Our First Sukkah

My wonderful husband built our first Sukkah. We got the poles and part of the Sukkah covering for free. The rest of the covering was from some canvas cloth that we had never used. And, we collected reeds, bougainvillea and tree branches for the rooftop. It is so beautiful, it reminds me of a chuppah (wedding canopy). It really brought me to tears when I saw the finished product because I have wanted to have a Sukkah ever since I moved to Israel. I missed decorating the Sukkah that my great-grandfather built. We used to hang fruit from the walls. I have such wonderful memories of that. Now we have started our own tradition.

I will be blogging about a special Sukkah adventure and a special meal on Sunday. Instead of the usual Challah, I decided to make a bread I had never tried before, Corsican Basil Bread. We planted some very fragrant basil that I have been meaning to add to bread dough for quite a while. This bread is very easy to make and the result was fantastic, although I should have put in a little more basil to accentuate the taste.

The recipe calls for the basil to be put on top of the bread and I decided to mix it into the dough. The recipe also said to make a puree, but the mixture was more minced than pureed.

Corsican Basil Bread

Yield: 1 kilo loaf (2lbs)

500g (1lb) white bread flour

25g (1 tablespoon) yeast

1 cup + 2-1/2 tablespoons water, warmed to 26C (80F)

2-1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup basil

3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Puree the basil and olive oil in a blender or a food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and water. Mix well, incorporating the salt at the end. Then mix in the basil puree.

Knead the dough for about 20 minutes. Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and form it into a round ball. Place the dough on a baking tray covered with a towel and let rise for approximately 1 hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 220C (440F). Just before baking, score the top of the bread with a sharp knife.

Reduce the temperature to 190C (380F) and throw a small amount of water onto the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/10/15/our-first-sukkah/

Pre-Rosh Hashana Breakfast

I love weekend breakfasts. It is our time to talk about something interesting or just look at each other lovingly without saying anything at all for a couple of minutes. It is our time to read an interesting story or listen to early music. It has become our weekend ritual. So, in preparing for Rosh Hashana last week, my husband decided to make a lovely herb-potato frittata to go with the Whole Wheat Apple-Walnut Batard I made for the weekend.

My mother is a addicted to cookbooks and every time I go back to the States for a visit, I usually find one or two new ones on her cookbook shelves. She had the shelves custom made when she renovated her kitchen umpty-ump years ago. One visit, I spied a new cookbook that I quickly fell in love with. It is called The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside. The author, Amanda Hesser, wrote a lovely book about her year adventure that she spent as a cook in a seventeenth-century chateau in Burgundy. What I love about the book is that it is separated into the four seasons. She is a beautiful writer and really takes you on a visual trip to the French countryside. The recipes are quite precise and I find them easy to follow.

Apple-Walnut Batard

The texture of the batard is really nice. The only complaint I have is that either the bread did not rise enough or the recipe calls for too much filling. Next time I am going to gently knead the filling into the dough and see if it works out better. It turned it out more like apple-walnut stuffed bread. In spite of that, the bread is still appley and delicious, and it goes especially well with a thin slice of Gouda.

Apple-Walnut Batard Slice

Whole Wheat Apple - Walnut Batard

Yield: 1 Batard

Starter after 12 hours

Simple Bread Starter

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast or 25g (1 teaspoon) fresh cake yeast

2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 cup water, at room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

Whole Wheat Dough

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast or 25g (1 teaspoon) fresh cake yeast

1 tablespoon warm water

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon milk

1 recipe Starter (see above)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt

1/2-3/4 cup rye flour

Bread Dough

1 recipe Whole Wheat Dough (see above)

6 tablespoons raw sugar

2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

All purpose flour, for shaping

Whole wheat flour, for rising

For the bread starter:

Make the starter one day ahead. In a small bowl, stir the yeast into the 2 tablespoons of warm water and let the mixture stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining water and the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth, 2-3 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let ferment in a cool place, 8-12 hours.

For the dough:

n a medium mixing bowl, stir the yeast into the water and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Then stir in the olive oil, milk, and Starter, stirring to break up the latter.

Thick as Paint

Dough Forming Ball

he texture should be that of house paint. Add the whole wheat flour, stirring to mix, then the salt and the rye flour, adding it 1/4 cup at a time and stirring to mix with a wooden spoon until the ingredients begin to clump together in a large ball.

First Knead

Turn out onto a floured board and knead, incorporating the remaining flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Use a pastry scraper to help lift and clear the dough from the work surface so you don't need to add to much flour. Make sure to work quickly, as whole wheat flour tends to stick more readily than white, and slap the dough against the work surface from time to time - this develops tenacity in the dough. Place the dough in a tall oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Then proceed with filling the bread dough.

Caramelised Apples

Prepare the filling. In a skillet (preferably an iron skillet) large enough to hold the apples, heat half of the sugar over medium-high heat until it melts and begins to bubble. Carefully, add the apple slices, spreading them out to cover the base of the pan. Saute until the apple begins to color, but is not cooked through, about 3 minutes. You should do this over medium-high heat because you want the apple to color as quickly as possible without burning the sugar. Adjust the temperature as necessary, and remember the sugar holds its heat well, especially in an iron pan. Sprinkle the uncooked sides with the remaining sugar and turn them over. Once they are well browned on the other side, 5 to 7 minutes, remove to a plate or bowl to let cool.

After the first rising, punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a loose round loaf and let rest for 15 minutes. Lay a dish towel on top of a baking sheet and rub a thick layer of whole wheat flour into to it so the dough will not stick to the towel.

Apple-Walnut Filling

Using as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking to the board and your hands, pound out the loaf into an oval, 1/2 inch thick. Spread the cooled walnuts and apples evenly over the dough.

Batard Second Rise

Working lengthwise, roll the dough into a log, as tight as possible. Pinch the seam to seal it, and transfer to the dish towel, seam-side up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

A half hour before baking, heat the oven to 220C (425F), and place the baking stone in the lower third of the oven. Place a small pan of water on the lowest rack.

When the dough is ready, invert the risen loaf onto the baking stone and bake until risen and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the pan of water after the first 15 minutes. Test the loaf by tapping on the bottom of it with your knuckle. If it sounds hollow, it's done. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely before slicing.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/10/01/pre-rosh-hashana-breakfast/

Niçoise Picnic

There are lots of beautiful places in Israel to have a picnic. You can choose to drive North and have a picnic near the Sea of Galilee:

Or to the Hula Valley:

Or drive south to the ancient desert of the Negev and the moon-like landscape of Mitzpe Ramon:

Wherever you choose to have a picnic, you should always bring lots to drink, a blanket on which to sit and beautiful food to eat.

My husband and I were invited to a picnic with friends that we haven’t seen in a while at Park Yarkon in North Tel Aviv. We were so excited to see our friends, we forgot to take a picture of the park which is a strip of land along the Yarkon river. It is very nice there with plenty of picnic tables, a nice walking path, and a chance to see people rowing on the Yarkon.

I decided to make a savory tart that we had two years ago on our trip to the South of France. I made a Niçoise specialty called Tourte de Blettes. It is a double pastry filled with sauteed swiss chard, golden raisins, pine nuts, eggs, and a little cream. After it is baked, you sprinkle icing sugar on top. I know this sounds a bit strange, but it is delicious and it can be served along with a beautiful green salad or if you are brave, you can serve it as dessert. This tart gets its sweetness from the golden raisins. I think it is a perfect picnic dish because it can be made in advance and put in the freezer. It is best served at room temperature.

Tourte de Blette
For the pastry:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

170 g (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

50g (1/4 cup) cold vegetable shortening or non-butter flavored margarine

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 to 9 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 cup water

2 lb green Swiss chard, half of the center ribs chopped fine

1 large egg

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 teaspoons icing (confectioners) sugar

For the pastry:

Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture. Gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Turn dough out onto a work surface. Gather all dough together with pastry scraper.divide dough with one half slightly larger, then form each into a ball and flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 2 days ahead.

Prebake Tourte de Blettes

For the filling:

Bring raisins and water to a boil in a heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, 1 hour. Drain in a colander, then pat dry with paper towels. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200C (400F).

Blanch chard in a large pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Transfer chard with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain chard in a colander, then squeeze out excess water by handfuls. Coarsely chop chard.

Whisk together egg, cream, granulated sugar, zest, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Stir in pine nuts, raisins, and chard until combined.

For the Tourte de Blette:

Roll out larger piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 38- by 27-centimeter (15- by 11-inch) rectangle and fit into tart pan (do not trim edges). Chill shell while rolling out top.

Roll out smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into a 30- by 22-centimeter (12- by 9-inch) rectangle. Spread chard filling evenly into shell, then top with second rectangle of dough. Using a rolling pin, roll over edges of pan to seal tart and trim edges, discarding scraps. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a paring knife, then put tart in pan on a baking sheet. Bake until top is golden, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack and cool 10 minutes, then remove side of pan. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Dust with confectioners sugar.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/08/29/nicoise-picnic/

Sur le Pont D’Avignon

Sur le pont d’Avignon
On y danse, on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
On y danse tous en rond

On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there, we all dance there
On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there in a ring

My last installment on our trip to Provence is in Avignon, the seat of the Catholic papacy from 1309 – 1377 . Avignon is a beautiful walled city on the Rhône river.

It has tree lined boulevards and very interesting architecture.

It is also famous for the Le Pont St Benezet which originally spanned the Rhône River between Avignon and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on the left bank. It was built between 1171 and 1185, but it suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be reconstructed several times. The bridge was partially destroyed by a great flood in 1668. Now only four of the initial 22 arches remain intact today.

We did not stay in a fancy hotel in Avignon. I used my Holiday Inn points and we stayed two nights at a Holiday Inn Express outside of the old city. It was brand new. There is safe underground parking near the Le Palais des Papes and we parked there and explored the old city.

Our first day in Avignon, we went straight to the tourism office and got a map of the city. Then, we headed straight for the Le Palais des Papes, which is about a 2 hour self-guided tour. We bought a combination ticket that included Le Pont St Benezet. Both of these monuments have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The first documented Jewish community in Avignon existed in the 12th century. The first Jewish quarter, or carrière, faced the pope’s palace. By the early 13th century, the carrière was where the present-day synagogue stands. This tiny area, barely 100 square yards, was home to over 1,000 people. There were many restrictions on Jewish life within the carrière. Walls surrounded it and three gates restricted Jewish activity. The Roman Catholic Church collected tolls, and selling kosher meat outside the quarter was forbidden. We saw the outside of the synagogue at night and were unable to take a good photograph, but it looks similar in style to the synagogue in Carpentras (shown in the picture above).

We had a lovely dinner at Basilic Citron, 4 Place de la Principale . It has a wonderful space for romantic outdoor dining in the courtyard and the decor inside the restaurant is also very romantic. There were strolling musicians to entertain us throughout the meal.

A three course dinner for two with a bottle of wine was 90 euro. This was the most expensive meal of our entire trip. The food was delicious: we loved the entire meal, but we both really loved the tuna. We definitely recommend this restaurant.

Our first courses were:

Thon brulee aux epices, reduction de vinaigre balsamique aux agrumes
Fresh tuna with spices and a reduction of balsamic vinegar and citrus

Asperge vertes et blanches du pays, vinegrette a l’huile de noisette torrefies
Local green and white asparagus with a vinaigrette of roasted hazelnut oil

Second courses:

Tranche d’espadon poelee, tians de legumes, bearnaise aux pistils de safran
Sauteed swordfish steak with a vegetable tian and a saffron flavoured bearnaise sauce

Pave de caillebaud aux herbes fraiches vapeur, chartreuse d’aubergine a la tomate
Piece of cod filet steamed with fresh herbs and an aubergine timbale stuffed with tomato

Dessert courses:

Millefeuille a la pistache, marmelade de griotte acidule
Pistachio napoleon with sour morello cherry jam

Tartare de fraise du pays, sorbet cactus/citron vert
Fresh local strawberries with a cactus and lime sorbet

Plume, Cote de Luberon, white wine

After dinner we went window shopping and saw a lovely confectioners shop that made caramels and candied fruits, a Provencal speciality.

We definitely want to go back to Provence. It is a beautiful region full of history, scenery, art and architecture.

St. Paul de Vence – Something to Wet Your Whistle

St. Paul de Vence is a very picturesque town which is famous for its beauty and also is the final resting place of Auguste Escoffier and Marc Chagall. It has narrow winding streets with small squares tucked in between. This is definitely a village for romance, whether you want to propose to someone, go on a honeymoon or just spend a romantic vacation with the one you love. I would recommend staying at Le St. Paul. Everyone wants to be at the Colombe d’Or because of its amazing collection of paintings and sculptures and because every movie star known to man has stayed there. The hotel is therefore always crowded with curious tourists. The Le St. Paul hotel is tucked away in the middle of the village, is beautiful and tranquil, and has an amazing view of the valley below.

A number of painters, founders of the 20th-century schools, flocked to Saint-Paul: Matisse, Soutine, Chagall, Renoir, Signac, Modigliani, Dufy… not to mention writers including Gide, Giono, Cocteau and Prévert.

In July 1964, the Fondation Maeght was inaugurated by André Malraux. It was the joint creation of Aimé and Marguerite Maeght and artists including Giacometti, Chagall, Miró and Calder. The museum and grounds are beautiful. If you like modern art, then it is a must-see.

There are a number of art galleries and other specialty shops. One that caught our eye was a shop that sold various liqueurs and olive oil.

The name of the shop is Les Trois Etoiles de St. Paul and it is owned by a lovely man named Horst.

Horst has a very interesting selection of liqueurs, such as honey, plum, peach, limoncello cream, strawberry, blackberry and pear, as well as several types of balsamico and local olive oil. He certainly believes in letting potential buyers try out his wares; we must have had about eight tastings before we chose a plum liqueur and lemoncello cream to take home as part of our swag.

The House that Escoffier Built

I tend to do a lot of research when planning a trip. I always buy a guidebook and look for interesting places to visit on the internet. I spent weeks collecting information for our trip to Provence, including printing out maps on the Michelin website. It was quite helpful and we used those maps for our various day trips that we made.

One of those places that I insisted on visiting was the village of Villeneuve-Loubet, because it is the childhood home of Auguste Escoffier and his birth home contains the Musee de l’Art Culinaire, or Museum of Culinary Art.

This museum is dedicated to Auguste Escoffier, “King of Chefs and Chef to Kings”, the creator of the famous Peach Melba, strawberries Romanoff and who, according to his obituary in a British newspaper, “put frogs’ legs on the West End menu.”

The museum has eight rooms that display souvenirs, objects, sugar sculptures and utensils from his time, a collection of menus and a number of photographs and articles.

One of the museum’s eight exhibit rooms features the fireplace and spit used by the Escoffier family.

A photograph of the Australian opera star Nellie Melba is signed “A Monsieur Escoffier avec mes remerciements pour la creation Peche Melba,” (To Monsieur Escoffier with my thanks for the creation of Peach Melba) and dated 1914.

The museum has menus from his days at the Carlton and at London’s Savoy Hotel, as well as menus for the coronation dinner honoring King George V.

I recommend stopping and seeing this interesting museum and walking around the beautiful village.

I know I should show you a picture of the Peach Melba or Strawberries Romanoff I made, but I haven’t made either one. However, in keeping with the ice cream that you serve with the peach melba, I thought I would give you a recipe for a luscious coffee ice cream with a warm ganache sauce.

Coffee Ice Cream with Warm Chocolate Ganache

Serving Size: 4

For the ganache:

1 cup finely chopped premium bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup heavy cream

For the ice cream:

1 cup whole Italian-roast coffee beans

2 cups whole milk

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 cups heavy cream

8 large egg yolks

For the assembly:

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Ganache

Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Whisk the mixture until the chocolate has completely melted and forms into a thick sauce. Use immediately or keep warm over a hot water bath on very low heat until ready to use.

Ice cream

Crush the beans into coarse pieces by placing them in a ziploc bag and smashing them with a rolling pin. Add the crushed beans, the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 cup cream into a saucepan . Place the saucepan over medium heat and slowly bring the milk mixture to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat as soon as bubbles break the surface. Steep the coffee beans in the milk mixture for at least 1 hour. Strain the mixture and set aside. Discard the coffee beans.

Have ready a large bowl filled with ice water. Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar until the mixture becomes pale yellow and forms a ribbon.

Reheat the coffee-flavored milk mixture, bringing it to a simmer. Immediately remove it from the heat, and with the mixer on low speed, slowly add 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs and sugar. While mixing, add the remaining hot milk mixture in a slow, steady stream until incorporated. Scrape the mixture from the sides and the bottom of the bowl mix well, and pour through a sieve into another bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup cold cream and stir well to combine.

Place in the ice bath. Stir until the mixture has completely cooled. Transfer the mixture to a covered container and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until ready to churn.

Churn the ice cream and place in the freezer for about 1 hour.

Assembly:

Place two scoops of ice cream in a bowl and pour the hot ganache over the ice cream, top with whip cream and the chopped hazelnuts.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/04/07/the-house-that-escoffier-built/

Provence and the Cote d’Azur

My husband and I went on a lovely 12-day vacation last June to the Cote d’Azur and Provence. We stayed in a beautiful villa on Cap d’Antibes for 10 days and a hotel in Avignon for two days. We travelled to Haute de Cagne, Nice, Tourtour, Villecroze, Salernes, Flayosc, Vence, St. Paul de Vence, Villeneuve-Loubet, Grasse, Villefranche sur le Mer, Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Marseille, Cassis, Avignon, Orange, Carpentras, and Aix en Provence.

We were fortunate enough to have been invited to stay at a family friend’s home in Cap d’Antibes. We had the house to ourselves.

The house was 75 meters from the sea and had a rooftop terrace which has a magnificent view of the bay. We spent several romantic evenings on the rooftop sharing a bottle of delicious Provencal rose watching the sunset over the bay.

We were in heaven. The house is decorated beautifully. I could have moved right in. If I am fortunate enough to design my own home, I am going to have a staircase just like theirs….

The three panels were made by a local artist and depict scenes from life in Provence. I would love to have some made with three scenes in Israel.

Here are a closeup of the three panels:

A cafe scene,

fishermen,

And, the game of Pétanque.

We had breakfast and dinner at the house almost every evening. We grilled sardines, sebaste, trout, red gunard and emperor bream. The fish was outstanding. We were really looking forward to having red mullet, but it cost three times what we pay here.

We did not eat out a lot because most of the restaurants were very expensive and since we had a kitchen in the villa, we took full advantage of cooking with beautiful fresh ingredients. The reason I say expensive is because 1 Euro was approximately 5.50NIS.

We drank a lot of wine while we were there and were amazed at how little they cost. We had:

  • Les Orfevres Vignerons, Sainte Victoire Cote du Provence 2004, Rose
  • Golfe de Saint Tropez Merlot, Vin de Pays du Var
  • Montcigale Beaucaire, Coteaux d’ Aix en Provence 2005, Rose
  • Chateau de Sablet Bordeaux 2005
  • Domaine Francois Gerbet Bourgogne 2004, Rose
  • Chateau Minuty Gassin, Cuvee du Bailly 2004, Rose
  • L’Arnaud 2005, Rose
  • Les Vignobles Choisis 2004, Cotes de Provence

We also ate a number of cheeses:

  • Le bleu des Basques
  • Saint Nectaire
  • Pyrenees Montsegur
  • Brie
  • Dry chevre, don’t remember the name

We came back with some nice goodies:

Two Provencal salt mixes, walnut oil and Basque paprika

Calissons (we also bought dark chocolate covered), olives (didn’t eat them there) and chestnut honey

Creme de Prune and Creme de Lemoncello from a lovely shop that I will tell you more about in St. Paul de Vence

Wanted to bring back more wine, but alas we have a limit.

I also bought some beautiful Provencal fabric for three cushions that I am having made as a headboard for our bed.

Next post: The man that put Villeneuve-Loubet on the map.

Chag Sameach!

I hope that all of you have a joyous Passover full of peace and love.

I am going to be very busy the next couple of days preparing for the seder and will be back with more stories and photos to share with you this coming week.

Here are a couple of teaser photos for a series of upcoming posts. We are going to travel to France.

Any idea who lived here?

Baby It’s Cold Outside…Soup and Socca

It snowed in Jerusalem this morning and we had hail this afternoon in central Israel. Spring has not sprung yet. Jerusalem gets snow about once a year, but yesterday it didn’t stick.

I like visiting Jerusalem. I think it is a romantic city with all of the Jerusalem stone buildings and the skyline of the old city. The best way to get an overview of the old city is to climb on the roofs of the houses there. The view is amazing.

I really like going to outdoor markets. They are full of sights, sounds, smells and are also a great place to people watch. You can find some amazing faces in the market, like the amba man and the juice man. Their faces are timeless….just put another period costume on them and it could be the market 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem.

Mahane Yehuda market is just the market to see all of the things I described above. It has also revamped itself with chic cafes, restaurants and other shops. I was always afraid to go there because of the bombings. I only went there last summer, for the first time since I moved to Israel over six years ago.

The market is always busy, but it is very crowded on Thursday night and Friday morning. Everyone is busy finding things to prepare their Shabbat meals.

I found chickpea flour at the market. My husband and I went to Provence last summer for a glorious vacation and every since we tried the Nicoise specialty, socca, we wanted to try and make it at home. We had our first socca at Lou Pilha Levain Nice.

They prepare theirs on a copper pan. They specialize in serving Nicoise dishes and they do a wonderful job.

They have delicious gargantuan tourte de blette (upper left corner of the above photo), which is a sweet tart filled with swiss chard, raisin and pinenuts and sprinkled with icing sugar. Typical tourte de blette are not as thick as theirs.

Socca is a type of savoury pancake made of chickpea flour and water. It is dead easy to make, but not always easy to reproduce. You need to cook it at a very high temperature for a short period of time. It is typically cooked on a large round copper pan over a very hot wood fire or gas flame.

Of course we don’t have the big round copper pan and open fire they have to make this, but I thought I would give it a try with our cast iron plancha in the oven.

The other night, my husband made a delicious pot of minestrone con ceci (chickpea minestrone). He is refusing to give up the recipe. It is basically the farmers market, sans the fruit, in a bowl. Suffice it to say it was delicious and gave me an idea to try to finally make socca so we could say we had a ceci or hummous festival at our house. I decided to add fresh chives and fresh thyme to mine. It reminded me of Nice, but that is for another posting…..

Chive and Thyme Socca

Serving Size: 4 to 6

300g (1 cup + 5 tbsp) chickpea flour

500ml (2 cups) cold water

1 tsp salt

Pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Heat a cast iron skillet in a 240C/475F oven.

Mix together all of the ingredients above and whisk until you have a smooth batter. The batter should be thinner than crepe batter.

Socca batter

Brush a generous amount of oil on the pan. The oil should be smoking. Pour the batter on the hot plancha and cook with the oven door slightly ajar for the first couple of minutes and then turn on the grill (broiler) to maximum so that the socca can get crisp on top.

Socca on the Plancha

Keep an eye on it as it bubbles and rises, but make sure that it doesn't burn. It should only be slightly brown.

It should be slightly crisp on the outside, but creamy on the inside even though it should be about 1/8 of an inch or 3mm thick.

Cut it into squares.

I tried making it on the stovetop and it works, but you have to cook it like a crepe and turn it over. I prefer the oven method.

Socca with Chives

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/16/baby-its-cold-outsidesoup-and-socca/

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