Zanzana was lucky to spend a very long holiday for Christmas. It was nice, full of people and things to do, with an undetermined number of hours passed in the kitchen and even a successful fight with homemade Mayonaise, with Zanzana’s motto “Il riposo è morte – rest is death” perfectly realized.
Now everything is over, and Zanzana had to be back to the Reality. Just before that, she tried to make her return softer with one of her favourite dishes, and now she is relaxing by describing it to her 25 readers: Focaccia di Recco. This is a flat, unleavened kind of Focaccia with cheese, from Recco, a small town close to Genova, in Liguria. You can find hundreds of recipes and videos for it online, and find your favorite way to prepare it, but this is also protected now by a specific association, controlling the way it is prepared and sold in the region where it comes from, as many local specialties in Italy. Zanzana adores Liguria, its nature between mountains and see and its food, which in her opinion represents the wilderness and harshness of the environment in that region. Pesto sauce, another Zanzana’s favourite, comes from here!
Zanzana likes it a lot also because it represents the kind of food she loves to prepare, to eat and to spread around: very simple, clean, basic food prepared from scratch, with raw materials but in many cases with special, unique ingredients, coming from a very specific region which they represent. With the time, Zanzana finds more and more difficult to buy industrial products and even to eat things that she can not prepare herself. She is guided by this saying, even if she does not remember where she found it: “Try not to buy anything which would not be recognized as food by your great grandmother”. Imagine how many things you have to avoid in a supermarket!
400 gr. “0” Flour
350 gr. Stracchino
4 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
a little salt
1 cup warm water
Mix all the ingredients together, except for the cheese, then let the mixture sleep covered for at least one hour. In the meanwhile, prepare your Stracchino cheese, which you will put inside the Focaccia. This is a fresh, cow milk cheese, with a slightly sour and salty taste. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, until it reaches 1-2mm thickness, and divide it in 4 parts (you will get 2 focacce with the quantities I have mentioned). This is a part requiring a little skills to make a very thin dough: Zanzana advises you to get inspired by this video, for example. The website Viva La Focaccia is a great one for many types of baked items, and also has many pages in English. Put the first piece obtained in the baking tin, and add many small Stracchino pieces on it. Cover it with another piece of dough and make some small holes on it, close it along the edges, adding extra virgin olive oil before putting it in the oven warmed at 220 C Celsius (or more, if your oven allows it).
Cook for 10-15 minutes, and add salt and a little more oil before eating it. Zanzana normally turns off the oven after 10-15 minutes, then leaves the Focaccia under the electric grill, so it becomes more tanned 🙂 If you go to Recco or around there in Liguria, don’t forget to try this focaccia, but be prepared, as the one you will find will have much more cheese and oil on it than the version I am suggesting you. It is also very probable the dough will be thinner. After one whole day of Reality, Zanzana is still dreaming about it! In fact, Zanzana and her husband have eaten both the Focacce produced yesterday 🙂
Zanzana was traveling for the Survival Compromise recently. When she travels, she continues to love clean, healthy, genuine food, but she often eats quite some unhealthy food. She has decided to base her Sunday lunch on a light fish menu, to recover after her small sins.
On Saturday, she bought fish at her local market. Milan is not on the sea, as you might have understood, but you can anyway find good fish at reasonable prices, even if in most cases caught at least one day before you buy it. Zanzana tries to eat fish twice a week, and to stick to Mediterranean species, avoiding imported ones. The one you can see in the picture is a Sarago – Seabream (hopefully this is the right translation), very common in the Mediteranean and Eastern Atlantic Ocean. You can verify the level of freshness of the fish you buy looking at the eyes, which should appear shiny:
Moreover, the gills should be light red, the colour appearing natural:
The best option is obviously to find a fish vendor you can trust, or to fall back on frozen fish, even if Zanzana does not advise that.
Zanzana likes seabream taste, which is a little more bitter and wild compared to similar fish of the same category, like seabass; she took her inspiration from this recipe, and prepared a nice Sarago al Cartoccio for two persons. We say ‘Al Cartoccio’ when fish is cooked in the oven, inside an aluminium foil, with different spices.
10 Cherry Tomatoes;
Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Fennel Leaves;
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (avoid other types of oil);
Half glass of Orange Juice;
Put one aluminium foil in the pan, lift the edges and mix oil, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, oregano on it. Take the fish, after having cleaned it (or having asked the fish vendor to do it for you, scales must also be removed) and pass it two or three times in the oil and spices mix, then leave it on the foil. Cut tomatoes in half, put them on the foil, add a little salt on them, leave them around the fish and add the orange juuce on the fish. Here is your Cartoccio before you close it:
And here you can see how you should close the Cartoccio:
Heat up the oven at 200 C for 10 minutes, then cook the fish for 10 minutes at this temperature, for 20 more minutes at 180 C. Turn off the oven and leave the fish inside for 10 more minutes, then this should be the result:
And this is how it looks when you prepare your portion; as you can see, it remains very juicy:
Zanzana has also prepared two salads to accompany it: a Potato Salad, with boiled potatoes, garlic, parsley, extra-virgin olive oil:
and a very nice Season Salad with carrots and green cabbage finely chopped, black olives in brine, lemon juice, salt, extra virgin olive oil. This salad is also prepared by her husband’s family in Albania:
Zanzana prepares all her desserts at home, as she has stopped since a while to buy industrial bakery. She mostly works on raw materials, so she feels very happy, the few times she goes to the supermarket, seeing that most of the products other people buy are missing from her trolley!
She really likes chocolate cakes, especially those ones remaining wet and soft inside, after having been cooked.
She modestly got inspired by the Mudcake you can taste at Espresso House, Sweden, but she chose a more Italian and, probaly lighter, version. This is Torta Tenerina (meaning something like soft tiny cake), a recipe coming originally from Ferrara, in Northern Eastern Italy. It also happens to Zanzana to have some roots there, as in other Italian regions, but no contacts anymore. She has read the recipe first on this book, but the version you can find here is based on her preferences and experience.
200 gr. plain chocolate
100 gr. butter (Zanzana makes it)
120 gr. white sugar
3 spoons of potato flour
3 spoons of buttermilk (this is not sold in Italy, so you have to prepare it if you live there, while it is easier to find it in other countries).
Melt butter and chocolate in a bain-marie and leave it cooling down. Whisk sugar and egg yolks in order to obtain a light and smooth mixture, add the potato flour and mix everything. Whip the egg whites, add the chocolate and butter to the egg mixture and mix well, together with the buttermilk, then add the whipped egg whites, mixing gently. Warm up the oven at 180 degrees, prepare the baking tin and leave the cake cooking for around 20 minutes. The cake is ready when it tears away from the baking tin, still being soft. Normally this cake should be sprinkled with powdered sugar and whipped cream, but Zanzana prefers powder cocoa instead, with no sugar, as it makes it more fragrant when you eat it and have your Latte at the same time.
Zanzana’s beloved one is Albanian. He and Zanzana really like beans, as every type of simple, genuine food: you will not find a lot of ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ in Zanzana’s kitchen! Zanzana also thinks that beans don’t have the place they deserve in contemporary kitchen, while she prepares them at least once a week.
Cannellini are small white beans, with relatively soft, thin skin, quite sweet taste. The best ones in Zanzana’s opinion are the ‘new’ ones, the smallest ones. They are very common in Mediterranean kitchen and also throughout Italy, especially in Tuscany, where you can find memorable recipes for them.
This is the recipe Zanzana prepares more often, inspired by the way beans are prepared by her husband’s family. It will take you up to three hours preparation, even if you can do many other things while they boil.
250 gr dried cannellini beans
a small onion
one ladle of self produced tomato sauce (the one you would use for pasta; you can use also some tomato concentrate, one spoon)
extra-virgin olive oil, butter, salt, chili (optional)
Soak the beans in water for at least 8 hours, then boil them for at least 2 hours. At the same time, prepare an onion ‘soffritto’ (fry the onion with olive oil), then add it to the beans after at least one hour cooking, together with salt. After half an hour add the tomato sauce and leave the beans cooking until they become ‘creamy’.
Last but not least, complete with a little chili and butter (25 gr.).
P.S. The writings on the bowl above are not in Albanian, but in a Northern Italian dialect, from Cremona region. Zanzana will tell you how she got that!