Tag Archives: Mark Bittman

Socca tartlets, four ways: Yes, that’s right, it’s a recipe.

I love food blogs. I started reading them when I started cooking for myself, and I read them more now than ever, because it’s a good way to stay connected with other gluten-free people, because it’s practically a requirement for my job (I work on cookbooks, among others), and because there’s nothing quite like some good food porn.

Though I talk about cooking surprisingly little on this blog, I do it pretty much every day. And not only because, being gluten-free, I sorta have to: I love it, too. But I’ve never really considered this a food blog. My focus has always been on stories about gluten-free life, so even though I’m constantly using and making recipes, I’ve steered clear of posting them.

I’ve decided to make an exception, though, because 1) the recipe is worth it, and 2) recipes are kinda like stories, if you think about it. I certainly read food blogs for pleasure, not just utility. A recent New Yorker piece backs me up with the perceptive claim that “cookbooks are like novels…This is what recipes are: stories of pretend meals.”

This recipe—my first ever on this blog—tells a story of the housewarming party my sister and I threw back in August, a story that I have until now neglected to tell. It’s a story of careful planning and intense preparation to serve a spread of food that wasn’t imitating anything gluten-y but didn’t leave anyone thinking, “good for gluten-free.” It’s a story of summer produce and steamy kitchens, told when it’s become just chilly enough to think of those things nostalgically. It’s a story of hard work and great payoff: everyone praised the food and, more importantly, had fun.

It’s also a story of why I don’t usually post recipes. You’ll see what I mean.

The proud hosts with the full spread (minus desserts; I'll tell you about those soon)

The proud hosts, the full spread (minus desserts; I’ll tell you about those soon). The DJ is back there in the corner, too. Kindly ignore.

Socca is an amazing food. I first discovered it through David Lebovitz’s blog, then saw it again on The Kitchn, and then found out it’s apparently Mark Bittman’s favorite food—all of which puts me (and you, should you choose to join) in good company.

It’s a chickpea flour flatbread that can be thin and broiler-blistered, or thick and soft, plain or topped with garlic and onions or pizza toppings, or with the toppings mixed right into the batter. It’s good with every kind of sauce, spread, vegetable, cheese, and seed I’ve ever tried throwing at it. You can make it taste like a pizza or a tart or a frittata. You can even make it into crackers and dip it into hummus, for an incestuous snack. It’s good hot, warm, room temp, and cold. Depending on toppings, it’s vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, even grain-free—though not low-FODMAP, and probably not paleo. (But if you’re going to cheat, you couldn’t choose much better.)

In short, if you’ve never before bought a bag of chickpea flour and think of it as nothing more than the odd aftertaste to some gluten-free cookies, then boy, are you missing out. Try this recipe next time you’re entertaining or just feel like serving yourself an elegant starter.

We worked from a recipe on The Kitchn, tripling it and making four different toppings. We also had two different sizes of muffin tin, so we had regular mini tarts and extra-mini tarts. Socca itself is incredibly simple and forgiving, but my MO in the kitchen (and in life…?) is to take simple things and make them complicated. You can re-simplify as desired.

Here we go!

gluten-free socca recipe

Get ready for more stunning food photography such as this “process shot” of the plain crusts.

How many does the recipe make? Good question.

As a cookbook editor, I’m well aware that recipes require yields. However, I must inform you we did not count our tartlets. As you can see in the pictures, there were approximately a billion.

The original non-tripled recipe makes two thin 10-inch-diameter soccas, so the total area will be about 2 x π52 = 50π, which you can then divide by the area of your muffin pan cups (about .93752π for a mini or 1.3752π for a regular), which means that if you made the single batch you should get about 57 extra-tiny tartlets or 26 regular-tiny tartlets.

If you make the triple batch as listed below, you’ll have about 171 extra-tinies or 78 regular-tinies (or somewhere in between, if you used a mix of both sizes, as we did, and no, I am not going to attempt any further calculations). This is the most math I’ve done in a long time and if it’s wrong I take no responsibility.

The bare bones you need for socca crust—toppings below (note: you can make a more reasonable batch by dividing each of these amounts by 3)

3 cups chickpea flour
3 cups water
4-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

muffin tin socca

Cute silicone muffin liners, right? Just please, please, don’t be an idiot like us and spray them with cooking spray. IT NEVER COMES OFF.

What to do!

  1. If it’s summer, turn on the air conditioner. Do this several hours before beginning. Forget about the bill.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  3. Mix the socca ingredients together and let sit. The minimum recommendation I’ve seen is 10 minutes, but I believe I’ve read that the texture gets better the longer the ingredients sit. Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter.
  4. Make all the toppings. HAHAHA, just kidding, you’d better have done that part in advance. (See below.)
  5. Grease mini muffin or muffin pans with cooking spray. Or, if you’re using silicone, please don’t grease. We did, and it ain’t pretty.
  6. Pour very small amounts of socca batter into each muffin hole. You’re going for just barely covering the bottom of the cup, but half the time you will accidentally pour for too long and get thicker tartlets no matter how hard you try to make them uniform. Ours were all slightly different thicknesses, and they were all good, so don’t worry.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes. We were opening our oven a lot and no doubt cooling it down, so you may actually want to bake for less than 10 if you aren’t. I think we left them in for longer than 10, actually, but you’ll want to start checking by 10. When they’re brown around the edges, you should be good. If they brown too much, they’re still great. Again, don’t worry too much.
  8. Let cool, probably in the muffin pans for a bit and then on a wire rack if you have one. We don’t yet, so they went directly onto serving platters. They were still awesome.
  9. Painstakingly spread toppings onto each of the billion tartlet crusts you’ve created.
  10. If you have guests arriving within hours who will not take kindly to the oven still being on, you may wish to broil the topped tartlets for a minute or so before serving. If you have a kitchen torch, you may wish to go nuts with that instead. You may, however, wish instead to find time to shower before your party, in which case you may
    decide to skip this step.
  11. Take pictures. Collect compliments. EAT.

Zucchini Butter Topping

Use this recipe, also on The Kitchn. We used olive oil and garlic, and only made a half batch because one of our “farm-fresh” zucchinis turned out to be half-rotten. We also added fresh parsley and topped the tartlets with thinly sliced cherry tomatoes. VEGAN! If you want them to be not vegan, you know what to do.

Zucchini butter & sweet potato tartlets, with adorable little placards made by Althea

Zucchini butter & sweet potato tartlets, with adorable placards made by Althea

Sweet Potato Topping

Microwave two large sweet potatoes. Let cool, then remove peel. Save in Tupperware in your fridge to “use in another meal.” Add to compost three weeks later. Meanwhile, mash the peeled sweet potatoes and add all those Italian herbs (oregano, thyme, basil) and salt and pepper. Garnish the tartlets with little bitsles of fresh rosemary. VEGAN! No, you don’t need to add butter to the mash.

The apple, onion & goat cheese is the ugliest, but so good. Prettifying suggestions welcome for next time.

The fig & goat cheese is the ugliest, but so good. Prettifying suggestions welcome for next time.

Fig & Goat Cheese Topping

Make incredible orange-zingy fig jam by simmering a pack of chopped dried figs with water, sugar, orange zest, a cinnamon stick, and a dash of cloves until jammy. Blend until even jammier using an immersion blender or a standalone. Althea masterminded this and thinks other ingredients went in there, too, but she can’t remember. (Brain fog.) So, throw in whatever sounds good to you. Spread tartlets with cooled fig spread, then goat cheese, then a dab of honey for show. NOT VEGAN. But make yourself some nut cheese and sub in agave for honey and you’re golden (provided your sugar wasn’t filtered through bone char…erlack!).

Fig goat cheese rosemary socca recipe

Apple, onion, goat cheese & copious rosemary

Apple, Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Topping

Slice yellow onions thinly. Don’t cut off any digits with the mandoline. Caramelize. No, but really. Do yourself a favor and really caramelize, for longer than 20 minutes. Do it for an hour. Or more. Go crazy. I hear this even works in a slow cooker. Slice granny smith apples thinly and sauté with rosemary and a bit of cinnamon. Layer strands of onions, slices of apples, and blue cheese onto the tartlets. NOT VEGAN. But still probably awesome without the cheese, or with a vegan kind. I really don’t know because I was busy putting blue cheese on everything.

And we all ate happily ever after (or, at least, it felt like we were eating forever). The end.

Have you tried socca before? If not, what’s your favorite gluten-free dish? If so, isn’t it GREAT? How do you like to make it?

Gluten-Free-Wednesdays-Thumbnail

Because I’ve always kinda wanted to have something suited to the purpose, I’ve linked up this post in the Gluten-Free Homemaker‘s Gluten-Free Wednesdays carnival….

…and Vegetarian Mamma‘s Gluten-Free Fridays.

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A hit list and a wish list: who deserves celiac disease?

People I wish had celiac disease:

  • Hitler: Obviously.
  • Stalin: Also obvious.
  • Saddam Hussein: You get the point.
  • J.K. Rowling*: Because she’d write an instantly best-selling inspirational children’s book series about overcoming celiac disease through the magic of love and friendship. And she’d totally want me for a coauthor.
  • Ancient Buddhist monks*: Because then they would not have invented seitan, and I would not have to feel sad I can’t eat it.
  • Cookie monster with fruitUS Farm Bill writers*: Because they would stop subsidizing wheat. (And produce more…corn? Hang on a second.)
  • The Cookie Monster: Because it’d be great for awareness.
  • Lady Gaga*: Because she flirts with G-free already, and any way I can be more like Lady Gaga sounds good to me.

People I’m glad don’t have celiac disease:

  • My mom: Because recipe reformulation or not, I’d hate to see her lose her Twizzlers.
  • My brother: Because I’m not sure what he’d do without pizzapastasandwiches.
  • The rest of my family: Well, assuming it’s true, that is. GET TESTED.
  • Most children: Everyone should have at least 20 years of animal-cracker-gumming, Triscuit-crunching, beer-chugging bliss (sorry, I meant 21 years). If they get it later…well…we all have our cross to bear.*
  • BooksBooks_How_To_Cook_Everything-S&SMark Bittman: Because socca seems even cooler when its chief proponent isn’t forced to eat chickpea flour. And because there’s just not as much of a ring to How to Cook Everything Except Wheat, Rye, Barley, and Anything That Might Have Ever Touched One of Those Things.
  • 132 out of 133 people: Good for them.

People I wish did not have celiac disease:

  • Me: Because it sucks.
  • My sister: Because she misses beer, and I feel responsible.
  • You: Because you’re awesome, and it’s not. I hope you would still read my blog, though.

People I’m glad have celiac disease:

  • No one.

*I don’t really wish celiac disease on anyone besides the evil dudes. And the Cookie Monster, because he’s fictional and it would be hilarious.

Who’s on your lists? I know you’ve got ’em.

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Sprue News: What’s Funny About Your Honey

Photo © Ano Lobb | Flickr

Photo © Ano Lobb | Flickr

Do you buy local honey?

I don’t. I buy the cheap stuff, the kind that comes in an anonymous plastic bear. Every time I go to the store or farmer’s market to stock up, I go with the intention of upgrading this time around. And every time, the price differential meets me halfway and knocks me right back down to the generic bear priced juuust right.

Despite knowing I don’t buy it that often and that I can probably afford to pay a few extra bucks when I do, and despite the insistence of every locavore ever that the taste difference is worth it, I just can’t seem to make myself fork (spoon?) over the extra money for my honey.

But that might have to change.

Mark Bittman posted about “honey laundering” in his This Week in Food post last week. He linked to this summary of the issue on the Business Insider blog. Apparently, he and I are both a bit late to the party; this story has been unfolding for years. Back in August of 2011, the headline being picked up by every blog was “Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves.” (By the way, am I the only one who hears honey is “flooding” the shelves and immediately imagines a viscous tidal wave of honey verrrry sloooowly and stickily overtaking the grocery stores? Is that the whole point of the headline? I don’t know; it took me an embarrassingly long time to get the “honey laundering” joke, so maybe my pun-dar is on the fritz today.)

According to the Food Safety News article, “A third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.” Yikes.

According to that same 2011 article, “Another favorite con among Chinese brokers was to mix sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener or other additives with a bit of actual honey. In recent years, many shippers have eliminated the honey completely and just use thickened, colored, natural or chemical sweeteners labeled as honey.” As of February of this year, sophisticated laser technology has confirmed that your “honey” bear may be another beast entirely.

Photo © brixton | Flickr

Photo © brixton | Flickr

Apparently much of the “Chinese” honey back in 2011 was actually from India, where it was known to be produced in such a way as to include these dangerous contaminants. Although the EU was firm in rejecting it (apparently they’re more grossed out by tainted honey than horsemeat), the FDA made excuses to welcome it in. Honey contamination is an issue made difficult to control by its international scope and all kinds of export and import regulations that I’m not qualified to explain (read the real news coverage).

If you search the United States Department of Justice archives for honey, you turn up stories about honey smuggling dating back to 2009 and earlier. (You also learn about such fascinating things as honey oil, which is apparently another name for hash oil, “a concentrated, honey-colored liquid” that is “produced by steeping cannabis in liquid butane” and was seized by police in a drug bust in 2005, along with “cheesecake, nut ball, 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies, cookie dough, and 10 pounds of butter”—enough munchies for the entire squad.) Now, finally, the Department of Justice is recognizing the issue and dealing out some charges.

And I’m finally thinking about making some changes to my personal honey consumption, too. Why? Is it because buying cheap honey supports an international smuggling operation? Not really. Is it because the cheap honey might contain antibiotics or lead?

No! It’s because it might contain GLUTEN!

Let me roll that one back for you: cheap honey may be largely composed of sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener or other additives. Barley malt? That has gluten! It’s why I can’t eat regular Rice Krispies (though I tried the brown rice ones recently and they’re fine by me).

Since I don’t know whether or not my container of honey includes barley, and this is clearly not a case where I can call the manufacturer directly (since the manufacturer could be in Thailand, or China, or India, or just about anywhere), I’m tossing that silly old bear from my cupboard and replacing it with a brand I can trust.

Is it totally backwards to care more about potential gluten contamination than potential lead poisoning? Maybe. But whatever gets you there, right?

Have you been following the honey controversy and have you ever had a problem with contaminated honey? Do you avoid generic brands and if so, what kind do you prefer to buy? Do your purchasing decisions in general take this kind of issue into account?

P.S. I focused on this particular news story today because it actually relates to the theme of my blog. I did want to note that I’ve been following the story of the explosions in the Boston Marathon and that, thankfully, none of my Bostonian friends and family were anywhere near there. If your loved ones were affected, know that my thoughts are very much with you.

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