Panelle, Sicilian Fritters, Gluten Free Recipe from Colman Andrews 'Country Cooking of Italy'

Amongst the books I received in runup to Thanksgiving is The Country Cooking of Italy (Chronicle Books, Fall 2011) by Colman Andrews with appetizing photographs by Hirsheimer and Hamilton.

Colman Andrews serves recipes for all seasons and all meals.

As first excerpt, I went for a simple Panelle recipe from Sicily for 3 reasons.

To start with it only takes a few steps, second it will bring a fresh note at cocktail time, third it is made with chickpea flour so gluten free.

Panelle (Chickpea Flour Fritters)

Panelle are the Sicilian equivalent of the panisses of Nice and vicinity, essentially fritters made from chickpea flour that has been cooked like polenta. One of the island’s great gastronomic delights, they are street food, found in markets like the famous Vucciria or larger but less famous Il Capo in Palermo, and sold all over the island in the frigitterie, or fry shops. Sicilians often eat them as an unlikely sandwich filling, much as the Spanish fill sandwiches with slabs of potato omelet.

Serves 6 to 8

11/2 cups/360 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
Coarse sea salt
2 cups/250 grams chickpea flour

Panelle-1 (2)

Lightly oil a shallow 9-by13-inch/23-by-33-centimeter baking pan.

In a large pot, combine 1/2 cup/120 milliliters of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 cups/720 milliliters water. Turn the heat to medium and immediately begin pouring in the chickpea flour in a very slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until it is well combined. Add a little more water if necessary to obtain a thick but still fluid consistency. Continue cooking and stirring constantly, switching to a long, strong wooden spoon when the mixture becomes too thick for the whisk, until it is thick and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes.

When the chickpea mixture is ready, pour it into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

To serve, cut into 3- or 4-inch/7.5- or 10-centimeter squares or into triangles of the same length. Pour the remaining 1 cup/240 milliliters oil into a large frying pan over high heat and heat to 375ºF/190ºC. Working in batches, fry the pieces until crisp and golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. As they are done, drain on paper towels.

Dust generously with pepper before serving.

(* Recipe from The Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews- Chronicle Books, Fall 2011- reproduced with permission of the publisher- all rights reserved- Photography by Hirsheimer and Hamilton)

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