Before college, I spent a dreamy summer living in Nice, France – a gorgeous city on the turquoise waters of the French Riviera. For a while, I dated this Niçoise man who lived with his bohemian mother, her name was Fanny. She always wore one long feather earring in her right ear, a flowing patterned kaftan and the perfect coiffe of loose curls tumbling from the top of her head. On the weekends, we’d walk together to the market in Vieux-Nice, the old town near the port where colorful winding streets as narrow as small alleys led down to sea.
It was my first real market experience living outside of the tiny town in Alaska I grew up in. Everything was so vibrant and fresh, so idyllic. I felt so alive and connected in those moments. We’d make our way home with armfuls of cut flowers, a few fresh baked baguettes, bright green olives, delicate olive oil, a bottle of rose and a few varieties of cheese. She’d put on an old record, open the shuttered doors and one-by-one friends would stop by to gather around the table. Heated conversations around politics, philosophy and parties took center place over the casual meal. It was oh so very cliché French, and oh so very perfect. After brunch, we’d ride a scooter to a secret beach and swim all afternoon. I mean it when I said it was dreamy.
One day, we hopped in his rickety old Fiat with a fiery friend of his – a politico with a mission to liberate Nice from the clutches of the French government and revive its unique cultural roots, a blend of Italian, Northern African, and French history. We drove into Italy in the peak of a hot day, right outside the border of France where his grandparents had a small home in a village by the ocean. When we arrived, she had made us this very traditional Niçoise dish – socca – a thicker chickpea flour crepe with caramelized onions, kalamata olives and herbs from the garden. The conversation with simple as sat in her garden under the olive trees, accompanied with a glass of rosé with an ice cube and an afternoon nap post-meal. The memory of this sweet, slow meal made so lovingly by his grandmother will always stay with me. And whenever I see socca now I think of her and the beauty of a life lived slowly in connection with the land and the ones she loved.
Fast forward 3 years, I was living in Paris for a semester at Sciences Po. That slow life of Southern France was not as present in the harsher light of city living. I spent more time retreating from the cold February, holed up in my 4th arrondissement studio apartment experimenting cooking and pouring a few of the early natural food blogs as I hatched my plan to start a food blog of my own to document my travels and farmers market experiences. This was early 2010 before natural food bloggers were abundant through instagram and so many blog platforms now. I was totally enamored by this one incredible food blog from a Canadian holistic nutritionist and budding chef – Sarah Britton and her blog My New Roots. I adored her mission, her photography and the way she brought intention and awareness into eating seasonally and compassionately. It was totally new to me to see this kind of combination in the online world where gorgeous styling and aesthetics met nourishing food.
In growing on this path, I really owe so much love and gratitude to Sarah and the incredible community that has grown through her work. It’s amazing to see how much beauty has blossomed from her creativity and passion for wholesome food and connected living. With this, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of her gorgeous new cookbook than with a recreation of her spring socca recipe and a first ever product giveaway! Sarah’s publishers have graciously offered copies of the My New Roots cookbook to two winners of the giveaway.
To enter the giveaway, comment on this post below and share a few ways women in food/lifestyle blogging have shaped your life and head over Facebook to share this post and/or to my instagram (@claireragz) and repost this springtime socca photo in support of Sarah’s cookbook release + inspiring work! Tag @claireragz #vidyagiveaway when sharing on instagram. Two winners will be selected and notified by June 15th, 2015. I can’t wait to hear your stories!
A quick note in making this socca recipe! I learned the hard way (aka three bowls of socca batter later) that the key to this is letting it sit for a while to fully absorb the liquid – and using cool or lukewarm water to mix, not hot! Three times, I got hasty in trying to race the fading light to photograph the finished product, and each time I ended up with a really crumbly crust that stuck to the pan and a total experience of frustration. In making this later on, I channeled my memories of that sweet afternoon in the garden, honoring the process of slowing to reconnect with the true experience of slow food. And oh, it was so worth it. Head over to Sarah’s original socca blogpost to read more about the process, or grab your copy of the drop dead gorgeous cookbook for her version of this spring socca recipe.
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil , for pan
In a large bowl, sift chickpea flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk in warm water and olive oil. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes to 12 hours.
When ready, preheat the 450F. Place the heavy unoiled cast-iron skillet in oven to heat. Remove skillet from oven once hot. Add the olive oil to the hot pan and pour batter in a steady stream until it reaches the edges of the pan. Place back in the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes or until the dough is firm and the edges are set. At this point, you can flip the socca and cook until golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and gently flip onto a serving platter. Layer with toppings first or cut into slices and let your guests build their own pizza.
1 bunch green asparagus, trimmed & roasted
1 bunch white asparagus, trimmed & roasted
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, sliced & roasted
1 cup pesto
½ cup kalamata olives, sliced
Optional: raw goat milk feta
Reduce the oven heat to 350F. Prepare the asparagus and fennel. Trim the fronds from the fennel before slicing the white bulb thinly. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a baking sheet in the oven to roast for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and lightly golden. Let the fennel cook first before preparing the asparagus. Trim the ends of the asparagus, toss in olive oil and salt, then roast for 10 minutes until tender and lightly crispy on the ends. Remove from oven and set aside. To make the pizza, spread the pesto on first, followed by a layer of roasted fennel. Top with asparagus, sliced olives and sprinkling of goat cheese (if desired).
Makes 1-2 socca pizzas
PS – If you’re still struggling making the socca, this cute kid’s video is totally helpful and will crack you up at the same time.