“La Rowena ha la pel da sciatt…”
“Rowena has toad skin” my father-in-law said of me the year before. That should be plenty reason for a daughter-in-law to wage war with the procreator of her significant other, but in truth, it actually generated a feeling of smugness from myself. It was around this time of season (when everyone seemed to be down with the flu) that my husband’s father, as is his habit, called to see how we were both doing. Pops found it incredulous that I suffered only a minor cold which lasted no more than a couple of days. He continued on the phone with my husband, conversing in dialect, and only later did I finally get the toad reference. It was explained that my skin must be tough like a toad to resist any sort of winter illness.
Sciatt (shee-AHHT) is also the name of a fritter made with buckwheat and all-purpose flour, water, cheese, and a leavening agent. Note the effect of the diced cheese which gives it “warts”. They are ugly-looking appetizers, even if that statement reads like an oxymoron. But what would you expect of something that’s named after a toad in dialect? (The true word for toad is rospo) Sciatt, rospo, toad, bufo, whatever…the important thing is how they taste, and all I can say is that you can’t stop at just one.
Stoneground buckwheat flour is best but if not readily available, I suppose wholewheat flour would work just as well. As for the cheese, the one stated here might be impossible to obtain outside of the states. A good substitute would be anything that is flavorful and semi-firm in texture; you want the cheese to melt but not so much that it melts completely into the hot oil and you lose the “warty” effect. I would try cheddar – make that extra-sharp.
75 grams (1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
50 grams (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
75 grams (3 oz.) Valtellina casera cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice
A good pinch of baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Vegetable oil for frying
1. Combine both flours, salt, and water in a mixing bowl to form a soft batter. Add the diced cheese, mix well, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 2 hours (I don’t know why this is but when in Rome or in this case Lombardia, I do as they do.)
2. When the resting period is almost up, fill a frying pan with oil to a depth of around 1/2 inch. Preheat to 375 degrees. Dissolve baking soda in the water and stir into the batter. Drop by tablespoons into the hot oil and fry to a golden brown. Drain well on paper towels. Skim off and discard any bits of fried “cheese crumbs” as they appear.
3. Arrange on a bed of arugula or other salad greens and lightly sprinkle with salt. Serve hot. Makes 1 dozen.