These photos were sent to me by one of my readers who lives in Philadelphia (it is very generous of her). They are shots of the small piazetta (small square) in front of the very famous and very old, Antica Focacceria San Francesco in Palermo.
Antica (old), Focacceria (where they sell focaccie) and San Francesco because it is opposite the church by that name. The eatery is famous for presenting traditional, local, street food – Palermo is recognised for this very ancient custom.
All around the streets of Palermo there are frigittorie (friggere is to fry, frigittorie (are where the foods are fried). Palermitani can be seen standing around eating and talking around these establishments which are usually just no more than large vats of hot oil and a simple portable bench. Slices of eggplant, zucchini, artichokes, bits of pre cooked cauliflower are coated with pastella (batter) and deep fried. Cazzili (potato croquettes) pani ca’ muesa (panini stuffed with spleen) and sfinciuni (typical focaccie from Palermo) are also favourite street food.
In this small eatery, in the old part of town, in the warm months customers can enjoy their food in the piazzetta. I love the cart, much more decorated than can be seen in the streets (although the food, may not always be as good).
In Palermo, one street food specialties are panelle – made of chickpea flour, cooked like polenta or porridge, cooled, and then cut into slices and fried in olive oil.
Versions of chickpea flour fritters are also popular in Liguria and in the South of France. In Australia the flour is generally available in Indian and Middle- eastern stores.
chickpea flour 200g,
water 3 ½ – 4 cups,
salt 1 teaspoon,
½ cup of chopped parsley (or wild fennel fronds)
extra-virgin olive oil,
½ cup for the mixture and more for frying
Make a batter: mix 3½ cups water, salt, and the olive oil into the saucepan and gradually whisk in the chickpea flour until smooth. Add extra water if necessary – it should be the thickness of a batter.
Cook it over medium heat, stir constantly and continue to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan until the mixture is thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan (15 mins).
Pour the mixture into the oiled shallow pan (like a baking tin). Press it down and make it smooth on top. Rest it until it is completely cool and firm.
Cut into manageable pieces (large fingers) with a sharp knife, lift the cut pieces carefully and fry in very hot oil. Fry about 3 minutes on each side.
Drain on paper towels and serve warm.
Photo of panelle not from Antica Focacceria