I love messing around with super nutritious esoteric ingredients, using them to reinvent more familiar dishes in a cleaner way. I’ve used chia seeds to try to get somewhere close to my grandmother’s banana pudding. I’ve used flaxseeds to mimic an egg. I am completely comfortable with the idea of pureed cashews as a “cheese.” In the pursuit of optimal health, I am not afraid to take risks.
But sometimes I wish it could be like the old days, when we didn’t have to think so hard about what foods were healthy; we just had a repertoire of dishes that were familiar and we never questioned them. My grandmother had a repertoire of family heirloom recipes built entirely around seasonality, with little regard to nutrient content. I envy her free reign with butter and cream atop all of those garden vegetables; all that bacon grease stored on the stovetop in a coffee can.
As our knowledge of the connection between our food and health expands, we are forced to look at our family’s traditional foods with new eyes. And so for people like me, with an extra keen interest in nutrition and a willingness to experiment, things can get interesting.
Socca is an example of a dish that makes me happy because it hits all the notes of a clean diet, but it is a time-honored classic. Chic pea flour is hardly a familiar ingredient here in the states, but it’s been used since ancient times all over the rest of the world. There are variations of this crepe like, oven baked, four ingredient flatbread in Italy (farinata or torta de ceci)…in Gibraltar (calentita)…in Uruguay (faina) and northern India (cheela).
It is gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and soy free only by coincidence, not design, making it so easy for me to adore.
In fact, I wish more people had its combination of old world charm with
Chic pea flour, also know as Besan or Gram flour, can be found in any Indian grocery store or ordered on line. I have started to see it in regular grocery stores here and there. It is a denser, heavier flour so take the time to sift it before adding in the water.
You're making a pancake batter so a whisk is your tool of choice. The batter will be thin and should be lump free. If sifting the dry flour didn't yield you a smooth batter, go ahead and put the wet batter through a sieve as well.
Rosemary is a traditional Provencal herb of choice, but there are no limitations here. I have used chives, cilantro or thyme. The objective with the fresh herbs is to lend flavor notes to the Socca. (And I like the phytonutrients they lend as well.) Chic pea flour has a bitter earthy flavor that needs balance from the floral herbs.
It is customary to let the Socca batter sit for several hours before cooking. I have used the batter immediately and seen little difference in the results. But I like that I can make the batter ahead of time - even in the morning before heading to work - and cook the Socca whenever I'm ready to eat.
The key to Socca is a super hot pan. So set your oven to at least 450 and let it preheat. Once it is preheated, heat a dry 9 to 12 inch cast iron pan for about 5 minutes.
Remove the heated pan from the oven and swirl in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Then the batter. Make sure you coat the pan well with the batter. The oil will mix in and float on top. That's what you want.
Put the Socca on the top oven rack and let it bake for about 5 minutes until it is well set. Then turn your broiler on for another 2 minutes or so until you see the top browning. Carefully remove from the oven. Slide a thin spatula around the edges and then underneath to loosen; and then onto a plate or cutting board. Always serve Socca immediately.
Serves 2 to 4
1 cup chic pea or garbanzo bean flour (Besan flour in Indian groceries)
1 cup lukewarm water
4 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground pepper
3 Tablespoons fresh minced rosemary, thyme, chives or other herbs
9 to 12 inch round oven-proof skillet or Socca or crepe pan.
Sift the flour through a fine sieve into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the water while whisking out any lumps. If the batter is still lumpy, strain it through the fine sieve another time. The batter needs to be smooth.
Whisk in the salt, pepper and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Set the batter aside to rest while you preheat the oven, or up to several hours.
Set rack as close to the top of the oven as will accommodate your pan. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven is preheated, set the pan inside to heat, about 3 minutes.
Stir the fresh herbs into the batter. Remove the pan from the oven and swirl in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Coat the pan well. Pour in the batter and swirl it around to coat the pan.
Bake the socca for about 7 minutes, until it is well set and then turn the oven to broil. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes until a brown crust forms on the top.
Carefully remove from the oven. Slide a thin spatula around the edges to loosen and then underneath the bread and slide onto a cutting board. Cut into triangles and serve immediately.
product recommendation: organic chic pea flour
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