Teresa Parker blogs about restaurants, recipes, and the reasons why she's in love with Spain's food and culture.
Everybody knows about the Napolitanos' pizzas and the Provençals' pissaladières. The Catalans, however, seem to prefer to keep their cocas on the DL. (Below, a pastry shop owner puts his sweet coca under wraps.)
Coca is a flatbread made in sweet and savory versions depending on the occasion and strewn with different toppings depending on the season or on where you are in Catalonia. I love a savory coca de recapte, a Tarragona-leaning combination of roasted and peeled eggplant, red peppers, and onions found in bakeries all over Catalonia. "Recapte” means provisions, and in that spirit, a savory coca can be topped with whatever is on hand, but it is never slathered with tomato sauce nor draped with cheese.
It's hard to find a bakery coca that's as good as a homemade one. Fortunately, they're a cinch to throw together.
Here's the one we made in the fall Catalan Cuisine class I taught at Sarah Lawrence College. We took a couple of shortcuts but didn't stray far from tradition: we skipped all that roasting and peeling and just sliced and sautéed the vegetables until they were softened and lightly caramelized; also, we used zucchini instead of eggplant because it's faster and easier to prep. The crust is a simple one-rise yeast dough, quick enough for a weeknight dinner -- come home from work, start the dough and just let it rise while you prepare the toppings.
Coca de Recapte
For one large or two small cocas to serve 6 as an appetizer (12 if there are other appetizers)
1 C warm water (110 F)
1 tsp salt*
1 tsp sugar
1 pkg yeast
1/2 C rye flour (lower in gluten, so makes the dough less chewy)
2 to 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
Olive oil to brush over the dough
1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
1 large sweet red pepper, stemmed, seeded, sliced thin
2 small zucchini, sliced thin (lengthwise is nice if you have a mandolin)
1/2 cup pitted oil cured black olives
olive oil for sautéing s & p
Make the dough: Place warm water in large bowl, stir in sugar and salt, sprinkle on yeast. Stir in rye flour, then white, stopping after the first two cups to incorporate. The dough should be a little sticky, but manageable – dump it out, knead it for a few minutes, return it to the bowl, cover and let rise about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 F, prep the toppings, and finish: Sauté the onions and peppers in olive oil, letting them slowly soften (and sweeten), remove and sauté the zucchini (it cooks more quickly). Pit the olives if need be.
Gather dough into a ball and knead a couple of times, stretch and pat into out on a cornmeal-strewn baking sheet, shaping 2 long narrow ovals (about 6x14 inches, to fit on one large baking sheet). Pinch up the edges a little. Arrange toppings.
Bake about 20 minutes.
* I like Diamond Crystal Kosher salt for cooking.