Ciao amici,
come va?

Today, I'm sharing a recipe from Matera's Simposio, Cialedda Fredda, and its long but passionate introduction.
"Misery is not an unusual term when referring to the Matera of a few decades ago. There are still many people alive to tell.
Misery in the kitchen meant not throwing away anything, not even breadcrumbs. Old stale bread was nothing but an ingredient.
I'm trying to give this Simposio a fil rouge, and as you've probably guessed, "rivalsa", is a guiding line. What's the payback of misery? Maybe respect. As earlier mentioned, in many parts of Italy, it is custom to kiss the bread before throwing it away. It's a powerful act. It's grief for what went forgotten. The more I research, the more I understand how unusual and how rare this occasion was. The bread had to be moldy to be thrown away; it was almost impossible, given the attention and the many recipes that used, with immense respect, stale bread as the main ingredient.
Those kisses were rare.
The people from the countryside of Matera and its surroundings made a bread salad called Cialedda. It was also called the "colazione del mietitore", the breakfast of the harvester, as it was prepared for farmworkers before the heavy days of fieldwork.
Cialedda is a close cousin to Tuscany's Panzanella or Puglia's Pancotto - there's a Pancotto in Basilicata as well. The base is stale bread seasoned with olive oil, onion, salt, and herbs mixed inside a Uauattìdd, a terracotta bowl. Depending on their good faith, farmers could enrich it with tomatoes, cucumbers, or olives.
Today with having it all, preparing a Cialedda with the old bread in our pantry means paying respect to the ingredient, to the earth that generated it, but also to ourselves. We are teaching our souls to give things another chance. Plus, believe me, Cialedda is pure, delicious comfort food.
The only precaution for this recipe is to measure out the water you'll pour over the bread: you don't want a soupy, grainy consistency, but to maintain the toughness of the bread. It's the crunch that makes it special.
So, mix all the ingredients and let them rest for at least five minutes before adding water. Forget the spoon and use your hands to mix. That and a few bites are the only way to reach the ideal texture, the perfect crunchiness."

Cialedda Fredda

Ingredients for each person:
100 gr (3.5 oz or about 2 medium slices) of stale bread - rustic Italian or any kind you have at home
1/4 red onion - Matera onions would be excellent
2 big heirloom tomatoes - or the equivalent
1/2 a medium cucumber
1-2 teaspoons of dry oregano
1-2 leaves of basil
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt

Peel and thinly slice the onion and place it in a mixing bowl. Clean and dice the tomatoes, peel and cube the cucumber, and add both to the bowl.
Season everything with the oregano crushed with your hands, basil ripped with your hands, olive oil, and salt to your taste. Mix well and let rest while you coarsely dice the bread.
Add the bread to the bowl, mix well - you can use a spoon for now - and let rest five more minutes.
Prepare a glass of water and keep it near you.
Take back the bowl and dig your hands in the bread salad: feel the bread. Has it absorbed the juices of the vegetables and the seasoning? Is it still too crunchy? Pour some of the water and incorporate it with your hand-mixing. Again, feel the bread, or even better, take a bite. You'll know when it's ready. You'll know when you'll want to devour your simple, humble, delicious salad.
That's it for today, belli miei. Make your Cialedda, change the recipe, experiment... make a little piece of Italy yours!



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