Recipe: Chick-pea Farinata or Cecìna
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A traditional Tuscan and Ligurian dish, it comes in several varieties and is also made in other parts of Italy: in Piedmont, from Alessandria to Asti and Turin, in Emilia Romagna, especially in Ferrara, where it is a classic take-away food, and in Sardinia, around Sassari and on the island of San Pietro, where it was introduced by the Genoese.
Sicilian panelle are traditional fritters from Palermo which are made from the same ingredients as Cecìna, but they are smaller and are deep-fried rather than baked.
Chick-pea Farinata is delicious alone or eaten with porcini mushrooms, a soft cheese such as crescenza or stracchino, or finely sliced green onion, which is served with it west of Genoa and in the province of Imperia.
Its high content of vegetable protein qualifies Cecìna as a main course as well as an appetiser. In Pisa and Livorno it is also used as a flavourful sandwich filling.
Now here’s the recipe! Ingredients for four: chick-pea flour (300 grams); water (one litre); extra virgin olive oil (150 millilitres); salt and pepper (to taste).
Total preparation time is about 12 hours and 25 minutes: ten minutes to prepare the batter, which must then sit for twelve hours before baking for fifteen minutes.
Instructions In a large bowl, carefully blend chick-pea flour with cold water, adding a little at a time so no lumps will form; add salt and set aside for twelve hours. Use a skimmer to remove any frothy foam that may form on the surface.
After twelve hours, pour the olive oil into a wide, flat baking dish like a pizza dish (made of tin-plated copper, if possible), then pour in the water and chick-pea batter and stir with a wooden spoon to distribute the olive oil evenly (the batter should be only a few millimetres deep).
Put the oven dish in a hot oven, preheated to 220°C, and bake for about fifteen minutes, until a fine golden crust forms on the surface.
Cut Cecìna into small portions, sprinkle with freshly-ground pepper and enjoy piping hot. Be careful not to burn your fingers!
This is one of the simplest versions of Cecìna. You may also add the needles from a sprig of rosemary, washed and dried, and two cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (which may be removed before pouring the batter into the oven dish).
Recipe: chef Mario Grazia (Academia Barilla).
Source: Academia Barilla (ed.), Cucina Italiana. I grandi classici della nostra tradizione, Edizioni White Star, Novara, 2012.