Saturday, August 30, 2014


Socca is a simple chickpea flour crêpe from the south of France. 
While there are types of chickpea flour pancakes in several different countries, such as Italy and India (and, of course, with different names), we're going with France here. 

With a few simple ingredients, something wonderful can be created.
I like to make socca as part of a light meal, and it's the only reason I keep chickpea flour around. 

This version here isn't the thinnest you'd ever find, but instead it's got a toothsome bite and the edges have a nice crunch.

The version I prefer isn't strictly plain- it has some character from the addition of spices.

Socca is classically served with a drizzle of olive oil and grindings of fresh black pepper.
Try with sauteed onions and mushrooms, fresh herbs, or Parmesan shavings.

Recently I had a version with a fantastic fresh pesto, sliced sugar snap peas, and Parmesan shards.

But I also like to eat it with fish and lemon.

makes 1, 10 inch crêpe
serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1 c (140 g) chickpea (garbanzo) flour (or a garbanzo-fava bean flour blend... which I actually prefer)
1 c (240 ml) water
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
scant 1/2 t (about 1 g) ground cumin
good pinch cayenne pepper
1 t (5 g) kosher or grey salt
several grinds fresh black pepper

To cook:
Olive oil for the pan

Whisk all ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth (the batter will be loose). Set aside and let sit 30 minutes. 

Heat the broiler element of the oven on high. Drizzle a heavy 10 inch oven safe skillet (such as cast iron) with a bit of  olive oil and smear it around the inside until coated. Place the skillet in the oven a few inches from the element about 5 minutes to heat.
Remove the pan from the oven and pour in the previously rested batter. Tilt the pan as necessary to evenly coat it with the batter (move quickly so the pan stays as hot as possible). Place the pan back in the oven and cook 5-10 minutes, or until dry/cooked through and the top shows some spots of char.

At this point I like to flip it out of the pan and onto a cutting board (maybe with a little help from a fish spatula) and flip it charred side down back into the pan. It goes back into the oven a few minutes until the second side cooks a bit more and gets a little char. 

When finished, flip back out of the pan and back onto the cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve warm as desired. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vietnamese Coffee Granita

A simple dessert, only two ingredients, thought up while my sister and I were sitting at a local Vietnamese restaurant, Mai Lee, waiting for our takeout order. We usually pick up a curry dish, either chicken or vegetarian, and happy to report that the 5-spice pork was recently a winner for us, too. Love the green papaya salad. And though we haven't had one in a while, the mango with coconut sticky rice for dessert is fantastic- highly recommended.

While waiting, it is imperative for any of us to order a Vietnamese coffee. The coffee is not difficult in itself to make, but it's a treat we've reserved for sitting at the bar and waiting.

We're supposed to have a hot weekend, so I thought I'd give the idea a try.
This granita is creamier than the normally strictly icy but melt-in-your-mouth versions of most coffee granitas, but really, how bad can any sweet and icy coffee be on a hot day?

Serve dessert as is, or maybe turn it into something a bit more Italian with a little whipped cream and a chocolate-covered espresso bean or two.
But no matter what, a demitasse spoon will always make it last longer.

Vietnamese Coffee Granita
serves 6-8

5 c (1 L plus 200 ml) strong black coffee (In this instance I prep a strong French press brew.)
1 can (14 oz/379g) sweetened condensed milk

Mix the hot coffee and condensed milk in a large bowl and let cool. Pour the mixture into a large, flat freezer-safe pan (like a 9x13 inch), and place in the freezer until frozen solid (overnight may be best), giving a quick whisk or two during the process to make sure everything stays mixed as well as possible. 

Scrape the frozen coffee with the tines of a fork until it is completely broken down into icy flakes. 
Spoon into glasses  or dishes and serve as desired. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Fruit Salad

This isn't a fruit salad as in what people normally think of: a berry and melon melange tossed together in a big bowl.

It's more like the idea of a traditional green-leaf salad, but with the addition of great ripe fruit- and it's a salad idea I love.

You'll want to use whatever is the ripest and the best stone fruit you can find. If the peaches are sub-par, get the nectarines instead, but have at least 2 stone fruits so there's a little color and flavor variety in the salad. The jewel-like tones in the finished salad definitely make it visually appealing.

Toasted hazelnuts are a fantastic addition to practically any salad.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Place raw hazelnuts on a pan and bake about 10 minutes, shaking the pan and checking the progress about halfway through. Let the hazelnuts cool completely before rubbing the skins off in a tea towel, then roughly chop so they're ready to go.

I don't give exact "how to" in salad assemblage here- mostly because tastes are so different. The vinaigrette recipe makes about 3/4 cup, which, to me, is enough to serve up to 12 small salads (with about a tablespoon of vinaigrette on each).
5 oz (about 140 g) of greens can serve 5-6 people. Although if you're looking to make a meal of it, you'll want more greens and fruit per person.

A bit of crumbled chevre might be a nice addition to each salad.

Summer Fruit Salad
Adapted from a recipe in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin

3 T (45 ml) Sherry vinegar
2 T (20 g) minced shallot
1/2 t (2 g) sea or kosher salt (plus more to taste)
1 T (15 ml) honey
7 T (105 ml) olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

mixed greens

Choose at least 2 of these stone fruits: 
2-3 nectarines
2-3 plums
2 peaches
3-4 apricots

fresh ripe figs

chopped toasted hazelnuts 

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, shallot, and salt. Let sit about 10 minutes. Whisk in the honey and then the olive oil. Add black pepper and salt to taste. 

Place greens on each plate and spoon the vinaigrette over each salad. Slice the stone fruit into 12 pieces (less for apricots, more for large peaches), and divide among the salads. Perhaps use 3 slices of each fruit for each salad. Remove the stems from the figs and halve. Place 3 halves or so on each salad. Scatter several blackberries on the salads and sprinkle chopped hazelnuts over everything.