Monday, March 28, 2011

Pane Carasau (Sardinian Flatbread)

One of the best things about living in Oakville was being able to walk to Boffo’s, where I could buy gorgeous handmade parchment breads in a variety of flavours – rosemary, thyme, parmesan, garlic, basil. These are gently salty, crisp and herby, and the mere idea of the hand labour that goes into mixing, rolling each bread paper thin and baking gave them a mystique that I couldn’t resist. I’ve wanted to learn to make them for years, but I was so sure they would be way too much work!
But they aren’t hard – they are in fact incredibly easy!

I understand this particular flatbread originates in Sardinia, and was eaten by shepherds. Not sure I care, really, as I am more concerned about whether such goodies are going to be eaten by me.

This recipe makes about 10 breads, 10-12 inches in diameter – if you roll them really, really thin. If you don’t have the patience to make them truly paper thin, make 8 breads instead.


1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
Chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme, basil, tarragon, parmesan, garlic etc)
3 oz hot water, from tap
a little pile of sea salt sea salt
olive oil

 Equipment: rolling pin, pizza stone, pastry brush, medium size mixing bowl

About the semolina, you can buy it in larger grocery stores – Loblaws usually has some. You can find it in the baking section, and it looks a lot like corn meal but not quite as coarse. You want Semolina, not semolina flour. Here’s the package:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a pizza stone or bread stone, or ceramic tile on the bottom rack. I have a soapstone stone left over from when my countertops were installed. If you just don’t have a stone, nest 2-3 same size cookie sheets, turn them over and use that instead. The stone will need about 20 minutes to heat up sufficiently, so remember to turn the oven on before you start.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, semolina, and water. Stir with a spoon to combine into a rough dough, but do not knead. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then cut into into 10 (or 8) equal sized wedges. Cover the wedges with a damp towel.

Sprinkle a little semolina and flour on your rolling surface. Flatten one of the wedges into a circles and roll it out as thin as you can. Paper thin is the goal! Keep the surface and rolling pin generously coated in flour and move the bread around so it doesn’t stick to the counter top. An ideal flatbread would have a 10-12 inch diameter.

When the bread is about 5 inches across, add a generous amount of sea salt and your herb (or parmesan). You’ll have to decide how salty and how herby you want the final breads to be, but don’t be shy with the flavourings.
Before you bake your first bread, turn down your oven to about 400.

Place the bread directly on the hot stone. If it wrinkles or folds, just straighten it. The dough is very easy to work with.

Bake for 2-3 minutes then flip over with tongs and bake for another 1-2 minutes. The breads should be a nice pale gold, and the colour does not need to be even.

Remove the flatbread, and place on cooling rack to cool (or, just eat it up to make sure you flavourings are adjusted correctly. I’ll bet you money you’ll increase both the herb and the salt on the second try).

Once you have your seasoning sorted, you can roll and prepare another flatbread in the time it takes to bake one. Once you get into a groove, you’ll be able to make about 20 breads in a hour.
These breads are terrific alone, or with dip. I really like white bean dip, squash dip, or hummous, but baba ganoush, bruschetta, or just about anything else is great. Or eat them plain, because they really are delicious, with a pleasantly wheaty flavour


Friday, March 18, 2011

St. Patrick's Day, Ma, Marc, Getting off my Butt

I can't believe it's Friday of march break already! It went by too fast.

I have a couple of things on my mind today.

St. Patrick's Day

First, yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. Normally on St. Patrick's Day, I think of my grandmother (Ma), who used to call SPD "my day". Her maiden name was Hennessey and she was of Irish extraction. I go the impression that SPD reminded her of her father, as she would often mention him in the same context.

I found myself thinking of Marc Rigby, as well. St. Patrick's Day was his favourite holiday after Christmas. He would take the day off work, along with anybody else he could convince and find an Irish Pub with good music and show up for opening. We went to Slainte in Hamilton many times. He would drink copious amounts of Guiness and sing his brains out. Typically we would stay until the bar closed - I would be the DD. The next morning, Marc would go to work as normal. I never saw him acknowledge a hangover.

The loss of a friend you don't see too often is hard to get one's head around. It doesn't affect my everyday life in the sense that he seems "missing" because he wasn't part of my daily life any more. But he comes to mind often. I'll be thinking about a menu for a dinner and need a specific recipe. I'll think to myself "I'll just email Marc, he has it" or "what was the name of that restaurant in Rome? Marc will know." And then it will hit me like cold water that he's gone.

When my grandparents died, I learned that "time DOES NOT, in fact, heal all wounds". Certainly the loss doesn't hurt any less. It seems to me that it just hurts less often. But on the occasions when the grief and loss surge, it hurts just as much.

One of my March Madness activities was to go to the doctor and get my yearly physical. I really like my new doctor. She actually talks to you like you are an intelligent human being and spends more than two minutes. I'm in overall excellent health except for one concern, which is that my blood pressure is a little high. We talked about it at length and decided that we might move on drugs eventually, but that for now, I was going to focus on diet and exercise.

Does it sound weird to say that I'm glad this little kick in the ass happened? I've been sitting on my butt since school started in September. My eating is excellent except for my after school snack. I'm ravinous when I get home and will eat anything and too much of it! So my eating strategy will be to have a protein smoothy when I get home, and to decrease the carbs in dinner slightly. That should make a significant difference, because otherwise, all I eat is lots of veg, a little low GI fruit and moderate amounts of protein.

It's exercise where I really need to make some changes. In other words, I have to do some! I decided to do a month of reconditioning - walking for two weeks, then walking and short weight workout for the next two weeks. After that I'll do a six month program - I have the precision nutrition exercise program for seven months, so I'll use that. I really like weight lifting, and will simply have to fit it in!

That's all for now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Round up!


I’ve been thinking about my garden. I know! There is still snow on the ground, but lots of my vegetable seeds say to plant them inside 8 weeks before last frost. I think that’s now-ish.

We had such success last year that we are slightly expanding our operations. I am planning to add 6 vats for a total of 21, as well as increasing my upside-down-tomato quota.

I acquired seeds this weekend, and have added a couple new types of peppers and tomatos, as well as okra and runner beans. We decided not to go with kohlrabi and cauliflower this year, as the cauliflower didn’t do well, and I don’t really like kohlrabi after all.

So I got some little miniature greenhouses and plan to plant my seeds this weekend for those things that should be planted in advance.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in our flower garden this year as well. We planted almost 400 bulbs in the fall – tulips, hyacinth, crocus, daffies, poppies, and lilies, as well as more peonies, hosta and astilbe. So every day I go outside and look to see if any of the crocus have come up. I guess it’s a bit early, but I live in hope.


I’m still enjoying being a teacher. Things are pretty busy, but I find if I stay focused I only rarely have to bring any work home. One thing I like about my school is that it is so small that I don’t have to wait my turn to participate in things. For example, this year I am leading the yearbook club. In most schools, there would be someone there who has been in charge of yearbook for the last 9 years, and no-one else would get a turn until that person retired in 2025.

I’ve also taken a leadership in a role on: we are doing a number of initiatives that will (if all goes as planned) lead to fewer suspensions and less violence and bullying in the school. I have two programs that we are currently training teachers on; we are piloting this spring and doing a full on roll out in the fall. The initiatives are Restorative Practices and Student Mediation. I have been using Restorative Practices in my classroom since semester change and in two of my classes it is working brilliantly. Less so in the third class – or it may just be it is taking the kids longer to come around. Even in the third class, the relationships aer slowly forming.

Speaking of my classes, semester turn around is a HUGE trauma. I know it is hard for the students, but I didn’t expect it to be so hard for me. Who knew it would be so hard to get used to a new group of kids? I feel like I was starting to make some genuine headway with the kids I had, and boom, I have new ones to break in!

March Break

People have this idea that teachers have lots of “holidays” but allow me to put it all in perspective. While I do get lots of time off, I don’t get paid for it.


My plan is to have a lunch here and there with a few friends, perhaps a date with my beloved husband if he can swing a day off, and plenty of sleeping late and sitting around doing as little as possible.


The only thing I’ve cooked lately that is interesting is Sardinian Flatbread, which turned out brilliantly. I’ll do another post on it – with a picture.

That’s all I really have time for now. I have a Community Council meeting in a few minutes.