I mentioned recently that I received a copy of Bean by Bean for Christmas. This book has been on my wish list for a while and I was really excited to get it - I cook with beans a lot and am always looking for new recipe ideas. When I was flipping through the book and tagging recipes to try, I came across a recipe for socca (chickpea flour flatbread). It made me remember that I still had chickpea flour in the pantry and that I should make socca more often (I've only made it once before). The recipe in Bean by Bean was different than the one I used before so I decided to try it. This crust recipe is really phenomenal - the socca is deliciously crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. Don't try to cut down on the amount of oil - you need it to get those addictively crispy edges. The lamb-eggplant sauce is meaty and savory and goes very well with the chickpea flavor of the crust. If you're looking for interesting variations on traditional pizza, give this one a try! I'd love to hear other topping ideas that you come up with as well.
Socca with lamb-eggplant sauce
Crust adapted from Bean by Bean, sauce recipe is original
You can also make a vegetarian version of this sauce by omitting the lamb. I don't have specific instructions for this, but can give approximate guidelines. I would leave the recipe mostly the same but add 1 tbs olive oil before adding the chopped eggplant to the pan. Also, I'd reduce the tomato paste to 2 tbs and the balsamic vinegar to 1/2 tbs to start. You can adjust according to your taste.
I have written this recipe to make the sauce and crust at the same time, but the sauce can definitely be made ahead of time if you prefer.
1 medium eggplant
1 tbs olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 lb. ground lamb
3 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For socca crust:
1 cup plus 2 tbs chickpea flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 2/3 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 deg F. Prick eggplant in several places with a fork, then place it in a baking pan. Roast eggplant in the preheated oven until it is very soft, has collapsed slightly, and the skin is black in spots, about 45-60 minutes. Remove eggplant from oven and set aside to cool. When eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Finely chop flesh and discard skin.
Increase oven temperature to 450 deg F.
Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened and somewhat browned, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add lamb and cook until lamb is just cooked through. (At this point, if your lamb was very lean you may want to add another tablespoon or so of olive oil. The lamb I used had enough fat that I did not find this necessary). Add chopped eggplant and reduce heat to medium low. Add a couple large pinches of salt and stir to combine. Cook sauce for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
While sauce cooks, prepare socca crust. Whisk together chickpea flour, salt, 1 tbs olive oil, and water in a medium bowl until smooth. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (I used a 12-inch skillet) over high heat. When skillet is hot, add the remaining 3 tbs olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Pour socca batter into the pan, grind some black pepper over the top, and transfer to the 450 deg F oven. Bake socca for 30 minutes, until the top is firm and browned in spots, and the sides are beginning to pull away from the pan.
While socca bakes, continue with the sauce. After the eggplant has been added and the sauce has cooked for 15 minutes, add the tomato paste. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for 10 more minutes. Add vinegar, cook for 2 more minutes, and then remove sauce from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When crust is ready, remove it from the oven and spread the sauce over the crust. Sprinkle with feta cheese and put the pan back in the oven. Bake for 5 more minutes.
Remove socca from the oven and sprinkle with chopped parsley and red pepper flakes, if using. Slice and serve immediately. Leftovers will keep well for a couple days. Reheat in a 400 deg F oven until the socca is hot and the crust crisps up again.