Sunday, July 10, 2011

Socca to Me

Socca is a basically a chick pea crepe or pan cake, a street food from the south of France.  I first read about it on David Lebovitz's site.  As soon as I got my hands on some chick pea flour I gave it a try and it's been a staple in my kitchen ever since.

Usually it's made plain and eaten hot and fresh with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt, but I've taken to experimenting with it.  I've played with the seasonings, used it as a base for salads, and have even made little socca pizzas.  It's a healthy bread alternative since the chick pea flour has a good amount of protein.  It's also vegan and gluten-free.  While you can find chick pea flour very cheaply at Indian grocers (look for 'besan', 'gram flour', or 'farine pois chiche'), if you have a gluten sensitivity you may want to look for a brand that can certify that it's gluten-free, like Bob's Red Mill.

Making socca isn't too scientific.  It's a 1:1 ratio of chick pea flour to water, with a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt.  Traditionally a bit of cumin is added as well.  The thickness of the crepe will vary depending on the size of the pan used, and you can adjust the amount of batter you make or pour to suit your preferences.

For one 10" crepe:
- 1/2 c. chick pea flour
- 1/2 c. water
- 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- dash cumin

- Whisk all ingredients together and let sit for at least two hours.
- Put a cast iron skillet under your broiler and heat until thoroughly hot, (the pan should be as close to the broiler as possible).  Alternately, heat the skillet on the stove top.  The broiler is ideal, but in the heat of the summer the stove top will do.
- When the skillet is hot, add a generous drizzle of olive oil to the pan then add the batter, swirling it around if necessary to coat the pan.
- Broil the crepe until the top is browned, (a bit of char is desirable), up to 10 minutes.  If cooking on the stove top, wait until the crepe looks firm, check to see if the under side is browned, then flip once.
- To serve, drizzle with a little more olive oil and a dash of sea salt.

Socca can be served as a snack, an appetizer, or a side.  Eat it plain or as a base for toppings. It would be a great vehicle for bruschetta as an appetizer.  Using it as a gluten-free pizza base has taken a little experimentation and the technique varies depending on the toppings.

Here, I poured the batter and broiled it for about two minutes, then added chopped mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles.  When adding toppings to the socca while it's cooking, they should be chopped finely and/or pre-cooked for the best results.

Here I added shopped spinach to the batter before pouring, making a thicker crepe that needed a longer cooking time.  I waited a few minutes then added chopped onions, red pepper, and goat cheese.  With all of these heavier toppings, the socca isn't nearly as crisp, but it's still quite tasty.  If you want to use sauce or more than light crumbles of cheese, I recommend cooking the crepe on it's own and then transferring it to a baking sheet and adding the toppings to make your 'pizza'.

Pretty much any herbs can be used to flavor the socca.  Here I used finely chopped fresh rosemary when I served it as a side.

Use socca as a creative base for a salad or cut it up and toss it with the salad as croutons, (you may want to toast them a bit more).  While you can top the socca with salad when it's still hot, allowing it to cool on a wire rack will help it stay crisp.


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