Chickpea panisse with pumpkin seed pistou

Chef Chris Jones of San Francisco's Gaspar restaurant has been exploring what he calls “peasant cuisine” from the long-settled immigrant communities of southern France. This fried chickpea flour cake, adapted from Italian immigrants to the region, is reminiscent of polenta and is served with a sheep’s milk feta and a pumpkin-seed pistou that's perfect for any season. 


For the pistou
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic
1 cup basil, thinly sliced
½ cup parsley, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and white pepper

For the polenta
3 cups whole milk
3 cups of chickpea flour
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
 1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup frying oil (like canola or peanut oil) 
All-purpose flour for dusting
1/4 cup sheep's milk feta

To make the pistou, combine the pumpkin seeds, cheese and garlic in a food processor and puree until the seeds are finely ground. Stir in the basil, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Pulse in the olive oil slowly until just incorporated and the herbs are chopped. Season with the salt and white pepper.

To make the polenta cakes, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In sauce pot over medium heat warm 3 cups of water and the milk. Stir in the garlic powder and salt.

Just before the liquid reaches a boil, take the pan off of the heat and start slowly whisking in the chickpea flour. Continue whisking until all the chickpea flour is incorporated and there are no lumps remaining in the mixture. (Jones uses an immersion blender to remove all the lumps). Remove the pot from the heat. 

Spread the chickpea mixture onto the parchment-lined sheet pan. No need to oil or anything, as the mixture will set on its own. Use a spatula to get the mixture evenly into all corners of the pan. After it’s set, don’t move it. Let it set for about five minutes undisturbed. Then transfer to the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to cool.

Heat the oven to 350°F.  Once cool, cut the chickpea cake into shapes of your choice. Jones likes to cut his into multi-sized circles.

Dredge the cakes lightly in flour. Then, in a shallow pan, heat the frying oil over medium heat. Fry the cakes until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Place on a sheet plan and transfer to the hot oven for 5 to 6 minutes to finish cooking.

Remove from the oven, top with a little pumpkin seed pistou and sheep’s milk feta.