A rosemary and garlic-strewn farinata (photo credit: Antony Michaello, courtesy Korim Publishers)

A rosemary and garlic-strewn farinata (photo credit: Antony Michaello, courtesy Korim Publishers)

Some months ago, while working on my soon-to-be-published gluten- and sugar-free cookbook, I came upon several recipes for socca or farinata, an Italian pancake-like bread made from chickpea flour that is virtually unknown outside Italy’s northwestern region of Liguria. Food writers such as Mark Bittman of The New York Times have sung its praises, and the fact that it is gluten-free and easy to prepare was what appealed to me.

Originally eaten as a simple workers’ flatbread that is ripped apart by hand or cut into irregular triangles, the chickpea flour-based farinata is based upon the same flour that Persians use to make their favorite gondi dumplings. And it’s nourishing too –  chickpeas are rich in dietary fiber that help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, and also contain protein, antioxidant flavonoids and anthocyanins, as well as a host of different minerals.

If you’re living in Israel, there are various places to pick up a bag of chickpea flour – including health food stores (in the gluten-free flour department), spice stands in open air markets, and specialty food stores. If you have a Vitamix or other strong blender, you can also grind chickpeas at home, but that is a more involved process. Abroad, you’d definitely find it in Persian markets.

Classic Farinata

Serves 4-5

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 springs fresh rosemary, broken into pieces
  1. Put the chickpea flour in a medium bowl. With a wire whisk, beat in the water gradually, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Cover and set aside at least two hours or overnight.
  2. Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Whisk the salt into the batter. Heat a heavy 26-28 cm round pan (preferably an ovenproof frying pan) until very hot. Using a oven mitt, remove the pan from the oven, pour in the oil and tilt the pan till evenly distributed, then whisk and pour in the farinata batter.
  3. Sprinkle coarse salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary on top and quickly return to the oven. Let bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown. If the top seems to dry out, remove a little oil from the pan and moisten. Cut into wedges and serve with a dip, cheeses or vegetables.

What else to do with chickpea flour: Mix chickpea flour with beaten egg and za’atar to make a batter for schnitzel or vegetables slices; use as a nutritious binder or thickener for soups, vegetable or poultry burgers, and as a substitute for one-quarter of any gluten-free flour mixture for baking.