In the summer I dream of the South of France. Running through lavender fields, sailing down the Riviera, shopping at the village market, and pretending to be in La Piscine all make for an ideal imaginary summer. And to help to achieve this degree of delusion is Mireille Johnston’s The Cuisine of the Sun. I found this dreamy book a few years ago and have frequently cooked from it since. It’s filled with simple, summery recipes sure to facilitate anyone’s farcical French holiday.
One of my favorite recipes (though I will likely feature more) is socca. Socca has made a bit of a comeback in the anguishing days of gluten-free fads as pizza crust. The purist in me says this is wrong. I’ll let Johnston take over from here:
“Every morning the streets of Nice are full of men carrying large round trays of socca on their heads (wrapped with handkerchiefs) to the marketplaces and shouting “Tout chaud” (It is hot). The fragrance of small pieces of socca wrapped in brown paper cones mingles with the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables to give the open-air market a truly wonderful atmosphere. Socca is quick and easy to prepare at home. Children love socca for snacks, and it is a delicious appetizer, cut in small pieces and wrapped in bright paper napkins to accompany a chilled rosé, vermouth, or dry white wine.”
2/3 cup chickpea (gram) flour
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water
freshly ground black pepper
Mix the flour, oil, salt, and water in a bowl. Stir well until no lumps remain and let stand for 1 hour (at room temperature or refrigerated).
Preheat oven to 400° F. Oil a round, shallow pan or iron skillet well and pour on the batter- it should be around 1/8 of an inch thick. Put the pan in the oven as close to the broiler as possible and cook for 5 minutes. Then, sprinkle a bit of olive oil on top and cook for an additional 7-12 minutes. You may need to cook a little longer. What you want is a crisp, golden brown crust.
Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, then slide out onto a plate with a spatula. Traditionally, it is cut into 2×2 inch wedges or squares.