This summer, Cooks for Health programs across New York City received their in-class pancake passport and sampled pancakes from around the world. A trip to Italy meant a taste of socca farinata, a crispy, savory chickpea pancake and the classic Italian salad Caprese. While it was everyone’s first time trying Italian pancakes the experience wasn’t completely foreign as many were familiar with the ingredients of a caprese salad.
Chef instructor Rolanda introduced the ingredients the class would be working with for the recipe by discussing what makes heirloom tomatoes so special. She explained that “they don’t taste like the regular tomatoes,” and that “you can just pick them up and take a bite into it – they are so delicious.” Our students made fresh caprese with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and topped it all off with fresh basil. The rich and glorious flavors of the heirloom tomatoes are simply unlike any other tomatoes.
To continue the recipe, the class made chickpea flour from scratch by grinding the raw chickpeas. The chickpeas were grinded and carefully sifted to leave out any pieces of the bean. A coat of batter lined the pan and our students crowded around to see it turn into a crispy snack. The class placed the caprese on top of the socca to give the dish a nice refreshing touch. Most of the students in the class were trying the pancake for the first time which made tasting the finished product extra special.
This pancake is versatile and a great alternative to recipes that call for white flour. Remember, next time you’re at a farmer’s market, don’t forget to pick up a few heirloom tomatoes to add wonderful and rich flavors to your next culinary creation!
Socca (Chickpea Crepes)
2 cups chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour or gram flour)
2 cups water
½ cup olive oil (plus extra for cooking)
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Whisk together the chickpea flour with water, olive oil, salt and pepper until the mixture pours easily. When you’ve attained a crepe like batter, cover and set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
- Meanwhile heat a skillet over high heat until very hot with about 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil. Carefully coat the bottom of the pan with a layer of batter, it may sizzle and spatter.
- When the edges are set and middle starts to bubble, flip the socca and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Repeat with remaining batter. Slice into wedges and serve while still hot and crispy.
Caprese (Summer Tomato and Mozzarella Salad)
4 very ripe tomatoes (in the summer, try to buy at a farm stand)
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
1 bunch of basil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Restaurant Presentation: Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into uniform slices and arrange on a large plate or platter by alternating tomato, cheese, tomato, cheese and so on. Whisk together the salt, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a bowl, and pour over the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Chiffonade the basil and sprinkle over the platter. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Homemade presentation: Cut the tomatoes and mozzarella into uniform cubes or chunks. Set the mozzarella aside. Toss the tomatoes in a large bowl with the salt, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Let it sit while you chiffonade the basil. Add the basil and mozzarella to the tomatoes and toss very gently. Season with extra salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.