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.

All You Need to Know About Pork Tenderloin

Currently sitting at my favorite neighborhood patisserie – nibbling on the best chocolate almond croissant in Park Slope (Colson at the corner of 9th and 6th ave) – piecing together the clips of my first totally solo video project. And it’s starting to feel like a mining operation: pealing away the jumbled parts of my 3-hour, single-take, cut-less footage and jerky tripod adjustments – a testament to the importance of asking for an extra set of hands. However, my favorite part of this whole process of making these videos has been the challenge of putting my film schooling to practice in this new food video domain. It’s not perfect and my standards are much too high but it’s really fun. I love the process of demonstrating a process. Food is a process. It’s practice and it’s putting your knowledge of ingredients and tools to the test. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way we envision but when it does the process of getting to that point makes you feel like an expert the next time around. Being confident and accepting the process is the key to success.

This video came about because some folks commented on one of our pork tenderloin Instagram posts, professing their frustration with pan-searing pork and that it never looks like “that”. But, I’ll be honest, neither did mine. It took me a few tries and lots of deep breaths to get it right. Laura and the crew would probably say it was my biggest hurdle. But I’m here to tell you that it is possible! Here are a few tips I picked up in the process 🙂

  • Prepping a pork tenderloin:
    • Pork is best seared, to get that crispy, unctuous crust, then popped in the oven at 425 degrees to finish.
    • First, you must trim off something called the “silverskin”. According to my research, “silverskin is connective tissue that doesn’t dissolve when the tenderloin is cooked, so it needs to be trimmed away” (finecooking.com). Hold it tightly with your fingertips and stick a sharp knife, preferably a boning knife or pairing knife, through to make a thin slit and follow the tissue until it’s removed.

  • The longer you marinate, the better.
    • Next, it’s important to marinate the tenderloin for as long as possible, at least an hour. Although, we all know apple and pork is a winning combo, pork is also great with almost any citrus. Pork absorbs flavors beautifully. You can adjust your seasonings to go along with whatever you’re making.
    • Make sure you strip the pork of excess marinade before you start searing but don’t pour it down the drain just yet! You’ll use it later. You can also add a little something extra to the marinade after you’ve stripped it like honey or agave, sriracha, anything that is likely to burn in the pan while it sears. We added honey to the recipe in this video and created a sweet glaze.
    • (Bonus tip: you can also make extra marinade before you add the pork to use as salad dressing!)

  • How to get the perfect sear every time:
    • When you’re searing pork, or anything for that matter, you want to make sure your pan is really really hot. You can test this with the water splash test, if it sizzles you’re ready to go. Add the oil. This can be anything you have laying around but if you’re getting really technical, you’ll want something with a “high-smoke-point” (things like grapeseed oil, safflower oil or canola oil). Make sure it covers the whole surface of the pan, then carefully layer the meat on top. It will splatter so watch out!
    • You’re going to create an even sear around the whole tenderloin so it’s crispy all the way around. To do this, you’ll roll the pork toward (or away) from you, allowing the pork to get a nice sear on each roll. On the last roll just turn, spread with your excess marinade or glaze and pop it in the oven.

  • Finish it off in the oven.
    • Oven timing is tricky here because oven temps vary, pork girth vary, and different pans transfer heat differently. Before you give up, there’s an easy solution. Welcome meat thermometer! Check the pork after about 6-8 minutes. Stick the thermometer in the thickest park of the meat. You want it to read 135-140. It will finish cooking while it settles.

  • Let it rest!
    • Probably the most important tip we can give you is to let it rest. Make sure the pork rests for at least 10 minutes – just enough time to whip up your salad or strain your rice. This will ensure juicy pork. Even if you think you overcooked it, it will still be delicious and juicy if you allow the meat to rest.
  • Save le jus.
    • The final tip I have is to pour the juices that pool on your cutting board over the meat. It’s a trick I learned long ago and will never serve meat to another living soul without it. Perhaps the simplest way to transform a piece of meat into a savory chef-d’oeuvre.

Our go-to pork marinade ingredients and pairings:

As shown in the video:

  • Roasted pork tenderloin with lots of fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt + pepper and honey to finish.
    • Paired with delicate Boston lettuce, shaved radish, lightly blanched green beans, and brown rice with a lemon-dijon vinaigrette
  • Roasted pork tenderloin with orange zest, garlic, grainy Dijon mustard and honey to finish
    • Paired with roasted sweet potato wedges, quinoa and simple arugula salad with citrus Dijon vinaigrette
  • Laura’s Cooks vs. Cons pork tenderloin: http://whatweeat.nyc/cooks-vs-cons-behind-the-scenes/

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.

What We Believe About Eating Well

“Healthy” food is having its day. It seems like there’s a new Sweetgreen, By Chloe or juice bar along those lines opening up each time you turn your head in New York City.  Bon Appetit has launched a new brand and site, Healthyish, to “cover wellness through the lens of food.” Eighteen of Amazon’s 20 top selling cookbooks have a health focus. The hashtag #cleaneating has over 29.5 million posts and counting on Instagram. People are connecting the dots between how they eat and how they feel.

On the one hand, this is awesome. Think about it, we literally are what we eat. Every strand of hair, follicle of skin and organ in our bodies is made up of the building blocks provided by what we eat. I don’t know whether that fact will ever stop fascinating me. The more people realize and celebrate this, the better.

On the other hand, some of what I see makes me uneasy. The more interest there is in healthy eating, the more commoditized it becomes. Many of those making a business around it, whether as an Instagram celebrity or as a food company, are not as informed as they purport. They claim that their way of eating, or their product offers the optimum diet. Conviction is easier to sell.

“It is the least substantiated, most uninformed opinions about how to eat that will come at you with the greatest conviction. That’s your first clue that something is awry, because true expertise always allows for doubt.”

– Dr. David Katz, Founding Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

The truth is, there is not one way to eat well. Envision eating on a spectrum. On one end are total junk food diets. Think Doritos for breakfast, burger/fries for lunch and pizza for dinner. On the other end are more whole foods-based diets. Think tons of produce, lean proteins, whole grains and legumes, etc. There are endless ways to eat poorly and endless ways to eat well. If you are operating at the healthy end of the spectrum, there should be no anxiety around doing things “right” or “wrong”.

As a company, we strive to help our clients eat better no matter their choice of diet. We have clients who are vegan and animal-protein obsessed, gluten-free and grain-loving, dairy-averse and cheese-loving…you get the point. None are innately healthier than the other. It comes down to personal choice.

As a team, we enjoy all foods. Most of the time you’ll catch us crushing veggies but we never turn our noses up to a plate of the best fries or a good dessert. The former isn’t #cleaneating because it implies the latter is somehow dirty. It’s not! Its balanced. This isn’t “healthyish”. It’s healthy.

As this movement continues to boom, take heart in knowing that you’re probably already doing most things right. The devil is not in the details. And remember that while food is certainly a vehicle for health, it’s also about pleasure, culture and community. Enjoy it for all it has to offer!

With love always, xo Laura

A Word on Smoothies

Fruits and vegetables for smoothies
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day–or so they say. I tend to start each morning full of healthy resolve but find that it crumbles with each passing moment. After an entire day of running around the city cooking delicious meals for other people, dinner often turns into a free-for-all in which I succumb to every craving.

With this honest acknowledgement, I have learned that one of the most successful and simplest routines to fall into is to start each morning on the right foot, with a quick, low-maintenance and nourishing meal. My ultimate to-go meal is a smoothie.

Herbs citrus and ginger for smoothie

I love smoothies for many reasons. First and foremost, they are easy to throw together. Literally just toss the ingredients in a blender and whizz until it has reached a smooth consistency. Second, it is a great way to use anything in the fridge that may be on its way out. No discrimination against a slightly overripe banana or ugly avocado when everything ends up pulverized in the blender anyway. Texture trumps appearance. For example, avocados add creaminess to a smoothie, as does banana.

Carrot Mise en place

Most people are comfortable with fruit smoothies but are more hesitant to add vegetables to the mix. The key is to make sure that there is a good balance between some of the more strongly flavored veggies (such as kale or parsley) and the sweetness of the fruit. The addition of veggies provides an opportunity to get even more vitamins and fiber into one cup and cut down a little bit on the sugar and calories.

Fruit mise en place

When making a smoothie, the main components are as follows:

A Base – Water, milk, almond milk, coconut milk or juice, etc.

Vegetables – Spinach, kale, cucumber, beet, carrot, celery, parsley, ginger, cilantro, avocado, mint, etc. I’ve been known to throw kale stems in here but this isn’t for everyone:)

Fruit – Endless but my favorites are apples, oranges, bananas, mangos, pineapples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, etc. Using frozen fruit is great for texture.

Additions – Protein powder, nut butter,  yogurt, dates, flax seed, chia seed, cinnamon, etc.

Yogurt milk oats chia seeds and dates

Combos can be mixed and matched from any of the above ingredients, and really the sky is the limit. If you are green smoothie/veg-fruit smoothie newbie, start with a lower veg:fruit ratio and slowly increase the ratio as your taste allows. I can’t begin to describe some of the more unusual results I have subjected my roommate Rian to sampling in the past. Laura won’t even try some of these but my tastes buds are happy. Below are a few introductory options that even the most green-smoothie-averse will enjoy. For our clients, we prepackage the italicized ingredients in ziplock baggies in the freezer and then they can simply dump them into their blenders and add in their other ingredients day-of for a quick, healthy, kid-friendly breakfast or snack option. They serve one person very generously or two kids.  I hope you enjoy them too!

With love,

Kristina

Green Smoothie for health

 

Green Machine Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 Banana

1 Cup shredded kale

1/2 Avocado

1/2 Apple

1 Tsp Chia Seeds

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Berry Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 Cup Strawberries

1 Cup Blueberries

1 Cup Spinach

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Green Monster Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Pineapple

1/2 Cup Mango

1/2 Banana

1 Cup Spinach

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Banana Date Smoothie (This isn’t a green smoothie but its such a big hit, I wanted to share in anyways.)

Ingredients:

1 Banana, sliced

4 Dates, chopped

1 Pinch Cinnamon

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Method: Tumble into a blender and blend for consistent texture. Enjoy! We prepackage the italicized ingredients in ziplock baggies in the freezer. Each recipe serves one person very generously or two kids.