Farinata…Chickpea Flatbread

Welcome to my new-found favorite treat… Farinata  (fa ri na ta) !  Most of my friends are familiar with polenta crostini, pouring the soft, creamy mixture into a baking sheet, chilling overnight and cutting into squares to grill or fry.  Farinata or Panelli, the Sicilian version, is made out of chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour.  Chickpea flour, water, olive oil and herbs.  Simple, beautiful, healthy, yummy.

Panelli is made similar to making polenta by simmering the chickpea flour and water until thickened, pouring into a baking sheet and chilling until firm.  Panelli is then cut into squares and fried until crisp and golden brown in olive oil.  Farinata is made in the oven in a cast iron skillet and cut pizza style into wedges.  I will make both versions, but prefer the Farinata method as posted.

The texture has a salty crispy exterior and a light soft interior; almost pancake like in appearance.  It is hard to detect the chickpea flavor as it is fairly bland.  Therefore, seasonings of herbs and onions add to the flavor, as well as, toppings of chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes, gorgonzola and/or grilled veggies.   I enjoy it as a gluten-free pizza!   It’s best served warm but I like it also made ahead and served at room temperature appetizer style.


Adapted from Italy in Small Bites

1 cup chickpea (garbanzo) flour

1 ¾ cup water

¾ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional for drizzling on top)

½ large onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped

Optional toppings:  chopped Kalamata olives, chopped fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, gorgonzola, thinly grilled peppers and/or zucchini, shaves of parmesan, proscuito, arugula

Whisk together the flour, salt and water in a medium bowl until well combined and no lumps.  Stir in the olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.  The batter should thicken slightly.  Whisk to reblend before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Heat a well-seasoned cast iron 10 or 12 inch skillet with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion and sauté until soft, about 2-3 minutes.  Pour in the batter allowing the batter to spread out evenly.  Sprinkle on the rosemary and allow to cook for about 2 minutes.  Place skillet in oven and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the Farinata is firm and the edges are set.  Turn on the broiler to brown up the top for a few minutes, watching carefully.  Remove from oven and allow to set a few minutes, then carefully remove the Farinata to a cutting board.   Season with freshly ground pepper, drizzle on olive oil (optional) and cut into wedges.  Serve as is or with additional toppings.


Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Olives

Roasting veggies is one of my favorite ways to enjoy my veggies and I will roast all types of veggies, even Kale!  Roasting brings out a unique nutty and crispy taste and texture.  I am totally pleased and satisfied to dine on a dish of seasonally fresh and healthy veggies!

 This dish is gorgeous to present and full of flavor.  It has a Mediterranean feeling with a sun-kissed melody of color and zest.  I like to play up the veggies and downplay the carbs, so for this serving for four I only used ½ pound of pasta.  Any type of pasta will work well in this dish but I used corn spaghetti, which is gluten free adding another level of veggie flavor and yellow color to the dish.  Sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives round out the dish and the bread crumb topping, tho optional, definitely adds another dimension of taste.   And a sprinkling of feta on top would also be so nice!

 I make a type of gremolata topping for this dish using a mix of toasted breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, lemon zest and parsley.  Tho it is always best made fresh, I keep a small container of this in my refrigerator, at times with or without the breadcrumbs, and use it to sprinkle on top of various dishes I prepare.  The fresh parsley and lemon zest brighten dishes and I will play with additional ingredients adding in mint or finely chopped hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts to make a flavorful garnish to grilled or roasted meats.   If made ahead use within a day or two.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Olives

 1 medium cauliflower, trimmed into florets

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper

½ pound spaghetti or favorite style (I used gluten-free corn spaghetti)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved

½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 heaping tablespoon pesto

½ cup – ¾ cup pasta cooking water

For the topping:

¼ cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon ghee or butter

¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Zest of one lemon

2 – 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on large baking sheet.  Roast for approximately 30-35 minutes until lightly golden around the edges.   In a large skillet, prepare the breadcrumb topping by lightly toasting the breadcrumbs in 1 tablespoon of ghee or butter.  Remove from the skillet and place in a medium size bowl. Stir in the minced garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and chopped parsley, set aside. 

When the cauliflower is close to done roasting, begin heating  2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in the same skillet used to toast the breadcrumbs.  Gently warm the olives, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic.  Pour in ½ cup to ¾ cup pasta cooking water and pesto and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Drain the pasta and add to the skillet, quickly tossing.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle on additional olive oil and lemon juice if necessary.  Plate in a large bowl, sprinkle on the breadcumb topping and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Corned Beef Hash

There may be only two or three people in my home on a daily basis, but I always seem to cook for a crowd!  Anyone stopping in can always find a meal or two ready to go and my son seems to enjoy being able to slip into the kitchen at all hours of the day….and night… and find himself a home cooked meal.  I also like having leftovers, not about eating the same dish over and over, but for taking those leftovers and creating new meals.  No one tires of having leftovers when they become fun new dishes!

In honor of St. Patty’s day I made the classic corned beef, cabbage and potatoes dinner.  And, of course, enough to feed my neighborhood!  A Reuben Sandwich is the first I make with the leftovers; rye bread Panini pressed with melting swiss cheese, heaps of corned beef, sauerkraut and a nice smear of Thousand Island dressing.  Always a favorite and always a once a year treat for me!  A Reuben pizza is a cool spin using a homemade pizza crust that I tossed in some rye seeds and topped the pizza with the makings of the sandwich using the Thousand Island dressing drizzled on the top! 

 Lastly, but just as good and tasty, is Corned Beef Hash.  Top the hash with a poached or fried egg and it becomes a wonderful breakfast/brunch.  Leave off the egg, serve with a salad and dinner is ready!

 Corned Beef Hash

 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 small finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

About 5 cups leftover Corned Beef and Cabbage, chopped or diced small *

2 cups leftover potatoes, diced small *

1 leftover ear of corn, kernels cut off (optional)

2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 *  Amounts will truly vary – these are leftovers, use whatever is leftover adjusting the ratios to your preference!  Shown above does not include cabbage!

 Heat a large skillet with olive oil.  Sauté the pepper and onion until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the skillet and, if necessary, add additional oil.  Heat well and toss in the potatoes to brown up a bit, about 5 minutes.  I find that the potatoes will brown better when the peppers and onions are removed.  Once the potatoes have a nice crisp, toss back in the peppers and onion, add the garlic, corned beef, cabbage, corn and herbs de Provence.  Stir well and allow to sauté a few minutes before turning over to ensure a nice browning, about another 5- 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle in fresh parsley.  Serve immediately.

City Chicken

 This recipe goes back to my childhood and I had to actually do a bit of research to determine where this really originated.  It was in my mother’s recipe book, handwritten with a vague listing of ingredient portions and brief notes on preparation.  City Chicken…. didn’t sound like a Sicilian dish to me.  I was familiar with Spiedini which were skewers of meat or fish she grilled or broiled, similar to shish kabobs. 

City Chicken, as I’ve come to learn, came about in the 1930’s when chicken was expensive and hard to come by unless you lived on a farm.  Grocery stores packaged up cubes of pork and veal along with the skewers, labeling them City Chicken.  Hard to believe that chicken was more expensive than pork or veal during the Depression years, but so they say!  And, I further learned that this was specific to the Ohio, Pennsylvania area, so no wonder I’ve never seen packaged City Chicken in my Florida stores!  I’ll have to check with my Ohio friends and family to see if they still carry this.

What I do remember of this dish, without having to do any research, is that the meat was so tender, moist from the simmering broth it baked in and flavorful from the mix of pork and veal.  It was comfort food, simple and easy.  

 City Chicken

 ½ lb. pork, cubed (I used a pork tenderloin)

½ lb. veal, cubed

1 cup bread crumbs, lightly seasoned with kosher salt and pepper

2 eggs beaten

1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1-2 tablespoons butter

½ cup homemade chicken broth or low sodium store bought

Wooden skewers, soaked for ½ hour (about 4-6)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a large skillet with olive oil and butter.  Alternate cubes of pork and veal on skewers.  Dip in beaten eggs, roll in breadcrumbs.  (Repeat for a thicker coating, optional!)  Fry skewers turning to brown all sides though not fully cooked through.  Place skewers in a 9 x 13 pan, pour in ½ cup chicken broth, cover with foil and bake for about 45 – 60 minutes.  Serve hot over wild rice or mashed potatoes.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Hoagie

I really love my foodie friends.  Friends who get excited about tasting a new dish, finding a cool recipe and wanting to share their ideas to creative something amazing.  I share a certain connection with those friends having that passion for food that a non-foodie would find uninteresting.  It’s those people who live to eat vs. those who eat to live.  My friends who purr with pleasure when biting into something decadent, who love tiny bites of tasty tapas and quaint little restaurants with to-die-for food.

When I spotted this recipe in Cuisine at Home I immediately shared it with my foodie fan, Randy.  He, like me, can look at a recipe and instantly know it will be a hit or miss.  Plus, never leaving good enough alone, we divulge in the most excited manner all the ways we would change it up!  We both loved this idea of having the classic Chicken Cordon Bleu in a casual, fun presentation.  Easy to pick up with your hands or slice up and enjoy.

I prepared the dish as below; however, Randy suggested also adding strips of sautéed peppers and caramelized onions.  Yum….

 Chicken Cordon Bleu Hoagie

Tweaked from Cuisine at Home

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

¾ pound chicken tenders or boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin short strips

¼ cup minced shallots

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup homemade chicken broth or quality low sodium store bought

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon herbs de Provence

1 cup broccoli florets, blanched

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

2 -3 Hoagie buns or round sourdough loaves (each 6 inches)

4-6 thin slices smoked ham

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided

2 teaspoons Parmesan, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or use a slipat.  Heat oil in a medium sauté pan.  Add the chicken and sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add in shallots and sauté until softened, about 2.  Sprinkle on flour and cook 1 minute.  Add in broth, stirring constantly to avoid clumping.  Stir in cream, parmesan, mustard and herbs, simmer after each additional until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add broccoli, season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.  Reduce heat to low.

Hollow out loaves by cutting of tops and tearing out insides, removing as much bread as possible.  Toast loaves directly on oven rack, about 5 minutes, remove to prepared baking sheet.  Place ham slices in bottom of each loaf.  Using a slotted spoon, divide chicken mixture evenly between loaves, reserving sauce in pan.  Top the chicken in each loaf with Swiss cheese and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese.

Bake until cheese melts, about 7-10 minutes.  Serve with reserved sauce.

Veggie Fried Quinoa

As I am always trying to eat less animal protein, I have begun to really get into Quinoa.  I will prepare a batch and use it within a few days to make a Quinoa Tabbouleh, or mixed into my morning oatmeal, or simply dressed with ghee for a comfort food dinner.  That last idea was given to me by a healthy-eating coworker who has fallen in love with this Quinoa powerhouse of protein, thank you Debbie!

I try to think up ideas to use the quinoa in place of couscous or rice in recipes.  So yesterday, having a mix of stir fry veggies on hand, I decided to try making a veggie fried quinoa…obviously instead of fried rice.  Whenever making a fried rice dish, the rice must be made ahead and be chilled; therefore, my chilled quinoa would be perfect.   And the results were very good.  I simply followed on of my basic fried rice recipe and replaced quinoa for rice!  While I did a vegetarian version, adding shrimp or chicken or pork would work just as well.  And, for those watching their gluten, this dish is gluten-free!

Veggie Fried Quinoa

1 cup cooked quinoa, cold (see below for how to)

2 eggs, lightly beaten or 4 egg whites (omit for vegan)

2 teaspoons peanut oil or safflower oil

2 cups trimmed and sliced mixed veggies, all cut uniformly into 1-inch pieces

      (I used broccoli, snow peas, cabbage and carrots.  Other options include asparagus, red bell pepper, fresh or frozen peas)

2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

½ tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Hot red pepper sauce, to taste

Optional:  top with chopped cashew or peanuts

Prep all veggies and measure all ingredients ahead of time to ensure a quick stir fry. 

Heat a large skillet or wok with 1 teaspoon peanut oil to medium high heat. Pour in eggs and cook, stirring gently, until just set, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and chop finely.

Heat remaining teaspoon of peanut oil and add broccoli and carrots, cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add cabbage, snow peas, ginger and garlic stirring until the vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked rice to stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add soy sauce and vinegar to the pan; cook until the liquid is absorbed, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Fold in the cooked eggs. Remove from the heat; stir in sesame oil and hot sauce. Taste and adjust to preference with additional tamari sauce and/or pepper. Top with chopped cashews or peanuts if using. Serve hot.

Cooking Quinoa:  In a fine metal strainer, rinse the quinoa well.  This step is important to rinse off the residue.  Like rice, I use a 1:2 ratio, i.e., 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups liquid.  Water is normally used, but I have used vegetable or chicken broth as well.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover and simmer between 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to sit for about five minutes, fluff and serve!