panelle11Chickpeas are an ancient grain, nutty and so good for you that they are often dismissed as health food or a canned thing at the salad bar.  Well, there is a  solution to every problem and I am here to tell you that in this case deep frying is the answer. In Sicily they make little chickpea flour fritters called panelle (I believe that Naples has a version of it own). Made from a mixture of chickpea flour, water, parsley and eggs, the batter is formed into thin patties, fried in olive oil then served with a little ricotta salata and a squeeze of lemon in a sandwich.

I first tried panelle in Brooklyn at Fernando’s Foccaceria on Union St. in Carrol Gardens.  They were very cheap, very thin and very good.  I have been staring at the bags of farina di ceci here at Piazza thinking about those little pillows of fried goodness but last night I decided to try to make them myself.

I used a recipe from Molto Mario, Mario Batali’s show on the Food Network.  I have a few suggestions but overall things went well:

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Suggestion number one: deep frying is difficult if you have a cook-top stove.  The ‘cycling’ of the power makes the temperature of the oil fluctuate wildly.

Suggestion two: use floured hands to form the fritters.

Suggestion three: let them cool before you take a big bite or else you will kill the roof of your mouth.  Ouch, I didn’t wait.

Chickpea flour can be used to make other traditional Italian dishes like farinata from Liguria, a sort of chickpea flatbread or torta di ceci from Livorno, a sort of giant pancake that is layered with thin slices of marinated grilled eggplant…

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No, today wasn’t the big day, I was too busy yesterday to write a blog post!  We opened our doors on Tuesday and today we began selling deli items.  The delay on the weighed stuff was due to the fact that programming the scales and coordinating them with the POS computer was even harder than it sounds.  Last night I finally got one scale to work but the “back-up” scale is not formatting correctly.  I think.  Even though I transferred the same information to both scales, one understood and one did not.  That’s why it’s good to have a back-up.  

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It took all weekend to stock the shelves and enter each item into the POS system.   DJ, the assistant manager, my mom and dad, Hiram, and I were here Saturday, all day Sunday, and Monday afternoon until very late.  By Tuesday morning everything was put away and people began wandering in.  The store next to us was having a sale so it gave us a lot of exposure and foot traffic.  Everyone seemed excited by the store and many had already known we were here.  Others asked when we had opened, thinking that they haven’t been in the Talbot Town shopping center lately, and we were proud to answer that we had only been open for a few hours!

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I am still waiting on the light for our bread case, the wiring is there but the light hasn’t been installed.  It hasn’t stopped us from using it!  We have bread!  I love this bread cabinet, the shelves allow the crumbs to fall down to the bottom of the cabinet for easy cleaning and the dowels are unvarnished so hot pans or bread can be directly placed on the shelves!  When we were designing the store I asked for a dry case to be made, I wanted to model it after the one at Marlow & Sons.

Here is theirs, it’s a little different:

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Now please come visit us, we are open for business and we are taking suggestions.

Last week I went to New York to pick up our first order of food for the store!  I received some great things and here are some pictures to whet your appetite:

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(and here is a classic Ligurian snack made with farina di ceci)

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a very green, grassy Tuscan olive oil from a famous vineyard

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porcini oil

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whole farro, an ancient grain and staple for the Roman legions

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stracci toscani pasta (tuscan rags)

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