Nov 20, 2010

Focaccia al Formaggio ~ Liguria's cheesy treat

Much of the cuisine of Liguria has origins in the historical port of Genoa and the many nearby businesses that offered quick meals for the camalli, the local dock workers. Liguria street food devotees flock to the sciamadde, which were typical streetside shops with wood-fired ovens in back, where you can still sample the local fainà, a slang twist of the word farinata, a pancake-type flatbread made with chickpea flour (regional shift on Cecina).


Tasty deep-fried treats served in a paper cone include frisceu, tasty sage, borage, and lettuce fritters (depending on the season), fried battered fish, strips of panissa (fried codfish), zucchini blossoms and sgabei (fried bread pieces). Other portable foods that are easy to eat on the go are Liguria's traditional vegetable pies: in Genoa there's pasqualina–a paper-thin crust stuffed with collard greens, eggs and local prescinseua cheese; with a variety of different fillings, from seasonal artichokes, zucchini, pumpkin, and onions to mention a few.


But the flagbearer of Ligurian street food is focaccia. Here this delightful flatbread – and don't call it pizza, for heaven's sake! – is eaten at all hours: with espresso or cappuccino for breakfast, or as an aperitivo snack, along side frosted glasses of Sciacchetrà or Pigato wine. A number of tasty variations on the original focaccia can be found all along the Ligurian eastern and western rivieras: in the province of Imperia there's pissallandrea, made from bread dough and topped with sautéed onions, Taggiasche olives and anchovies; in Sanremo there's sardenaira, made with tomatoes, basil, marjoram and thyme, garlic and onions, and the punchy machetto, a paste made with salted sardines and local olive oil. Another wood-fired speciality typical of Ligurian portable food is fugassa, a soft foccaccia made from wheat flour, left to rise for many hours and then served hot from the oven, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grains of sea salt.

It is the town of Recco however that claims paternal origin of the most decadent, messy and flavorful of Liguria's focaccias: the unique Focaccia al Formaggio.


500 g (2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
400 g (2 cups) soft cheese, like Crescenza or Stracchino (or any mild and creamy cheese that will melt)
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Lukewarm water
Salt

Preheat oven at 200° C (390° F).

Add a pinch of salt to a hollow mound of flour, and slowly add the oil and small amounts of lukewarm water to obtain a firm, satiny dough. Shape it into a small loaf, wrap it in a clean cloth, and let it rest for an hour.

Divide the loaf in 2 equal parts and roll out the dough in 2 flat disks, about 1/8-inch thick.

Grease a cake pan and lay one of the disks. Sprinkle the surface with the cheese, and blanket with the second layer of dough. Jab the entire surface with the tines of a fork, but don’t pierce it through. Baste with a little olive oil and season with (very little) salt.

Bake in the hot oven for 40 minutes and apply to face.

27 comments:

  1. I love that melting cheese!
    Yum....

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  2. Oh Eleonora, how did you know I craved cheese?

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  3. Gorgeous pictures! This sounds fabulous and looks absolutely mouthwatering!
    Cheers & have a happy Thanksgiving!

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  4. Mmmm, I'm salivating again !

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  5. Natalie~
    Cheesalicious!

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    Chuck~
    Ridiculously good...

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    Rosaria~
    How? Because you and I are one and the same!

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    Sangeeta~
    Deliriously so, yes!

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    Catherine~
    Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed this. Wishing a wonderful Thanksgiving to you too!!

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    Owen~
    He he he, I know. ;)



    Happy lip-smacking a tutti

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  6. I'm sitting here smelling that cheese dish.

    But I'm not cooking anything.......

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  7. Even your pictures look good enough to eat. This recipe sounds like one that I could tackle. Delicious!

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  8. Seedplanter Designs~
    Thank you for your visit! This recipe is indeed quite easy... and so tasty!

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    Rinaz~
    Yeah, as in wolf down. Scoff. Nosh. Polish off. Gorge. You know, ...eat.

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    Andras~
    Bene, sono contenta!

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  9. I just watched a video on the making of this from Recco - I thought it was beyond my reach - but maybe not. Must be fate - to find it twice within an hour.

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  10. I've been wanting to try a recipe like this. Will it rise without yeast? Yours looks so delicious.

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  11. Caludia~
    It is fate indeed, I can just hear the focaccia calling you... Claaaaudiaaaa

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    Donata~
    Ciao!

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    Janie~
    It mustn't rise, it's a flatbread!! The nap serves to make the dough better!


    happy drooling a tutti

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  12. Getting foccacia is always one of the first things we do when we go to Liguria - we hit the forno on the way to the beach and snack on it all morning long!!

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  13. Roseann–
    you slipped in while I wasn't looking, sorry if I missed replying to your sweet comment.
    Why are you not cooking, has the kitchen not arrived yet???

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  14. Joanne~
    Mmmm, focaccia on the beach: two great pleasures in one!

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  15. Such delicious simplicity.... Pure joy!

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  16. Hello dear friend! I've been so remiss in visiting your site and am working diligently on trying to balance my days to be able to do more of the things I enjoy, like stopping by your blog and feeling like I'm in Italy for a few minutes! Thanks for stopping by Frog Hollow Farm and leaving such a sweet comment - we are very happy with the rooms too and you are welcome to stop by for lots of wine wine and a delicious meal if you are ever over in the states with a couple of hours to fill! We are only an hour from NYC.

    This recipe looks absolutely delicious - and simple. It must smell delicious while baking in the oven - I think I'll give it a try over the holidays! Thanks for sharing, Ciao, bella!

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  17. Hi Eleonora!

    I was disappointed to find you've stopped following - that the Lola ring of friendship is no more!

    As I've mentioned before, I often visit yr mouth-watering blog (and have tried out several recipes) but don't always have the time to leave a comment. If this offends, my apologies.

    XOXO Lola:)

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  18. This post is reminding me of a time several months ago when someone had asked for help in locating a recipe for focaccia without yeast. She sounded pretty anxious to know if it even existed as all her friends said that focaccia is always made with yeast! I found an italian recipe site and pointed her in that direction, but never heard back. Did it find favor with her and her friends' palate? I will never know, but from now on if anyone needs an example to go by, I can point them in your direction!

    Thanks you for leaving that little tidbit about your grandfather. I wish I could find all of the old films, even if it's fun watching clips on youtube. The one dancing scene with Sophia and Vittorio in Pane, Amore E...that red dress! She makes me want to mambo, but I swear that that dress steals the show!

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  19. Eleonora ~ I so enjoy your take on a standard recipe. Nothing is common about your take - just the name perhaps. I want yo for MY Mama mia.

    Hope to see you soon while in your beloved Roma.

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  20. Frank~
    Grazie my friend!

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    FHFG~
    If you indeed try the recipe, please let me know!

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    Nora~
    You are the 3rd person that's come to me with this... I know nothing of it!! I have not unsubscribed from your blog, and I have no idea where this is coming from!! Will post a complaint with Blogger...

    ~~~

    Rowena~
    ...And boy, she could wear it, without a bra even!! Thanks for your sweet comment. If you're interested, please check out the Italian classics in the dvd section of my online store

    ~~~

    Deborah~
    I just emailed you!

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  21. Oh YAY! You've given the recipe for the cheese focaccia - I can't wait to try it. May not use a pound of cheese ala Vitturin, but then again, may... why not? Loved this post.

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  22. How come I never tried this when I've been in Liguria? I have to make up for lost opportunities and try it myself at home.

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Ciao
Eleonora

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