One of the best snacks I’ve ever had was in the market in Nice: socca, a thin chickpea flour pancake served hot on pieces of paper to eat with your fingers, pulling off the chewy edges and the soft crepe like interior. Years ago, the just-made socca would be transported to the market on a specially designed bicycle rigged with a hot brazier on which the wide, flat pan balanced. Called Socca in the south of France, Farinata in Liguria, these pancakes are enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean.
This sublime creation is nothing more than a thin batter of chickpea flour, olive oil, water and salt poured into a hot, oiled pan and cooked over a wood fired oven. It is easy to make at home, where the divine eggless, flourless, dairy-less crepe-like pancakes can go savory or sweet. Chickpea flour is readily available (see below).
I often make chickpea pancakes as an instant snack, standing by the stove and eating them as they come out of the pan. They also makes a marvelous hors d’oeuvres; I put a skillet of socca right on the table and let guests help themselves, tearing pieces off with their fingers. It’s also a great crepe-like base in which to wrap warmed, shredded, long-cooked meats and stews.
Although it’s probably something of a heresy, socca batter is makes great silver-dollar pancakes for breakfast; their slightly eggy flavor marries perfectly with maple syrup or jam.
Recipe (with photos): Chickpea-Flour Pancakes (Socca/Farinata)
The batter is best made several hours ahead but can be used within 30 minutes. It will keep for at least four days covered in the refrigerator to use at a moment’s notice. It will get thicker as it sits; thin with water as necessary.
The pancakes can be made in a skillet on top of the stove or in the oven. Like all pancakes, make one or two small “test” pancakes to get the variables right
To flavor savory socca, frizzle a few leaves of fresh rosemary in the hot oil before pouring the batter into the pan
Makes about 2 cups batter, enough for 8 6-7-inch inch pancakes.
1 cup chickpea flour
Scant teaspoon coarse (Kosher) salt
1 1/4 cups water, more if necessary to thin the batter
About 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for oiling the pan and drizzling
In a medium bowl, combine the chickpea flour and salt; with a whisk to break up the lumps. Slowly whisk in the water to make a batter the consistency of heavy cream. Whisk in the olive oil. Transfer the batter to a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout to make for easy pouring. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes.
To cook single socca on the stovetop, heat a 10 or 12-inch well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet over moderate-high heat. Pour in a little olive oil and swirl to coat the pan, or use a silicone brush. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly, making a pancake between 1/16th and 1/8-inch thick. Cook until small holes pock the top and the bottom is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. If cooking too slowly, turn up the heat slightly; if the fat starts to smoke, decrease the heat. Flip the pancake and cook another minute until the bottom side is golden. Eat hot, drizzled with olive oil if desired or maple syrup. Repeat with the remaining batter.
To make silver dollar size pancakes, pour 2-inch circles around the edge of the pan, spaced ½-inch apart. Cook until small holes pock the top and the bottom is browned, about 1 minute. Flip the pancake and cook another minute until the bottom side is golden. Eat with maple syrup, honey or jam.
To make socca in the oven: Heat the oven to 450. Put a well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet in oven and heat 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, just before making the socca, you can set over medium heat until hot).
Pour about a teaspoon of olive oil into the pan and swirl to coat. Pour batter into the pan, tipping the pan to coat the bottom completely with a thin layer; you’ll need ¼ to 1/2-cup for a 10-12-inch pan, more for a larger one. (At this point, you can add cooked toppings such as grated Parmesan Cheese, cooked greens or onions, etc. (Check out Kitchen Repertoire’s suggestions here.) Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pancake is firm and the edges set.
Brush or drizzle the top of the pancake with olive oil.
Bob’s Red Mill sells chickpea-flour as Garbanzo Bean Flour. It is available at gourmet and Mediterranean specialty stores, or via Amazon.
If you’re traveling, check out David Lebovitz’s Best Places to Eat Socca