How do you feel about sandwiches?
Are they something you really dig? Something that is your no-brainer meal when you don't know what to eat? Something that is a guilty pleasure? Something that just fuels you through the day? Something you salivate over and look forward taking a bite of?
Me? Definitely the last, and, sometimes that no-brainer lunch. I rarely get one for dinner unless it is a gooey, decadent cheese sandwich - that I cannot resist and falls square in that section of hallucinogenic experiences. Also, I avoid eating heavy carbs after 6pm. I will usually have homemade wraps or something that is devoid of yeast.
Anyway, my point being, whenever I make sandwiches, I tend put some effort into it and think it through. You see, behind this craving induced sandwich eating is a general indifference to the concept of sandwiches. I love bread, in of its own. I typically love all the fillings by themselves, but the two together simply do not quite hold as much appeal as they individually do. So, I have to make elaborate plans to overcome that, because, lets face it, sandwiches are easy to make, and, can be simply awesome with just a little creativity. I can even write a whole book on how to make really good gourmet sandwiches at home. Really. No, really!
The basic components of a good sandwich for me are
1. Good sourdough bread. First and foremost, this is super important. Not one from a grocery store, only a bakery (or, of course, homemade, which, I have yet to experiment on). To me, sourdough has a right crumb and crunch when toasted that is oh so incomparable. If not sourdough, definitely, fresh focaccia.
2. Something salty and soft in the filling that lets you comfortable sink into. It has to be just the right amount of salty because the saltiness invites you back for another bite. That gooey melted cheese, oh yes. Or tender pieces of braised meat, or salty cured meat.
3. Something crisp and fresh like lettuce, or any fresh greens that gives you a satisfying juicy crunch
4. Something else that rounds it all up. This could be chutney or mustard or pate or another layer of vegetables.
5. Finally, if toasted, then in good olive oil. It is better than butter, I swear. Better for you and in taste! But, do not toast if packing for lunch or a picnic. It goes soggy, not fun.
This one, I am sharing today, is particularly special to me. It is the recreation of a memory from two years past. While visiting Italy then, I fell absolutely, entirely, head over heels in love with the cuisine. The country is filled with passionate cooks who make simply delectable things to eat.
My first bite in Italy was in Il Montino in Pisa. That is a bite I savor even today. It was a sandwich. With a savory chickpea cake as the star, between airy focaccia slices. It was divine. This Tuscan chickpea cake is called Cecina. Try as I have, I have not found it in any Italian (or other) establishment in this city. I think there is a huge unmet need here. Perhaps, I should start a cecina sandwich stand! I will become a millionaire! I swear it is that good.
The beauty of it is that several humble ingredients come together to create something that is absolutely memorable.
Chickpea flour is very often used in India,in various recipes, mostly fried. Sometimes, we make an 'omelette' eaten for breakfast or as a snack. Before Italy, I was not aware of any other region that used it much. Although, the Mediterranean uses a lot of the chickpea itself, rarely have I seen the flour used. So, I was very curious to find it being used extensively in Italy. You'll find a ton of recipes using it on
. Cecina is one of them.
Anyway, since my unfruitful attempts on finding it here, I decided to do what I should have long ago, viz. bake it myself. Mine was crisper than the one from Pisa, but I liked it nevertheless. It was actually lighter (and less oily) and better suited with the season. I also flavored mine with rosemary because I love rosemary and I had just picked up a plant from the market!
So, that was #2 checked. #1 well, duh! #3 was Spring pea shoots! #4 sautéed creminis. And, lastly, I did not toast it because they were going to be eaten a couple of hours later. Voila!
80 g chickpea flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp of salt
90 g olive oil
2 tsp ground black pepper
fresh rosemary leaves
sea salt for garnish (optional)
Whisk in water and buttermilk into chickpea flour making sure to avoid lumps.
Add the oil, salt and pepper. You can also mince some of the rosemary and add to this.
Let the batter rest for at least half an hour.
While it rests, preheat oven to 400F.
Grease a 7x9 inch baking tray well. Pour the batter into it as a thin layer. Sprinkle the rosemary on top as well as the sea salt, if using.
Bake the cake for 15 or minutes until golden on the outside and still soft inside.
Slice and eat as is or use in sandwiches. This recipe makes enough for 4 sandwiches.