I may have said this already, but I am so ready for some bright spring produce. I’m feeling a bit weary of pastas and root vegetables and other winter dry-goods-based dinners. A little fresh color on my plate would go a long way right now, I think.
This restlessness is compounded by the fact that those lettuce seeds I mentioned planting are popping their bright heads out of soil already, almost taunting me because it’s. so. close.
But until then, we have to make do. I found inspiration recently in Mark Bittman. Being in my earlyish 20s, the Mark Bittman legacy is a bit lost on me. Obviously I understand that The Minimalist is wonderful (RIP), and it’s definitely given me some good recipes in the past few years, but when you’ve only had your own kitchen for a few years and have been reading the New York Times just a few years longer, I just don’t have a good grasp of the sheer longevity of his column. So I was gratified to see that Bittman rounded up 25 recipes from The Minimalist since its inception to share.
This socca (sort of a savory, chickpea flour pancake/frittata) made the list, and it immediately appealed. Chuck has had a bag of chickpea flour sitting around forever, and what do you do with chickpea flour, anyway? (Evidently I just didn’t know enough about Mediterranean cuisine, because after making it I can safely say that this is what you must do with chickpea flour.)
Outside of the sheerly utilitarian appeal of using up some of that pesky sack of chickpea flour, though, I made this recipe because it made me laugh. I’m pretty sure Bittman wasn’t trying to be funny, but when I got to the end of the recipe, I laughed out loud:
When the socca is done, put the pan on the table, cut it into random shapes, hand out napkins and have at it.
Cut it into random shapes, Mark Bittman? Why? Maybe I’m a bit of a pedant about people using the word “random” too freely, but I had this immediate mental picture of a group of people sitting around the table, carefully cutting their communal chickpea pancake into various shapes, like elephants or clouds. But then, when you’ve finished that, just hand out napkins and have at it. Easy.
This was good, filling, and aromatic from the rosemary and onion. You should get your hands on some chickpea flour if you don’t have the luxury of it waiting in your pantry. When it comes out of the oven, you can laugh a little to yourself and cut it into whatever shape you please for serving. (Although I feel like Mark Bittman would be a little disappointed in me because I very deliberately cut mine into boring, uniform wedges.) Bittman presents it as an appetizer for 4-6, but I think it would make a good simple dinner for two with some greens on the side.
Socca (Chickpea flour pancake)
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe in The Minimalist
You will need
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
Lots of black pepper (several teaspoons)
4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a well-seasoned or nonstick ovenproof skillet in to warm. Whisk chickpea flour, a few pinches of salt, and black pepper in a bowl, then slowly add 1 cup room temperature water as you whisk. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onion and rosemary and mix (Bittman directs you to wait to do this until right before the socca goes in the oven, but I missed that and it still turned out fine.) Cover, and let sit while oven heats.
Pour 2 tablespoons oil into heated skillet, and swirl to cover evenly, then pour in batter. Bake until pancake is firm and set, about 12 minutes. Start broiler, brush the top of the socca with 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil, and set under the broiler for just a few minutes, or until browned on top. Cut into pieces and serve warm. I finished the dish, as I do with many things, with a drizzle of nice olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.