Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bengali Inspired Socca

If I had a food truck I'd call it 'Mamachandra's', a nickname a dear friend of mine gave me when I answered my phone one day, soon after having my daughter. It's a mash up of my then new status as a mom and my last name. 'Sup, Mamachandra?', he'd said,  and I've thought of myself this way ever since.  If Mamachandra's existed, we would serve this dish. Wrapped in parchment, hot off the griddle, a crunchy along the edges, super thin pancake stuffed with room temperature veggies roasted with a Bengali spice blend and topped with a pile of fresh steamed garlicky spinach. No need for fancy sauce or condiments. Just a bundle of warm flavors that are rich and distinct with the comforting sweetness of cauliflower, soft bite of potato, and nice kick of garlic in the tender spinach. I love these things.

Seriously, I even have a note on my phone of things I'd serve out of Mamachandra's. This was the first dish to make The Menu ('The Tacos' was second). It's something I want to eat all the time.

The whole idea emerged when I found myself trying to come up with something new to make my sister who is gluten intolerant. I hadn't had the best luck with chickpea flour omelets, had made tofu-based varieties many, many times, and thought maybe a crepe style pancake would work better. I'd never heard of a Socca before. Wikipedia claims, 

Farinata, socca, or cecina is a sort of thin, unleavened pancake or crêpe of chickpea flour originating in Genoa and later a typical food of the Ligurian Sea coast, from Nice to Pisa'. It takes but a few ingredients and tastes really amazing, a light pancake with crispy edges.

Combine that with my having ordered some Ponch Phoran after being totally intrigued by this recipe at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I had yet to actually make that recipe, but really loved the way this blend smelled and thought this would be a great time to test it out. Plus with this endorsement

'Each bite tastes different from the next–first a little cumin combined with mustard, then fenugreek with fennel, and so on, the flavors shifting and blending with each other and the other ingredients'

from Susan, and who wouldn't be intrigued enough to dream up a dish that could incorporate this inexpensive but delicious-sounding spice blend?
Snagged this pic from the internet as it's much prettier than my holding up the little jar.


There is no formal recipe here. It's a roasting of some seasoned veggies and adding a few spices to the traditional Socca recipe. I can't tell you amounts, but here's how it goes down in Mamachandra's food-truck-lacking kitchen.....for now. :)

For The Veggies (you can make these first as they taste best just slightly warmer than room temperature):

I normally cut and roast my potatoes, but this time I bought new red potatoes and used the Hot Crashed Potato recipe I found here, at The Pioneer Woman's blog and cut them up. It's my new favorite way to cook potatoes for nearly any recipe. Basically you parboil the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until fork tender. Then, on a Silpat or well oiled baking sheet, smash them down with a masher and brush with olive oil, add seasonings. Most days we add sea salt, rosemary and thyme. For this dish I only added sea salt and some slivered garlic. Last step is to put back into a 450 oven for about 25 minutes or until they're browning and getting crispy on the smaller bits and skins. 

For the cauliflower, I chopped into bit sized florets and added olive oil, sea salt, panch phoran, and curry. They went into the 450 oven for about 20 minutes, or until they start to brown.

For the spinach, I just chopped a large bunch, threw in hot pan with olive oil, salt, and more slivered garlic. Once it starts to wilt, I add a tsp of water, cover and remove from heat. This keeps it vibrantly green while allowing it to wilt fully. Too much heat and it loses that beautiful bright hue and gets overcooked quickly.

For Socca pancake batter:

1 cup chickpea flour
1 1/4 c water
1 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for pan)
couple pinches sea salt

In my batter I added a bit of coriander, cardamom and turmeric. I can't tell you actual amounts, I just shook some in until I liked the look and smell of it. (Speaking of smell, don't be turned off by the smell of chickpea (besan) flour. It's kind of ick, but keep it refrigerated so it doesn't spoil and cooked it tastes so much better than it smells raw.

Place flour in med to large bowl. whisk in water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have the consistency of heavy cream (It seemed a tiny bit thin to me and you'll have clumps at first but keep whisking. It works. Promise. If you doubt me, sift like recipes I've found suggest to do before adding water, but I skipped it and it was fine). Whisk in salt and oil.
on med to high heat, place about a tsp of oil and swirl around. add 1/4 batter to pan and swirl around, making it spread out as much as possible for a very thin pancake. when bubbles start to form on surface, flip and cook other side for a minute or two. (Funny, when I preview this I notice that it looks like I cut and pasted the words. I say it's funny because I cut and pasted them from an email to my sister with the recipe.)

I've read with Socca's that, like in making traditional, wheat flour-based pancakes, the first one or two can be a wash, until your pan is ready to cook them more evenly. I, personally, find my first few to be the best ones and then it's just tricky from there, but I'm pretty sure it's my stove and my inability to keep it at a decent temperature without getting too hot for too long. I have perfect Socca pancakes the first, second, maybe third attempt, then they start burning and sticking, even tho I wipe the pan and brush on new oil for each pancake. 

First Socca, perfect and holey and gorgeous, third socca....not so much.
However they turn out off the skillet, tho, they still taste delicious, so it's worth the effort for me to crank out as many as we need and stop caring about what they look like.

Easy Assembly:

These stuffed pancakes are best enjoyed as the pancakes are made. Sitting around, waiting to politely enjoy them together means you'll lose some of that crispy texture along the outside of the pancake. Nobody wants that. So I just roast my veggies, make my spinach, mix the batter and let it sit while everything else is cooking. Once everything is out and cooled to just warm, I fire up the skillet and start serving.

It's as easy as make a pancake, put it on a plate, add potatoes, add cauliflower, top with spinach, and serve to whatever lucky person gets to delight their tastebuds with what you've just handed them.

See? That has 'food truck!' written all over it, don'tcha think? :)

1 comment:

Johanna GGG said...

this looks delicious - I love how lacy your socca looks - I made it once and it was delicious but I baked it - will have to try frying it