There I was, sitting at a small, wrought iron table adorned with a single candle, in Venice. I was sitting canal-side, the water lapping at the smooth stone as the sun set on another gorgeous day in Italy.
I’d spent all afternoon on the island of Murano, watching glass heated to unholy temperatures and turned and spun and morphed into the most beautiful colored creations. Murano, a short vaporetto ride from Venice, is known for its beautiful glass creations. I had a few wrapped securely and carefully tucked into my suitcase to bring home.
Venice, known for its labyrinth of canals, the famous St. Mark’s Square and gondola rides, also has amazing restaurants tucked into quiet corners.
I happened to pick one where no one spoke English, and my Italian, which was pretty much limited to the language of food, failed me miserably.
“Frico?” I repeated to the waiter, who had rattled off the prix fixe rapidly, almost impatiently.
“Frico,” he repeated, definitively.
I nodded affirmation, hoping that my third course was going to be something recognizable.
Luckily, it was.
Frico can mean different things in different parts of Italy. In the far north, it’s a potato and cheese dish, almost like a gratin but with a crispy baked topping of cheese.
In other regions, frico is a cheese crisp. It’s cheese, nothing else, baked into a cracker-like bite of deliciousness.
They’re so easy to make, and the flavor that develops from baking the cheese (think of the crispy bites you scrape off of the pizza pan) is delightful. You can play with flavor combinations of the cheeses and spices.
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (or Asiago, aged cheddar, aged Gouda, Manchego or another hard cheese)
1/2 tsp crushed cumin seed, toasted (or fennel)
Preheat oven to 375° F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick mat. Grate cheese, and toss with the spice. Evenly spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the parchment paper, creating a 4-inch round that is evenly distributed across. Spread with a fork, if necessary. Bake one sheet at a time until the edges begin to crisp and darken, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and loosen from the pan with a large spatula. Cool over a rolling pin to make them bowl-shaped, or lay flat on paper towels. Cool completely.
Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 221, Fat: 16 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 50 mg, Sodium: 360 mg, Carbohydrates: 0 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g, Protein: 18 g.
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