Farinata recipe from Top Chef Canada’s Chris Nuttall-Smith
Top Chef Canada’s eighth season premiered this past Monday (April 13). Now that we’ve gotten into the competitive spirit, it’s time to continue our Top Chef Canada spring recipe experiment. First, we tried head judge Mark McEwan’s Charred Octopus and Chickpea Salad. Then, we made our own ricotta with host Chef Eden Grinshpan’s Sugar Snap Peas and Mint Salad. Now for our third dish. This one comes from resident judge Chris Nuttall-Smith.
Well-known food writer and critic, Nuttall-Smith has written for The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, Lucky Peach, Esquire, enRoute, The Wall Street Journal and New York magazine. In 2009, he won a National Magazine Award (one of four so far) for his writing of enRoute magazine’s annual list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants. Read his full bio on Food Network.
Try out Nuttall-Smith’s spring-inspired dish this weekend and don’t forget to tune in to the next episode of Top Chef Canada on Monday.
On a trip to Liguria a few years ago, we stopped at a street fair where farinata, a creamy-centred, chickpea-based sort of flatbread, was the specialty. It’s been one of my go-to party-starters ever since. Farinata’s texture is a huge part of its appeal: it should be lacy and deeply crunchy on the outside with an unmistakable richness from good olive oil; once you bite in it’s luxuriously soft and aromatic. Which is all pretty much a miracle when you consider farinata has just five simple ingredients, and it’s totally vegan too.
The chickpea flour is everything: look for imported farina di ceci in Italian specialty stores. (The Canadian chickpea flour I’ve tried was okay in a pinch, but had exactly none of the flavour or aroma the Italian stuff did. It was also twice the price.)
And do not skimp on the olive oil, neither the quality or the quantity. With this few ingredients, you want to start out with the best you can afford.
1 cup Italian chickpea flour
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 to 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, to taste
fresh, top-quality olive oil
Whisk together the flour, water, salt, and two tablespoons of olive oil. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature for at least an hour and up to 12 or so.
When ready to cook, heat an oven to 450 F. Heat a 10” oven-ready skillet over high heat, then add 1/4c olive oil (yup, you read that right). Quickly add the rosemary to the pan and swirl it for a few seconds. You want to heat the oil and rosemary without cooking them. Quickly whisk the chickpea batter, then carefully tip it into the pan. Let it cook for about a minute, or until the sides firm up but it’s still liquid in the center. This is how you get that crunchy golden crust.
Transfer to the hot oven and bake for between 20 and 25 minutes, until the farinata has set and the top and sides are golden brown. It should still be creamy inside.
If you used a non-stick skillet the farinata should slide out easily onto your cutting board. If, like me, you’re bullheaded about these things and used carbon steel, slide a fish spatula around the sides and bottom to release, then slide it onto the board.
Season with way more freshly ground black pepper than you think seems reasonable, slice into wedges and serve.
I like to serve farinata wedges straight from the oven, topped with spring ingredients. Grilled asparagus and shavings of a sharp, sheep’s milk cheese like Pecorino Romano are a natural pairing—and so is a crisp aromatic white wine.
Top Chef Canada season eight airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada. This season’s winner will be crowned Top Chef and receive a grand prize of $100,000 provided by Interac Corp., a 2020 Lexus RX Self-Charging Hybrid Electric SUV, and an eight-night guided tour of Italy for two courtesy of Air Transat.
Visit foodnetwork.ca for an inside scoop on the upcoming season including full cast bios, competitor predictions, videos, image galleries and more. Check back week-to-week for recaps of each episode’s best moments, a closer look at the winning dish of the week, tips from the guest judges and more.