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Savory Pancakes

Have you ever made a food that tasted so good you devoured it all yourself? Without even sharing it or feeding it to your family?

Savory Pancakes known as Farinata

Savory Pancakes known as Farinata. Photo by Jason Wyche

This happened to me, and the food was a savory pancake made of chickpea flour—also called socca, cecina, and farinata—from France’s Provence region and Liguria, Italy. It was so inviting that I immediately ate it all, piping hot from the oven.

What are Savory Pancakes?
We Americans are so accustomed to sweet, syrup-covered pancakes that we don’t know they can be savory too. I was reminded of this by a recent article in Bon Appetit magazine about how many restaurants now serve savory pancakes as main dishes, in very creative ways.

What are Savory Pancakes Made Of?
There are many gluten-free flours you can use instead of wheat, but my version uses chickpea flour (also known as garbanzo flour) or a combination of garbanzo and fava flour. It is high in protein and fiber and offers a mellow, nutty flavor. I like mine with chopped fresh sage or rosemary and a little onion. You bake it in a heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet so the bottom is crispy.

How Do You Eat Savory Pancakes?
Personally, I like to treat the savory pancakes more like bread and that is why you find my recipe (below) in the Bread section of my most recent cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes. It’s in the book because it is quick (but the batter does have to rest for an hour). As bread, I bake it quickly for about 15 minutes in the oven and then cut it into wedges or simply tear it, whatever you like. It’s a rustic dish, after all.

If you like yours more like a pancake, add a little water to the batter and fry it on the cooktop just like regular pancakes in a regular skillet, rather than baking it in the oven. You can mix in anything you like such as herbs and onion, or bits of prosciutto, cooked vegetables, or spinach. The sky’s the limit.

If you go the pancake route, you can use any topping you like: perhaps a simple sprinkling of chopped fresh chives and cheese. Or sour cream and applesauce. Or savory sauces such as chipped beef or a gravy. Again, read the Bon Appetit article to get some ideas and use your creativity.

FARINATA WITH SAGE AND ONION
Reprinted with permission from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
Farinata is a thin, pizza-like Italian pancake made from chickpea flour and served as bread. It varies depending on where it is made, and is known as socca in France. You or your family may like it so much that you might have to make several batches. Farinata can be made in a regular cast-iron skillet, but it won’t be quite as crisp or easy to remove because of the skillet’s straight—rather than sloping—sides.

1 cup garbanzo-fava bean flour or chickpea (garbanzo) flour
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh onion or 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or fresh rosemary)
1 cup lukewarm (100°F) water
5 tablespoons olive oil

[1] In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, onion, salt, pepper, and sage (or rosemary). Slowly whisk in the water until no lumps remain; stir in the 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

[2] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F. While the oven preheats, place a 10-inch cast-iron round flat griddle or skillet, with a [3/8]-inch rim, that holds about 1 cup batter, into the oven to heat it. When the batter is ready, remove the griddle with a hot mitt on the handle to protect your hands. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into the griddle, tilting it to evenly coat the bottom. Pour the batter into the griddle, swirling to cover the pan evenly.

[3] Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the farinata is firm to the touch. Set the farinata, still in the griddle, about six inches from the broiler and broil just long enough to brown the top. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. Makes 4 small servings

Per serving: 235 calories; 5g protein; 18g total fat; 3g fiber; 14g carbohydrates; 0mg cholesterol; 550mg sodium

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