Get to Know It: Chickpea Flour

Socca, an unleavened pancake made from chickpea flour and water.

Chickpeas are an ingredient we know and love. They’re satiating and a great source of plant-based protein. And, like most legumes, they provide an excellent canvas for flavor. You can really dress them up in any way you like.

We eat them chilled in our summer bean salads, warm in our winter stews. Pureed in our hummus, fried in our falafel. We love to roast them to crispy, baked perfection. To munch on them as a snack, to include them in our kitchen sink salads. Basically, we love to consume chickpeas pretty much any way, at pretty much any time.

But how often do you find yourself cooking with chickpea flour? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably not too often.

Chickpea flourtraditionally made by grinding raw chickpeasis gluten free and nutrient dense. Like whole chickpeas, it’s a fantastic source of protein, and one that doesn’t come with an ominous use-by date. It has a really nice flavor and a rather dense texture, so it holds up well during cooking and tastes delicious once it’s done.

You can use chickpea flour in many ways, most of which are easy, fast, healthy and economical. Read: this is an ingredient worth getting to know.

Not sure where to begin? I can’t think of a better way to break the ice than by making socca.

Socca, native to France, is an unleavened pancake that can be made from equal parts chickpea flour and water. The process will seem friendly to even the most novice cooks. It requires little more than whisking flour and water, heating a lightly oiled pan and cooking a pancake. Isn’t that lovely?

But there’s room for adventure, too.

For instance, you could amp up your socca with egg a la this genius recipe for “cromlet”, a chickpea-omelette hybrid developed at Bon Appetit and beloved by the team here at WWE.

Or perhaps you’d like to use it as a gluten and dairy free roux in your next vegan sauce, as Lindsey Love, a fellow chickpea flour evangelist, suggests.

Love also wrote this recipe for za’tar spiced chickpea crackers, which look to be delicious, healthful and minimalist all at once. They consist of little more than chickpea flour, olive oil and water.

Other intriguing uses: pizza, wraps, baking (it’s a trustworthy binder) and soups, to name a few.

But don’t let me get carried away. If you’re new to chickpea flour, how about a simple, anything-goes, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Salad Socca? The guidelines are straightforward:

Purchase some chickpea flour (also called garbanzo or gram flour), then head to the farmer’s market and fill your tote with spring produce. Make your way home. Make a salad, then make socca, then top the socca with the salad. Easy, right?

A salad of baby greens, fennel and cucumber.

Below, a bit of inspiration: a recipe for a Salad Socca of my own creation. Let me know what you think of yours. Happy cooking!

 

Salad Socca

1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini

1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups baby greens

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 small cucumber, thinly sliced

Olive oil to taste

½ teaspoon sumac (optional)

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup water

 

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tahini, garlic, half of the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Separately, combine greens, fennel and cucumber. Toss well with olive oil, remaining lemon juice, some lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, sprinkle with sumac.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 cup water and a healthy three-finger pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.

Heat a medium (10-in or so) skillet, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat surface.

Pour socca batter into skillet and let cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on bottom. It will fill the entire skillet. Flip and repeat on other side.

Once done, top socca with a generous serving of tahini-yogurt. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, spread mixture to evenly coat. Using your hands, top with fennel and cucumber salad. Enjoy.

The Green Goddess

Green goddess dressing.

I’ve known about green goddess dressing for a while now, but I have to admit that up until recently, its ingredients were somewhat of a mystery to me. Herbs, of course, and something creamy, for sure. But was that greek yogurt, or was it buttermilk? Avocado, or just green herbs? A hint of anchovy, or am I just making things up?

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “green goddess” notions of healthy grain bowls, sunny weather and glowing skin come to mind. New Californian cooking. As far as I’m concerned, it sounds like quintessential health food branding. Right?

While many recipes proved my theory correct, featuring fresh, healthful ingredients like herbs, avocado, greek yogurt and lemon, I was surprised to learn that a wholesome green goddess recipe is something of a reformed party girl.

The green goddess got its start in 1920s New York, when a broadway show of the same name premiered and gained popularity. Following its rise, a chef at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco invented a green dressing in its honor.

A green goddess with cilantro, greek yogurt, avocado and lime.

And the original recipe had absolutely nothing to do with health. Think mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, tarragon and chives. Delicious? Definitely. Wholesome? Not so much.

That said, this recipe – now nearly a century old – is far from obsolete. Many contemporary green goddesses have decadent, old-school vibes, requesting a heavy hand with rich dairy and classic French herbs.

Personally, I prefer a green goddess with greek yogurt and lots of citrus. To me, these versions are cleaner and brighter.

But that’s what’s great about the green goddess. She’s a chameleon. You can really make this dressing your own. Craving something avocado-forward? Go for it. Need to finish that buttermilk before it goes bad? Use it. Want to make anchovies your star? Sounds great. Forgot them at the grocery store? It will still be delicious!

I suggest preparing a batch of green goddess on Sunday evening to get you through the start of your work week. It’s versatile, so making it doesn’t require committing to one specific dinner idea. You can dress your salads with it, marinate your proteins in it, use it to amp up your grain bowls, or even let it guest star on taco night.

Below, you’ll find a few renditions I know and like. If you’re going to marinate a protein, I suggest following this recipe by Melissa Clark. Otherwise, simply use the ideas below to spark your creativity. After all, that’s what the green goddess is all about.

Green Goddess I

Combine parsley, basil, greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

Green Goddess II

Combine parsley, mint, basil, cilantro, sour cream, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

Adapted ever so slightly from Mina Stone’s recipe in Cooking For Artists (p 33).

Green Goddess III

Combine tarragon, chives, greek yogurt, anchovies*, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

*I suggest using 1-2 anchovies. If using, be sure to season less aggressively; anchovies add a lot of salt!

Green Goddess IV

Combine cilantro, avocado, greek yogurt, garlic, lime juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Spring Cleaning Your Diet

There are certain times of year when it seems like everyone is trying to “get back on the wagon.” January is the most obvious. We’re genuinely tired of holiday indulgences and habituated to setting health-related resolutions come the new year. Spring is a close second. Maybe it’s the changing of wardrobes, the thought of upcoming summer vacation, or inspiration from nature’s rebirth all around us. Who knows? But why not take advantage of this extra push.

In my work with nutrition clients, anxiety around failed New Year’s resolutions is a big stumbling block to reviving healthy habits. After making sure that their original goals are the right ones for now to begin with, there is an exercise I turn to time and again to help clients work through any indecision that might have caused them to lose track. We assess the benefits of change, benefits of staying the same, drawbacks of change, and drawbacks of staying the same. We then illustrate our findings in a table.

Let me give you an example. A weight loss client’s new year’s resolution was to decrease portion sizes at dinner by leaving a quarter of the food on his dinner plate untouched. A perfect SMART goal. It felt easy at first but as his motivation flagged throughout the last month or so, the scale has stubbornly stayed put. While he wants to continue losing weight, he also hates the idea of always having to keep nutrition top of mind. He doesn’t feel like he’s made any unsustainable changes to lose weight yet, but he’s concerned that any additional changes he’ll have to make in the future will feel more difficult. He’s actually comfortable at his current weight, but thinks it’s impossible to maintain unless he’s focused on losing. This is a major cause of anxiety. When he’s successfully executing his goals, he feels a sense of control that pervades the rest of his life. That’s almost a greater benefit to him than any change in appearance (although he likes that too). He also has a family history of diabetes and understands that continued weight loss would be beneficial for disease prevention.  Most of all, he doesn’t want his weight to go back up. He remembers how hard it was to lose and doesn’t want to start all over again.

Here is how we charted these points in a benefits-drawbacks table:

When he saw the above, he felt it was clear the benefits of change coupled with the drawbacks of staying the same far outweighed the benefits of staying the same and drawbacks of change. The anxiety he felt around regaining weight was the clearest motivating factor.

There is no reason that you need the support of a registered dietitian/nutritionist to explore your own indifference. As you plan your goals for spring cleaning your diet, take a few minutes to fill out your own chart. Keep it somewhere handy to refer back to when the going gets tough. And if you think it might help, share your chart in the comments section here. You have your own answers but a community can provide the support you need to follow them.

Spring Produce Has Arrived in NYC!

It’s finally happening! SPRING! The last few weeks we’ve begun incorporating first of the season produce into our menus: asparagus, sugar snaps, English peas, an overwhelming variety of lettuces and more. Until this week, the farmer’s markets boasted nothing more than storage veggies like apples, potatoes and beets.

Normally we aim for the meals we create to be as colorful as possible but this time of year I don’t mind when we highlight green, green and more green. And although roasting is usually my favorite cooking method, the delicate flavors of spring produce benefit most from just quick blanch or sauté if anything at all. Let me share a few of the things we made this week. Hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you to hit your farmer’s market and then the kitchen:

  • BYO Super Green Spring Bowls
    • We made a big bowl of farro or quinoa then put the following toppings out for our little and big clients to build themselves: greens, blanched English peas and snow peas, pan roasted asparagus, avocado, cucumber,  radish, fresh basil/mint/scallions, crumbled goat cheese, toasted almonds, herby yogurt vinaigrette, and a protein (roasted pork tenderloin or chicken, or poached eggs depending on the client)

  • Sugar Snap Pea, Radish and Boston Lettuce Salad
    • Blanch the sugar snaps, quarter the radish, add in a few crisp inner leaves of Boston lettuce and then finish with whatever finishing touches you’d like. Sliced avocado, fresh mint, shaved parmesan or crumbled goat cheese, thinly sliced shallot and toasted almonds are some of my favorites. And a lemon vinaigrette with a touch of Dijon marries it all together.
  • Blanched, Broiled or Grilled Asparagus with Egg and Fried Garlic
    • Cook your asparagus however you’d like, then top it was a few grated or minced hard-boiled eggs or a poached egg plus thinly sliced garlic fried in olive oil until crisp. A little lemon juice and generous shower of Maldon Salt and you’re done! Another classic combo is blanched asparagus with a zingy gremolata (fresh herbs, minced garlic, toasted nuts and citrus zest all chopped up together).

  • Mixed Spring Peas with Burrata and Basil
    • Blanched sugar snaps, shelled English peas and snow peas, topped with burrata, drizzled with the best olive oil and showered with torn basil. Simplicity at its best.
  • Spring Panzanella
    • Blanched spring veggies, torn basil and mint, homemade torn croutons all tossed with a lemony, garlicky vinaigrette.

If you have a favorite dish highlighting spring’s bounty, please share it below. We’re always on the hunt for new inspiration.

With love, xo Laura

Yogurt: A Love Affair

Siggi's Yogurt Orange and Ginger Roast Pork Tenderloin and Scallions

We love yogurt at What We Eat. Plain yogurt is a super delicious and versatile ingredient; it gets as friendly with our granola as it does our roasted veggies. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also crazy good for you, too — chock full of probiotics which are good for your tummy, high in protein and low in sugar so extra filling.

So you can imagine that when we caught wind of Siggi’s recipe contest, we jumped at the chance to participate. Siggi’s is a local company that makes skyrr, a thick Icelandic yogurt that’s not too sweet. They, like us, champion the use of simple, whole food ingredients and not a lot of sugar. Their contest challenges registered dieticians to create recipes with Siggi’s yogurt that align with the ethos of their brand. The top twenty entrants will secure a spot in the forthcoming Siggi’s cookbook.

For recipe inspiration, we turned to our imaginations (or in my case, a healthy dose of the Sqirl LA Instagram feed). After some texting, some coffee and one epic trip from Williamsburg to Red Hook and back again (it’s a long story), we headed for the kitchen.

Siggi's Yogurt Roasted Acorn Squash with Frisee and Micro Greens, Pickled Fennel and Toasted Seeds

The rest of the day was a blur of cooking, testing, tweaking and tasting. Of course, there were some oh man’s and I should have’s. But you know what? There were more belly laughs than anything else. We had fun.

The truth is, cooking like this comes naturally to us. It’s the food we want to eat. And I think that shows in this recipe collection, which is small but mighty.

There’s orange and ginger roast pork tenderloin, super savory and full of flavor. Roasted acorn squash with tahini-honey yogurt, an ode to the end of winter produce. And last but not at all least, spiced pear panna cotta with cardamom, not too sweet but creamy and lovely to eat.

Siggi's Yogurt Spiced Pear Panna Cotta with Cardamon and Pear Puree

When we went home that evening, we felt full and nourished and happy. And, as always, we want to share that with you. So look out for our Siggi’s recipes, which we’ve been sharing weekly on Instagram. And try incorporating any yogurt into your meals in new and creative ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Green Goddess Dressing

Blend a few scoops of yogurt with ripe avocado, lemon or lime juice to taste, a little olive oil, plus fresh basil, mint, cilantro, scallions or chives for a super quick, healthy and delicious avo-yogurt dressing.

Tahini Yogurt

Mix 1/3 tahini with 2/3 plain greek yogurt. Season to taste with minced garlic, salt and pepper. Spread over the bottom of a serving bowl and top with raw or cooked veggies. Roasted sweet potatoes, freshly sliced avo, cilantro and sliced scallions is an oft-repeated variation on this around here.

Honey Yogurt

Add honey, toasted walnuts and cinnamon to taste and serve with any sliced fresh fruit or pound cake.

Yogurt Marinade

Whisk together yogurt, olive oil, lemon, garlic, ginger, salt and black pepper. We love to use this with chicken or pork. Depending, you may also want to incorporate spices like paprika, cayenne and cumin, or an herb like chopped cilantro. Transfer meat to a ziplock bag and coat with marinade. If possible, let marinate several hours, preferably overnight.