Out of Africa

A simple appetizer using garbanzos
JERRY ANNE DI VECCHIO

Sage Farinata

I first tasted socca long ago ― in the shaded, open-air market by the sea in Nice. The flat cake sizzling in olive oil atop a wood-fired oil drum smelled so good that I sidled right up and bought a chunk.

Had I known that garbanzo flour and water were the essence of what I'd just snatched up, I'd have brushed socca aside as boring. What a mistake that would have been. There's a Mother Earth simplicity about socca. One tender, slightly nutty bite leads to another. Its flavor is unemphatic, but it seeps right into the bones of taste memory.

No doubt the dish arrived in France by way of North Africa, where garbanzo (also known as chickpea) flour is a staple. And apparently, socca also migrated down the coast into Italy.

At his Italian-influenced Rose Pistola Restaurant in San Francisco, Reed Hearon makes a version he calls sage farinata (a roasted chickpea cake). The sage looks pretty and adds a faint crunch. For lunch or a light supper, enjoy wedges of sage farinata with olives, some feta cheese, and a cold, bold rosé wine.