Ah asparagus, kingpin of fleeting seasonal veggies—when its tender green spears shoot from the English soil straight into the canvas totes of rabidly early farmers market risers, everyone knows it’s the month of May. How did a year manage to happen so sneakily since I last made a quiche out of these stalks?
These weeks have been blurring into one massively busy blessing, and although it seems silly, produce availability anchors each fleeting month to the grander annual context. Why has all the spinach been looking wilty? Since when have juicy pears been hard to find for grab-and-go breakfasts? Shouldn’t I be able to taste some sweet strawberries with my pitcher of Pimm’s soon?
Farinata, also known by alternative names depending on geographic location (e.g. socca, cecina, fainâ), is a dish most associated with the Ligurian Coast of Italy—that’s between the Riviera and the island of Corsica. It’s a rather humble unleavened bread made with a loose batter of chickpea flour, water, and olive oil, seasoned with not much more than rosemary. Depending on the size of tin you use and the amount of batter, the flatbread pancake can lie anywhere on a sliding scale of thick and chewy to thin and crispy. I like mine somewhere in between, and chickpea flour lends a toothsome savouriness at whichever end of the spectrum.
Italian variations include artichoke, onion, and whitebait, French socca features plenty of fresh black pepper, Algerian karantita adds a kick of cumin and harissa, but scatter in some shaved English asparagus and you have a seasonal delicacy fit for Mayday celebrations.
Lemon Asparagus Farinata
- ⅓ cup chickpea flour (socca)
- ⅔ cup cold water
- ½ t sea salt
- 1 ½ T olive oil
- squeeze of lemon juice
- lemon zest
- 3 spears asparagus, shaved
- black pepper, freshly ground
Whisk chickpea flour, water, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a bowl before covering and letting rest at room temperature for about 4 hours.
Turn oven to 475ºF/250ºC and preheat a sheet pan with some olive oil.
When pan and oil are hot, pour in the batter and scatter over shaved asparagus and lemon zest.
Return to oven for 15-20 minutes, until farinata is golden and crisp. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and freshly grated black pepper.