Recipe for Socca Zucca

By Andrea Most

Chickpea pancake / pizza with winter squash, sage and cheese

Serves 2-3 people as a main course, 4 as a starter

It’s winter squash season and there are so many ways to use the diverse varieties our Ontario farmers grow!  Here is a recipe for a pizza-style socca with winter squash and cheese, inspired by a Pizza Zucca I ate in Venice a few years ago.  Socca is an amazingly easy and delicious Provencal pancake. A similar version, made in Italy, is called farinata. It is made with chickpea flour, which means that, unlike a standard pizza, this one is both gluten-free and full of protein and fiber.  Just be sure to use the organic chickpea flour you can get in bulk at Karma as conventionally grown chickpeas are notoriously high in toxic herbicides.

Photo by Ryan Jacobs on Unsplash

NOTE:  Socca batter benefits from a long rest. If you can, take 5 minutes in the morning to make the batter and leave it on the counter to soak until dinnertime.  If not, try to give it at least an hour to rest before baking.

Ingredients

For Socca: 

1 cup chickpea flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme, or sage, depending on your toppings)

For topping:

About 1 1/2 cups winter squash purée  

1 whole nutmeg (from the bulk bins at Karma!)

6 -8 slices of fresh mozzarella-style cheese (any of the fresco cheeses Monforte makes work beautifully here; in a pinch, you can also use pre-grated mozzarella)

10-12 fresh sage leaves

Olive oil, salt and pepper

  1. Mix chickpea flour, salt & pepper in a bowl.  Add 1 cup filtered water, whisking to get rid of any lumps.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and whisk batter until it’s smooth and the consistency of heavy cream.  Cover and let it sit at room temperature for at least one and up to 12 hours.
  1. Make your squash purée, if you don’t have any on hand. (See below)
  1. When you are ready to make dinner, preheat the oven to 450 F. Put a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to heat. You can also use a 12-inch nonstick pizza pan or some other oven-safe skillet.
  1. When the oven and pan are hot, take the pan out (carefully!), pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and swirl it around to cover the bottom.  Add the onions and put the pan back in the oven.  Cook the onions for 6-8 minutes until well browned, stirring once or twice.
  1. Remove the pan from the oven.  Stir cooked onions and chopped herbs into the batter and then pour the whole thing into the pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes (this will vary depending on the pan and the heat of your oven).  The pancake should be firm and the edges set.
  1. Remove the pancake from the oven. Heat the broiler.
  1. Spread winter squash purée over the whole surface to cover it generously (about a ½ inch deep), using a rubber spatula.
  1. Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top and then arrange the cheese slices to cover. Place the socca under the broiler for about a minute, to heat the toppings and melt the cheese.  Take it out, and let it cool for about 5 minutes.
  1. While the socca is cooling, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a small saute pan, on medium high heat and fry the sage leaves in the oil, just until they get crispy.  Let them drain on a paper towel, then crumble them over the top of the socca, cut into wedges, and enjoy!

Winter Squash Purée

To make the squash purée: 

  • Cut a squash in half, take out the seeds and brush the cut halves with olive oil.  Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake at 375 F until squash is really soft (i.e. it will collapse if you press on the skin).  This usually takes about 30 minutes for a butternut squash, but time can vary depending on the variety of squash. 
  • Let the squash cool a little, then scrape out the flesh into a mixing bowl. 
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and beat with a wooden spoon until soft and smooth. 
  • Season with salt and pepper. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and freeze the rest to use for another socca next week!
  • NOTE: You can make the purée up to two days in advance and store the puree in the fridge. Or you can freeze puree in batches and defrost as needed. If you are using defrosted squash, and it seems watery, simmer it gently to thicken it a little, stirring constantly so it doesn’t scorch.

Socca recipe adapted from Mark Bittman’s version at cooking.nytimes.com.