If you are anything like me, you experience an uncontrollable urge to feed people as soon as the weather turns blustery. Well, maybe the urge to feed isn’t entirely weather-dependent for us nurturing, over-bearing Jewish mother-in-training types, but there is definitely something special about feeding friends and family something warm from the oven this time of year.
But ugh! The calories! And oy! The food allergies! And enough already with the butternut squash! We need something a little spicy, crunchy, and begging for accoutrement. We need something that can be prepared for the crowds, inexpensively and easily. And we need our nut-free, gluten-free, vegetarian friends to be astonished by it. Enter the socca.
Socca is an Italian/Provençal flatbread that can be served with cocktails or even made into a meal of its own. It uses chickpea flour instead of white flour which makes it light, chewy, and earthy. Socca is also pretty healthy, especially considering the cheese/stuffing/potato/sugar-laden foods we typically see this time of year. And most importantly, it’s extremely easy to prepare and customize with toppings that thrill you. Serve socca for breakfast with a fried egg on it, as an hors d’oeuvre before dinner, or even as a light lunch with arugula salad piled on top. Socca is especially good for those of us who celebrate Chanukah because it’s baked in a glorious pool of oil. How charming! Consider socca to be your back-pocket, holiday-entertaining best friend.
Makes about 4 10-inch flatbreads
2 cups chickpea flour
2¼ cups water
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ tablespoon cracked black pepper
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Topping suggestions (cherry tomatoes, parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, fresh arugula, garlic scapes, sliced red onion, scallions, capers, sliced chilies, pesto, fried egg, roasted garlic)
1. Mix together the flour, water, cumin, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let batter rest at least 1 hour at room temperature.
2. To cook, heat the broiler in your oven (or turn your oven on as high as it will go). Liberally coat the bottom of an oven-proof non-stick skillet or a cast iron skillet with olive oil, and put the pan on the top shelf of the oven for 5 minutes. (*If you don’t have non-stick pans or cast iron, you can also use a non-stick baking sheet or tart pan).
3. Once the oil in the pan is hot, CAREFULLY take it out of the oven with an oven mitt or dry kitchen towel. Using a ladle, pour enough batter into the pan to cover the bottom. Make sure you are only using enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan, sort of like making a crepe. Swirl the batter around, add the toppings of your choice, then pop it back in the oven.
4. Bake until the socca is firm and beginning to blister and burn. The exact time will depend on your broiler, but it should take about 5-8 minutes. It’s important that you see the edges turning dark and crispy.
5. Take the socca out of the oven and slide the whole thing out onto a cutting board using a wide, flat spatula. Sprinkle it with coarse salt, pepper, another drizzle of olive oil, and any other toppings of your choice. Slice it up like a pizza and enjoy! Cook the remaining socca batter the same way, adding a touch more oil to the pan between each one.