Variations on a theme

More socca pizzas!

One of the things I miss most from my gluten & dairy days is Indian pizza. It’s a regular pizza, covered with a sort of curry sauce, and then “Topped with Spinach, Egg Plant, Cauliflower, Ginger, Garlic, Green Onions & Cilantro.” It’s one of those foods that transcends its ingredients list, that forms an alchemy of flavor your mouth never forgets. They even make a vegan version of Indian pizza, so it’s really the wheat crust that is keeping me from experiencing that perfect taste again.

Once I became obsessed with making socca pizza, I decided to see if I could recreate or approximate the magical memory of Indian pizza. On a base of Trader Joe’s madras curry simmer sauce, I spread happyveganface’s potato-spinach-pea patty mixture (only I used red chard, which is why mine is purple), which I then topped with a thick swirl of cilantro-parsley sauce, loosely based on happyveganface’s green chutney. I didn’t even come close to the original Indian pizza flavors (possibly because the elements I was using didn’t really come close themselves), but I did make quite a tasty treat for myself nonetheless. I ate, oh… let’s see… about four Indian pizzas in a week? (There was a lot of potato patty mixture to use up!)

I did discover during my Indian pizza week that eating a full cup of chickpea flour every day (which is what happens when you eat half a socca pizza for breakfast and half of one for lunch) for many days in a row will lead (at least in me) to a tummy-ache. So consider yourself warned in the event that you turn out to be as much of a socca-glutton as I am.

But once I figured I had given my tummy sufficient rest and recovery time, it was back into the frying pan! My next creation involved a layer of vodka sauce (which is a tomato sauce with MimicCreme and vodka) topped with chard and kale steamed and tossed with balsamic vinegar, balsamic-roasted chard stems, and toasted walnuts. I toasted the walnuts separately and added them after the pizza came out of the broiler, so I didn’t risk burning them. There’s just something about the chard and nuts on pizza that makes me weak in the knees!

The return of pizza

How freaking good does that look?

I have so many recipes for gluten-free pizza crust bookmarked. But the truth is that since even before I stopped eating wheat, I’ve always balked at any recipe containing the words “yeast,” “knead,” or “allow to rise.” I’m not a bread baker. I’m a cake queen, a mistress of vegetables, a goddess of savory dishes from all corners of the globe. I’ve conquered my fear of homemade beans and my pressure cooker paranoia. I’ve learned to ferment my own sauerkraut and kimchi. I’ve even finally managed to remember to defrost the darn stock/beans/etc. ahead of time, at least most of the time. But I’m simply not that interested in learning to make yeast breads.

The thing I miss about pizza is the convenience. It’s a magical meal where every part of the meal – starch, veggie, and protein – is stacked neatly together. For a few dollars you can get a slice of this efficient deliciousness just about any time of day or night. It’s tasty as heck, but if I’m going to put in hours of work it’s not going to be for pizza.

Well, today I made my first socca pizza for lunch. The whole meal took maybe 30 minutes, tops (which for me is practically an Olympic record), and, unlike some previous weird attempts I’ve made at gluten-free pizza, this actually recreated the experience of pizza. Savory, flavor-packed crust, crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle. Tomato sauce, veggies, and creamy cheese, piled onto a slice that actually survives being lifted and bitten into without flopping down and spilling its toppings hither and yon.

Socca pizza is similar to the socca de Nice I’ve made in the past. But instead of using chickpea flour to make crepes on the stove, you bake your chickpea batter in a skillet in a very hot oven. Then you top it with yummy things, run it under the broiler, and pretend you didn’t notice how the recipe said “serves 2 to 3″ so you can, with a clear conscience, devour the entire thing.

I topped my pizza with marinara sauce from a jar, a sauté of dino kale, red onion, and garlic, and dollops of vegan cream cheese. I left the sauce off of a section of the pizza, and I couldn’t decide which style I preferred. I’d take a bite of one and say to myself, “Oh God, this is the one, no sauce, so crispy and delicious.” And then I’d take a bite of the marinara side and go, “PIZZA! YUM!” and it just went on like that back and forth until the whole thing was gone.

I’m so excited to have pizza back in my life again. And seriously, making socca pizza is almost as easy as heating up a frozen pizza, only it’s five times cheaper and a billion times more delicious. I’m already thinking about which toppings I’ll use tomorrow…

Socca Pizza with Kale and Red Onions
This dish was inspired by a post from Celiacs in the House, and adapted from recipes from the blogs A Mingling of Tastes and Simply Sugar & Gluten Free, and The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal.

Serves 1-2, as a main dish.

For socca crust:

1 T. olive oil + 1 T. olive oil
1 C. cold water
1 C. chickpea flour (also called besan at Indian markets; Garfava flour works, too)
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. dried oregano

For toppings:
1/2 jar marinara sauce (optional)
2 t. olive oil
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
5 leaves kale, washed, stems removed, and sliced
Vegan cream cheese (optional)
High quality olive oil & sea salt if you are opting not to use marinara sauce

Put a 12-inch cast iron skillet (10-inch is fine, too, the crust will just be a bit thicker and chewier) into your oven and preheat oven and skillet to 450 F.

In a blender, combine water, chickpea flour, 1 T. olive oil, salt, cumin, rosemary, and oregano. Blend until smooth, scraping sides of blender if necessary. Refrigerate batter until oven has preheated.

Remove cast iron skillet from oven. (Careful! It’s very hot!) Put 1 T. olive oil into pan and swirl carefully to coat the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides. Return oiled skillet to the oven for a few minutes until oil is hot and shimmering.

Remove skillet from oven, pour batter into skillet and place back into oven and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, or until center is set and edges are browned and pull away slightly from the pan.

Turn on broiler. Leaving the socca crust in the pan, spread on a layer of tomato sauce (some like it thick, some like it thin). If you are not using marinara sauce, drizzle some good quality olive oil and sprinkle some nice sea salt. Or skip both – it will still be delicious, I promise! Spread kale topping (see below) evenly across the pizza. Dot with knobs of vegan cream cheese, if using. Place pan under broiler until cream cheese is very lightly browned, being careful not to let the kale burn, about 3 minutes.

Remove pan from broiler and let pizza rest for 5 minutes. A steady hand and a spatula will easily slide the pizza from the pan onto a waiting surface, where you can cut it into slices and devour.

To make topping: Heat olive oil in a pot or pan and sauté red onion until it begins to brown. Add in garlic and sauté until it begins to brown. Add kale and saute until it reaches your desired texture (some like it al dente, some like it meltingly tender).

Eating with the season on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I’ve just arrived home from a fascinating four days at the Hazon Food Conference in Pacific Grove. The conference explored all kinds of interesting intersections, between environmentalism and food systems, Judaism and food ethics, social justice and foodie culture, personal financial investment and sustainable agriculture, and many more. I learned so much, both from the sessions and panels I attended as well as all the informal conversations I had with fellow conference-goers. You can read more about my time there here and here. I feel deep gratitude to the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation for sponsoring around 40 young adults, including me, providing full scholarships for all of us to the conference.

The Local Foods Wheel

On Sunday, right before we left for home, the conference had a big marketplace where folks could give out info and sell books they’d written or published, foods they’d made, and so on. At one of the tables I came across one of my favorite things ever, the San Francisco Bay Area Local Foods Wheel, being sold by one of the wheel’s creators. I first encountered the wheel, which is a stunning combination of gorgeous artwork and design with intriguing, well-presented information, on a refrigerator in the Spirit Rock kitchen when I was working back there during a retreat. (You’re not supposed to read anything on retreat, but who could resist those tiny, perfect line drawings with their little cursive labels?) Now it’s the most popular item on our refrigerator; every guest and visitor is magnetically drawn to it and we usually have to pull them away – they just want to stand there spinning it and spinning it and looking at every picture! The wheel shows on its top layer all the foods that are in season year-round in the Bay Area (and we’re lucky – there are so many of them!). Then you spin the top layer around to match up with the current time of year, and the bottom layer reveals the foods in season at this time.

Our CSA keeps us local and seasonal at every meal, but we’re not getting a box this week, so I turned to the wheel to help me plan this week’s menu. (My other goal for the week: use up all the lettuces from our box we’ve been keeping on life support for the past couple of weeks!)

For an assemblage of great, gluten-free menu plans, check out this week’s Gluten-Free Menu Swap over at The GF CF Cookbook. (The theme for this week’s swap is leftover ham, which, as a vegetarian, I can’t contribute to at all. I do have smoky beans and tempeh bacon this week, though, which are kind of the same flavor profile.) And, as always, for a huge round-up of menu plans from all over the web – and the world – check out the giant MPM compendium over at orgjunkie.

What’s in season:

Monday: Winter greens
Wine braised lentils over toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions (Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers)
Red leaf salad

Wine braised lentils over gluten-free quinoa toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions

Tuesday: Butternut squash
Vegan “mac and cheese” made with butternut squash “cheese” and Tinkyada brown rice spirals
Romaine lettuce salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Wednesday: Brussel sprouts and wild mushrooms
Brussels sprouts and mushroom ragout with herbed vegan, GF dumplings (Vegetarian Suppers)
Mixed lettuces salad

Brussels sprouts ragout with wild mushrooms and herbed gluten-free dumplings

Thursday: From Duck’s mom’s garden!
Simple oven-roasted butternut squash
Arugula salad with sauteed red onions and toasted walnuts
Tangy red lentils
Quinoa with coconut oil

Friday: Savoy cabbage
Savoy cabbage gratin with tempeh bacon
Baked sweet potato
Homemade smoky pinto beans

Savoy cabbage gratin with tempeh bacon

Saturday: Parsnips, winter radishes, rutabegas
Roasted root vegetables with home-grown rosemary
Chard and walnut yum
Impressionist cauliflower

Sunday: Meyer lemons
Roasted broccoli with meyer lemon zest and pine nuts
“Sloppy” sushi with balsamic-glazed portobello mushrooms

Seasonal extras: Turnips and pomelos
Middle Eastern-style turnip pickles

A fresh batch of turnip pickles (with beet for color)

Candied pomelo peel

Candied Pomelo Rinds Dipped in Bittersweet Chocolate

Welcome home to a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

Butternut Squash and Carrot Stew with Quinoa Pilaf
I just got back from a long trip. I had a great time (I was with my mom on the East Coast and in Canada), but the traveler’s diet is not heavy on dark leafy greens, and it was such a relief to come home and dive back into a delicious pile of kale. Duck had one waiting for me, of course, the minute I walked in the door.

We’ve put our CSA box on hiatus again, which means we can menu plan from cookbooks this week. So most of our meal plan is from Veganomicon or another cookbook, The Vegan Table, that we are trying out from the library. I hated it when I first looked at it because it seemed to be full of ingredients like “eggless mayonaise” and “tofu cream cheese,” but then I looked it over again and found many recipes that excited me, and then I tried a few and am back to feeling wary. I’ll let you know how the week goes.

Because of the heavy reliance on cookbooks I don’t have a lot of links or photos for you this week, just a few of the old standards – sorry!

Cheryl at Gluten Free Goodness is hosting the GF Menu Swap this week with the theme of Carrots, which inspired me to take on the delicious (and time consuming, but worth it every once in a while) Moroccan butternut squash and carrot stew shown above. If you’ve been trying to eat quinoa regularly but are running out of ideas, try the quinoa pilaf that goes with the stew recipe. It’s so good that I often make it on its own. And of course, for a huge compendium of menu plans from all over the web, check out the massive Menu Plan Monday round-up over at OrgJunkie.

And please don’t forget – Sunday is the deadline to send me a favorite, tried-and-true, tested-and-approved recipe for beans, lentils, dried peas, and other pulses. I am putting together a master collection to help me – and others – conquer beanphobia. No need to write up something new for this event – the recipe can be in an old blog post, and in fact the longer you’ve been making it the better! Then come back here Wednesday, Nov 18th to check out pulse inspiration from all over the world!

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Monday:
Broiled smoky tempeh (VCon)
Smoky sauteed kale with onions (VCon)
Millet

Tuesday:
Rice bowl with black rice, kale, and leftover broiled smoky tempeh
I Am DIY Rice Bowl

Wednesday:
Hot and sour soup with tofu, carrots, shitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, and button mushrooms (VCon)
Braised bok choy with toasted sesame seeds (VCon)

Thursday:
Chana masala (made with canned chick peas)
Pumpkin coconut curry (The Vegan Table)
Brown basmati rice

Friday:
Cornmeal pizza crusts with chard & caramelized onions (Vegan Table) and balsamic portobellos (Vegan Table)

Saturday: Movie night – Little Chihuahua chile verde tofu burritos to sneak into the theater

Sunday:
Moroccan butternut squash and carrot stew with quinoa pilaf

Still crazy for pulses on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

This week’s menu plan is sort of half-retroactive and half-hopeful. We get our CSA box on Wednesday so we’ve been trying to make our menu plan then, but I didn’t make it to the store for the rest of the stuff we needed until Thursday, so the whole week’s plan got moved to Friday. So this is the ghost of menus past, present and future.

Tangy red lentils over salad greens

We have another menu that’s heavy on the beans and lentils. We just can’t get enough! So cheap, so filling, such good protein and nutrients. We’ll get bored soon with the recipes in our own repertoire, though, so I hope there will be some great recipes in the Steady Pulse beans & legume recipe round-up!

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted by the lovely Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness. The theme for the menu swap this week is apples, and I don’t have any in my dinner plans, but we’ve certainly been crunching along all week long on the delicious first-crop apples that arrived in our CSA box! For millions more menu plans, check out the giant Menu Plan Monday compendium over at Orgunkie.

I usually do a little “mash-up” photo of some of the food from the menu plan to act as a header, but this week, for fun and inspiration, I give you the full-size experience!

Friday:
Nasu dengaku (broiled eggplant with miso)
Steamed bok choy with pickled ginger
Sloppy sushi with avocado

Nasu Dengaku - Broiled Japanese Eggplant with Miso Sauce

Nasu Dengaku - Broiled Japanese Eggplant with Miso Sauce

Saturday:

GF Mac and cheese (or “cheeze”) with green beans, tomatoes, and kidney beans

Sunday:
Cumin-crusted potatoes (5 Spices, 50 Dishes)
Punjabi creamed greens with kale and chard (5 Spices, 50 Dishes) (made with soy yogurt)

Creamed Greens (chard and spinach)

Punjabi Creamed Greens (kale and chard)

Monday:

Lentil dal (5 Spices, 50 Dishes)
Home-cooked cranberry beans
Dandelion greens with walnuts and raisins
Quinoa
Chocolate pumpkin loaf (made without eggs)

Tuesday:
Sweet potato and kale soup with fennel seeds
Pamela’s drop biscuits

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup with Fennel Seed

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup with Fennel Seed

Wednesday:
Tangy red lentils
Roasted broccoli with pine nuts and lemon zest
Brown rice

Thursday:
Tinkyada brown rice spirals with vegan pesto, roast zucchini, tomatoes

Gluten-free spirals with vegan pesto, zucchini, and tomato

Gluten-free spirals with vegan pesto, zucchini, and tomato

Don’t forget to send in your favorite tried and true recipes for beans, lentils, and other legumes and pulses!

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Bounty from the middle of the table, part II

The saga of the centerpiece continues… We lived for days just off the wealth of produce my mom brought over for our Thanksgiving centerpiece!

centerpiece2

Kale

Is there anything more beautiful than ruffled leaves of kale, veined through with deep purple, glowing with a color that somehow combines elements of purple, green, and silver? This gorgeous kale was the foundation of our centerpiece, and it made a very lovely soup, besides! There was a butternut squash sitting in my root storage, still left from the last day Duck worked on the farm, so I decided to make the Autumn Harvest Soup from Kalyn’s Kitchen. We had a ton of prepared wild rice left over from T-day, so that took the place of the farro in Kalyn’s recipe. This recipe made a HUGE amount of soup. She says”about 8 servings,” which I guess really is a lot of servings when I think about it, but with 4 quarts of broth (I used scrap stock rather than chicken broth, of course!) plus lots of squash and kale and rice, this soup dished up some shockingly hearty portions.

kalesoup

Artichokes

Artichokes featured prominently in the centerpiece selections – there were many lovely little frost-kissed baby artichokes, which actually made it onto the table, plus a range of larger purple-tinged artichokes and one enormous big-as-a-baby’s-head artichoke on a long stem. I used some of the artichokes to make my Taste & Create dish, Braised Baby Artichokes, inspired by a recipe from Little Ivy Cakes. Duck and I found the recipe so delicious (especially Duck!) that we ended up preparing our entire store of artichokes the same way. The braised artichokes made a wonderful quick snack as they are terrific cold and really hit the spot when you want something with heft to it that isn’t too fatty or heavy.

artichokes

Apples

Lady apples. The fruit which dwells in the liminal space ‘twixt food and decor. I had these lovely ladies on my fruit stand (I use a glass cake stand as my fruit “bowl” on the kitchen table) for a long, long time. Too pretty to throw away but not particularly inviting for eating, they were the last hold-out of the Thanksgiving centerpiece brigade.

apples

Then one day I was listening to my second-favorite food podcast, KCRW’s Good Food (the podcast is pretty wonderful, the music – which they play loudly and at frequent intervals during the show – is nearly unbearable) and they had a feature on lady apples. I don’t really remember what they talked about specificially but the gist was: Lady Apples – They’re For Eatin’! So I sliced those babies up with some full-sized wrinklies rescued from the back of the fridge and made one of my favorite simple treats – homemade applesauce. There wasn’t more than a small bowl each for me and for Duck but it was the kind of delicious that lingers on in your memory long after the spoon has been licked clean.

applesauce2

Homemade Applesauce
I actually don’t recommend lady apples for this recipe. For one thing, they are too small to really be worth the work of coring. For another, the darker red ones tasted so yuck I couldn’t include them, so it may only be certain varieties that cross over from decor to tasty treat. But if you have some lady apples lying around, it is definitely worth slicing off a little nibble of each one and including the edible ones in a lovely sweet bowl of applesauce.

Apples
Water
Cinnamon (optional)
Lemon juice (optional)
Ground ginger (optional)

I like to keep the peels on at least a third of the apples, for increased fiber and texture. Plus, if you are using certain colors of apples, leaving the peels on will do gorgeous things with the color of your sauce. So peel as many as you like, then core your apples and cut them into medium-sized chunks.

Put your apple chunks in a small pot with about 1/4 C. water. Heat the water to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples get soft, fall apart, and reach your desired consistency. You may need to add water from time to time. Different varieties of apples will turn to sauce at different speeds, but if you just keep cooking and adding a bit of water when it cooks away you will eventually achieve sauce with any type of apple.

The applesauce will get very sweet as it cooks. There is no need to add sugar or honey or any sweeteners! However your apples may or may not have “pizazz” in sauce form, so if they taste a bit bland you can liven them up with a little cinnamon, lemon juice, or ground ginger, added to taste.

Raw raw raw!

Farmer B has left for the East, and only the farm gods know when we’ll meet again. She left us the best possible gift to remember her by, however – a huge bag full of farm-fresh produce. Tiny sweet peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and enormous amounts of curly kale. Duck and I spent the day with her before she boarded her train and we all decided to check out the Grand Lake farmer’s market for the first time. That impressive market, which is quite a party with live music, slides for the kids, and stands with prepared food of all kinds, yielded up Japanese eggplants, dry-farmed tomatoes, mountain blueberries, and perfectly ripe avocados, among other treasures.

We may still be mourning the loss of our favorite farm girl, but a body’s got to eat, right? It’s been robust at mealtimes for the past couple days, with my Cafe Gratitude-style rice bowl and Duck’s buckwheat soba with portobella mushrooms and zucchini, so I wanted something very light tonight. I wanted kale salad.

Raw Kale Salad with Avocado & Cherry Tomatoes

Specifically, I wanted a kale salad someone brought to a potluck I went to a few months ago, but with my brain fog I can now no longer remember who made it or what it tasted like, just that it was heavenly and I was so surprised and delighted at how tender and wonderful raw kale could be.

So I used the awesome-pants search feature over at Food Blog Search to seek out some kale salad recipes. I found a few different ones, but several of them involved lightly sauteeing the kale, and this quest had become, for me, all about the raw. I found one totally raw salad (with some variation) in three different places. I first read about it on the I Am Gluten Free blog, and then found another version on the Diet, Dessert, and Dogs blog, and finally watched a YouTube video of it being made! By this time I was sold. This isn’t the salad I went looking for, but it fit perfectly with the ingredients I had on hand, sounded delicious, and I was apparently going to get to do something called “massaging the kale.”

I decided to accompany it with a raw beet salad (I used a New York Times recipe as my starting point) and finish it up with a slice of green melon for dessert. (I know, the food combiners, who taught me about eating raw, are rolling over in their wheatgrass patches at my eating melon after a meal…) All in all, a delicious and incredibly colorful dinner.

The recipes are so simple, but I’ll write them out anyways. The part I’ve expanded on is the kale salad directions; every time I massaged the kale my hands would get oily and slippery and then I’d go to pick up a knife to cut open the avocado, etc. and it would be a bad scene. (Somehow the Raw Coach in the video doesn’t seem to have this problem!) So I thought a little guide to what order things should be done in would be helpful. Continue reading