Makes 4 Servings
Hand’s-On Time: 45 minutes
Total Preparation Time: Overnight plus 3 hours
Ingredients for the chickpeas
1 cup dried chickpeas (see Preparation Note)
2 ounces pancetta, unsliced
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, quartered
½ stalk celery
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup roughly chopped arugula
Ingredients for the panella
1 cup whole milk
1 1/3 cups chickpea flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic oil or olive oil
Ingredients for the mahimahi
Extra-virgin olive oil, plus high-quality extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Four 6-ounce mahimahi steaks, approximately 1 ¾ inches thick
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions for the Chickpeas
Soak the chickpeas overnight (or up to 2 days) in water.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Drain the chickpeas and rinse in a colander. Transfer to a large ovenproof saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the pancetta, carrot, onion and celery. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over a high flame, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beans are tender, 2 to 3 hours (the cooking time varies depending on the beans). Check the beans periodically and add more water if necessary, tasting them to gauge how tender they are. Remove from the heat and discard the vegetables. Drain. Dress the beans with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
The chickpeas can be made ahead, refrigerated, and then reheated (in a saucepan) just before you put the fish on the grill.
Directions for the Panella
Combine the milk with 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the flame to low. Sift the chickpea flour into the simmering liquid and whisk immediately to combine, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and resume whisking. Remove the pan from the stove and continue to whisk. The batter should be thick—somewhere between pancake batter and brownie batter lies panella, add additional water if necessary. Add the garlic oil and 3 tablespoons water, and cook a few minutes more.
Pour the batter into a nonstick 9×13-inch cake pan and cover with a square of parchment paper. There should be enough batter to make at least 12 fritters. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Prepare the Meal
Lightly dust a work surface with chickpea flour. Turn the cake pan onto the surface and either use a ring mold to cut out disks, or cut the chilled batter into squares.
Lightly coat a nonstick pan* with olive oil, and heat until hot but not smoking. Pan-fry the chickpea pancakes until lightly golden, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
Prepare a charcoal fire and heat the grill over it or heat grill pan on stove top over medium high heat.
If you refrigerated the chickpeas, begin reheating them over a low flame. Use a fork to mash a few of them and add enough olive oil to moisten them. Add the roughly chopped arugula leaves, stir to combine, and leave over a very low flame to keep warm.
Rub the mahimahi with olive oil and season on both sides with salt and pepper. When the coals are white-hot, place the fish over the medium-high area (where you can hold your hand above the coals for 4 seconds). If the flames jump to touch the fish, move them to a cooler part of the grill. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side.
When finished, the fish should feel like the fleshy part of your palm.
Transfer the cooked fish to four serving plates. Each gets a few spoonfuls of warm chickpeas with two crisp panella alongside. Drizzle a high-quality olive oil over the fish and the chickpeas and finish with a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cook’s Notes from Dave
Panella are amazingly delicious chickpea fritters that are found all over Sicily. I shallowfry mine in olive oil until they’re crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. In this dish I also use chickpeas (fresh or canned) in a salad with olives, oven-dried tomatoes, and arugula. Mahimahi is one of those great eating fish that even nonfish lovers swoon over. When fresh, it’s a meaty, clean-tasting fish. I’ve caught a lot of mahimahi in my day in Florida. They don’t play hard to get. In fact, I would have to say that mahimahi are pretty stupid. You catch one and you reel it halfway into the boat, and the others follow.
This dish calls for a fair amount of advanced preparation. Both the chickpeas and the panella must be started the day before you are going to serve them.
Chickpea flour is sold in most health food stores and in many well-stocked supermarkets. Check the allergy free foods or organic section in supermarket. (Bob’s Red Mill very readily available).
Garlic oil is a simple way to impart flavor without having pieces of garlic, which may scorch on a hot grill. Allow roasted or raw garlic to steep in oil and infuse flavor. Try using two cloves of fresh garlic in ½ cup of olive oil. You can slightly heat the olive oil before adding the garlic cloves. Allow it to sit for at least 10-15 minutes.
FRESH FISH STEAKS AND FILLETS SHOULD HAVE:
- A translucent look.
- Flesh that is firm and not separating.
- A mild odor, similar to the ocean.
- No discoloration.
- Packaging that keeps them from being bent in an unnatural position.
Cook’s Notes from Sara
*The skillet we used for sauteeing the panella rounds is a Chantal Copper Fusion Pan. It is the right pan for the job because it is naturally stick resistent but non toxic. I worked with these pans on book tour in 2010 and fell in love with them because they are composed of the perfect combo of materials. The core is copper, which is the best conductor of heat (compared to all other metals), it is sandwiched on either side with black steel and then finally with enamel, aka glass. The pan is fused together at such a high heat that the enamel becomes very smooth, and therefore naturally stick resistent. I have made crepes in these pans often and never lost one crepe. The pan worked beautifully with the panella.