Friselle con pomodoro
Sometimes summer gives way to rain. The dog refuses to go outside and the thirsty plants explode upwards.
Today, the sun finally came out, just when the tomatoes decided to be perfectly ripe and my little basil plant looked hearty enough to harvest. And so, we eat friselle. I’m no expert in southern Italian cooking, but I do know that frislle (or freselle or frise) are loved all over Italy, especially when the weather is hot.
Friselle are very dry, very hard disks of twice-baked dough. They come in various sizes, either white or whole wheat, and usually have a hole in the middle. They’d be almost inedible on their own, and could probably last a decade in the pantry. But they never last that long, because once the tomatoes decide to be perfectly ripe? There is nothing better to do with them than make friselle.
Traditionally, the top of a frisella is soaked with cold water (so it’s soft enough to be bitten into, essentially) then topped with chopped tomatoes, olive oil and fresh herbs. I usually skip the water and just use the juices from the tomatoes, which form a hefty pool as I let them sit with capers, chopped olives, basil, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
The friselle can be made by hand, of course, but here in Sydney it’s far too summery to turn on my oven. (If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have the time and good tomatoes, here’s a recipe.) We’ll eat them tonight with fresh stracchino and cold rosé as a precursor to pasta maritate con cozze e ceci and a stone fruit galette with salted caramel and white chocolate gelato.
We’ll sit outside among the happy plants. I’ll be grateful for the sun and remember why I always have a pack of friselle in the back of the kitchen cabinet. For days like this. Because you never know when the rain will come back.
The following is just a suggestion, really. You could do anything with friselle as long as they’re moistened enough to not break your teeth. I’ve heard of people softening them with wine. Just saying…
friselle (store bought or homemade)
5 ripe tomatoes, chopped into small cubes
2 teaspoons capers (non pareilles)
black olives, chopped
a big glug of extra virgin olive oil
a splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh herbs – oregano or basil or both
Place all the ingredients (except the friselle) in a large bowl. Add the herbs, olives, capers and salt and pepper to taste. If you let it all sit for a bit — even as little as 15 minutes — a nice amount of juice will form on the bottom of the bowl. When you’re almost ready to serve the friselle, arrange them on a serving tray (I think a cheese or cutting board works well). (If you have really big frislle, you can break them into managable pieces before soaking and topping them.)
Spoon some of the tomato juice onto each one; you want them to be soft enough to bite into. You will probably also want to give each friselle (or piece of friselle) a good dose of olive oil. If they’re not soft enough after you’ve used up all the tomato juices, add a small amount of cold water. Remember, though, that they will continue to soften a bit when the topping soaks in. Then spoon the tomato mixture evenly over each frisella. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and some ripped fresh herbs.