Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MoFo Noshtalgia: Cinque e Cinque Sandwiches

The first time I ever had "cinque e cinque" was about 20 years ago, when I was a college student in Florence, Italy. A few years earlier, my parents had hosted an Italian exchange student and through that experience I had met lots of other Italian kids my age. It was great fun. So, when I arrived in Florence, I already had a friend in Livorno - about a one hour train ride away. That guy's name was Matteo - but that's about all I remember. What really matters is that Matteo introduced me to Nicoletta and she and I quickly became pals. We've been friends ever since! 

I just saw Nicoletta on my recent trip to Italy, and we realized that now we have been friends for officially over half our lives. Wow! Back in those university days, we used to see each other in Florence during the week, but on weekends, Nicoletta would travel back home to Livorno, and I would often see her there. (full disclosure: I also dated one of her friends during that time - thus I was frequently in Livorno. That boyfriend didn't last, but my friendship with Nicoletta did!). One thing she introduced me to in Livorno way back then, was their regional specialty, cinque e cinque. 
(you can read more about cinque-e-cinque in this old post)

I was determined to recreate this treat at home, and to share it with Mr. VE&T and with our friends... so we had a sandwich party! Even though cinque e cinque is really more like street food, we had a funny mixed-etiquette party with tapered candles and ginger ale out of cans. Ha ha! 

Based on my cinque e cinque experience this summer, and some online research, there are just a few critical components to an authentic cinque e cinque experience:

1. the bread
2. the torta di ceci
3. the eggplant
4. the beverage
5. putting it all together

 1. The Bread
I found one recipe online, but it was a pretty sloppy recipe full of things like "add some water," or "as much oil as you need," or whatever. My Italian pal Sara did some more skillful searching and found this recipe online - which I just translated with google translate (see below). The pictures on this site were helpful too. The recipe said it would make 10 sandwich rolls, but I only got 8, and they weren't huge. Maybe I didn't let it rise enough the second time? Either way, they were really yummy and I loved the salty hit from sprinkling coarse salt on the dough before folding it in half. I would like to try to make this recipe again. As you can see, a few of them turned out sorta lumpy, but a few of them were really perfect!

Pane Francese
for about 8 rolls 

500 grams of flour (I used half bread flour, half all-purpose flour)
400 ml. of water 
2 tsp active or instant yeast 
20 grams of Earth Balance 
1 tablespoon coarse salt 
1 pinch of salt
white flour and semolina flour

Dissolve the yeast in a glass with 100 ml. of water and a pinch of sugar. Let rest in a warm place and allow it to foam. 

Pour the flour and a pinch of salt on a work surface or in a large bowl. At the center pour the softened lard, the yeast mixture and the remaining water. Knead and work for about 15 minutes to obtain an even and elastic dough. Modeling a spherical shape, cover and leave to rise for at least an hour and a half before moving to the next step.

Spread the dough into a rectangle, keeping in mind that the smaller side of the rectangle will be roughly equal to twice the length of the rolls. Take coarse salt (if it’s too big, blend it up for a sec) and spread it on the dough. Fold the dough over itself from the smaller side. 

Then cut the strips, parallel to the shorter side, with a thickness of about two fingers. This will result in sandwiches shaped like a "u" Spread a cloth with white flour and semolina. In parallel to the short side of the canvas, creating folds in the center of which will be made ​​at a slight downward pressure on one or two rolls, depending on the length of the latter: raising the canvas to make another fold, flour, lay the sandwich and so on until you finish the dough. 

Cover with another towel and let re-rise for at least another hour and a half. Pick up the sandwiches with a spatula from the canvas and place them apart on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour. Bake in preheated oven at 350-375 F degrees for 15 minutes until in that the top starts to brown color.

 2. The Torta di Ceci

This recipe is direct from Nicoletta's mom. In fact, that torta pan in the back there is one that Nicoletta sent me, along with her mom's recipe, many years ago - when I asked her how to make torta di ceci. I love that chickpea flour is so easy to find nowadays. I love love love love love torta di ceci so much, and this batch came out super delicious. We didn't quite use all of it in our sandwiches, but every last morsel was eaten by the end of the evening - even the little crumbs out of the pan.

Torta Di Ceci 
(makes one pan)
  • 1 1/2 c garbanzo flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp good olive oil (plus a little extra for the pan)
  • 2 c water
  • black pepper
Whisk together the flour & salt, then whisk in the water and olive oil. Let stand at least 2 hours, and as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Lightly brush a 12-inch tart pan (or pizza pan with 1 inch rim) with olive oil. Pour in batter and bake for 40-50 minutes until the top is crusty, lightly golden, and possibly cracked.

Sprinkle on generous amounts of black pepper and eat hot (or at least warm!)

 3. The Eggplant
I found some good eggplant tips on this pdf - and there are also some really beautiful and evocative pictures there of the spot where Nicoletta and her mom took me for cinque e cinque this summer (called Da Gagarin).

Grilled Eggplants
(enough for 6 sandwiches)

1 big Italian Eggplant, sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch slices
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2-3 cloves minced garlic
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes

I mixed together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Then I quickly dredged both sides of each slice through the mixture. I put them all in a baking dish and let them sit for the whole day to marinate a bit more. The website suggested pouring olive oil over them, but that is beyond my oil threshold. If you are truly craving authenticity, knock yourself out.

Then, right before eating our sandwiches, and while the torta di ceci was baking, we grilled the eggplant slices over medium-low heat - so that they would be soft and cooked through without charring. They turned out great!

The slices on their own were pungent and spicy from the garlic and red pepper flakes, but together with the carby roll and torta di ceci, those flavors were much quieter.

4. The Beverage
It seems that there are just a few beverages of choice to go with your sandwich: a beer, iced tea (in a can!), a Coke, or - many websites mentioned this - Spuma Bionda. Spuma Bionda is an Italian soda that you can't find here in the States, but the closest thing to it is probably ginger ale. So I had two of my friends bring ginger ale - which we drank straight from the can for a more genuine experience.

5. Putting It All Together
Now for the whole sandwich. I am warning you know : this is a total carb out. So just be prepared. We wimped out a little on the authenticity and decided to have a green salad with our carbfest. No regrets at all. You gotta keep a little balance in this life.

Here's how it goes:
slice of torta di ceci - sprinkled generously with black pepper
eggplant slices
another slice of torta di ceci - sprinkled generously with black pepper
Other piece of bread.

It was a little dry, possibly because we hadn't soaked our eggplants in a 3-inch bath of olive oil, so we drizzled a little more olive oil on the bread, and that was deemed good by all of us.

that's me and Nicoletta up there on the right
- college-aged-me wore big round glasses and had her hair in pig tail braids.

This whole evening was super fun. It was so fun to recreate such a special travel treat, to remember my friend Nicoletta - and the various times we've enjoyed cinque e cinque together, and to share one of my favorite travel treats with my special friends at home.


  1. That sounds like such a fun evening! The sandwich sounds pretty great too, I love the sound of the torta di ceci.

  2. carb on carb - sounds like a perfect sandwich to me! :)

  3. ohgoodgolly you've made me so hungry for this handful of yum! I've had it with tomatoes or with pesto but never with eggplant...looks delicious!
    Here's a video for you..."Mi dia un cinque e cinque - LIVORNO" featuring Da Gagarin! :)

  4. So cool! I have made the French version of Torta di Ceci and even a similar Indian dish, but I never put it on a sandwich. Love it! It's so cool to discover regional specialties. It really opens up the world of possibilities! Thanks for sharing!

  5. That looks amazing, what a fun evening for everyone. :)


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