What, you ask, is a socca? This morning, I couldn’t have told you. Now I know that it’s a chickpea-flour cake or bread, baked on a griddle (especially a special fancy copper griddle pan, one of which I am confident I will never own) or, as in this case, in a cast-iron skillet. It’s native to Southern France, especially Nice, and has counterparts in the cuisine of many other countries (in Italy, it–or its cousin–is called farinata).
Usually, it’s made in thin crepe-like cakes. But this version was a wee bit thicker, and since it made just one big piece, it was easy to cut into wedges and serve with accompaniments (in this case, sauteed tomatoes with feta and basil).
I adapted this from a recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which had one GIANT whoopsie in the printed version: he called for 1-1/2 cups of water and only 1 cup of chickpea flour. Can you see the problem there, boys and girls?
Yes, this might sound a little odd; and yes, you’ll have to chase down some chickpea flour (I use the Bob’s Red Mill brand–it is local! and inexpensive!). But it went over gangbusters at our house and will probably do well at your house too. Chickpeas are really remarkably kid-friendly. (I’ve been on a bit of a chickpea tear lately. Coming this week: chickpea cutlets! No, really!) The socca‘s flavor is mildly sweet, very deep and satisfying, and pretty darn adaptable to whatever you’d like to serve with it. (Cucumber raita? Meatballs in tomato sauce? Diced cantaloupe with mint and some crisp-fried pancetta? Bring it!)
Serves four, no leftovers.
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
1-1/2 cups chickpea (garbanzo bean, besan) flour
1 tsp (coarse) salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
Optional: 1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 a small white onion, chopped fine
About a tablespoon fresh rosemary needles, chopped fine
Put the lukewarm water into a medium mixing bowl. Put the chickpea flour into a sifter and schnick-a schnick-a schnick it into the bowl. (Chickpea flour has a decided tendency to lumpify. Show it who’s boss! Use your sifter! Or, lacking a sifter, break it up thoroughly with a fork before adding it to the water.) Add the salt, pepper, cumin and 1 Tbsp olive oil; whisk until smooth and lumpless.
Cover the bowl with a towel and set it aside. Go do something else for at least 30 minutes and for up to 12 hours. Then come back and preheat the oven to 450. Pour 2 Tbsp oil into a heavy pan (like a cast-iron skillet) and swirl to coat the bottom thoroughly. Mix the onion and rosemary into the batter; pour the whole thing into the pan. Pop it into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until no longer jiggly (tee hee).
Remove pan from oven and brush top of socca with remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Now set it under the broiler (or, put it back in the oven and turn it up to broil, if you’ve got one of those fancy kind of cookstove things) for about 4 minutes, or until top is lightly browned with darker brown spots here and there. Cut into wedges and serve… perhaps with
Sauteed Tomatoes with Feta and Basil
Really, this hardly needs a recipe. Quarter a bunch of tomatoes (or halve them if they’re grape tomatoes; or sixth or even eighth them if they’re bigger tomatoes). Romas work well here. Mince some garlic. Chop some fresh basil.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter (or, I guess, olive oil) in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden and fragrant. Add tomatoes. Cook, shaking pan regularly, until they seem done enough. Remove from the heat and stir in some crumbled feta. Sprinkle chopped basil over all.