Thursday, April 22, 2010

Panelle with Tomato Sauce

No, it's not polenta: it's panelle, a traditional Sicilian street food. Chickpea flour is cooked with water, parsley, and salt until thickened, then cooled, sliced, and fried. In Sicily, the fried slices are placed in a semolina roll and sprinkled with lemon juice. My version amps up the batter with garlic and fresh herbs. I brown the slices in oil instead of deep-frying, and top with tomato sauce for a sweet and pungent counterpoint to the creamy interior and crunchy crust.

Panelle with Tomato Sauce
serves six

1 c. chickpea flour
4 c. water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. fresh herbs, chopped (I used 1/8 c. basil, 1/8 c. oregano, and 1/4 c. cilantro)
1/2 t. salt, or more to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk chickpea flour and water in medium-sized saucepan. Simmer 20 minutes over medium heat, until thickened. Stir in fresh herbs. Pour into oiled 7 x 11 inch rectangular dish. Cool. Chill two hours or longer, up to overnight. Cut into squares. (I did twelve squares.) Heat one t. olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add half of the squares to the hot oil. (It will crackle.) Allow to brown for five minutes, shaking pan periodically to keep the squares from sticking. Carefully flip squares using one or two spatulas. Add an additional teaspoon of olive oil and brown for four to five minutes.

Tomato Sauce

16 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, diced medium or small
1 t. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping t marjoram
1/2 t salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
fresh basil for serving

Heat oil in small pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for five minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and sauté an additional minute. Add tomatoes, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cut basil into chiffonade. Arrange two squares of panelle on a plate and top with tomato sauce. Arrange chiffonade over sauce. Serve immediately.