With spring in the air, I’ve been on an asparagus kick lately. These slender and elegant green stalks remind me that summer is not far. One of our farmers at the market grows this perennial vegetable and now is the time to make hay while the sun shines. Or, more appropriately, eat asparagus while it’s in season.
(Farmers tidbit: Did you know that you only need to plant asparagus once and it will continue to grow for 20 or more years? Now, that’s sustainability in action.)
When Noemi and Julio of Bikkurim Farms came bearing my beloved asparagus a few weeks ago, I have been roasting it religiously. It just takes about 5-7 minutes in a 425 degree oven. I like it when it’s slightly al dente.
In our new eating regime, I have been searching for unique alternatives and have found so many great ideas. I stumbled upon this recipe for socca flatbread topped with spring pesto and salad and felt an immediate yearning to make. this. now.
Since pizza is no longer in my repertoire–or David’s–I thought this might fill the satisfaction that eating carbs does for you. Though, in fact, this is a gluten-free, nut-free and vegan alternative that might just be one of my new favorite things!
Socca is typical street food you would find while vacationing in the south of France, particularly in Nice. A crêpe that is made with chickpea (garbanzo) flour, socca is generally enjoyed alongside a cold beer or glass of rosé. Remember, when in Rome…
Use it as a pizza crust and add whatever toppings you like, but remember that less is more. Arugula, thinly sliced jámon serrano, slivers of red onion. Perhaps a shmear of goat cheese, topped with roasted vegetables and watercress. Or just make it and spread pesto or tapenade over it and cut into squares for an appetizer for your dinner guests.
So make it a party and invite some friends over. Pretend you’re on vacation in the Côte d’Azur. Just be sure to chill lots of rose, relax and then dig in to a “Nice” dinner.
Socca Flatbread with Spring Pesto and Salad
For the socca:
- 2 cups chickpea flour
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for the pan
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the pesto:
- Store bought or homemade and choose from one of these recipes from Food & Wine
For the salad:
- 4 cups spring mix salad greens
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus roasted (with some olive oil in 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes) and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup fresh spring peas blanched (or frozen, and then just toss them in the microwave with a splash of water for about 90 seconds)
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives cut in half lengthwise
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- Lemon curls for garnish
- Extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Lemon juice to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Frantoia finishing olive oil to taste (optional, but I really recommend this)
Whisk together the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, garlic, thyme and salt. Let stand for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours.
Set an oven rack on the top level nearest the broiler and turn the broiler on high. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or equivalent baking dish) in the oven for five minutes and let it get nice and hot. Remove the skillet from the oven and add a teaspoon of oil to coat the bottom. Give the chickpea batter a whisk and pour one quarter of it into the hot skillet and watch it sizzle. Tilt the pan so it coats the entire surface.
Broil for 5-10 minutes until the top is browned and the socca is cooked in the middle and crispy on the edges.
Use a spatula to remove it from the pan and place on a large plate.
Repeat to make the remaining flatbreads.
Meanwhile, spread a tablespoon of pesto (or you could just drizzle olive oil) on the hot socca. Top with one cup spring mix salad greens, one quarter of the asparagus, peas, olives, shallots and lemon curls--keeping in mind you still have three more flatbreads to make.
Drizzle with a fabulous finishing olive oil (like Frantoia) and squeeze a little lemon juice. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper.