Farinata (chickpea flour flatbread) – 3 variations

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Last week I looked in my pantry and I noticed a glass canister full of Chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour that had sat there unused for a while and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.   I have added some of it to cookie recipes and other baked goods but was not happy with the flavor.  And I didn’t feel like making falafals.   So I googled “chickpea flour” and what I found was Farinata (aka Cecina or Socca).   I am half Italian and spent a year studying in Italy but I (shamefully) had never heard of Farinata, which is a chickpea flour flat bread.    It was in.   A naturally gluten free flatbread was right up my alley.  I feel like maybe I am the last to know about such a thing but am glad to add it to the mix and will certainly be making more of this soon.  Traditionally, all you need is chickpea flour, olive oil and water.

Farinata comes from Liguria, which is in northwest Italy, an area I have never been. My internet research taught me a little history of farinata.  The story goes that in the 1200’s, Genoa and Pisa were at battle- The Battle of Meloria.   Geneo defeated Pisa and were at sea heading home.  A violent storm hit the ship breaking open huge bins of chickpea flour.   Then next day there was a mixture of chickpea flour and salt water on the decks.   The soldiers didn’t have a lot of food so they gathered the batter and let it dry out on the decks, in the sun.  The heat of the sun turned it into a focaccia-like bread the next day and everyone ate it.  Ceci is pea in Italian and Farina is flour in Italian. Liguria borders France and in France they call this food, Socca.  It is a popular street food and also is served in pizzerias.   Farinata reminds me of something called “baba” that I ate when I was traveling with my brother in China.   We were in this remote town called LiJiang and we would pop into tiny hole in the wall rooms where elderly women were making these breads called baba.   Probably my favorite food in China…but my food palette wasn’t that broad when I was there.

You can eat farinata alone or make it into a pizza dough or add different herbs or spices.   I have made it 3 different ways and I think they are all delicious.  I made it with fennel seeds and then enjoyed it with avocado, olive oil and salt; I made it with fresh rosemary and topped it with a fresh spinch pesto; and I made it into a pizza adding a sweet potato to the batter and then topping the pizza with caramelized onion and roasted red pepper.    Last week I made this the traditional way and it was very good, although I made the batter too thick.   It should be thin, no more that 1/4 inch thick.

I love extra virgin olive oil, but it is not as food for you when heated past it’s smoke point ( over 250 or 300 degrees F) because the monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid) gets compromised.   You can read more about that here.   I experimented with butter and coconut oil and I think they both worked great.   You just have to check the oven and watch that they don’t burn.   I drizzled some Olive Oil over the bread after it was baked.   Traditionally farinata is cooked in a wood stove but I it is still really good cooked in a regular oven.  Although I look forward to trying the real thing one of these years in Italy!

This bread had a nutty flavor to it and there are a lot of ingredients you can add to flavor it -kalamata olives, cheese, garlic, sage or you could try to make a sweet flatbread with currants and orange zest.  Let me know if you have a good farinata recipe.

Here are a few recipes to work with…

Farinata with Fennel Seeds topped with Avocado, Olive Oil, and Salt

1 Cup Chickpea Flour

1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp Water

3/4 tsp Salt

2 Tbsp Butter or Coconut Oil – Melted

1 tsp Fennel Seeds

Mix all ingredients and let sit for an hour of two (or more if you want)Preheat oven to 425 F.  Pour the batter into a greased 10-12″ pan (spring form, cast iron pan, pizza pan, copper pan or whatever you have) Or bake in two batches- you don’t want the batter much thicker than 1/4 inch.  It should be a crisp bread.  Bake for about 20- 25 minutes- until it is golden brown.

Topping-

1 Avocado, sliced

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt

 Farinata with Fresh Rosemary topped with Spinach Pesto

1 Cup Chickpea Flour

3/4 tsp Salt

1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp Water

2 Tbsp Butter or Coconut Oil – Melted

1 tsp fresh rosemary -chopped

Mix all ingredients and let sit for an hour of two (or more if you want).  This could be made the day before.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Pour the batter into a greased 10-12″ pan (spring form, cast iron pan, pizza pan, copper pan or whatever you have).  Or bake this in 2 smaller forms.  You don’t want it to be much thicker that 1/4 inch.    Bake for about 20- 25 minutes- until it is golden brown.

Sweet Potato Farinata Pizza with Caramelized Onion and Roasted Red Pepper

1 Cup Chickpea Flour

1 Cup plus 2 TBSP Water

1/2 tsp salt

1 Sweet Potato (peeled and steamed)

1 Tbsp Butter or Oil

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix together the flour and water and oil and salt and let it sit.   Meanwhile, steam the sweet potato for about 10 minutes or until  you can easily stick a for in it.   Mash it and add to the flour mixture and stir well.   Let this sit for an hour or two.   Bake for 30-35 minutes in a greased 9″ spring form pan or a cast iron skillet, or pizza pan.

Topping

1 Red Onion, Diced

1/2 Cup Roasted Red Pepper, sliced in small pieces

1 Tbsp Butter

Goat Cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  In a medium saucepan, saute the onions  in the butter over medium to low heat to caramelize.   Cook about 15 mintues.    Take half of the mixture and in a food processor, pulse til it forms a paste.  It can be a chunky paste.  Spread the onion paste on the baked farinata, add the rest of the onion on top and then sprinke the red onion on top.   Add Goat Cheese if you want.   Bake for about 5 minutes.


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