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.

Easiest Vinaigrette Ever!

It’s a mystery to me why people still buy salad dressing. There are certain conveniences that make sense (dried pasta, canned beans, etc.) because they are inexpensive and good. Bottled salad dressings aren’t one of them. They are pricey and artificial tasting.  Sure it’s a time saver, but what if I said you could make a really simple one with stuff you probably already have in 60 seconds or less?! Honor your carefully washed greens and meticulously sliced veggies with a freshly made dressing. Our clients ask us all the time for our vinaigrette recipes and to tell you the truth they’re usually something we whip up without even thinking… or measuring. The real secret is in the jar.

You can make nearly any vinaigrette your heart desires with a jar (reused jam-jars are a great stand-in). The only thing you have to remember is the 2:1 ratio. Two-parts oil to one-part acid.  Measure the acid first. In this case we used a lemon but you can use any kind of vinegar (i.e. red-wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar.. etc.) or citrus you like. Then just double that amount with oil (we like extra-virgin olive oil). Suddenly we’ve transported you back to your 3rd-grade science lab when you learned about emulsification because you’ll see the separation between acid and oil clearly. This is all the measuring you need. Some may prefer a vinaigrette that’s a little less acidic; if so just add a little more than twice the amount of oil.

We ‘jazzed’ up our lemon-dijon a bit with grainy dijon because YUM and voila: the ultimate vinaigrette stand-by. It’s so sooo easy and it’s something we think everyone should have in their repertoire. See for yourself!

Other favorite combos (play with measurements of all ingredients to taste):

  • Lemon juice, dijon, minced shallot, olive oil, salt, pepper (equally good with cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, etc.)
  • Lemon juice, smashed garlic clove with or without smashed anchovy, olive oil, salt, pepper (equally good with red wine vinegar)
  • Orange juice, balsamic, honey, olive oil, salt, pepper
  • Lime juice, agave, olive oil or grapeseed oil, salt, pepper (chopped cilantro and a tiny bit of cayenne is good in here too) – great for salads with Mexican ingredients
  • Lime juice or rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil (just a little bit), soy sauce, chili paste or sriracha, grapeseed oil or water to thin and mellow flavors – great for salad with Asian ingredients

New Year’s Practice is the New Resolution: Homemade Hummus

Mediterranean Hummus with roasted pine nuts

We made it through the holidays and toasted to the New Year, now it’s time to get to work on our resolutions. Although a resolution implies that we want to make positive changes in our lives, I think oftentimes we get caught up in more negative connotations. It’s like we’re saying that the 2016 version of ourselves wasn’t enough and we need to be smarter, richer, thinner, you name it, this year.

Hummus with pine nuts and parsley

So, in 2017, instead of a resolution, I’m setting a “practice”. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” In order to make lasting changes in your life you need to practice and practice makes perfect right? My practice is food related, but instead of eliminating bad foods from my diet, which would bring us down the negative resolution path, I’m choosing to view my goals as a learning experience. So here it is: In 2017, I will savor anything my heart desires as long as it’s homemade. And I don’t have to be perfect.

Mediterranean Hummus

More than anything, this will allow me to learn. With each passing day I spend as a chef, I discover more about how much there is to learn. For me, that mean’s doing. I could read every word of every cookbook on my shelf (33 of them, but who’s counting?), but to retain the information and knowledge of my cooking heroes, I need to make stuff and practice what my teachers preach. So, with my practice, I’ll kill two birds with one stone: I’ll respect my every day cravings (brioche buns, cappuccinos…) and teach myself how to make the things I eat that aren’t homemade. It may seem like a tall order but ultimately I’m hoping to make it a part of my routine, second nature, like riding a bike.

Pine nuts for Mediterranean Hummus

The first step to forming a new routine is setting boundaries and guidelines. Here are mine…

  • This is not a cleanse, but a clean-out! I’m ridding my pantry of all processed foods and filling it with the bare necessities. In an excerpt from Laura’s post about habits, Strengthening Willpower Starts at Home, she writes, “Don’t buy it. Clearly the easiest way to resist temptation foods in your home is to not allow them entry in the first place.”
  • If I’m craving it, make it! It’s my hope that by taking the time to make something like ice cream from scratch, I’ll actually wind up enjoying it more. Not to mention, there’s probably an added benefit of wanting to make homemade things last longer because savoring food means you’re eating less.
  • Make it in bulk and freeze your heart out! Many menu-planning-star-students have mastered this craft already and for this practice it’s absolutely necessary in a household with full workweeks. This means hardening off a few hours of my Sundays to making bulk snacks, freezer-friendly meals and prepped menu goodies. This would include things like our Olive Oil Salty-Sweet Granola, freshly blended hummus, homemade pita, frozen smoothie mixes, meatballs and soups, as well as portioned salad ingredients like toasted nuts and mandolined veggies (the way we do for our clients). This makes the task of piecing it all together after a long day a piece of cake.
  • Ask for help and help others! Sometimes it feels like it takes a village to put dinner on the table so it’s helpful to know how to delegate. I live with my boyfriend, a notoriously reluctant cook, who has really stepped up to the plate (pun-intended) in recent months and has even come up with a few of his own individual home-cooking goals. Teaching is another great tactic for retaining kitchen knowledge so entertaining is also permitted!
  • Let dining out be motivating, not shameful! Most of my inspiration and passion for cooking comes from experiencing new cuisines and keeping up with trending dishes. I live in NYC for goodness sake! When it’s all said and done by limiting my food-exposure, I’m undermining my curiosity as a chef and isn’t that the whole point of my new practice?

Mediterranean lunch

So here’s to 2017! I’m wishing you all a delicious, homemade food-filled year ahead. First task? Getting rid of that awful store-bought tub of hummus and giving mine a go.

Charlotte’s Homemade Mediterranean Hummus

  • 1 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 cup tahini paste
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 3 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 tbs. good olive oil (approximately)
  • 2 tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Pinch crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbs. pine nuts, toasted

Method:

  1. In a medium sauce-pan over medium heat mix chickpeas and baking soda, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until the baking soda has dissolved.
  2. Add enough water to cover the chickpeas and bring to a boil. Simmer until the chickpeas become really soft, but not mushy. Strain off the shells that float to the surface.
  3. Strain and transfer to a blender or food processer and process until the mixture resembles a paste. It’s okay if it’s lumpy.
  4. With the blade spinning add in lemon juice and ½ the zest, tahini paste, salt and gradually pour in the ice water (with ice cubes) until the mixture becomes smooth and silky. You may need more or less water depending on the power of your blender so watch carefully.
  5. Meanwhile heat a small skillet with the olive oil until hot. Add the crushed garlic cloves allow them to sizzle and brown on both sides pushing them down with the back of your spatula, about 5 minutes.
  6. Reserve the excess oil in a small mixing bowl to cool and drop the sautéed garlic into the food processor and blend until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. Once the oil has cooled add parsley, crushed red pepper, lemon zest, pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir until combined. Add extra oil to loosen if necessary.
  8. Spoon hummus into a serving dish and pour the parsley-oil over. Finish with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and enjoy!

With love, Charlotte