Sunday, November 7, 2010

Catching up

(this isn't my picture...i was going to go snap one but it's raining today:)
(Note: The food pics aren't mine either...)

I've been spending time in the afternoon sun this week sitting in front of the Palazzo Pitti, next door to my apartment, sketching people or studying italian. Also I made a point to weave through all the streets in the historic center, first horizontally and then vertically, to discover new little crevices I'd missed before and to be able to navigate them better. There are so many little streets connecting, it's like a maze! Also I spent one evening sketching the statues at the Loggia in the famous Piazza della signoria.

In my quest for fresh gluten-free alternatives I've discovered two lovely traditional tuscan foods that I can eat! Castagnaccio (kah-stan-NEEAH-cheeo), a flat bread made primarily of chestnut flour with raisins, pine nuts, walnuts, rosemary, olive oil and salt. I don't ever recall seeing chestnut flour available in Canada, so when I saw some in the store a few weeks ago I wanted to experiment (this was before I discovered the castagnaccio). I amended a recipe I found online and made a mini cake using chestnut flour and cocoa powder which turned out quite nice. I left out the sweetener and drizzled some honey on it after it came out of the oven. Chestnuts are very abundant here. Interestingly, it's starch content is super high compared to all other nuts which primarily consist of fat.

The other naturally gluten-free tuscan food is the cecina (cheh-CHEE-na), a chickpea flatbread, made just of chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt! I attempted making this myself the other day but didn't have the proper bakewear so it came out a little thick and sticky, but still tasted pretty good:) I will try it again cooking it in the crepe method on the stove.

If you want to make it, here's the recipe!


1c chickpea flour
2c water
2 teaspoons olive oil
dash of salt

>Mix the batter getting out all the lumps and let it sit for 2-4 hours.
>Preheat oven to 450 F, pour a liberal amount of olive oil in a deep, circular baking sheet. Add batter 1/4-1/2 inch thick.(Try to keep the sheet steady as you transfer it into the oven. Ideally the batter is supposed to float on top of the oil...)

>Bake anywhere from 10-35 mins (depending how thick it is) until golden brown on top

The crepe method cooking alternative: Turn the stove on med heat and add some butter or olive oil in a large frying pan. Once a drop of water makes it sizzle, pour in a scoopful of batter, lift the pan and rotate your wrist, spreading the batter into a thin circle. Cook a few minutes, then flip. Repeat for the remaining batter.

>Slice it like a pizza and sprinkle with pepper and yet even more olive oil if you'd like. This seems to be the traditional way to eat it, however I prefer to dress it up with some veggies, like tomatoes, spinach, and/or basil. You could also try it as a dessert with some berries or honey on top, or eat it like a crepe and roll it up.

***Additional Note: I figured out the best way to cook these things! I tried the crepe method but it stuck to the pan like crazy! I the most success using a silicon baking mould (mine is in a heart shape<3) and pouring in a bit thicker layer of batter, 1/2 to 1 inch, and baking it. This works well because your don't have to use oil. After it's baked, flip it out of the silicon and THEN drizzle with olive oil or whatever you'd like!

Tomorrow I start my Italian classes; 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. I'm excited! Knowing that I won't have complete free time anymore propelled me to be productive this week. I finished an elective course that accompanies the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Foundation Course which I did in November 2008. Yes I procrastinated this elective course for 2 years! However it turned out to be quite easy and I even enjoyed it somewhat. It's for teaching TOEFL Preparation, the exam that non-english students have to take in order to attend an english College or University. It feels good to finish something! I hope this feeling will propel me to finish more things in the future:)

In other news, I will apparently be getting heat in my room this week. Fingers crossed!


  1. Have fun at your class tomorrow!

  2. congrats Jennie! I love reading about your the sketches too!

    big hugs.

  3. Thanks for posting the recipe Jennie ... I'm definitely going to try this!

    Katie O'Dwyer