Usually when Mama comes to town, we splurge on a few fancy dinners. It’s always fun trying out new restaurants around the city. But this year, by the last night, we were a little tired of all that richness, and instead had a picnic. Hummus, cheese and crackers, fruit and of course a little Prosecco were on the menu. While I usually pick up local fruit, this time it was late at night, a spur of the moment decision, so we were stuck with supermarket fruit. An experiment took place – one “conventional” fuji apple versus an organic fuji. We sliced into both and ate them side by side. We were all agreed that the organic apple was about 3 times more flavorful and sweet, with a thinner, less chewy skin. They were both crisp and firm, but the organic was juicier. I’ve heard people mention that organic produce tastes better, and now I know.
What this has to do with socca, well, I don’t know. It would be good picnic fare. It makes a great appetizer. Or you can go crazy and just eat it for dinner like I did.
Socca, for the uninitiated, is a flatbread made from chickpea flour (also known as garbanzo bean flour, or besan at an Indian market). It’s crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and while delicious on it’s own, it’s really fantastic as a base for pretty much anything. This socca pizza looks especially inspiring.
While it’s not completely necessary, it’s best to make the batter ahead of time and let it sit. It helps keep it super creamy. And be sure not to scrimp on the oil, we don’t want any of that crispy goodness sticking to the pan, do we?
Socca with Smoky Eggplant Spread
1 c. chickpea flour
1 c. water
2 T. olive oil (plus more for the pan)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Smoky Eggplant Spread:
about 1-1 1/2 lb. eggplant (I had four little ones, I think one medium eggplant would do), halved
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 T. tahini
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 c. water
toasted pine nuts and chopped cilantro for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400.
Mix the flour, 1 c. water, 2 T. oil and salt in a bowl. Set aside. (you want this mixture to sit at least 30 minutes).
Lay the eggplant on a baking sheet and brush olive oil over the cut side. Turn them cut side down, add the garlic to the pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and slightly collapsed. The garlic may brown before that, so keep an eye out, and take it out early if needed.
About 10 minutes before the eggplant is done, slide a cast iron skillet (or other ovenproof skillet or tart pan, etc.) into the oven to preheat.
When the eggplant is done, take it out to cool, then turn the oven up to 450 and remove the skillet.
Pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil into the skillet, then follow with the socca batter. Slide the full skillet back into the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until set (depends on how big the skillet is, and how thick the bread).
While it’s in the oven, peel the garlic (wait until it is cook enough to handle) and place it, along with the eggplant, in the food processor. Add the rest of the spread ingredients and process until smooth.
When the socca is done, move it to the broiler to brown for a few minutes before taking it out. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Run a spatula under the socca to loosen it from the pan, then slide it onto a cutting surface. Spread the eggplant mixture on top and cut into wedges. Sprinkle with pine nuts and cilantro and serve.
serves 2 for dinner, 4-6 as an appetizer