Socca! or, an ode to the chickpea

...or, here's more proof that I love anything involving chickpeas.

Chickpeas are my favorite food. Ever. Even above chocolate. If I were stuck on a desert island and could only choose one food to bring with me for the rest of my days, I would pick chickpeas. They're so delicious and versatile, whole, mashed for chickpea cutlets or chickpea salad, ground for hummus, or powdered to make chickpea flour. They're full of protein, fiber, folate, some other nutrients and did I mention deliciousness? Anyway, long story short, I recently discovered a simple chickpea recipe that I had to share.

Chickpea flour, water, oil, salt, heat. This combination of ingredients goes by different names across different cultures: socca if you're French, farinata if you're Italian, chilla if you're Indian. Whatever you call it, it is delicious. Socca (I'm half French [Canadian], so that's what we'll call it here) is a sort of chickpea flatbread, flaky and delicious, great hot or cold, as a side dish or a snack.
I first read about socca on the kitchn website, which isn't a recipe but a review of a recipe from David Lebowitz's blog. I later discovered that Mark Bittman has a simpler version in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and on his Minimalist blog. Everyone seems to have their own variations, but the end result is the same: thin, flaky, salty flatbread with only the slightest of chickpea tastes.

I have three notes about making socca:
  1. Shortly after mixing the ingredients, you have to cover them and let them sit. Lebowitz says at least 2 hours, Mark Bittman says anywhere from 20 minutes to 12 hours; I have tried once at 2 hours and once at 30 minutes and didn't notice much of a difference. So let it sit a while if you have time, if not, at least let it sit while the oven preheats.
  2. Speaking of ovens, most recipes say to use a broiler. Broilers get the top of the socca nice and browned, and/or with little burny spots (which are desirable, like on a flour tortilla!). I, however, burn things when I try to use the broiler. If you don't have problems using broilers, broil instead of bake, but for 5-10 minutes shorter. If you're leery of broilers but not completely broilerphobic like me, bake according to my directions, then stick it in the broiler for a couple minutes.
  3. The easiest way to make this recipe is in a 9" cast iron skillet, but if you don't have a skillet you can stick in the oven/broiler, David Lebowitz says his French friends make it in a tart pan. I've tried it in a pie plate, too. Whatever pan you use, just make sure you have it nice and hot before you put in the oil and socca.
This recipe makes makes 3-4 large socca pancakes, which is enough to serve about 3 people as side dish or snack (or 2 if someone's obsessed with chickpeas like me), but they're so tasty you may want to double it.

1 C chickpea flour
1 C plus 2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 tsp salt
Optional: a few shakes of ground cumin (HIGHLY recommended), very thinly sliced onions, up to 1 tsp of herbs of your choice, etc.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, water, 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, salt, and cumin/herbs (if using) until smooth. Cover and let sit (see note #1 above for how long).

Preheat the oven to 450, and put a 9-inch cast iron skillet in while it preheats. If you're using onions, mix them into the batter now. Once the oven is ready, take out the cast iron pan, add the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil and swish it around till the bottom of the pan is well-coated. Pour enough of the batter to coat the bottom of the pan (about half a cup, maybe a little more?), then return the whole thing to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are dark brown and the center is starting to brown a little in spots. Remove from oven, then slide it out onto a cutting board.

Add a little oil to the pan, swirl it around, then repeat with the rest of the batter. Cut the socca into chunks (little squares are traditional), sprinkle with salt, and eat with your fingers. They are so delicious!