I know, I know, terrible pun. I really couldn’t resist. Usually I exhibit much more restraint.
So the other day I was starving and having one of those “Waah, there’s nothing to eat!” days. What I did have, however, was a copy of The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal, which is subtitled “How to bake without gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame.” I reserved this book from the library after I bought two gluten-free baking books and found their recipes nearly impossible to convert to vegan. Flipping through the book I saw good pantry lists and and substitution advice as well as yummy-sounding recipes, from muffins and scones to brownies and cupcakes to several different kinds of yeast bread.
Tucked in amongst the recipes for savory baked goods (this is a smaller section than I would have liked, since I tend to prefer the savory side) I found a recipe for “Socca de Nice,” or Mediterranean chickpea-flour crepes. Chickpea flour, while an esoteric flour for most cooks to have in their pantries, is a pretty standard staple for us gluten-free bakers. The recipe was simple and fast, used ingredients I had on hand, and on top of all that I’ve been curious about socca for years but had never tried one.
I whisked together the very brief list of ingredients, heated my cast-iron skillet in the oven, and swirled out a crepe to bake. These are not crepes as I tend to imagine them – something very thin and flexible that you can fold around something else. These are firm and a bit thick, very toothsome. The recipe recommends cutting them into wedges, and that’s exactly the sort of thing socca seems to want to become – nice sturdy wedges drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper, eaten hot immediately out of the oven. They have a very mild “beany” flavor (I used garfava flour, which contains both chickpeas and fava beans, so that might be why) that works wonderfully with their savory, hearty taste and mouthfeel. These would make a great easy base for a pizza-style dish (especially good for “top your own pizza” nights where everyone else is using a pre-baked wheat pizza crust – socca batter takes much less work than pizza dough but would make a satisfying flatbread-type base).
I enjoyed my socca plain and with two fast, easy toppings from my beloved Moosewood Cooks at Home: olive tapenade and creamy, garlicky butter beans. They were delicious and incredibly filling – my mouth was begging me to keep eating long after my stomach was pleading for me to stop!
1 1/2 cups cold water
3 tablespoons olive oil*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon cumin
High-heat cooking oil like super canola oil, super safflower, avocado (I used peanut oil since I don’t have a nut allergy)
Preheat oven to 550 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together water, olive oil, and salt.
Add chickpea flour, a little at a time, whisking in completely. Stir in cumin. Whisk for about a minute. You want this batter smooth! Add a little more water if it seems too thick – you want it thin like crepe batter.
Preheat an 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven, 4-5 minutes. Remove (with an oven mitt or potholder, it will be HOT!). Put a little high-heat oil in the pan and swirl it around to coat. Then, working quickly, add a heaping 1/2 cup of the batter to the pan, swirling it around to fill the pan in an even layer.
Put pan in oven and cook 5-7 minutes, till browned a bit around the edges. Remove from oven. Flip. It should be golden brown on the bottom. Remove to plate, add a little more oil to the pan, another 1/2 cup batter and cook, and so on.
This recipe makes 4 socca, ie 4 servings. Eat hot. You can cut it into wedges and dip it into olive oil, or drizzle olive oil on top, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
* to add herbal flavor, you my heat 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs like rosemary or thyme in the olive oil for 2 minutes over medium heat. Let the olive oil cool before making recipe.
You may also make these on the stove top. Pascal says she likes the texture slightly better in the oven, but the stove top is much quicker. To do so, heat your cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add a little olive oil. Once hot, add batter. Cook about 1 minute, flip, cook 1 minute more. Remove from pan.
Gigondes (creamy, garlicky beans)
from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
1 1/2 cups drained canned gigondes, butter beans, or giant lima beans (14-oz can)
1 T. olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T. minced fresh parsley or basil (I used 1 t. dried parsley)
1/2 C. Creamy Garlic Dressing (recipe follows)
Gently rinse beans and drain. Place drained beans in a bowl, sprinkle with olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and 1/2 cup dressing. Mix gently with a wooden spoon. Store refrigerated up to 3 days, serve at room temperature.
Creamy Garlic Dressing
(this dressing is also amazing over warm polenta!)
1 1/2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 C. plus 2 T. olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 T. chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 t. dried)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 C. soy milk
Put the garlic, oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper into a blender or food processor and whir for a couple of seconds. With the blender still running, slowly add the soy milk, whirling until the dressing is thick and smooth. Covered and refrigerated, this dressing will keep for at least a week.
Makes 3/4 cup.
from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
2 1/2 cups drained pitted black olives (2 6-oz cans)
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 T. pine nuts
1-2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
In a food processor or blender, whirl the olives with the garlic, pine nuts, and 1 T. of the olive oil until mixture is somewhat smooth. (It’s okay if some of the pine nuts remain whole.) If mixture is too stiff, add remaining olive oil.
Makes 2 cups. Covered and refrigerated, this spread should keep for about a week. It is best served at room temperature.