I’m a self-professed foodie, and it took me nearly three years to be able to say that. Learning about food is like learning about anything else—trial and error and lots of “learning as you go along”—and this story is no different. While some food lessons are more obvious than others (like removing bay leaves and adding cornstarch to cold water instead of hot), others can seem downright tricky. In my journey up until this point, I can think of no harsher (yet surprisingly popular) a lesson than learning about truffle oil.
The seemingly classy ingredient might very well be as crooked as the evil stepmother in Snow White, luring you in with false promises. When you think about quality ingredients, it’s not entirely uncommon to also see an increase in price, like better beef, organic produce, or vanilla beans instead of extract. So when looking at a bottle of truffle oil, everything seems to make sense. At $30 for a bottle just over three ounces, it has to be good stuff; the yellowish liquid surrounding the few flecks of actual truffle sitting peacefully down at the bottom. When I first saw it, that bottle of oil seemed so authentic and impressive until I did a little research.
Let me be explicit about the conflict that informs my “Conflicted Kitchen” column here: I love food–making it and thinking about it and reading about it and eating it–but I hate gaining weight.
They say the average person gains 3 to 7 seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. One holiday season, I managed to put on 17 pounds in 21 days. This feat is easier than you might think. That year, there were cookie binges so intense that I ate every available Christmas cookie my mother had baked for the family and went on to pillage the neatly ribboned gift bags of treats she made for other people. MORE
For many vegans, chickpeas and chickpea flour are saving graces. Full of good fats, protein, and fiber, these delicious legumes hit the nutritional jackpot. Most people, vegans or otherwise, know chickpeas for their role in Middle Eastern cuisine; the ever-popular hummus being the classic example of a chickpea-based dish. One of the last places one might expect to encounter a flatbread composed of chickpea flour is Nice, in the southeast of France.
Yet that’s where socca, a pancake-like unleavened flatbread made almost exclusively of chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil, originates. Socca is a staple street food in the city of Nice and in the surrounding region. It is generally made quickly, using large cast-iron skillets in an open oven and is served in roughly chopped pieces, dripping with olive oil, with nothing but a generous dash of black pepper as accompaniment.
Such a plain, unglamorous dish may seem unappealing to some, but socca’s modesty intrigued me. What could it be about a simple preparation of flour and water that would purportedly make people devour entire pans of the stuff within minutes? I intended to find out. MORE