The inspiration for this dish comes from the Provençal panisse, fried little cakes made from chickpea flour. I love panisse, but wanted something a little more substantial. So instead of using chickpea flour, I make a polenta flavored with spiced chickpeas, let it cool on a baking sheet, and cut into small frites to fry up like French fries. It’s a wonderful side dish with chicken or lamb when your mood, at least, takes you to the south of France. Sumac adds a deep, tart berry flavor and sends the frites over to the Middle Eastern side of the Mediterranean.
These have a lot of fiber and nutrition. Make sure to fry them in pure oil, cold-pressed or virgin olive oil, or safflower or grapeseed oil. Don’t use corn oil or generic “vegetable oil,” both of which are too processed.
In a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups water and the butter over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly pour in the polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until incorporated (you want this mixture to be smooth with no lumps, so this is crucial). Cook over medium-low to medium heat, stirring often, until the polenta is smooth and tender, about 30 minutes.
While the polenta is cooking, line a
Working quickly while the polenta is still hot, stir in the chickpeas, roasted garlic puree, and feta, along with the cumin, coriander, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the polenta onto the prepared pan and spread and smooth it out to a 1-inch thickness with the back of a large spoon or an offset spatula.
Refrigerate, uncovered, until firm, at least 1 hour.
Invert the polenta slab onto a cutting board and peel off the paper. With a sharp knife, cut into 1-inch-wide strips.
Rotate the board and cut the strips crosswise into 3-inch-long batons.
Preheat the oven to 200°F.
To shallow-fry, heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet until shimmering but not smoking.
(You can also deep-fry the frites. Fry the batons in 2 to 3 inches of oil in a medium saucepan or wok; you will only need to turn them once or twice.)
With a slotted spoon, transfer the frites to paper towels to drain. Season with sumac. Keep the early batches warm in the oven while continuing to fry the remaining polenta.