Chickpea crepes, coming soon to a kitchen near you. iPhone photo by Rebekah Denn
I know it’s early to be making trend lists for 2012, but it seems everywhere I look lately I’m seeing socca, a French chickpea crepe.
You can find socca on the menu at Bastille, but I’m not seeing it show up at restaurants so much as in the kitchens of friends. It’s popular among those who need to eat gluten-free meals, and with the increasing numbers of people I see on anti-inflammatory diets. Expat and dessert chef extraordinaire David Lebovitz might have planted the seeds a few years back with his post on making socca at home, where he sold us by saying that the street food from Nice “is meant to be in rough shards, eaten with your fingers, and is especially good after a long day on a sun-saturated beach when your skin is tingling with sand and you can lick your lips and taste the sand of the Mediterranean.”
My friends haven’t waxed quite so eloquent, but they’ve been relieved to find a simple food that supports their diets, from a crackery crunch in the thinner versions to a thicker soft crepe.
I gave it a try with this tomato-onion topped version from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book “Plenty,” which is winning raves of its own nationwide. (With the eggs and dairy, it doesn’t work with all my friends’ diets, but it worked for mine.) I used garbanzo bean flour from Bob’s Red Mill, which is widely available at supermarkets, and it was a piece of — well, not cake, but at least crepe.
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
5 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 3/4 pounds white onions, cut into thin rings
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
salt and black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 3/4 cups chickpea flour
2 cups water
2 egg whites
creme fraiche to serve
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spread the tomatoes cut-side up on a small baking pan and sprinkle them with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast for 25 minutes or until semi-cooked. They are not supposed to dry out completely. (Note: After 25 minutes we turned up the heat to 300, as ours didn’t seem cooked enough.)
Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions, thyme, and some salt and pepper, and cook on high heat, stirring for about a minute. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onions completely soft, sweet and golden brown but not very dark. At the end, stir in the vinegar, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
When you take the tomatoes out of the oven, increase the temperature to 325 degrees.
Put the chickpea flour, water, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt and some pepper in a bowl. Mix well with a hand whisk until the batter is totally homogenous. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold into the batter.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and brush the paper with a little bit of oil; set on the side. Then take a small nonstick frying pan, roughly six inches in diameter at its base, and brush it with the smallest amount of olive oil. Put on high heat for a couple minutes then reduce heat to medium-high and pour in about one quarter of the socca batter. It should be about a scant 1/4-inch thick. After about 2 minutes air bubbles will appear on the surface and the pancake will have set on its base. Use an offset spatula to release its edges from the pan, then carefully lift and turn it over. Cook for another minute. Transfer to the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the batter. When all the pancakes have been made, place in the oven for 5 minutes.
To serve, spread the onion over the pancakes, they should be totally covered. Arrange tomato halves on top. Place in the oven to warm up for about 4 minutes. Serve warm, with creme fraiche on the side.
— Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (Chronicle Books, 2011)