Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's up Socca?

What do you do with chickpea flour. We see all these flours in the Italian grocery stores and wonder what in the world to do with them. (Chickpea and Chestnut are common) It is not unusual for the great chefs to use these in any number of sweet and savory recipes. Who knew that our ancestors were gourmets. We only remember the gourmands. I am hoping that I will find some recipes for these flours that might be at least applicable to our origins. I actually rather dislike Chickpeas, Garbanzos,Cecis etc., and I cannot get those who surround me to like Chestnuts. So what do we do with Chickpea flour, or dried chickpeas.

I found a recipe that I like in Nice France. I am not sure that people know that Nice and much of the western Riviera were Italian in their culture, and only had to choose which way they were going to go when Italy unified in the 1860's and 70's. In fact most relatives I speak to are pretty astonished to know that our Great Grandparents were not born in Italy. There simply was no Italy before the process that began in 1815. After the fall of Napoleon there were movements to get the support of Austria in forming a nation, and only ended when the pope finally withdrew from Rome to the Vatican in 1871. They even added territory after the First World War. Variations of this recipe are found all the way along the coast to Tuscany.

So Nice qualifies for an Italian recipe.

All you do to make Socca is mix water with chickpea flour till it is rather like slightly thin Pancake batter.(Say 1 cup flour to slightly more than one cup water to a maximum of perhaps 1 1/3 cup water Like flour it will use different amounts depending on the weather) Add a little salt. Let it rest while you work on the rest of your meal or take a nap. Pour this into a well seasoned iron skillet or a dark colored rimmed baking sheet(You might consider spraying it with a baking spray first or seasoning it with oil and heat a couple of times) Do not use a vehicle that will be ruined by scraping, because this is what you do with this stuff.
Once you have poured this into the pan to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, pour a generous stream of olive oil in a big spiral over the surface.
Shove it into the oven at about 450 degrees and bake it until it is cooked through(25 min?), and you get sort of a blistered and spotty scorch on the surface. I am not suggesting that you burn it, but you know how good those scorched spots on a pizza can be.
Place the pan on a steady surface and allow to cool briefly. Use a thin spatula to simply scrape it out of the pan in large shreds, piling them up on a serving plate.
Use it as an appetizer, serve with olives, cheese chunks, roasted peppers, sliced cured meats, Ricotta, drained over night in a sieve, pressed into a mold and unmolded onto a serving plate...Whatever. The most usual is to have it plain and nibbled out of a paper cone.

Now my suggestions: Mix minced hot peppers into the batter.
Mix in small but fleshy pieces of cooked red or green peppers.
Mix in rosemary and/or pepper.
Serve with grilled vegetables.
Try mixing the oil into the batter before you pour it.

Experimenting will get the results you like.

When you see this in Nice, it is at street vendors' carts or booths. The pans are perhaps a meter across, and are usually cooked elsewhere in wood burning ovens like pizzas,and brought to the shop covered, by bicycle to be sold.

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