Merquén and Rosemary Farinata

Farinata is a traditional Italian appetizer or side dish made of garbanzo bean flour, water, olive oil, and spices, usually rosemary, sea salt, and black pepper. Originating in Genoa, and now commonly found along the Ligurian coast, farinata can be found in pizzerias, bakeries, and sold by street vendors. I just recently stumbled across this simple novelty and am excited to share it today with you. Since it is only made of garbanzo bean flour, it is gluten-free and vegan! With such a simple base, farinata can be embellished to your hearts desire. You can top it with sliced veggies, cheese, prosciutto, whatever. Farinata can almost become a hearty, thick pizza. However, I chose to keep it simple and classy, adding only a touch of my own flare. With the simple flavors, this farinata can be a great addition to a salad, soup, or even just as a snack.

Since garbanzo beans are full of fiber and offer a great amount of plant-based protein, this dish can keep you feeling full and nourished unlike a refined wheat flour alternative. With 5g of dietary fiber for every 18 g of carbohydrates, garbanzo bean flour has an extremely good ratio of grams of carbohydrate to fiber at 3.6:1. Just recently a report from the Harvard School of Public health identified that the American Heart Association recommendation of choosing whole grain products with a minimum 10:1 ratio of carbohydrates to fiber, is the best method in identifying quality whole grain products (1). When utilizing this tool for yourself in the grocery store, simply divide the total grams of carbohydrates by the total grams of dietary fiber. If the result is 10 or less, then you know it is a quality whole grain product! The Institute of Medicine recommends a fiber intake of 25-38 g/day for women and men respectively, or 14g per 1000 calories (2). With 9 out of 10 Americans falling short in consuming dietary fiber, the 10:1 ratio can be a great tool to help identify products that can boost your fiber intake (3).

Why are whole grains so important compared to their refined counterparts? It really boils down to synergy. In whole grains you can find various amounts of nutrients, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even bioactive components that are important for human health and longevity. However, only together are they strong, working synergistically to provide us health benefits. Multiple epidemiological studies have revealed correlations between greater intakes of whole grain and the reduction in risk of heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and obesity (3). Astounding, right?

Phew, you made it through my fiber ramble! I hope you learned something new. Now on to my new favorite spice of the month, merquén, a traditional Chilean spice blend used by the Chilean Mapuche Indians. This blend is prepared with chili, coriander seeds, cumin, and sea salt and gives all it is added to a unique smokey flavor. Currently, I add it to everything savory, because I cannot get enough of its delicious flavor! So as you can guess, I added it to the farinata batter along with the traditional fresh rosemary. It turned out delicious! If you can’t get your hands on merquén,  chipotle chili flakes or powder may be a good substitute. And if you want to just omit the chili flakes, then leave it as the Italians do with just the fresh rosemary.

Now with all you know about fiber, and this awesome recipe for a simple gluten-free and vegan flatbread-like goodness, I entice you to give this traditional recipe a whirl. It tastes best fresh out of the oven, but it is also delicious reheated in the toaster. The versatility makes farinata a great addition to your work or school lunch bag. Enjoy!

Merquén and Rosemary Farinata
Makes 6 servings

1 ½ cups garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
2 cups warm water
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 packed teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon merquén
1 teaspoon sea salt (I used Real Salt)
Freshly ground pepper


Whisk together the garbanzo bean flour and the water into a large bowl. Cover and let the batter sit at room temperature for two hours.

After the two hours are up, gently spoon off the top foamy layer from the batter. This step is said to eliminate GI discomfort from the beans.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the batter, along with the minced rosemary, merquén, and sea salt.

Once the oven is preheated, heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil (it should be sizzling). Quickly pour the batter into the cast iron skillet and transfer the skillet into the oven.

Bake the batter for 25-30 minutes until it looks golden and wrinkled. Depending on how hot your oven bakes, you may want to check at 20 minutes just in case.  

When the farinata is done, serve immediately in the skillet topped with fresh ground pepper. Cut into six slices and enjoy!

1. Mozaffarian RS, Lee RM, Kennedy MA, et al. Identifying whole grain foods: a comparison of different approaches for selecting more healthful whole grain products. Public Health Nutrition. 2013;16(12):2255-2264
2. Institute of Medicine; Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: energy, carbohydrates, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids. Washington: National Academies Press; 2005
3. Mobley AR, Slavin JL, Hornick BA. The Future of Recommendations on Grain Foods in Dietary Guidance 1,2. 2013.

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