I recently wrote an article on gardening unique varieties of fruits and vegetables for the latest issue of Blikki, a fabulous health and well-being magazine curated by my friend Joyce. Writing the article had the happy effect of inspiring *me* to put some herbs in our window boxes.
In our city apartment, the only outdoor space is our 1-square-foot fire escape. (We tried putting pots out there, but got a cease-and-desist from the local firefighters. You really don’t want to mess with those guys.) A few years ago, Jay and I put in some window boxes, but they have sat empty for years since the last time I went on a gardening spree, we ended up with an aphid infestation that wouldn’t go away. Because there are few natural predators out and about in the concrete jungle, the aphids were free to have their freaky, pregnant-at-birth way with my helpless herbs. I tried every natural remedy for the little buggers, but in the end I gave up and resigned myself to a barren, plantless existence.
But just the act of writing the article gave me inspiration. I imagined how nice it would be to pick a few sprigs of thyme to put in a soup or chives to garnish an egg dish without having to buy a whole bunch that would eventually rot in the crisper. Maybe by some miracle of the gardening gods the aphids would stay away this time?
My garden-savvy friend Rebecca of Urban Sprouts came by one day and helped me clear the old dirt out of the neglected boxes. I brought home some chives, basil, tarragon, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, Turkish Bay, and rosemary, and we put them in. I (mostly) remember to water them, and so far they seem happy. A couple of weeks ago I noticed the dreaded aphids gathering in droves on my basil leaves. I thought it would be the end of my gardening stint. But then a few days later another insect showed up, a little green guy with wings, and they seem to have eradicated the aphids entirely. Hooray for the food chain!
The basil ended up in my food chain on this socca pizza. The chickpea flour crust is quickly becoming the hottest recipe in the blogosphere, and not just because it spends 20 minutes under a broiler (har har). The recipe hails from The Homemade Flour Cookbook, a brand-spanking-new tome by Erin Alderson of Naturally Ella and Wooden Spoons Kitchen. Erin is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met (in fact, full disclosure: she’s currently sitting in my living room as I write this!) and she has a way of creating wholesome, approachable dishes, always with a unique twist or two. Her book covers making and using flour from grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and it brims with her colorful images and cozy recipes. I want to make every single one.
This pizza especially caught my eye. Socca, a flatbread that hails from Southern France, consists solely of chickpea flour, water, and seasonings. Erin tops this one with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella for a softly crusted pizza of sorts. The fluid batter came together in minutes by whisking together water, chickpea flour, garlic, salt and olive oil. After an hour long soak, it gets poured into a hot, oiled pan and baked under a broiler, sizzling upon contact and forming a crunchy outer crust and creamy interior. I topped mine with the first pretty heirloom tomatoes of the season, fresh mozzarella that’s made in the Bay Area, and a generous smear of fresh pesto. We devoured it alongside a green salad and glasses of wine.
I’m ecstatic to have this simple recipe to unleash on gluten-intolerant guests. I think it would make a perfect snack with aperitifs, and I’d imagine you could increase the recipe to bake a larger pizza on a rimmed baking sheet. You can top it with anything you can think of, including feta and zucchini and goat cheese.
Other recipes from the book that I have my eye on are:
- Buckwheat Enchiladas with Black Beans and Chipotle Tomato Sauce
- Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Gnocchi with Pesto Cream Sauce
- Green Pea Flour and Zucchini Fritters with Dill Yogurt Dip
- Ricotta and Beet Galette with Teff Crust
- Tomato Cobbler with Chive Emmer Biscuit Topping
And here are some other Homemade Flour posts from around the web:
Socca Pizza with Summer Squash and Feta from Kathryne of Cookie and Kate (GF)
Nut Flour Crepes with Roasted Fruit from Shanna + Tim of Food Loves Writing (GF)
Vanilla Bean Millet Porridge with Lavender Strawberries + Super Seeds from Laura of The First Mess (Vegan + GF)
Sweet Potato and Lentil Gnocchi from Kathryn of London Bakes (GF)
Chocolate Espresso Donuts from Edible Perspective (GF)
Grilled Polenta with Zucchini Salsa from Love and Lemons (GF)
Rhubarb Blueberry Apple Pie from The Vanilla Bean Blog
Pazza for Pizza:
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Four Years ago:
Tomato + Pesto Socca Pizza
Minimally adapted from The Homemade Flour Cookbook by Erin Alderson
The socca batter will be very liquid, but will firm up into a soft bread in the heat of the oven. It’s firm enough to pick up and eat with your hands, but feel free to use a plate, knife, and fork instead.
Below is our go-to pesto recipe, which we snagged from the late mother of our good friend Katherine, Covie. We take the extra step of plunging the basil into boiling water then shocking it in an ice bath which helps it retain its bright hue in the finished sauce. We usually make a double or triple batch at the start of summer and use it daily on eggs, sandwiches, and pasta, or this delicious pizza.
Makes 1 (10″) pizza, serving 2 as a main dish or 4 as an appetizer
For the pesto:
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts or hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
about 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (to taste)
For the socca crust:
1 cup (4.25 ounces / 120 grams) chickpea flour
1 cup (8 ounces / 235 ml) water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For topping the pizza:
2-3 smallish heirloom tomatoes
4 ounces (115 grams) fresh mozzarella, patted dry (or 3 ounces / 85 grams) dry mozzarella), sliced 1/4″ thick
Make the pesto:
While you stem the basil, bring a medium saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice and cool water. Plunge the basil into the boiling water for 10 seconds, until wilted and bright green, then plunge into the ice bath. When cool, squeeze the dickens out of the basil to remove the water. (Alternatively, leave the basil fresh if you plan to use up all the pesto within a day or two.)
Place the basil (blanched or not) in a food processor with the pine nuts, garlic and cheese. Puree until fairly smooth, adding some of the olive oil if you need to help the mixture blend. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick paste, then season to taste with the salt.
If storing the pesto, place it in a jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil (this will help prevent it from oxidizing) and place in the fridge for up to a week or two, or in the freezer for up to several months.
Make the socca batter:
Place the chickpea flour in a medium bowl and gradually stir and whisk in the water little by little until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic, and the salt, and let sit for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, position a rack 8 inches from the broiler and preheat. (My broiler is mere inches from its fixed rack, so I baked the socca in a 500ºF oven until firm, then crisped it up under the broiler.) Place a 10″ oven-proof skillet under the broiler/in the oven to preheat for a few minutes.
When the batter is ready, remove the pan from the oven, swirl in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom and up the sides of the pan, then pour in the batter. Cook the socca under the broiler or in the oven until firm, golden, and cracked on top, 5-8 minutes in the broiler, or longer in the oven. (If baking it in the oven, stick the socca under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top.)
Finish the pizza:
Reduce the oven temperature to 425ºF.
Top the socca with the cheese slices, then the tomatoes, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and olive oil. Bake the pizza until the cheese is bubbly and melted, 8-10 minutes. Remove the pizza and spread with a few tablespoons of the pesto, a drizzle of olive oil, and some fresh basil leaves. Let cool for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve warm.