I love panelle in any form, but perhaps my favorites are served in carts in the Vucciria market in Palermo. The addition of corn and zucchini as a salsa would seem superfluous to a true Siciliana, but makes a lot of sense to me.
This classic Italian street food is made with a base of chickpea flour, also called garbanzo bean flour or gram, which is an amazing wheat alternative for impressing your gluten-free friends. Creamy garbanzo beans are ground into a fine, protein-rich powder, widely available at most local markets. Similar to polenta, chickpea flour transforms into a porridge-like consistency when mixed with boiling water and solidifies as it cools. The flour’s versatility extends beyond even savory and into baked goods; think vegan meringues or Paleo treats if that’s your jam (cough Daphne Oz).
Be sure to refrigerate these panelle rounds for 30 minutes so they hold their shape when fried. To keep the panelle intact as the golden disks of glory they so deliciously are, delicately remove them from the oil with a spider or slotted spatula.
As with many fried foods, panelle are best when served hot and paired with something bright, zesty and acidic. I use this season’s very best vegetables in my salsa: corn, zucchini and tomatoes, plus added jalapenos for that same kick of heat you’d find at street vendor on the summer streets of Sicily.