with all things involving Italian food, the variety is astounding.
There was one recipe in the book that I’ve had bookmarked for a long time, but that I’ve never tried and that’s a recipe for Farinata. In its simplest form, farinata is a think pancake made of chickpea flour thickened with water and usually olive oil. It’s baked until it’s golden and crispy. While farinata is very famous in the region of Liguria, there are numerous variations on the idea of the chickpea pancake throughout Italy.
I love anything made of chickpeas so it follows that I would adore anything made with chickpea flour. Like the very best “snacks”, this is an easy one to make and the end result is a crispy, slightly salty gift to the mouth that yields the essence of chickpea as soon as you bite into it. And it’s all delivered with a hug of rosemary and olive oil.
It was so good, it was almost as good as being in Italy with my family.
Hope you try it.
Note: I made the the recipe from Carol Field’s book but you can find recipes for farinata everywhere. Here are a few samples of some great versions of farinata: