I love words. You’ve probably figured that out by now. I also love to make up words. No surprise there either. I mean, a fascination with shoes should be called a fashoenation, don’t you think? Then there are the words that sound like I made them up but didn’t. ‘Culinarily’. Definitely sounds like something I’d fake, but it’s legit. ‘Ersatz’ sounds made up and a little gassy, but it’s real. ‘Fecund’. Not only does it sound made up, it sounds like something you’d haul off and slap someone for calling you. Yet if someone actually described me as “intellectually productive and inventive to a marked degree”, (I had the chance to look it up), I’d likely be flattered. Then I’d slap them for using such a pompous-ass word.
Now take the word ‘serendipitous’. First, it’s fun to say. Five syllables, with ‘dipi’ in the middle. If I was making up a word, I’d definitely put a dipi in it somewhere. The meaning is interesting too, and sums up my life of late. Kinda good (fortuitous), kinda not so good (erratic and uncertain), kinda fluky as in life feels like one big crapshoot. All of that can be said for the word, for me, and probably for just about everyone else too. We can all plan as much as we want, meticulously lay out the course as we’d like to see it, but there’s no guarantee that any of that is going to turn out as prescribed. Fact is, me, you, none of us has a lock on how things are going to turn out. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, or work really hard, or hope. At least that’s how I look at it. Sure serendipity will always factor in, but I’m serendipitously optimistic that whatever happens, I’ll make the best of it eventually. After all, I’m one fecund gal.
So why all the serendipitous chatter? I had a moment of serendipity when recently contacted by someone who works for Azure Farms. Serendipity, by way of the offer of free stuff to play with. Azure Farms is a local farm that among other things, grows and mills flours. The farm is part of Azure Standard, a food and goods grower/supplier based here in Northwest Oregon that distributes through coops, buying clubs and distributors across the country. As a local baker and blogger, I was asked to try out some of their flours. I chose two of their wheat flours, one hard red, one a softer pastry flour, and I must say both are beautiful products to work with. Organic, local, great quality. Of course, being given bags to play with for free was pretty awesome too. Certainly some new recipes will follow. But what got me really excited was the bag of their garbanzo flour.
If you’ve never used garbanzo (chickpea) flour, you’re in for a treat. You could certainly substitute it for some of the wheat flour in a recipe, especially if you are trying out some gluten free options. However, I chose to make a dish this kind of flour is known for. Socca or Farinata is part flatbread, part pancake, and totally delicious. A street food commonly found in the Provence region of France (socca) and neighboring Liguria, Italy (farina), it is the marriage of golden chick pea flour, lots of olive oil, onions, and whatever herb you like, cooked in a hot oven, brushed with more olive oil and then broiled briefly. I made it as a snack/appetizer to go with a great bottle of wine, but it could easily serve as first course, brunch or lunch. Thank you Rob from Azure Farms for your generosity inspiring this tasty addition to the Cooking in My Heels recipe files!
Socca/Farinata (Adapted from Mark Bittman and the New York Times)
4-6 appetizer servings
Recipe Notes: Bittman’s recipe calls for a 12-inch nonstick pizza pan or skillet. I grabbed a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron pan to make this, which makes a little bit thicker pancake, and I liked it better than the original. You can use whichever you prefer, just make sure the pan is well-seasoned or nonstick. If using the larger, you’ll have a crispier socca; use the smaller and you’ll get crispy top crust with a softer almost creamy inside. I reduced the pepper a little, and the rosemary too. Both were great at first, but I found you lost the subtle chickpea flavor to the rosemary and pepper.
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 -3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 more for sautéing the onions
- ½ large onion, thinly sliced
- 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or whatever your favorite – thyme or sage would be great too.
You can make the pancake in about 45 minutes start to finish, or make the batter and onions ahead, park it in the fridge for up to 12 hours, and bake it off as you are making cocktails or pouring wine. The instructions below are for prep/bake/serve.
Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add one tablespoon oil to pan, and once it is hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until they are nice and caramelized. While the onions are cooking, mix the chickpea flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Bittman suggests an immersion blender. A whisk is fine, especially if you are planning on letting it sit a few hours, but if you like power tools, have at it. Once the batter is smooth, stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover and let sit while the oven heats, or for as long as 12 hours.The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.
Once the onions are done, remove from pan, wipe out, put 1 tablespoon oil in the pan, and put pan in oven for about 5 minutes until oil is hot. Stir in the rosemary or whatever herb you’re using into the batter, along with the onions. Carefully remove the pan from oven and pour the batter in. Return to oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the pancake is firm and the edges set.
Carefully remove the pan from oven and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Turn broiler on. Place pan a few inches away from the broiler and cook just long enough to brown it in spots. Cut it into wedges, and serve hot or warm. Leftovers are great cold, or reheated and crisped up in a little oil in a pan.