This Socca recipe I want to share today was according to Ottolenghi, found on a visit to Southern France. With a little research, I found an origination coming from Italy and then later from Nice where it is a specialty according to Ottoloenghi. Made from chickpea flour and other delicious ingredients as you will see, it has the texture of a soft corn tortilla or thin pancake. I have never used chickpea flour before so making Socca was my very first experience in using the soft powdery substance.
When I was first perusing the Plenty cookbook, I was looking for easy things to make, things that would not take too long to prep or cook but then I came across the Socca recipe. At first glance, it looks a little daunting, the method takes up an entire page however, I'm so glad I took the time and made it. I will tell you this, all the flavors of the ingredients are amazing together. The crunchiness of the onions that have enough sweetness to them, the roasted tomatoes and then the little Socca pancake under all of that… let's just say I was swooning. I will make this over and over again and continue finding more delicious things to make from Plenty. I have enjoyed this past week discovering new ingredients and new recipes to make and share.
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and ground black pepper
1-3/4 lbs. white onions, peeled and cut into rings
2 tbsp picked thyme leaves
½ tsp white-wine vinegar
1-3/4 cups chickpea flour (aka gram flour)
2 cups water
2 egg whites
Crème fraîche to serve
Preheat the oven to 275F. Spread the tomatoes, cut side up, over a small baking tray, sprinkle over some salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil, and bake for 25 minutes - they are not supposed to dry out completely, just semi-cook.
Next, heat four tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and thyme, season and sauté, stirring all the while, over a high heat for about a minute. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the onions for another 20 minutes, stirring them occasionally. You want them soft, sweet and golden brown, but not very dark. At the end, stir in the vinegar, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Increase the oven temperature to 325F. In a bowl, use a hand whisk to mix together the chickpea flour, water, one and a half tablespoons of olive oil, half a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. The batter should be totally smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold into the batter. Line two oven trays with greaseproof paper, brush this with a little oil and set aside. Take a small nonstick frying pan, roughly 6 inches in diameter at its base, and brush very lightly with oil. Place the pan over a high heat for a couple of minutes, then reduce to medium-high and pour in a quarter of the socca batter - it should be about 1/4 inch thick. After two minutes or so, air bubbles will appear as it sets. Use an offset spatula to release the pancake's edges from the pan, then carefully lift and turn over. Cook for two more minutes, then transfer to the lined oven tray. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Put the pancakes in the warm oven for five minutes, then remove and set aside until ready to serve.
Spread the pancakes with plenty of onion - then top with tomato halves and return to the oven to heat up, for about five minutes or so. Serve warm with crème fraîche drizzled on top.