Today was my first day back home after a week spent across the country with my sister-in-law as she faced down some difficult surgery. Spending that much time in a hospital among endless tubes, wires and beeping, as I witnessed the struggle of life, was a major reality check. I walked gleaming wide halls to stretch my legs, occasionally glancing in rooms at patients crumpled in their beds like wilting flowers, heads tilted back, mouths gaping open, bed-clothes fading into the bedding, family members hunched in quiet anxiety next to their beds. In the face of such raw pain and vulnerability, one can’t help but be grateful for good health; to weigh one’s own life.
And to gain perspective. My earlier annoyance with Myles over some meaningless wrong turn we made getting to the hotel from the airport suddenly felt pretty trivial.
Sitting there in the room as my sister-in-law recovered from her surgery, it struck me that hospitals are a little like an airport. We watched color-coded nurses glide efficiently in for a bedside landing with carts of equipment or vials: teal outfits for tech, light blue for nurses, burgundy for lab, tan for respiratory, all taking turns and smoothly coordinated by some unseen hand. There was an endless flow of energy circling the room, and moving in and out of the door; the breath of the hospital.
By the time we left for home, she was alert, sitting up, determinedly walking a few tentative first steps with her walker, and we walked out of the hospital with a lift to our step, grateful to have been able to spend this time with her, and to be part of her net in case she fell.
Unsurprisingly, I came home craving the hug of comfort food. And not just any comfort food; farinata. Popular in Northern Italy, farinata is kind of like a large, dense, savory pancake that uses chickpea flour, and is commonly baked in large wood burning ovens in round shallow copper pans resembling paella pans. Some restaurants serve this dish in neat little pie-shaped slices as an appetizer, but my favorite presentation was just a rustic pile of scraps on a plate at Luchin’s, a trattoria in Chiavari, inviting our fingers to dig in as we set the plate between us and our glasses of wine while we waited for the next course.
(I should note to any of you who have had the farinata at Luchin’s, when I set out to develop my version of theirs, I took a little detour and added some fried garlic, minced rosemary and rosemary oil.)
Serves 2 – 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus 4 hr sitting time for the batter)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 3.375 ounces (2/3 cup) chickpea flour
- 6 ounces warm water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon finely minced rosemary
- few twists of fresh black pepper
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) rosemary olive oil
- ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) olive oil
- 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- Whisk the warm water into the chickpea flour until smooth. Add the salt, pepper and minced rosemary and whisk again. Allow to sit on the counter for 4 hours (or overnight) to allow for a complete absorption of the water by the chickpea flour.
- A foam may develop on the surface of the batter. If so, gently remove with a spoon. Whisk in the Rosemary Olive Oil.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- Add the olive oil to a very well seasoned pan that’s oven proof (I used a well used cast iron skillet). Sauté the garlic until it just starts to turn a golden brown. Pour in the batter and jiggle the pan to even out the batter. It will start to sizzle immediately. Cook on the stovetop another 30 seconds, and transfer the pan to the oven.
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until the edges start to curl up and brown slightly. The top may lightly crack in a few places. Remove and immediately and either flip out with a spatula and slice into pie-shaped pieces, or scrape up roughly to break it up into irregular pieces, and toss onto a plate in a pile for picking up with the fingers.