Ever since my youngest son was found to be allergic to wheat among other foods, I find myself constantly looking for gluten-free recipes that might remind him of something tasty he used to enjoy. Call it comfort food. One of the recipes I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Socca, Farinata, or as I call it Chickpea Pizza (although there’s no cheese or tomato sauce involved). This Chickpea Pizza goes by many names. In Nice, it is called “Socca,” in Tuscany “Cecina,” and in Argentina “Faina.” Whether you want to call it Farinata, Socca or Faina, this dish is made simply from chickpea flour, water and olive oil.
Although traditionally Farinata is made with just chick pea flour, water and olive oil, Elizabeth David points out that the Farinata of Oneglia is “strewn with very finely sliced onions before it is consigned to the oven, and at Savona it is sprinkled with rosemary leaves.” She discusses the thickness of Farinata, saying that if it is more than 1 1/4″ thick, it becomes “stodgy.” Her own variation includes adding some fennel seeds.
For this recipe, I had to buy chickpea flour. Although I’ve roasted chickpeas, pureed chickpeas and used chickpeas in soups, I’ve never used chickpea flour (although I have used a blend of chickpea/fava bean flour in gluten-free baking). Fortunately, there’s an Indian grocery store nearby that I knew would carry chickpea flour, or besam flour as it’s known. I’m sure an Italian grocery store or deli would probably also have it, packaged as farina de ceci.
Farinata, Socca or Chickpea Pizza
- 1/2 pound chick pea flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 pints less 2-3 tablespoons of water
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- fresh ground pepper
- Put the chick pea flour in a bowl, add the water a little at a time, stirring well.
- When smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter, add the salt.
- Cover and leave for a minimum of 4 hours at room temperature, or overnight if more convenient.
- When ready to bake farinata/socca, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In an 11 inch diameter cast iron pan, pour enough olive oil to cover the surface. Stir the batter and pour it into the pan. Again stir it well, so that the oil and batter are well incorporated.
- Scatter sliced onions and sprinkle fennel seeds on top.
- Bake the farinata for 50 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.
- Serve it hot, sprinkled with freshy milled pepper, and cut into lozenges.