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Socca Pizza with air-fryer eggplant sauce
From The Vegetarian Reset
Did I tell you about the time I set off the smoke alarm at home because I didn’t know enough about cooking oil smoke points? Well, this is the tale of the Socca Pizza from my cookbook.
What is socca? It is a simple chickpea-flour flatbread from the south of France that is incredibly versatile. As an aside, while there are many things to love about the French Riviera, for me, the accessibility and variety of vegetarian foods was a delightful discovery. Perhaps because of the proximity to Italy? Many restaurants have an interesting vegetarian section on their menu, something that can be hard to find in Paris.
Anyway, back to smoke alarms. As I tested this recipe for my cookbook back in 2021, I first tried baking the flatbread directly in the oven, drizzled liberally with olive oil. Unfortunately, baking at 400F was a little too much for the not so great olive oil I was using at the time. Within a few minutes, smoke had started to drift around the apartment and set off the alarm. Pure panic ensued, as my biggest worry was that it would wake up my 1.5 year old at the time. I ended up temporarily removing the alarm (yes I also turned off the oven and doused the wretched flatbread with water. The alarm went back in the next day and we are all doing fine :)).
The next time I tried the recipe, I decided to cook it on the stovetop first and then transfer to the oven for broiling. And thus you get this final hazard-free recipe. Also, I learned to use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil for cooking - I like California Ranch and use it for most of my sautéing and baking, while reserving higher quality olive oil like Brightland or Enzo for drizzling. For tips on choosing a good olive oil at the supermarket, see this post.
Here, my socca is paired with a somewhat unusual pizza sauce made of smoked eggplant (à la babaghanoush or baingan bharta). While you would traditionally cook the eggplant over a flame (if you have a gas burner - just line it with foil to make clean up easier), I found that doing it in my air-fryer was a lot less babysitting (thus helping me attend to my actual baby). The sauce is really versatile and can be used for pasta too - think Indian-style pasta alla Norma.
Please don’t cancel me for suggesting pizza from scratch during back to school season. To save time, you can use the Banza chickpea crust which is pretty good and tastes similar, or a lower carb cauliflower crust.
But first, dinner. I’m working on a dinner meal plan offering for 2024 and would love love love to learn how you think about dinner in your home. One pot and one pan recipes, grain bowls, pasta and salads. Easy to find ingredients. Simple enough for weeknights but special enough for weekends. And always v8wellified - a strong emphasis on flavor, protein and fiber and light on starch. Sound like something you need in your life ? Fill out this 10-question survey to help me help you. And a HUGE thank you to the dozens of you that already sent me your feedback.
1 cup/120g chickpea flour
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp fine sea salt
11/2 cups/360ml warm water
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
SMOKED EGGPLANT SAUCE
1 large eggplant/aubergine (1 lb 3 oz/550g)
3–4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly lengthwise
1 Indian green chile, or jalapeño or Thai chile, chopped
1/2 tsp+1 tsp olive oil, divided
½ cup/80g chopped onion
1 tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup/56g fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño pepper, sliced and seeded to adjust spice level to taste
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Mix the flour, oregano, and salt in a bowl. Whisk in the warm
water gradually, smoothing out any lumps. Add the olive oil and mix well. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours.
While the batter is resting, preheat an air fryer to 400°F/200°C or the oven to 450°F/230°C. Cut 6–8 slits in the eggplant with a knife, and stuff them with the garlic cloves and green chile. Brush the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of oil. Air fry for 20 minutes, turning halfway, or bake for 30–40 minutes, turning halfway. The eggplant should be charred and oozing out liquid, with the skin peeling off in
spots. Let cool. You can also do this faster on the stovetop if you have a gas burner - line the base with foil for easier clean up. Peel back the skin, scoop out the flesh, and mash it with a fork. Any liquid can be mixed into the mashed eggplant.
Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, add the mashed eggplant, cumin, and salt, and cook for 4–5 minutes more. Set aside.
Preheat the broiler. Heat a large (12 in/30 cm) oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil when the pan is hot. Stir the batter and pour it into the skillet. Cook for 6–8 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown and the top is dry. Turn off the stove. Spread the eggplant sauce over the crust, then top with the mozzarella and jalapeño. Broil for 2–3 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the sides get crispy. Garnish with the parsley, slice, and serve.
If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can skip the broiling—just add a little extra oil to the pan in Step 4 to get the flatbread crispier, and cook the pizza for a few minutes after adding the toppings to melt the cheese. (If you have a lid for the skillet, cook the pizza with the lid closed).
Use your favorite non-dairy cheese or nutritional yeast, or simply skip the cheese and relish the eggplant sauce on its own.
Nutritional info: For 2 slices [1/3 pizza]
PS: Did you know all the recipes in my cookbook come with nutritional facts?
Cue up your September grocery shopping list! Summer produce is still out there but not for long..
More seasonal recipe inspiration:
My air-fryer Marinara - the base recipe for the Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup (page 109 of The Vegetarian Reset)
Bottle up grape jelly or make PBJ Sandwich Cookies (page 180 of The Vegetarian Reset)
Saag Lasagna (page 62 of The Vegetarian Reset)
Feta Pasta (page 79 of The Vegetarian Reset)
I’m excited to partner with the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh to teach an exclusive cooking series from The Vegetarian Reset! These are virtual cooking classes so anyone can sign up. The first class is on October 17, 6-8pm and we’ll be making a couple of Indian recipes to kick off the festive season. See the full schedule and sign up below!
The Vegetarian Reset: Plant Forward Recipes from Around the World | Vasudha Viswanath
Navratri & Diwali Special: Cucumber Papdi Chaat & Sundal | Vasudha Viswanath | Oct. 17 | 6 - 8 p.m. [Rescheduled from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.]
Thanksgiving Special: Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie | Vasudha Viswanath | Nov. 14 | 6 - 8 p.m. [Rescheduled from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.]
Gluten Free Baking: Hazelnut Brownies & Almond Flour Cookies | Vasudha Viswanath | Dec. 12 | 6 - 8 p.m. [Rescheduled from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.]
I was honored to be on Dr. Michael Roizen’s podcast, (Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic), and even more honored that he tried 4 recipes from my cookbook! Listen to the episode here.
Join my cookbook group here on Facebook and share your pictures as you cook along from the book! You can also ask questions about recipes and I will help in any way I can.
New to We Ate Well? (Hi!!) - here’s what you missed this summer: