Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Panelle & Kitchen qb": Sicilian street food introduced by our first guest of the year

P like PALERMO, P like PANELLE. 
The two words are forever bond, because the 'pane e panelle' (the panelle sandwich) is together with the other famous 'pane ca' meusa' (the spleen sandwich), the most distinctive and representative street food of the Capital of Sicily. Infact if you ask an Italian about it, I am pretty sure he doesn't know what I am talking about unless he/she has been in Palermo on holiday. If you ask a Sicilian (from another part) he would probably shrug his shoulder too

What eaxctly are they, then? They are fritters made of chickpea flour and water. 
How are they? Flat. Superb. Unique. Delicate. These are only few adjectives to describe the PANELLE and trust me, the average Palermo-dweller is totally in love with them regardless of age, profession or social status.

So... there's no better traditional recipe than this, to guest another food blogger to talk about it. Her name is Silvia and her blog (in Italian language) is called Kitchen qb. It's a lovely, well written and inspiring blog and she is not only a great cook but also an excellent photographer. Now she is in her own words... talking about this dish:

<<Here we go! Let's start talking about street food. My city Palermo is famous for this kind of food, so I can't help talking about one of the most renowned one: the panelle. Introduced by the Arabic domination, this food made of chickpeas flour, water, salt and parsley has its  culmination in the final frying phase because of the superb and tasteful result. 

The panelle are usually placed between a rounded bread bap with sesame seeds on top and it's a treat to stuff the panino with potatoes croquettes as well (in Palermo dialect also called "cazzilli", colorful diminuitive referring to their shape that reminds a part of a male body). 
Where we can find them? Anywhere... in every corner of the city, especially in the "friggitorie" (spots that sell fried food) or at the local peddlers that, with their smell, perfume the entire city.

Ingredients & Preparation:
  • 500 gr chickpea flour
  • 1,5 litre water
  • thinly chopped parsley (as required)
  • e.v. olive oil
  • salt
  • sesame seeds (optional)

1. Fill a large pot with 1 lt water, add the chickpea flour little by little and stir constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps. Put the pot on a medium heat, add a good pinch of salt (about 20 gr.) and keep stirring until it starts boiling and getting thicker.
2. When this mixture will be more solid (similar to the polenta) you can add the parsley and remove from heat.

3. Place the dough on a marble surface previously oiled (or on an oiled oven tray) and flatten it with a spoon or a spatula. Once it has cooled down, with a knife, make some rectangles.
4. Pour some olive oil in a pan on a high heat to start frying our panelle on both sides until golden. 5. Place them on some kitchen paper to absorb the exceeding oil and add a pinch of salt. 6. Serve immediately while still hot, together with little rounded panini.

Note: I only use olive oil for frying, so I suggest to use this one for a better result. Some people also like to squeeze few drops of lemon juice on top and a pinch of black pepper, if you have never tried them, this is about the time.>> 


--- Here you can find Silvia's post in Italian language.

Thank you so much to Silvia for being such a lovely guest on my blog. I have to say I do love having panelle with lemon juice on, because its bitterness perfectly combines with the fritters. You can prepare them as starters for a big meal, as finger food on a buffet, or as a proper meal inside a big panino (bread) for a quick lunch on the go, just like Silvia suggested in her recipe and pictures. 

No matter which is the occasion and when you gonna have them, they will blow you away! That's for sure. And vegeterians will love them too! Isn't it amazing?

To make this gorgeous and delicious recipe perfect, let me add a pinch of history: the Arabs that dominated our island from the 9th to the 11th century, were innovators and started to grind the seeds of the chickpeas. The result was flour that, mixed to water and cooked in a pan on a heat, gave a kind of raw dough, that wasn't particularly tasty. But after experimenting they found out that the same dough, cut in thin slices and fried in oil, made a delicious food with an inviting golden color, and little by little, it became very popular. That's how panelle were born.

And the love story between them and the city of Palermo lasts ever since.

The pictures are all property of Silvia Crucitti & Kitchenqb, except the pic at the top, taken by Rachel Bajada for the SicilianCuisineBlog; you are not allowed to take or download any of them without asking for permission. Thank you.

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