Carrot Socca Fritters with Roasted Fennel

I am always looking for new and interesting ways to expand my vegan repertoire even though I’m not a full-time vegan. I made this last week as a pre-detox dinner the night before we were invited to my brother-in-law’s house for barbecued pork ribs. Now, I love ribs but have no illusions about their fat content and inflammatory properties. I’m an omnivore who plans to avoid common lifestyle diseases with aging—heart disease, Type II diabetes, dementia—by taking heed of the best dietary advice while still enjoying myself. I don’t think a few ribs now and again will harm me. Yet, I have more fun eating my veggies. I feel so much better when I’m mindful and restrict meat.

Socca is the French word for a flatbread made from chickpea flour common across the Mediterranean and has many names. In Italy alone it goes by different names depending on the dialect spoken: fainâ in Genoa; farinata in standard Italian; cecina in Tuscany.

I made this with fennel on the side as an ode to the Mediteranean, but broccoli and green beans are good too.

This dish is both vegan and gluten-free.

 Serves 2 for a light supper or a heartier lunch. Makes 6 fritters.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.
  • fresh herbs, parsley or cilantro, chopped. About 3 tablespoons. If you don’t have fresh herbs, experiment with your spice rack. Ground fennel or coriander and cumin work well here.  As does a tiny pinch of Aleppo pepper.
  • 3/4 cup (105g) chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour).
  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds.
  • 4 carrots, shredded on a box grater.
  • 1 lemon.
  • 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise.
  • 2 ounces (60g) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped.
  • ¼ cup (46g) Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped.
  • 1 small fennel bulb.
  • 1 small orange.
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the fennel:

A small – medium sized fennel bulb is enough for two people.

Heat the oven to 425℉ (220℃).

Oil the bottom of a sheet pan.

Cut the fennel into quarters or eighths, depending on its size. Put it in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Gently toss the fennel to coat. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn to coat once more. Place cut-side down on sheet pan and roast for 15-20 minutes until tender and browning. If still a bit firm, turn over fennel pieces and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

For the Aioli: 

Juice half of the lemon. Combine half the garlic, all of the vegan mayo, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Mix together and taste. Too much lemon? Add a bit of olive oil and a bit more mayo. Mix well. Taste again and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Olive and pepper topping:

Combine chopped olives and roasted red peppers in a bowl. Add remaining lemon juice and stir. Set aside.

For the Socca Fritters:

Combine the remaining chopped garlic and all of the herbs or spices in a bowl with the chickpea flour, hemp seeds, and ½ cup (125 ml) cold water. Stir until smooth. Add the shredded carrots, salt and pepper and mix again.

Coat a 12-inch nonstick pan with vegetable oil (something with a high smoke point like avocado or grape seed oil NOT extra virgin olive oil) and place over medium heat. Heat the oil until it’s hot, but not close to burning.

Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, drop 6 portions of socca batter into the pan, making sure they aren’t touching. You may need to do this in batches. Flatten the fritters with the bottom of the measuring cup.

Cook fritters for 3-4 minutes per side, until crisp. 

While the fritters cook prepare two serving plates by smearing aioli on the bottom. Next,  Zest and juice the orange, mix with a bit of olive oil.

Place cooked fritters on top of the aioli. Spread the olives and peppers on top of the fritters and place fennel portions on the side. Drizzle orange juice and zest onto the fennel.

Serve and eat.

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