We finally got around to decorating our little home for the holidays! Lights are up on the windows, garland and bows are strewn on the staircase, and our tree is chilling in its new corner home. Yes, we are proud parents of the cutest little tree there ever could be! We figured we are almost a real family now, so we need to start building our own holiday traditions. With those traditions, come a bit of compromise. I grew up with real Christmas trees. The kind that shed tiny needles everywhere, that are always a bit crooked and a little uneven but that are perfectly imperfect because they smell of Christmas. My fiance, on the other hand, grew up with a fake tree that gets dragged from the basement every year and has perfect little branches for hanging ornaments, and smells of...nothing. Our family tree looks like a Jackson Pollack while his family's tree looks like it came straight out of the Sears catalog. Nothing wrong or right with either of those things, but certainly different takes on what makes a Christmas tree tradition.
So this brings me back to our humble tree and the beginning of our new family traditions. I figured our tree is a compromise between the two family traditions. Yes, it is artificial, but it is a bit sparse and awkward. I was even fooled by its lack of authenticity when I picked it out at the nursery. Draped in itty-bitty lights and just two ornaments, it has not yet been a victim of the cats' curiosity. I give it another day or two before our terrifically I-am-pretty-sure-I-saw-that-inanimate-object-move-therefore-I-must-attack-it cat goes after it.
Now that our house is decorated, I am feeling festive! So festive in fact, we decided to throw a Christmas party by inviting probably way too many people. The more the merrier, right? For this party, we are going to need food, and this is where this nibble comes in. Green and red from the chard and red and white from the bits of apple, it is the perfect holiday bite.
Socca, if you have never heard of it, is a quick flatbread made with chickpea flour. It leans towards the savory side and is quite dense, but if you are thinking it tastes like chickpeas or hummus in baked form, you would be surprised at how different in flavor it is. I dare compare it to a really finely ground polenta with some addicting nuttiness going on. While it can certainly be eaten in pizza form, I make bite-size finger appetizers by using a small biscuit cutter to cut out little rounds. Sure, there are scraps of socca that remain from all of the hole-punching, but they are much appreciated thrown into a bowl of roasted root vegetables and topped with goat cheese. Waste not, want not.
The top is a bit of simply sauteed chard stems and garlic, wilted chard leaves, and a spattering of toasted walnuts. The addition that made this not just beautiful but quite a bit fancy feeling was the apple. I draped julienned apple pieces over top that offered just enough sweet and tart crunch to balance the earthy chard.
This is perfect party food because it is mostly make-ahead. The socca, chard, and toasted nuts can all be prepared ahead of time. Warm the socca and chard topping through, assemble with the walnuts, and top with apple, and you are ready for your holiday shindig.
Swiss Chard and Apple Socca Bites
2 cups chickpea flour
2 1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 + tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces Swiss chard (I used rainbow), washed and stems diced and leaves cut into chiffonade
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 small apple, julienned
Prepare socca. Whisk chickpea flour with water, salt, and 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil until smooth. You can adjust seasoning by tasting batter here if you would like. Allow batter to rest for at least 15 minutes, but up to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place large cast iron skillet in oven on center rack to heat while oven preheats. Remove pan from oven when hot and pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil, swirling to coat. I used a 12-inch pan, but you could do multiple batches in a smaller skillet. Add batter to thickness of scant 1/4-inch (this was all of batter in my 12-inch), and return pan to oven. Allow to cook 15-20 minutes or until golden and starting to pull away from sides. Remove from oven and allow to cool before using a spatula to loosen batter from pan. Cut socca into circles, either with a cookie cutter or by tracing a small cup.
Prepare Swiss chard while socca cooks. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add chard stems and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chard leaves and toss to combine, cooking for just a few minutes or until leaves have wilted but still have a little bite. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Assemble bites. Top a socca round with a little pile of chard, sprinkle with toasted walnuts, and top with apple slivers. Enjoy! Makes about 12-15 bites.