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.

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.

Winter Wild Rice Salad with Charred Broccoli and Pickled Raisins

Winter Wild Rice and Broccoli salad with pickled raisins and herbs

The holidays are officially over. With the grind of the new year in full swing and the harshness of New York cold weather setting in, everyone is buckling down for the next few months. I’m trying my absolute hardest not to let the winter blues get me down, and I am finding that more often than not, I turn to food to bring me comfort.

While winter conditions definitely make it difficult to find fresh produce, the season still provides for many delicious and hearty meals. In fact, my very favorite vegetable is easily accessible this time of year. That’s right. Give me all the broccoli.

Charred roasted broccoli or broccolini

Broccoli is so versatile and can be addictive prepared in any way! Steamed, stir-fried, roasted, or even eaten raw, the possibilities are endless. One can even thinly shave the stems and use them in a salad or sautéed for a meal, but that is a conversation for another day. Today I want to talk about my favorite preparation for broccoli: roasting. Super simple and with a huge punch of flavor, I like to toss the prepped broccoli with seasonings and oil and then blast it in the oven set to a really high temperature. This ensures that the broccoli gets a healthy char while still retaining some crunch. Nobody wants to eat something that can be described as “limp”. Toss with some lemon zest and voila, you have brought life to something in this artic tundra.

Broccoli on a sheet tray to roast

Over the years I have learned that my own personal preference in flavor combination is to combine sweet with savory. Therefore, I have found great value in the use of fresh or dried fruit in many of my dishes. There’s nothing like the subtle pop of flavor in every few bites when you encounter something sweet. As of late, one of my absolute favorite additions to a salad is the ever persevered, simple and basic (drumroll please….) raisin. This traditional ingredient dates as far back in my memory as “ants on a log” in childhood snacks, but has now been reinvented by the chefs at What We Eat. Though a raisin in itself is a tasty little burst of sweetness, we sometimes opt to re-hydrate the chewy little grape into something else. This can be done using warm water, or if you like, you can opt to add an acid to the mix for a pickling effect.

Pickling spices and apple cider vinegar boiling on the stovetop

Through experimentation, we have perfected a winning combination of spices to create an amazing pickling recipe for grapes and raisins. The result is an unbelievably sweet, tangy and slightly spicy treat. Think warm winter spices with a kick of heat from red chili flakes. Having this recipe in your arsenal is a sure-fire way to add surprise and curiosity to a salad or grain dish.

With love, Kristina

Winter Wild Rice and Broccoli salad with pickled raisins

For the Wild Rice:

1 cup wild rice, rinsed

Cook rice according to package directions.

 

For the Broccoli:

1 head broccoli, cut into large florets

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 pinch red pepper flakes

½ tsp granulated

salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

On the stove top, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Blanch broccoli for 30 seconds and refresh in ice cold water. Dry completely.

On a large sheet tray, toss the broccoli with a good glug of olive oil, granulated garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Roast, undisturbed for 15 minutes. Take broccoli out of oven and flip (it should have a nice char on one side). Return to oven for another 15 minutes until crisp and caramelized. Remove and allow to come to room temperature.
Pickled raisins mise en place

For the Pickled Raisins:

2 cups golden raisins

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 star anise

1 tablespoon fennel seed

½ tablespoon sugar

1 tsp salt

 

Method:

In a saucepot, bring the water, vinegar, spices, sugar and salt to a slow simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Once the sugar has dissolved, strain the hot liquid over the raisins and allow to sit until cool.

When you are ready to build the salad, drain raisins and mix with the charred broccoli and wild rice. Add in a large handful of mint/cilantro/scallions and dress with a few tablespoons of the pickling liquid and some olive oil. Enjoy!

Other Uses for Pickled Raisins:

Chicken salad

Grain bowls

Breakfast parfaits with granola and greek yogurt

Cooking for Family Gatherings

 
Thanksgiving holiday apple pie

I’m the new girl at What We Eat so I’ll start by introducing myself. My name is Charlotte and I’m here because cooking is the single most consistent thread in my life. Not necessarily the subject of cooking, but the social and communal aspects of it. Growing up in Chicago, my mom wasn’t home most nights as the committed breadwinner of our household and my father’s cooking ability didn’t extent beyond basting chicken wings with a bottle of “Open Pit” over the Weber grill. Although home cooked meals weren’t a nightly staple, we made up for it on weekends, holidays, family reunions, or just about any excuse we could think of to sit people around our dinning room table. My fondest memories as a kid were, without a doubt, hosting wedding showers for my big cousins in our back yard and travelling to my grandparent’s house with our ETA scheduled the moment the Christmas ham came out of the oven. I understood from a very early age that the key to making people happy and being happy myself was eating well and sharing good food with the people I care about.

Share a meal with family for the holidayIn college, cooking was what set me apart from almost everyone I lived with. I struggled to find the balance between expressing my predisposition toward cooking and going above and beyond for roommates who, for the most part, didn’t understand what was so great about homemade pizza crust. I (literally) fed off the satisfaction of pleasing others with food; no matter who it was or at what cost. I went out of my way to cook these elaborate meals for people that were just as content eating ramen for breakfast. I set ridiculous goals for myself and was always disappointed by the results. Ultimately, I lost touch with what cooking for others in a positive, fulfilling way feels like and knew it shouldn’t feel like I’m doing it to impress someone or make new friends. The food you bring to the table should be personal and it should reflect your taste, not just catered to what you think people will enjoy. With this attitude my menus evolved from simple spaghetti with tomato sauce to discovering my favorite combination of veal, pork and beef meatballs and spaghetti. My standards and tastes developed to appreciate new cuisines and adjust old ones. That being said the soul of my cooking originated from my most memorable family meals and to this day the most influential cookbook on my shelf was bound by my aunt and consists of a curated and expanding history of my family’s favorite, most craved and worshiped recipes. I still consult it’s oil-stained pages for my grandmother’s tried and true oatmeal cookies and my mother’s prized mushroom pate but I must admit that I’m motivated more and more by the excitement of trying new recipes with the tradition of family getting together the defining ingredient.

Roasted carrot and avocado salad
Now, I’m not saying that Thursday morning is the time to test out the cauliflower version of mashed potatoes or a deep fried turkey on your thanksgiving guests (or guinea pigs). So, stick to what you know but challenge yourself to come out of the green bean comfort zone. The easiest adjustment or addition you can make to the spread is to try a new salad or blend of roasted vegetables. It’s no surprise that salad is the most overlooked dish at the thanksgiving table. I mean who wants to compete with creamy mashed potatoes and savory stuffing? But after just three weeks at What We Eat, I’m a believer that salad could steal the show (not that we’re keeping score). Because salads are adaptable and easy to tweak, it makes them hard to screw up. This thanksgiving I’ve nominated myself to make the salad and based on the ones we’ve been making for clients lately, I’m pretty confident my family will be licking their salad plates.

 

A selection of meats cheeses and crackers for a holiday gatheringHere are some rough ideas:

Crispy shaved brussels sprout salad with tender farro, pomegranate seeds, pickled red onion, currents with a honey-lemon vinaigrette

Roasted carrots and beets with a red-wine vinegar dressing, toasted pistachios and crumbled goat cheese.

 

Stay tuned for the results! With love, Charlotte 🙂