I've only recently begun to fully appreciate the chickpea.
I can't remember having hummus before I went to college. There’s actually a sizable list of food items I didn’t have before college: tofu, cauliflower, kale, and most root vegetables, to name some. This is largely my father's doing. He thought he didn’t like a lot of things, including hummus. I’m not trying to call him out - I just find it amusing that the picky eater in my household was the cook. And truthfully, he’s not picky! I’ve since introduced him to the foods I’ve mentioned above and hummus might be his favorite thing to eat for lunch now. Go figure.
The point of this story is that it’s no surprise I didn’t know about gram flour (chickpea flour) until recently. Actually, the only reason I tried it is that I have a flour mill at home (a Mockmill). Owning a mill has really changed the way I browse bulk foods sections at grocery stores. I went from thinking “I can’t imagine what I would do with these items” to “ooh, I should try milling that someday!” You can also try out something new without the worry of committing to a large quantity of something, unsure if you'll use it up. I had no particular plans for the chickpeas when I bought them. I started modest and put some of the flour in some crackers. The flour is a lovely color (see picture) and it added a nice flavor to the crackers, but it wasn’t anything to rave about. Then I discovered socca.
Socca (farinata) is an unleavened pancake made from a fairly simple batter of chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and maybe salt. There are a lot of recipes online and in books that all look about the same. Pour the batter in a hot cast-iron pan. Caution: it sputters and sizzles! Put some toppings as the pancake starts to set and put it under a broiler for a few minutes. If you've oiled the pan well, the pancake should come out easily. Mine always seems to stick in one little spot. Socca is both crispy on the outside and still moist and chewy on the inside. The chickpea and olive oil flavors are very distinctive. You can't mistake it for anything else. This is now my go-to when I can't figure out what to make for dinner.
Toppings are traditionally simple: socca is either eaten plain or lightly garnished with onions and Parmesan or rosemary and olives. I've found that leeks seasoned with turmeric and poppy seeds are great. Red cabbage adds some nice color, too. Cheese is a must. As with many foods, experimenting until you find something you like is half the fun of making this!