The Hunt for Farinata

 

Whenever I travel, I love to read up on local foods, restaurants, and specialties of the region.  When my husband revealed that we’d be travelling to Italy and France to celebrate our anniversary, I hit the books and the internet to learn as much as I could about our destinations. 

Italy’s Liguria region is situated along the Mediterranean Riviera, with Genova as its largest city.  This area is most famous for Pesto Genovese, but according to all I read, also known for “farinata” (far-ee-nata).  Farinata is a baked pancake, of sorts, made from chickpea flour and olive oil.  It is sometimes embellished with cheese, vegetables or fresh herbs (much like a pizza).  Since many of the publications I read mentioned this regional specialty, I decided I needed to check it out.

Well, I soon discovered that was much easier said than done.  I couldn’t find it anywhere!  Not in a bakery, a pizzeria, or a restaurant.  What was worse, people seemed surprised that I was even asking about it, as if they couldn’t believe a foreigner even knew about this obscure dish.  Another told me no one had farinata because (I think I translated correctly) “the chickpea flour wasn’t good this time of year.”  My book did not say anything about bad flour in August!  This only strengthened my resolve, and I forged ahead in the name of farinata.

Then one day, while hiking through the Cinque Terre region, we came upon a pizzeria boasting “farinata” on their sign.  I excitedly went in only to discover they were out of farinata for the day.  Snap!  The search went on….

On our last day in Italy, I went out for a morning walk to pick up some “panini” to bring with us on our train ride to France.  As I ambled in and out of various little markets and stores, I found myself in a bakery looking at the different cookies for sale.  As I scanned the glass case, I saw it:  a large, round, pizza-shaped pancake with a yellowish hue.  Could this be the elusive farinata?  “Scusi, ha farinata?” –excuse me, do you have farinata?  The man behind the counter looked a little confused, probably wondering why I was asking when I was clearly (to him) standing right in front of it.  “That’s it??? FANTASTIC!”  I just about jumped out of my flip flops.  I’m quite certain he never had a customer so excited about a chickpea pancake.

Needless to say, I got a few slices to go and my husband and I enjoyed it as we watched the scenery from our train seats.  When I returned home, I sought out some chickpea flour (available in many health food stores) and made some farinata of my own. 

Rosemary Farinata

Serves 4

2 cups warm water

2 ½ cups chickpea flour (sometimes sold as “garbanzo flour”)

½  tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour and water. 

Preheat the oven to 500°. Add the salt, rosemary, grated cheese, and oil to the batter.

Lightly oil a 12-14 inch pizza pan and add batter.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes, the edges are crisp an pull slightly away from the sides of the pan. Slide the farinata onto a serving platter and cut into wedges. Sprinkle with pepper and additional parmesan cheese and serve warm or at room temperature.

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