This Wednesday, the skies unleashed their first bout of solid precipitation onto the unsuspecting Madisonians. Not even slightly ashamed to admit my avid hatred of all things frozen, white, fluffy, and swirling toward the ground, I immediately ventured briefly through the five stages of grief. Denial: “No, no! I won’t look out the window because it’s NOT SNOWING.” Anger: “How dare the weather decide that it would start snowing in November! When I lay my hands on that intangible force, why I oughta…” Bargaining: “Fine. If it’s snowing today, then I’d better not see any snow come March. Okay? You hear me, sky?!?” Depression: “Oh, woe is me! Doomed to five cruel months of cold, snow, and a grey firmament…why cannot mine life meet its sweet end ere winter’s icy fingers encircle mine entire soul?” Acceptance: “You win, weather. It’s snowing. Better drag the ol’ holiday spirit out of the closet.”
Thus, with the first snowfall comes my first taste of the holidays. And by first taste…of course I mean first taste. Embarking on a one-night hiatus from Thanksgiving preparation (both mental and in the form of menu planning), I skimmed over the November family meal and arrived right in the midst of a classic yuletide tradition: decorating the Christmas tree. No, I didn’t journey into the wilderness to hack down my own Douglas Fir. Instead, I baked up a pan of socca.
Not intentionally yearning to recreate Christmas in the form of a chickpea pancake, my culinary holiday adventure began with a craving for socca paired with a desire to finish off a bag of spinach and utilize some freshly roasted beets. The creation that I pulled from the oven, however, morphed into a winter wonderland reminiscant of unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. Allow me to elaborate: The tinsel-like caramelized onions entwine the green socca pine needles as the golden beet lights shine through their branches, bejeweled with the burgundy-red beet ornaments.
The flavor, however, does not inherently represent yuletide cheer, as I did not fathom the socca’s holiday nature while choosing the ingredients. Nonetheless, the classic combination of dill and beets complemented by the sweet caramelized onions creates a lovely filling for the green socca, which actually tastes nothing of the generous amount of spinach introduced into the batter. I also slightly increased the ratio of water to flour to create a more custardy texture that I’ve come to prefer after tasting YumUniverse’s Savory Pumpkin Socca with Cashew Cream. If you like your socca on the breadier side, reduce the amount of water to a single cup.
Dilly Christmas Tree Socca with Beets and Spinach (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)
Makes one 9″ pan.
- 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup garbanzo bean flour
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2-3 oz spinach
- 1/2 cup fresh dill
- 1 red and 1 golden beet, roasted and neatly cubed (To roast the beets: trim off the top and bottom, wrap each one individually in aluminum foil, and stick in a 400°F oven for about 45 minutes or until fork-tender.)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Heat a teaspoon of the oil in a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Lightly saute the onions for about 10 minutes, until they just begin to brown, then turn the heat all the way down to low and cook, without stirring, for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and very tender.
Meanwhile, combine the garbanzo bean flour, water, spinach, and dill in a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.
When the onions have finished cooking, drizzle the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a 9″ round baking dish. Layer on the onions and evenly space the beet cubes on top of the onions. Pour on the spinach batter, taking care not to move the beets around too much, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting so it can firm up a bit.
Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpea flour. Whole Grain—not needed when devouring an entire pan of socca. Vegetables—beets and onions. Leafy Green—spinach.
Comment Provoking Questions: Are you in the holiday spirit yet? What are you planning for Thanksgiving? What are your favorite holiday flavors?
Until next time, Ali.