There are a lot of great combinations in life, and books and food is definitely one of them for me. Think of being curled up in your favourite chair with a good book, something to munch on and a cup of tea, then that’s one idea of what my heaven could look like. Throw in some rain (with the rain outside and me inside) and that scene is almost perfect.
When I first joined this group of bloggers who continue to be inspired on a gastronomic level by the books they read, I was living in Cochin with a wonderful library which was almost in my backyard. I might miss my weekly shopping, but you could be sure I would be at the library every week no matter what. In fact, if they didn’t see us at the library, they would enquire after us!
This library is one of the things I really miss about leaving Cochin. Two places I visit without fail during our trips back home at this library and my baking supplies store!!
Unfortunately, reading is something that doesn’t happen much these days because, as I keep mentioning, good libraries aren’t what Goa is about but that’s another story. The long and short of it is that I haven’t been joining my fellow bloggers in their monthly book inspired cooking for sometime now, mostly because I haven’t been able to find the books.
This month’s choice was Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and, you guessed it, I couldn’t find that title either. However, I have seen the movie which stars Diane Lane in the leading role. I know the movie is a lot different from the book, yet the basic story line of both book and movie are much the same.
Based on the life of the author, it is about a middle aged American woman who is recently divorced and decides to deal with her depression with a trip to Tuscany in Italy. Once there she comes upon Bramasole, an empty house, up for sale in the village. She makes an impulsive decision to buy it and there starts her story with fixing up the house starting with the plumbing right through to everything else.
The book (and the movie) deals with her discovery of herself through another culture, its food, its people and their way of life.
Frances Mayes** also provides some recipe of typically Tuscan food in her book. Since I didn’t read the book or see the recipes, I decided to let myself be inspired by the region and make something typically Tuscan.
I chose to bake Schiacciata Con L’Uva. Quite a mouthful, but what that is, is a sweet focaccia (flatbread) stuffed and topped with grapes. Schiacciata, by the way, means flattened or squashed.
In autumn, “la vendemmia (the harvesting season of wine grapes) in Tuscany is celebrated with the preparation of this bread. I’m guessing that this also happens to be a way to use up some of those grapes that don’t make it to the crushing process.
This was something I had bookmarked quite a while ago, but didn’t make because there were no grapes to be had anywhere. While I don’t get the variety which is used for this bread, it is the season now for beautiful, juicy and sweet black seedless grapes. And so the perfect season to be inspired to bake something Tuscan.
This anise flavoured schiacciata is sweetened with sugar and redolent with the aroma of olive oil and rosemary. Shaheen (a.k.a The Purple Foodie) has sent me some fresh rosemary, oregano and sweet marjoram some time back. As I couldn’t use up all the herbs, Shaheen advised that I freeze them. And so I had fresh (well, frozen) rosemary to put in this flatbread.
I halved and slightly adapted this recipe from the Tuscan Recipes site. I had to make some adjustments for the amount of flour, as I needed more than specified in the original recipe. A detailed step-by-step tutorial on making this bread can be found here