Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

Simple As Socca… July 21, 2010

Socca - Chickpea "Crepe"

Green Plum Cooking School – Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Socca recipe, by Jackie Burdisso

125 g chickpea flour (grams, really, I can barely do American math; it’s 4.5oz)

1 ¼ cups water

3 tbls olive oil

salt & pepper

pinch of French attitude

I’ve dragged Jackie Burdisso upstairs to guest chef today’s class (Jackie is the owner of Maison Burdisso, home of the best Parisian macarons ever – available here at the Midtown Farmers Market).

A few months ago, I demonstrated our chickpea fries with red curry-sambal-ketchup.  During that class, Jackie came upstairs and we had this impromptu discussion about panisse.  Jackie described how to make it – you pour chickpea batter into a special saucer, let it firm up, and then turn it out; you then bread it with flour and fry it in olive oil.  That was interesting and all, but not what I was after.  What I wanted her to tell us about was something called socca — a flat, crispy chickpea cake, almost like a crepe or thin flatbread.  I asked Jackie what it’s served with and she repeated (more than once), just salt and pepper, and sometimes a little olive oil.  I pressed her and she finally said, “Rosé wine”….ah, that’s what I was looking for!

It all seemed so simple.  But I definitely wanted Jackie’s French expertise to help us through.  We are pouring a Texas Rosé today.  It would have been a good thing if my assistants had counted the glasses before pouring the wine.  Jackie abstains, which is one more reason I believe she isn’t really French.  We joke that her name and her family’s gravestones are all in Italian or in Italy and that she isn’t really French. While I am bitching about not getting a glass of wine, my daughter Lili shows up to tell the audience that I am allergic to Tequila, which never fails to get a laugh.  In actuality, if I drink Tequila, it is as if someone goes into my body’s breaker box and starts switching all the breakers off; I feel fine, but I can’t stand up.  The crowd is roaring.  It really isn’t that funny.  Jackie shares that she allergic to rosé, which I think is bullshit.

I think the socca might be too simple (and I’m not sure Jackie can carry an entire class on her own), so I am making something, too.  I have cranberry beans and amaranth from our new grower, The Secret Garden.  Apparently, it really is a secret garden because there is no way to get there but to follow someone.  It is 17 acres and the Leung family farms it by hand.  Amaranth is a weed, seed, leaf and plant with many varieties.  It is high in protein and grows in tropical and subtropical regions, ours being one.

Cranberry Beans with Amaranth



The S – E – X – Y Food Class… April 6, 2010

We Call It Food Porn....Not Much That's Sexier Than That.

Green Plum Cooking School – March 27th

This morning, I have a group of fifteen women who have come early for Breakfast with the Pope (one woman in the group bought an auction item that includes breakfast with me, a tour of the market and seats in the cooking class).  Most of the women had not been to the market before.  I try to give them a little history — mine, the restaurant and the market.  One woman keeps asking questions, so I just turn the whole hour with them into a little Q & A.

In class today, I am doing Buttermilk Panna Cotta, something that usually takes two hours to set and I am going to do it in an hour or less. I’ve got to get going!  I love panna cottas, of all kinds:  goat’s milk, toasted almond, mascarpone, crème fraiche, you name it.

I place the cream in the pot (the buttermilk doesn’t go in yet to get cooked; it goes in after I pull the pot off the stove).  As the cream heats up, I measure fourteen tablespoons of sugar in my hand.  I use my cupped palm to measure tablespoons, that’s how we roll upstairs.  I grab a half-pint to go container to measure cups when I need to.  I split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds out and place both the sugar and vanilla beans in the hot cream to infuse and for the sugar to dissolve.  I then remove the pot, add the gelatin leaves (I add an extra leaf because I’m worried about this setting up in the shorter time period, but we definitely don’t want to end up with a rubbery product like we get in most restaurants).  I use a whisk to bring it together and then add the buttermilk. I strain the whole mixture and have Nicole pour it into our clear cups.  I like using a see-through cup to see the white mixture as I don’t usually turn the panna cotta out, I just top it with a simple compote or syrup — today we’re using local strawberries.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta



I Say Dumpling, You Say Empanada… April 3, 2010

Potato Lentil Dumplings

Green Plum Cooking School – March 20th, 2010

Anything fried is pretty darn good, right?  Like the fried Oreos or fried Coke at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.  I do admit that Lili and I did have a fried Oreo at the Rodeo a few years ago.  I’m not some food extremist but novelty food isn’t everyday food and it’s certainly not something I need to eat again.

That’s all to prepare you that we are frying today in class.  We are making Potato Lentil Dumplings – which is more like an empanada, really.  I start the class on time but June and Karin walk in late.  Humph.  They were sitting downstairs since 8 am.  I say, “After all that, you’re late!”   Lili prances by and says, “Mommy, don’t be too hard on them.”  Humph.



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