Chickpeas 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:
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…