If it seems like I am on a gluten-free pizza quest, it is entirely coincidental. When I want pizza, I eat real pizza (or make it at home). But I do love different bases for different toppings. This week it was the turn of chickpeas flour, in an effort to use up the different flours I buy, experiment with once and then sit in my pantry until I happen to remember them.
In Genoa, it is called Farinata. In Nice, it’s a Socca. In Tuscany, they call it Cecina (from ceci – the Italian word for chickpeas). In Sardinia, Faine’. And these are just the names for the same dish in Italy and France. Chickpeas flour pancakes can be found the world over, from Algeria to India. There is nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to using basic ingredients to satisfy many mouths.
Because I first came to know it as farinata, that is how I call it, and I dusted it off a few nights ago, while I was sauteing some vegetables and was looking for an interesting way to serve them.
I like farinata as a substitute for bread but it’s not something I normally crave. As a base for vegetables or cheese, I would be happy to make it over and over. It’s ridiculously simple and the only planning involved is remembering to soak the flour in water for a few hours.
One cup of chickpea flour makes a large farinata that can serve 3 or 4. Combine a ratio of one cup of chickpeas flour with 1 1/2 cup water in a bowl. Whisk to eliminate any lumps. The key to make it tastier is to add, besides salt and pepper, some spices. Use some cumin, or paprika or red pepper. Or all of the above. Whisk again and let sit, covered, for 3 or 4 hours.
When ready to bake, place a large frying pan (that can go in the oven), a pizza pan or a cast iron skillet (which is what I used) on the stove. Heat a couple of spoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, pour the batter in and swirl, away from the stove, until the bottom of the pan is covered. It should be scarcely thicker than a crepe.
Bake in a 500F/260C oven for about 15 minutes, until the edges turn golden and crispy. At this point, add whatever toppings you wish to use (I used caramelized onions, cherry tomatoes and fennel). Keep on baking for another ten minutes (or use the broiler for 5). The farinata should be fairly crispy. Serve immediately.