Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pacman or Flatbread?

Answer: flatbread.

A few months ago, Bittman wrote of the wonders of socca, a chickpea flatbread that is both versatile and facile. I believed he called it "instant starch." He and Conan (the food writer) then revisited the dish, and since then I've been hooked. Incidentally, the titles of both pieces are extremely pleasant to say: "The Saga of Skillet Flatbread" and "A Street Treat from Nice."

Thanks to their plug, socca has become an absolute staple in my kitchen. And why wouldn't it? It meets all of my criteria for perfect food: quick, easy, cheap, nourishing, and kind of weird.

I throw one together anytime I've got a meal that feels like it's missing something. I've baked, baked and then broiled, and simply broiled, and all are perfectly acceptable. If you're really going for speed, I suggest broiling and flipping. In my mind, the perfect socca is crispy on the outside and still moist and somewhat hummusy on the inside.

Luckily, the flavor of chickpea flour is generally more sweet and pea-like than with a canned garbanzo, so you've got that going for you too. I eat most of my socca straight up, but of course you can add anything you like to the batter or on top during or after baking. I imagine grated cheese would look nice and help ensure a good crunch.

By far the best socca I've made was one topped with the tomato sauce we put up at the end of the season. Each jar is a time capsule of summer, an explosion of flavor from a forgotten temperature.

So don't be a suckah; make a socca. And if you want to go all out, eat it in a sukkah.

Recipe: Socca (aka Farinata aka Chickpea Flatbread)
-adapted from Mark Bittman

1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil

Put a skillet under the broiler and set oven to "broil."

Mix chickpea flour with equal parts water, then add the salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover, and let sit while oven heats, or as long as 12 hours. Batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.

Pour 2 tablespoons oil into heated pan, and swirl to cover pan evenly. Pour in batter, and broil about 5 minutes on each side. If it looks dry, brush the top with more oil.

Cut it into wedges and serve hot.

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Jay said...

Conan (the food writer)? Tsk, that's lazy writing. How about something more interesting like Conan The Culinarian or Conan The Gastronome or Conan The Deep Fryer?

This does sound good though. Hmmm, I know a chick pea is neither a pea nor a chick but is it a vegetable? It's a bean!?!? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Back to my rabbit hole.

Carol said...

This sounds delicious. I will make it. I agree with Jay that chickpea is one of those words that bounce around in your head and make you think about it. I always think about how chickpea in latin is 'cicero'. Poor Cicero.