Chickpea FrittersClick to Play

Chickpea Fritters

Panelle

Mary Ann Esposito

Walking through the streets of the kinetic city of Palermo is an experience for all the senses. Your eyes are drawn at once to a melting pot of architectural styles from Byzantine to Baroque. Beautiful ornate fountains are everywhere, and the hordes of people and dizzying traffic make for fever-pitch activity. Your nose tells you that something good is cooking just around the corner — delicious street food sold from little carts. Buy a panino (sandwich) stuffed with lamb intestines, or iris (bread filled with sheep's-milk ricotta cheese and chocolate), or my favorite, panelle, which are golden, fried fritters made from ground chickpea flour, water, and herbs. On December 13, Sicilians celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, patron of eyesight, be eating panelle. You will never be able to eat just one. Panelle are easy to make and a great antipasto idea for a party.

Makes 32 Fritters

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) chickpea flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 cups water
3 tablespoons finely fresh parsley or oregano (optional)
4 to 6 cups vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

In a heavy-duty saucepan or copper pot, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper together off the heat. Slowly stir in the water and blend in with a heavy-duty whisk, being careful to avoid lumps from forming. Stir in the parsley or oregano, if using.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until it thickens and begins to move away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.

Using a rubber spatula, divide and spread the mixture thinly among four 9-inch plates, making sure to cover the plate completely to the rim. Set the plates aside to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Run a butter knife around the outside of each plate. Carefully pull the panelle away from the dish. Stack the panelle on top of each other and cut them in half lengthwise, then into quarters. Cut each quarter in half. There should be 32 panelle.

In a deep fryer heat the vegetable oil to 375F. Fry the panelle until they are nicely browned. Drain them on brown paper and serve immediately. These are best eaten hot.

Variation: Another way to form the panelle is to spread the cooked mixture out onto an oiled cookie sheet or cutting board. Let the mixture cool and then cut into rectangles. Or fill an empty tin can with the bottom removed with the mixture and let it cool. Push the mixture out with your hand. Cut the dough into rounds and fry.

Note: To make ahead, form and cut the panelle and freeze them, uncooked, in single layers on a cookie sheet. When they are frozen, remove the panelle to plastic bags and seal well. Defrost as needed and fry.

Did you know that chickpeas are one of the world's oldest foods and considered a poor food by historians, who have dated their use to prehistoric times? Chickpeas are packed with protein and can be served in a variety of ways, from soups to marinated salads.

This recipe is from Ciao Italia — Bringing Italy Home by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.

item recipe is featured in Episode 511 of Season 5.

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This collection epitomizes the tradition and love that goes into all of Mary Ann Esposito's cooking. Like her award-winning TV series, this book will live on for years with all of those who cook her delicious recipes. My kids love everything Mary Ann cooks!"

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