First courses

Farinata di cavolo nero (Black cabbage and maize soup)

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Difficulty
Medium
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Serves
6
This dish comes from the uplands and uses yellow or maize flour that was seldom used down in the valley unless for making 'gnocchi', prepared with a meat sauce.
This recipe can only be prepared in winter, when fresh Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) appears. The farinata was normally an evening dish which would be left to firm up overnight and then sliced next morning and grilled for a hearty meal. Or it was fried and garnished with a tomato sauce and served again as a fairly inexpensive way of satisfying hunger.
Ingredients
  1. 1 kg Tuscan kale (black cabbage)
  2. 1 large carrot
  3. 2 stalks white celery
  4. 3 mid-sized red onions
  5. 4 cloves garlic
  6. 200 gr. dried cannelloni beans
  7. 40 gr. maize flour
  8. 40 gr. tomato purée
  9. 1 bunch lemon thyme
  10. 10 gr. Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil
  11. 1 sprig rosemary
  12. 3-4 leaves of fresh sage
 
Method
  1. Boil the beans in abundant water with the sage, 2 cloves of garlic and rosemary until soft and salt towards the end. Drain them but keep the water, and blend half of them and keep the other half whole.
  2. Coarsely chop the carrot, celery, onion and 2 remaining cloves of garlic and sauté in a saucepan with the olive oil.
  3. Add the lemon thyme, salt and pepper and cook well over a medium flame.
  4. Remove the central stalk from the Tuscan kale, chop coarsely and add to the cooked vegetables. Cook for another 5 minutes and add the tomato purée diluted in a little bean water.
  5. Add the rest of the bean water and cook for 1 ½ hrs over a medium flame then add the beans.
  6. Add approx 1 litre water, bring to the boil and sprinkle in the flour and cook for about 20 minutes. Serve drizzled with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

There is a simpler version that only uses Tuscan kale and plenty of garlic to flavour the water the maize flour is cooked in. It is garnished with grated parmigiano cheese and extra-virgin olive oil. There is also a modern version that purists spurn as being too far from tradition but which is enjoyed by those who like strong, tasty dishes. The sliced farinata is laid in a greased casserole and layered alternating with grated sheep cheese and olive oil aromatized with sage and rosemary. 10 minutes in the oven at 200° blends all the ingredients, enhancing the end result.

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