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Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread is flat-out fabulous

Serve Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread while it's still warm - with plenty of napkins at the ready. Photo by Sue Doeden1 / 2
Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread is crispy and crunchy on the outside and custardy creamy on the inside. Photo by Sue Doeden2 / 2

I watched with anticipation as the hostess of an al fresco dinner party I was attending used a pizza cutter to slice a dark, thin round of baked dough into small squares. She told me it was called farinata. Made with chickpea flour, also known as garbanzo bean flour, the thin cake is popular in the Liguria region of Italy. There it is baked in a wood-burning oven and eaten as a snack.

The thin baked chickpea appetizer I nibbled that night was delicately flavored with fresh rosemary. As I gingerly helped myself to a couple more pieces, I wondered if I could make this Italian treat with some of the basil from my garden.

The recipe for farinata my hostess shared with me came from an old issue of Food & Wine magazine. This big, crispy pancake is made from a simple mixture of flour and water and olive oil, with a little salt thrown in, then baked in a preheated skillet in a hot oven.

Made with only garbanzo bean flour, the skillet flatbread is high in protein and gluten-free. I find the Bob's Red Mill brand of the bean flour in my local grocery stores. You can find it in bulk bins in some stores.

I've come up with my own blend of ingredients and call the unique snack a skillet flatbread.

I was reminded of the homemade paste I used to make when I was a child as I whisked all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and garbanzo bean flour into a bowl of warm water. The generous amount of water in the mix kept it from becoming a gloppy adhesive.

When the mixture is void of any floury lumps, it must be left to sit on the counter for at least 2 hours. I have whisked the mixture together six hours before baking. Even up to 12 hours at room temperature is fine.

You might think something is wrong when you go back to your bowl of flour and water. It separates, with liquid on top. Just whisk it to blend.

Shortly before I was ready to bake the flatbread, I pinched some basil and plucked a jalapeno from my little garden in pots. Combined with fresh garlic from my market basket, kosher salt and fresh cilantro, Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread delivers fresh, seasonal flavor.

You'll need a 10- to 12-inch heavy, oven-safe skillet to make this flatbread. The batch makes two rounds. If you want to bake them at the same time, you'll need two skillets. Otherwise, because the unbaked liquid-like mixture gets poured into a preheated skillet swirled with olive oil, you can bake one flatbread and while your guests are enjoying it, the second flatbread can go into the oven in the same pan used for the first one.

Whether you use only garbanzo bean flour or a blend of three kinds of flour, Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread will be crispy and crunchy on the outside and custardy creamy on the inside. Since the Flatbread bakes in a pool of olive oil, each slice will be perfectly greasy, too.

Serve Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread while still warm - with plenty of napkins for greasy fingers.

Pepper and Herbs Skillet Flatbread

4 cups warm water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 jalapeno, seeds removed

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons packed cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Coarse sea salt and ground pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving

Pour water into a mixing bowl. Use a whisk to gradually mix flour into water, adding 1 cup at a time. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Set aside and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Up to 12 hours is fine.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. While oven is preheating, mince garlic and jalapeno together. Add basil, cilantro and salt to the garlic and jalapeno and continue mincing.

Stir 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the batter. Whisk until blended. Add minced ingredients and blend.

Heat two (10-inch) oven safe skillets in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove hot skillets from oven. Carefully pour 2 tablespoons of remaining olive oil into each pan, swirling to coat. Divide the batter evenly between the two skillets. Bake for about 30 minutes, until edges are dark brown and crisp. Let the flatbread set a few minutes in the pan. Use a metal spatula to loosen the bread from the edge of the pan, carefully gliding the spatula under the flatbread to nudge it out of the skillet. Slide onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, some fresh-ground pepper and grated parmesan cheese. Cut each flatbread into 8 wedges. Makes 16 pieces. Serve warm.

Tips from the cook

--If garbanzo bean flour is inaccessible, finely ground whole grain corn flour is a good substitute.

--Baking the Flatbread in a 12-inch skillet will take less baking time than a smaller 10-inch skillet.

--You can safely divide this recipe in half to make just one Flatbread.

--The flour, water, salt and olive oil mixture is a canvas for your creativity. Use any blend of fresh herbs and peppers you enjoy to develop your own taste sensation.

--I used my well-seasoned cast iron skillet to bake the Flatbread.