The food carts in Sicily that we encountered on our trips are so different than those found in the US, yet so similar. We’re not food cart aficionados usually, but when in Rome… Actually, there are a lot of food carts in the Portland metro area that are quite sought-after. My favorite is the cart called Bari PDX, the owner/chef is from Bari where half my Italian family’s roots originated.
We visited Walter and his Bari food cart when I was recovering from fractured vertebrae (wearing a back brace).
Walter, the owner of the Bari Food Cart and the best maker of panzerotti I know.
The popular street food (found in Palermo) called panelle is also a favorite of mine. (Sicily is where the other half of my Italian roots can be found.) I’ve not found a restaurant in California or Oregon that serves panelle. If you are not familiar with this delightful fritter, here is what Wikipedia has to say about them:
“Panelle (or panella di ceci) are Sicilian fritters made from chickpea flour and other ingredients. Panelle are believed to be of Arab origin. They are a popular street food in Palermo and are often eaten between slices of bread or on a roll, like a sandwich.
Sicilian cuisine is the style of cooking on the island of Sicily. It shows traces of all cultures that have existed on the island of Sicily over the last two millennia. Although its cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences.”
Ingredients for panelle are usually just a combination of chickpea flour and water. My version was created to add some depth of flavor and as a way to use up garden vegetables. The vegetables do add a bit more moisture to the batter, so pat dry before mixing with the chickpea flour and frying.
Finely shred and chop vegetables.
Mix with chickpea flour and water.
Spread in baking dish and cool in the fridge.
Cut into shapes (squares, triangles or logs) before frying.
Fry in a good amount of olive or canola oil. If you have a fryer, these would cook nicely in it, as the high heat crisps these fritters very well.
Cooling and draining on paper towels. Salt while still hot.
Plate and serve immediately. These do re-heat but don’t have the same crisp texture and flavor as they do hot off the cooktop.
- 2 cups chickpea flour
- 2 1/2 - 3 cups water
- 1/2 small red onion, grated
- 1 medium-large carrot, grated
- 2 medium zucchini, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (and more for sprinkling on after cooking)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (and more for frying.
- Prep a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with olive oil.
- Combine flour, water, salt, onion, carrot, zucchini, rosemary, and olive oil in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat stirring until mixture is very thick, for approx. 8-10 minutes.
- When the mixture reaches the desired thickness, pour into baking dish and spread it out evenly. Mixture will set up quickly.
- Place baking dish in the fridge. Remove after 2 hours and turn out onto a cutting board to cut into shapes.
- Heat about 3/4 inch olive oil into large fry pan (medium highheat). Fry several pieces in the pan at a time - try not to overcrowd. Fry until golden brown, flip and brown the other side.*
- Removed cooked panelle and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt while they are hot.
- Serve immediately.
- *Can also be cooked in a deep fat fryer.
- Store leftovers in airtight container in the fridge. Reheat at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.