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Farinata di cavolo nero (Black cabbage and maize soup)

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 FOR 6
1 kg Tuscan kale (black cabbage)
1 large carrot
2 stalks white celery
3 mid-sized red onions
4 cloves garlic
200 gr. dried cannelloni beans
40 gr. maize flour
40 gr. tomato purée
1 bunch lemon thyme
10 gr. Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
3-4 leaves of fresh sage

TO PREPARE
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. Coarsely chop the carrot, celery, onion and 2 remaining cloves of garlic and sauté in a saucepan with the olive oil. Add the lemon thyme, salt and pepper and cook well over a medium flame. 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. Add the rest of the bean water and cook for 1 ½ hrs over a medium flame then add the beans. 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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Valle del Bisenzio
The Bisenzio valley lies between Mount Calvana and the Apennine forest. It is a territory rich in tradition thanks to its settlement by the ancient Romans. ...
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