Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You Say "Flatbread;" Soif Says "Farinata"

No matter how many "small plates" I order at Soif, I always include the farinata -- the luscious little chick-pea flour lovechild of a crepe and a pizza crust. Similar to a French socca, it's cooked to order and arrives at the table piping-hot. Usually perfumed with fresh sage, last Sunday's version sported fresh basil. And olives. And every bite made me want to moan with delight.
I adore Soif, a Santa Cruz wine bar and restaurant with a kitchen directed by the talented Chris Avila, whose food at La Posta I raved about in an earlier post. Soif's menu changes frequently, although a few dishes are nearly always available: crostini with pumpkinseed chevre and pomegranate molasses, boquerones atop perfect aioli, piquilla peppers stuffed with manchego cheese and sublime little lamb meatballs with almond sauce. (According to our waitress one evening, the lamb meatballs get a major flavor boost from caramelized onions incorporated into the mix.)
Most farinata recipes I've researched call for a combination of broiling and baking the batter, but I've come closer to replicating Soif's version by starting the batter stove-top, in a well-heated crepe pan, and then finishing it under a hot, hot broiler.
(Margin note: When I asked one of Soif's cooks for advice, he stressed the importance of letting the batter rest for several hours before cooking it.)

Farinata con Salvia (Chick-Pea Flatbread with Sage)
(adapted from a recipe from Gourmet Magazine)

2 cups chick-pea flour
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil
Fresh sage leaves
Coarsely ground pepper

Gradually whisk flour into water. Whisk in salt and oil. Let batter stand, covered, at least two hours, preferably three.

Now, at this point Gourmet instructs you to pre-heat the broiler and set the oven rack about 5-inches from the heat. Oil a 13- by 9-inch flame-proof baking pan (preferably with olive oil) Stir batter and pour into pan. Tear sage leaves into bits and sprinkle sage and pepper over the battter. Broil farinata 5 minutes or until top is speckled with brown spots. Reduce temp. to 450-degrees and bake farinata 5 minutes more, or until set and pulling away slightly from pan sides. Cut into squares and serve immediately. Serves 6 as a snack or accompaniment.

OK, that's the safe and tested-in-Gourmet's-rigourous-kitchen approach. Mine is a tad different -- and a lot less precise. But I like the looks of mine better.
I, too, get the broiler very hot--although I haven't measured how far my top oven rack is from the heating element. Next I heat a six-inch crepe pan, add olive oil and heat til the oil almost smokes. Then I pour in enough batter to make a pancake about a quarter-inch thick, toss on the herb leaves and, occasionally, some cooked veggies.(At Soif the farinata often sports caramelized onions.) After a minute or two, I peek at the underside. If it's well-browned, I stick the pan under the hot broiler until the top has plenty of dark spots. I tip the crepe onto a warm plate and then repeat with more batter. Then I yell at people to eat them RIGHT NOW WHILE THEY'RE HOT, although I tend to mumble because I'm already eating a piece myself.

You can find out more about Soif on its gorgeous website:


Rowena said...

Farinata....delicious! One of my goals is to head down to Liguria and check out as many farinata shops (farinotti) that I can. That stuff is GREAT!

Tana Butler said...

Did you ever eat at the restaurant, Socca, in San Francisco? It's probably long gone, but we had a very memorable meal there one Valentine's Day.

Tana Butler said...

P.S. The little trio of photos in the left nav of the Soif website are mine.

: D

We're trying to get a Gallery page together.

Anonymous said...

That's a common-sense way to do it Casey. That's the same way I do my Fritatas. This sounds SOOOO good!