Monday, April 11, 2011

Socca It To Me: Chick Pea Crepes

Photo: Mandy Jones. All rights reserved.
Socca (chick pea flour crepes) transports me to another time and place. Anyone who has eaten Socca somewhere in the French Riviera will admit the regional specialty can become seriously addicting. I can't imagine a better way to spend an hour than sitting in the Nicoise market with a pile of peppery socca and a goblet of local rose. 

In fact, all I spoke of before our trip to Nice this past December was how I can't wait to have socca. I now chastise myself for waiting almost the entire first week before indulging in some (although I was feasting on other fabulous delicacies- like duck terrine). But, we more than made up for it in the subsequent 2 weeks.  I lived and studied in Nice. Travel to Nice for vacation. Conduct tours through the French Riviera and Provence.  I've eaten socca all over the region and well into Italy. It's not all the same. My favorites remain in Nice.  

Nothing beats a plateful of ragged torn-up bits of socca from Chez Thérésa in the Nice flower market. Her famous crepes are made a few blocks away in the restaurant and carried via bicycle to her fire breathing 50 gallon drum from which she serves eager customers until they run out. Then there's Lou Pilha Leva, tucked in the heart of Old Town, where tourists and locals chow socca and pissiladiere (onion tart) while sitting elbow-to-elbow at picnic tables. It's an authentic street food experience, but the best socca (in my opinion) in Nice, is Chez Pipo, near the marina, where they serve massive soccas 'raked' across the top for extra crispiness. Worth the effort to visit.

Socca is traditionally baked in a huge copper pan in the oven, which is why they aren't commonly made at home. Also, socca are much crispier than regular crepes, therefore no filler required. I would describe them as thin pancakes with crispy (sometimes even burnt) edges and burnt bits in places. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a heavy handed dose of course, ground black pepper.  Let there be socca.

Photo (steel pan): Mandy Jones.
Photo (steel pan): Mandy Jones.
I was excited to see this recipe in Salad as a Meal. Before reading Patricia Wells's description of salad, I might not have ventured to refer to socca as 'salad', but with her expanded definition, I agree this is a light and refreshing meal. No matter how full (or not hungry) I might be, there's always room for socca. I enlisted my sister Mandy, who also has been to Nice, to help whip up a few batches. She and I are teaching a series of cultural-culinary courses at Upper Arlington's Lifelong Learning this spring and The Great Crepe Escape (register online) is our first. Socca is on the menu, so this was good practice. We'll likely use the SAAM recipe in class.

We made several batches in a variety of pans able to withstand 450 degrees in the oven.  The best success came with our regular steel crepe pans, which we heated for 5 minutes in the oven before pouring the batter. KEY--- a sizzling hot pan ensures even cooking.  That's they way they do it in France. We also tried a using less and more batter. Our third batch turned out quite good and we chose to cut the socca neatly into triangles (as the Italian do) rather than tear it apart.

Photo (Paella pan): Shawnie Kelley
As I read the intro to Patricia's recipe, I learned she uses a custom made copper socca pan, about the same size as a paella pan. Light bulb! I have one, so I made a batch in our paella pan, which would have turned out good had there been more batter to make it slightly thicker and pancake-like. Edges crisped up nicely and it tasted OK, despite being too thin. 

Photo (Paella pan): Shawnie Kelley
I've used several socca recipes over time and the Salad as a Meal recipe turns out as tasteful as those you can buy in a Provençal market. It might take trial and error to get them to the proper consistency, but it's a worthy and delicious undertaking... 
 * Find chick pea flour at Whole Foods or Indian grocers, like Patel Brothers on Sawmill Road here in Columbus.

My fellow bloggers who also made socca are Kate Kurtz of Urban Food Producers and Hillary Davis of Dimache Marche, who also made the falafel from the cookbook. It all turned out lovely.... Shelby Kinnaird of DiabeticFoodie blog had to trek far & wide to find chick pea flour, but has joined the Socca Club with a blog offering the most nutritional information of us all. 

Click here to purchase: 

Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season [Hardcover]


  1. I'm sad to say, I've never tried Socca - but it seems like I must! Looks fabulous :).

  2. Shawnie! I get mine at Lou Leva and sit at the picnic tables! Sooooo good! Great read, so interesting!

  3. In December, I took my tour group to Lou Leva too. They enjoyed the socca and pissaladiere.

  4. Finally found chickpea flour! Now I'm thinking I must go to France :)

  5. Southern France is where you'll find Socca. Not so much in the north. Let me know if you go...