Reason #131 why I love Italy: Farinata.
Ever heard of it? I certainly hadn’t before I lived in Italy.
On our first night eating out, four of us girls arrived at 7 pm to a completely empty pizzeria. We were perplexed, but hungry. So we stayed, feeling like the American zoo animals for the Italians to ogle.
We had just arrived in Italy the week before, and all four of us had become fast friends. We became each other’s cocoon of safety in a foreign land. It was our first time dining out without the watchful eye of our study abroad advisor, and we were nervous. Especially because our collective vocabulary only consisted of ciao, grazie, che, and dove. Would we accidentally order anchovies on our pizza?
We took our sweet time checking out that menu. Torino is not a tourist city, so the menu wasn’t translated into English like you’ll often find in Rome or Florence. Luckily, one of us had a pocket sized dictionary stashed in her purse that we discretely consulted. (Oh, that may have been me! And anchovies is acciughe, by the way ;))
Slowly customers started to trickle in and fill every corner of the resturant. We noticed table after table eating some sort of flat, plain bread-like thing before their pizza arrived. Apparently, we had missed something. We were desperate to know what it was. We wanted to blend in with the Italians, and as we had observed, the Italian thing to do was order this stuff before pizza. (Or, were we getting gypped on the free appetizers?!)
On a side-note, waiters in Italy (and France too) don’t tend to dote on their customers. You’ll see them for the order, the food, and the bill. With that said, the boldest of us four flagged down a passing waiter and asked him “che?” while pointing to the mysterious appetizer. “Farinata,” the word rolled off his tongue.
Farinata. Thin like a pancake, slightly chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, salty like popcorn, and speckled with herbs.
Last time I ate it was 7 (!) years ago. I’ve been craving farinata, yearning for farinata that long.
It wasn’t until I pulled up the recipe that I realized the main component is…chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) flour! The ingredients are so simple: chickpea flour, olive oil, herbs, and salt. That’s it!
I’ve been wanting to reduce my flour consumption, mostly because of the fact that it’s processed by our body like sugar, and I’m way too fond of bread AND sugar (I NEED to put a halt to that). I think I could give up bread forever for farinata. Beans and olive oil = protein and healthy fat. Plus it tastes just as good or better than bread, I would argue.
I found chickpea flour for around $6 at Whole Foods. Kind of steep considering I used nearly the whole bag to make one batch of farinata, but hey, at least the chickpea flour was actually from Italy.
Linguistic note: chickpea is the British word, and the Americans tend to favor the Spanish garbanzo. Personally, I think chickpea sounds cuter than garbanzo, so that’s what I prefer to use.
The recipe can be found here. Traditionally farinata is made in a round pan and cut like pizza and cooked in a wood-burning oven. The recipe says to use two 10″ pans, but I just poured the entire batter into a jelly roll pan and cut it into small rectangles instead. I also used dried herbs, specifically the za’atar blend that I fell in love with on my last trip to New York.
It’s best enjoyed hot.