Socca: such a specialized-sounding suggestion of succulence. These are neither delicate but sturdy crepes, nor hearty buckwheat galettes, but rather a thick garbanzo flour pancake from the the region of Nice in the Southeast of France. When Will and I travelled there last summer, I wrote about it in my personal journal, but didn't post about it here on my blog. When I stumbled across a socca recipe in the Seattle Times this week, my mind and my memories leapt immediatly back to the French Riviera when Will and I strolled through a heat-haze of gelato-weariness and beach-envy along the Promenade des Anglais. A welcome day-dream during the incessant Spring downpour that has been dousing Seattle with an atypical drenching and shattering our shower-stereotype.
I pawed back through my journal to read more about our socca snack at a shady cafe table in
Old Nice. I found more about our walks along the harbor. But pulling all the individual moments back to the front of my mind made me even hungrier to recreate the sun-soaked sea-saltiness in my own kitchen.
I made a half-recipe of the batter, which made 5 perfect soccas in a 6-inch omelette pan, and were ample servings for dinner for two. Although the tomato topping in the article looks divine, it would taste entirely like Spring-in-Seattle (ie: like bland, watery, mushy pre-summer tomatoes) so instead I used more seasonably suitable selections. Two soccas I topped with simple steamed broccoli florets and shredded smoked gouda cheese. For the other two I sauteed some shallots and minced carrot with just a touch of butter, then stirred in about 3 cups of chopped fresh spinach and a bit of bacon jam until thoroughly wilted. A light drizzle of balsamic and some grated fresh parmesan added a perfect compliment of tang and saltiness to accompany the slighty sour socca.
My Nicoise socca was folded in quarters over melted gruyere, but these open-faced vegetable gardens masterfully transported me back to the Riviera. (And one more way to further deplete my egg-white supply!)
makes five 6-inch socca
104 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour
1 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons olive oil
3/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 egg white (30 grams)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Blend together first 5 ingredients until batter is completely smooth. Whip egg white until soft peaks form, then fold egg white into batter.
Brush a 6" diameter non-stick skillet with a paper-towel dipped in olive oil to get the thinnest coating of oil in the pan. Heat over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium and pour in 1/5 of batter to cover bottom of the pan about 1/4" thick. Cook about 2 minutes, running a rubber spatula around the edges of the cooking batter to loosen. Flip pancake and cook on opposite side about 1 minute more. Transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet and top with toppings. Repeat until all batter is used. Heat topped soccas in oven until cheese is melted and serve immediately.
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot (or onion, or garlic)
1 medium carrot, diced
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1-2 teaspoons bacon jam (optional, otherwise season with salt and pepper)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in a small heavy skillet over medium low heat. Stir in shallot and carrot. Stir in spinach until wilted. Stir in jam until coated. Stir in vinegar. Divide spinach mixture evenly on two socca, and top with cheese.
Broccoli with Browned Butter and Hazelnuts
(used here as a topping, but just as good as a side dish on it's own!)
1 head of broccoli
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons finely chopped hazelnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut broccoli into bite-sized florets. Peel any tough leaves from stems, and chop stems into bite-sized pieces as well. Bring an inch of water to boil in a pot, and steam broccoli pieces on a steamer rack for about 3 minutes, until tender, but still crisp and bright green.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a saute pan or wok over medium heat. Continue cooking over medium until solids start to separate and sink to the bottom of the pan. Stir gently to prevent burning, but allow solids to become a toasty brown color.
Add shallots and cook one minute. Stir steamed broccoli into butter and shallots. Squirt with lemon juice. Toss gently with ground hazelnuts until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.