The chickpea not only has given us such hits as falafel, popadums and hummus, but also two lesser known, simple and brilliant finger foods, panelle and socca.
Panelle are chickpea fritters that Sicilians eat as a snack before meals or fresh from the fry shop. Panelle are different from falafel nuggets in that they are often less crunchy and usually bigger, flatter disks that can even be made the size of a plate. Panella should have the thickness of a pancake or pita bread, with a grainy, dense inside. These fritters looks more like a thin polenta cake inside than something with any discernible crumb. All you need is a drizzle of good olive oil and Roberto's your uncle, but La Medusa in Columbia City serves them with harissa aioli. Mmmm spicy mayo. (A basic recipe for panelle)
Socca come from the south of France; they are chickpea flour crepes that look and taste somewhere between a buckwheat crepe and a nutty, pan-fried tortilla. You can drizzle them with olive oil and roll them up, treat them like you would a crepe, or dip in hummus for some chickpea on chickpea action. (The Fabulous Mark Bittman's Socca recipe)
Chickpea flour is a fantastic substitute for wheat in any savory application. Chickpeas are a staple in many parts of the Mediterranean, like Sicily, and also in the Middle East and India. Chickpeas grow year round in these areas and can produce a crop in short work. The chickpea is protein rich and a fine source for certain essential minerals. In some areas of southern Italy, they even make sauce for pasta from creamed chickpeas instead of dairy (these regions are historically poor). You can find chickpea flour in the Bob's Red Mill section that every grocery seems to carry, or try The Souk in the market.
Anyone know any other spots that serve either of these specialties, please, for the love of all snacks, share.