Asparagus lovers on a budget will enjoy stretching a few spears of asparagus per person into a main dish. They'll love how the creamy center of the socca complements the tender richness of the roasted, then baked asparagus. People who don't adore asparagus can focus on the rich onion flavor and the addictive crispness of the socca itself.
This recipe is fast enough for a week night and luxurious enough to be a starter for a dinner party. It uses far less oil than an authentic socca, just enough to keep the vegetables from drying out and to let the socca crisp up.
Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: 40 minutes. 4 main-dish servings
- 8 ounces asparagus (226 grams)
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 onion
- 1 cup chickpea flour (120 grams)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Heat oven to 450°F. Put an oven-proof, well-seasoned or nonstick 9-inch skillet into the oven. Use cast-iron skillet if you have it.
- Trim about 1/4 inch from the bottoms of asparagus stalks to get rid of any dirty or damaged parts. Gently flex each stem so that it breaks just above the woody part, usually 1/4 or 1/3 up the stalk. Cut the woody ends lengthwise and put with water into a microwave safe container. (I use a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.) Microwave on high until water boils, then let stems steep to make "asparagus tea." Cut tender asparagus tops into bite-sized pieces.
- Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Drain asparagus tea into dry ingredients, discarding woody stems. Whisk until batter is smooth.
- Cut onion half from stem end to root end, then slice crossways as thinly as you can. Pour olive oil in the hot skillet, add onion and tender asparagus pieces, and stir to coat with oil. Roast in oven until soft, about five minutes.
- Put a trivet and a fork near the oven. Carefully move the skillet from oven to the trivet. Stir vegetables and spread evenly. Pour chickpea batter over vegetables. Use fork to poke through batter in about a dozen places to let steam escape. Bake for 15 minutes until top starts to crack and bits of onion and asparagus begin to brown. Put under broiler for three more minutes until asparagus socca is brown in spots and the edges are crispy.
- Cut socca into wedges and serve hot or warm. Refrigerate extra for a day or two. Reheat in a toaster oven.
- Don't skip poking the batter with a fork. It seems useless, but it's the difference between sensational and soggy.
- On the other hand, if you're in a hurry, skip the asparagus tea step and save the woody ends for another recipe. The asparagus tea enriches this dish but it's not essential.
- In the summer, try my Grilled Socca recipe.
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