Whenever I go to an ethnic grocery, I wind up buying items that are not on my shopping list. I can’t help myself. Sometimes I am intrigued by something I’ve never tried before, like the buckwheat flour and cornmeal polenta mixture I bought several months ago at an Italian deli. (I wasn’t crazy about the polenta I eventually made with it.) Other times an item will spark memories of a dish I’ve eaten in my travels or haven’t made in a while.
Often these are ingredients that I’m surprised to find. So it was with the chickpea flour that I discovered at a nearby Iranian supermarket. I associate chickpea flour with Indian cuisines and with the city of Nice, France, where it is the main ingredient in two popular street foods, a fried polenta snack called a panisse and a galette, or flat cake, called socca. I’m not sure why chickpea flour was being sold in a Middle Eastern market although chickpeas themselves are very common in Middle Eastern cuisines, I haven’t come across the flour but I was thrilled to see it. I bought it.
For months it sat in my pantry, lingering alongside a bag of Italian semolina and various other supermarket curiosities. I finally gathered it up last week, along with some other grains, and used it in some crêpes I’d learned to make years ago in France. This week you’ll find other recipes made with unusual grains, the foundation of any healthy diet, retrieved from my pantry’s dustier shelves.
Chickpea Flour Crêpes
The French street food socca is a sort of cross between polenta and a pancake made with chickpea flour, water and olive oil. The crêpes below, inspired by socca, have a wonderful chickpea flavor, but they’re lighter. You can fill them like a regular crêpe to serve as a main course.
1/2 cup fine chickpea flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Sift together the chickpea flour, all-purpose flour and salt.
2. Place the eggs, milk and olive oil in a blender, and turn on the machine. Add the flour, and blend for one minute. Transfer to a bowl or a large measuring cup. (You can also use a bowl and whisk together the ingredients. If blending by hand, put through a strainer.) Set aside for at least 30 minutes; if longer, put the bowl in the refrigerator.
3. Heat a well-seasoned or non-stick crêpe pan over medium-high heat, and brush lightly with olive oil. For 6-inch crêpes, ladle in 2 to 3 tablespoons batter per crêpe; for 8-inch crêpes, use 1/4 cup, enough to just cover the pan. The batter should sizzle when it hits the pan. Tilt the pan to distribute the batter evenly, and cook on the first side for less than a minute until nicely colored and easy to flip over. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from the pan. Stack the crêpes on a plate as they are done. To reheat, wrap in foil and place in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Alternately, reheat individually in a dry pan.
Yield: Eight 8-inch or 10 6-inch crêpes, serving four.
Advance preparation: The batter will hold for several hours in the refrigerator. Whisk before beginning the crêpes. The crêpes will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. They freeze well: stack them between pieces of parchment or wax paper, wrap them well in plastic, then place them in a freezer bag.
Nutritional information per serving: 173 calories; 10 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 108 milligrams cholesterol; 12 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 227 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 8 grams protein