Farinata flatbread is a traditional Italian appetizer, reminiscent of a savory crepe using chickpea flour, flavored with garlic and rosemary.
Today is my first day back home after a week spent across the country with my sister-in-law as she faced down some difficult surgery. Spending that much time in a hospital among endless tubes, wires and beeping, and witnessing the struggle of life all around me, was a major reality check.
I walked gleaming wide halls to stretch my legs, occasionally glancing in rooms at patients crumpled in their beds. They were like wilting flowers, with their heads tilted back, mouths agape, bed-clothes fading into the bedding. I quickly looked away in something like embarrassment, before family members, hunched in quiet anxiety next to their beds, noticed me.
In the face of such raw pain and vulnerability, one can’t help but be grateful for good health. And to weigh one’s own life with fresh perspective.
My earlier annoyance with Myles (my Carnivorous Maximus husband) over some senseless wrong turn we made en route to the hotel from the airport suddenly felt trivial. And petty.
Sitting with my sister-in-law, it struck me that hospitals are like airports. I watched color-coded nurses glide efficiently in for a bedside landing with carts of equipment or vials. Teal outfits for tech. Light blue for nurses. Tan for respiratory. Burgundy for lab technicians with carts full of vials for blood.
All taking turns and smoothly coordinated by some unseen hand. An endless flow of energy circling the room, moving in and out of the door. The breathing pulse of the hospital.
Unsurprisingly, I came home craving the hug of comfort food. And not just any comfort food. I needed farinata.
Popular in Northern Italy along the Ligurian coast, farinata is like a large, dense, savory pancake or crepe that uses chickpea flour. It’s commonly baked in round, shallow copper pans resembling paella pans that are slid into large wood burning ovens.
Some restaurants serve this dish in neat little pie-shaped slices as an appetizer, but my favorite presentation was just a rustic pile of scraps on a plate at Luchin’s, a trattoria in Chiavari, inviting our fingers to dig in as we set the plate between us and our glasses of wine while we waited for the next course.
Is farinata a flatbread?
Yes, in the same sense that crepes are a flatbread. Essentially, farinata is a crepe made with chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) flour. In France, along the Riviera, these chickpea flour flatbreads are called socca.
Ways to use farinata
Thin appetizer crepe by itself
Use as a pizza crust, like they do on the French Riviera, and add toppings such as olives, sautéed red peppers and cheese.
Roll up like a crepe with pesto, cheese and tomatoes, or a Mexican burrito
As in making crepes, it’s important to give the flour time to absorb the water to form a consistent batter. Therefore I make the batter earlier in the afternoon, and leave it on the counter until I’m ready to make farinata that evening.
Be sure to use a pan that’s oven-safe and either well-seasoned or non-stick.
- Whisk the warm water into the chickpea flour until smooth. Add the salt, pepper and minced rosemary and whisk again. Allow to sit on the counter for 4 hours (or overnight) to allow for a complete absorption of the water by the chickpea flour.
- A foam may develop on the surface of the batter. If so, gently remove with a spoon. Whisk in the Rosemary Olive Oil.
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F, and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- Add the olive oil to a very well seasoned pan that's oven proof (I used a well used cast iron skillet). Sauté the garlic until it just starts to turn a golden brown. Pour in the batter and jiggle the pan to even out the batter. It will start to sizzle immediately. Cook on the stovetop another 30 seconds, and transfer the pan to the oven.
- Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until the edges start to curl up and brown slightly. The top may lightly crack in a few places. Remove and immediately and either flip out with a spatula and slice into pie-shaped pieces, or scrape up roughly to break it up into irregular pieces, and toss onto a plate in a pile for picking up with the fingers.