The great pantry clean-out of 2014 is going pretty well; after a few batches of cookies and other baked goods all I’m left with is a jar of buckwheat flour and a little cornmeal. Today’s recipe utilized the strangest ingredient (chickpea flour) I had in the baking drawer, though it turned out so well I’m wondering why I was so hesitant to use it in the first place.
Chickpea flour is commonly used in the Provencal street food called socca. With a nutty flavor and delicate texture, it’s difficult to make but a delicious snack when done correctly and served with olive oil. The less common use of chickpea flour in Provence is in a snack called panisses. For panisses, chickpea flour is cooked much like polenta into a thick batter, then poured into a mold and chilled until firm. Once it is cool enough to hold its shape, the batter is sliced into fry-like shapes and fried in olive oil and sprinkled in salt.
What results is something that looks a bit like a French fry but under the golden brown, crisp crust reveals a creamy, slightly nutty interior that’s somehow light but filling. I knew I wanted to serve the panisses with a sort of dipping sauce–something to brighten up the more intense flavors of the chickpea flour–so I opened up The Flavor Bible to the “Chickpea” section (you think I’m joking, but there really is such a thing) and after a little research whipped up a red pepper dipping sauce with preserved lemon and walnuts that comes together in less than five minutes in the food processor. It provides the perfect contrast to the panisses, and makes for a nice accompaniment to roasted eggplant as well.
For those of you that love fries and ketchup, give this dish a try. It may look similar to the American classic, but the Mediterranean ingredients make this dish anything but traditional.
Recipe from David Lebovitz
Serves 6 as an appetizer
4 cups water
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 ¼ cups chickpea flour
About ¼ cup olive oil, plus a little for greasing the loaf pan
Sea salt, to finish
1. Lightly brush a loaf pan with olive oil and set aside.
2. Combine the water, sea salt, and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the chickpea flour and cook, whisking constantly for 3 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to low and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 8-10 minutes, until the chickpea mixture is very thick and holds its shape. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth into an even layer. Let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
4. Once the batter has chilled, unmold it from the pan onto a cutting board and cut into French-fry sized shapes.
5. Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, add some of the panisses in a single layer, without crowding, then cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat with the remaining panisses, then serve immediately with the red pepper dipping sauce.
Red Pepper Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1 ½ cups
12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained (or roast, peel, and seed 8 oz. of red peppers, and add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the recipe)
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon
¼ cup walnuts, toasted
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Combine the red peppers, preserved lemon, walnuts, and cayenne in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. With machine running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth and emulsified. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. The flavor will improve once it sits for 20-30 minutes. Serve with the panisses.