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Panissa Ligure Recipe - A Frugal Ligurian Chickpea Puree

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This is an old Ligurian recipe, from the days when poverty was endemic and people of necessity turned frugality into an art. It calls for chickpea flour, which you can make at home if need be, by grinding dry chickpeas to a powder in either an electric coffee grinder or a blender. The coffee grinder is likely a better bet, though you should make certain you've cleaned out all traces of coffee before you start grinding.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (450 g) chickpea flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

According to Mr. Pradelli, the recipe draws a "certain degree of nobility" from a thin stream of oil, a few drops of lemon juice, and freshly ground pepper. In other words, it's frugal, true peasant food (see Dino Coltro's description of what the farm diet was really like).

Heat one and a half quarts (1.5 l) of water. When it reaches a boil remove it from the fire and sift in the flour, stirring constantly to keep lumps from forming. The resulting polenta should be smooth and not overly thick. Return the pot to the fire and cook the panissa for about an hour and 20 minutes, stirring constantly; should it dry out too much while it's cooking stir in more boiling water. If you have a polenta pot with a mechanical stirrer, the cooking will be much easier.

Once it's done, divvy it out into bowls, and serve it with salt, pepper, and cruets of olive oil and lemon juice, which your diners will use to season their panissa to taste.

Mr. Pradelli notes that in the Savona area people customarily split slices of focaccia and fill them with panissa to make panissa sandwiches; he says that such a sandwich is a one-course meal and requires a good glass of wine to wash it down.

When panissa was a staple food, there were obviously times that it didn't get finished. Here's an alternative to simply reheating it, or something you could do if you want something a bit more elaborate than basic panissa:

You'll need panissa made from a pound of chickpea flour per above, a large red onion, a tablespoon of freshly minced parsley, 1/3 cup olive oil, and salt. Chop the onion, and sauté it in the oil with the parsley. While it's coloring (you'll want it golden but not burnt) dice the panissa. Add the panissa to the skillet, season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes over a medium flame.

The wine? In either case I would go with a Vermentino. Lambruschi comes to mind, as does Tenuta Giuncheo.

Serves 6.

Note: This recipe has inspired several followups. One is Calentita, a Gibratarian fried panissa brought by Genoese sailors.

Here's another, from Suzie: "I thought I'd contribute another way to eat panissa. I live here in Liguria and my family's favorite way to eat it is just cut it up in pieces and toss it with our olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt--ecco fatto!!"

She doesn't say what part of Liguria she's from, but Ligurian oils are renowned, so this will be quite good. In the Riviera di Levante, towards Tuscany, they're more robust. In the Riviera di Ponente (where the sun sets over the mountains, towards France), on the other hand, the best oils are made with Taggiasca olives and are astonishingly delicate.

And finally, there are Panelle, A Sicilian fried version of panissa.

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