A few months ago, when this blog was just a seed of an idea and a spec of html, I went for dinner at my friend Emily‘s house. You might remember the first recipe I posted on Feed Me Phoebe for Coconut Rice Pudding? Yeah, that dinner.
It’s amazing how many people who ask me for dinner are flustered by the fact that I’m gluten-free (not that many people ask me). Suddenly when I tell them, it’s like they can’t remember a time when they made anything but pasta or pizza or panini for their guests. So I was pleasantly surprised when Emily and her boyfriend Joy not only had an awesome gluten-free dinner party go-to dish, but it was something I had never heard of.
Socca – also known as Farinata – is a pancake-like flatbread made out of one part chickpea flour, one part water, and a dash of olive oil and salt. You apparently can find it all over coastal Italy, sold in bakeries much like pizza bianca. But I can’t remember ever eating socca when I lived in Rome and traveled about – probably because my memory of Italy is one big blur of pasta and pizza and panini.
The socca that Emily served was some sort of revelation. She used this New York Times recipe, and when I tried it out myself at home, nothing could be easier and more delicious straight out of the oven. She served it with fresh ricotta on top, which made for an amazing appetizer. I served it to my gluten-free mother as a light lunch with a simple salad. But I think the possibilities could be endless. I’m already brainstorming ways I could make mini ones to integrate into my catering repertoire. But you’ll have to stay tuned for that.
For now, you can add your own creative flair with different herb add-ins. The shallot and thyme was amazingly aromatic. I’m also going to try oregano and lemon zest for a more Mediterranean spin. No matter which direction you go, and whether you’re gluten-free or not, this might become your weeknight go-to dish, just as it for my friends, to whom I am forever grateful for my new found addiction.
Socca with Shallots and Thyme
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet on a rack in the upper half of the oven.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the flour and salt together until incorporated. Slowly pour in 1 cup of lukewarm water (you can test it on your forearm - it should feel slightly warm on your skin) while whisking. Stir until the liquid is absorbed and the batter is smooth. Allow to sit, covered, until the oven is hot. Note: the batter can also sit for up to 24 hours.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the shallots, and the thyme.
Remove the hot pan from the oven and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil - enough to coat the bottom with a thin layer. Swirl the oil around the pan so it’s well coated. Pour in the batter and swirl the pan so it forms an even layer.
Bake the chickpea cake in the oven for 12 minutes, until firmly set. Remove the pan from the oven and brush some additional olive oil on top of the cake so it gets browned and crusty (you can skip this step if you like). Place the pan under the broiler for 3 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Serve the socca immediately with some fresh ricotta on top, or a simple salad.