Ceci Polenta

Garbanzo Polenta IngredientsThis garbanzo polenta is an easy, healthy dish you can put together ahead of time and broil quickly to have hot to serve with dinner. Perfect for a larger dinner party, which is why I’ve made it twice now for Italian Birthday Feasts in my family.

I find the flavor of using chickpea flour more savory and satisfying than corn polenta, though both are delicious. Corn, of course, was not a native grain in Italy, so this is technically a more authentic recipe anyway.

I buy my garbanzo flour at Indian grocery stores, where it is sold as Gram Flour or Besan. It’s definitely gluten free, so if that’s a restriction for yourself or someone you feed, it the may be nice to have on hand. It’s not quite as easy to locate in America as cornmeal, but it’s worth having and will last just fine even if you  only use it to make this dish. Which is definitely worth repeat performances.

The recipe below is the product of some experimentation. I found the recipe in a “Frugal Gourmet” cookbook the first time, but it came out too salty and, when we fried the “cakes” as instructed, soft and oily and too much trouble for the effort. I thought it still had plenty of potential, so the next time I was more careful with the seasoning and worked out a to better way to make cooking them much less trouble and much more healthy.

UPDATE: Since I discovered how easy it is to make this into Polenta Pasticciata (a cheesy onion casserole version) I’m probably never going to serve it fried or broiled again. Just go check out that golden crispy deliciousness. So easy too.

Ceci (Garbanzo) Polenta

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups garbanzo flour (or gram flour or besan)
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Bring the water to a boil with the teaspoon of salt. Set off the oven and stir in the garbanzo flour quickly with a whisk, stirring quickly to prevent it from getting lumpy. If it thickens right away, you don’t need to cook it anymore. If it still seems thin, put it back on the stove and cook it until the spoon leaves a path in the batter. Mix in the herb and cheese, then mix in the salt and pepper gradually, tasting carefully. Too much salt can quickly overwhelm the other flavors and the cheese may make it salty enough for your taste anyway.

Garbanzo Polenta - Step 1 Garbanzo Polenta - Step 2 Garbanzo Polenta - Step 3 Garbanzo Polenta - Mixed Up

Pour the mixture into an oiled pan and cover it with plastic wrap. Chill it in the refrigerator until firm (overnight is usually more than enough). When you’re ready to cook it, prepare two foil-covered baking sheets (not too deep or it will make this trickier) and oil them lightly with spray oil.

Garbanzo Polenta - Step 5 Garbanzo Polenta-011

Cut the polenta into 1/2″ slices and lay out on one of the prepared baking sheets.

Interruption: Since I discovered how easy it is to make this into Polenta Pasticciata (a cheesy onion casserole version) I’m probably never going to serve it fried or broiled again. Just go check out that golden crispy deliciousness. So easy too.

Put under the broiler and cook for 5-10 minutes on low if you have that option. If not, keep an eye on it to see if it starts to burn. When the tops are all golden and crispy, remove the sheet from the oven.

Garbanzo Polenta Garbanzo Polenta Cakes Broiled Garbanzo Polenta Cakes

Take the second foil wrapped sheet and lay it foil side down on top of the polenta. Carefully, flip the two trays and peel the foil from the “top” of the polenta cakes and return to the broiler. Watch for it to be golden and crispy again – it may take less time since they are already warm. Or, if you want to, you can of course fry the slices in olive oil on the stovetop. I found that took a long time and they tended to fall apart a lot more than corn polenta cakes. Plus they absorbed a lot of oil pretty quickly, so they got a bit on the greasy side. But that’s the traditional method if you want it!

Frying Polenta Cakes

Yield: 6 side-dish servings.

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