Well hello there! How have you guys been? I spent most of last week testing recipes. I stocked up on oat flour, almond, sorghum, sweet rice, chickpea and fava flours and experimented with cakes and waffles. I made ice cream out of a single banana! I approximated cheese from nutritional yeast and eggs from flax seeds and water, which are different from eggs conjured up from chia seeds and water, which I do all the time when I forget to shop for the weekend.
I was also in two weddings in one day last weekend –one while rocking a long dress of Caribbean Sea blue with ruffles– the other, a dress that left me susceptible to the most beautifully uneven sunburn. There was also a rehearsal dinner and a brunch involved. To regain some balance and reconnect with ourselves we spent this weekend in the Adirondacks, possibly my favorite place to be. No cell service, no one around for miles, the smell of pines. It’s a little scary at first and then it’s all I want. I cook over a slow fire, simple and rustic and I sit outside with a dark brew or red wine, my face tilted toward the star-filled sky until I’m either on the verge of freezing or falling asleep. We climb one of the high peeks, examining the buds, avoiding the last ice if the season and somewhere during the journey I realize that my thoughts have narrowed themselves to the task at hand and I’m me again.
When we first started out in the city we had time and no money. I was in school and had a few go-to meals. Most of them included pasta. The purpose of this blog was to share my journey as I learned how to cook, a seemingly insurmountable task when your only dishes are salad dressing chicken, lasagna and grandma’s meatballs. I remember in one of my very first leek soups, the commit was off because I didn’t realize to use the white part of the leek, not the green part. Pretty novice.
In the process of it all I learned how to cook, but also how to eat and nourish (and how to take photos). Now I’m refining that knowledge.
All of last week’s the experimentation comes from the desire to care for and nourish ourselves back to whole when the days of pizza binges and bottles of wine don’t seem like the best idea anymore–well at least not every week. It’s a reaction to when things like cholesterol and triglycerides start to mean something.
I’m looking for a heart healthy dessert. Mostly we eat a square of chocolate or split a cupcake for dessert, but I want to make a while cake to devour that’s low in fat, sugar and is gluten free. I’m listening to podcasts, scouring Pinterest and learning to see if decadent flavor can be had without tons of sugar or fat and using alternate flours. Most of the time the answer comes in raw form, like a date/nut/cacao-type combination, but I’ve stumbled onto a few keepers and will share as soon as they’re perfected. I don’t spend a ton of time in the dessert realm over here (though cake may be my favorite food–both wedding cakes were pretty stellar last weekend), but I thought it would be fun to expand the repertoire, keeping it heart-healthy and accessible to all.
When I step away from my “lab or a tory” and into the mountains, though, my thoughts returned to Mediterranean cooking, French pastries, cheese and olives and I regained a modicum of perspective. Learning how to nourish ourselves and each other in the different stages of life is a process and if I take my time, I have a feeling this will be a very cool thing.
As an homage to this idea and to the days when a recipe called for leeks and I put in the green parts only, I bring you socca, redolent with herbs and served with with creamy leeks, spinach and chard (sans creme). Reminiscent of warm nights in Nice, this is heart-healthy street food that will warm the soul as well.
HERBY SOCCA FLAT BREAD WITH CREAMY LEEKS, COLLARD GREENS, SPINACH & ARUGULA
(This recipe was adapted from the lovely Jodi at What’s Cooking Good Looking, a blog so beautiful and delicious that if I had known she existed when I first started nearly 5 years ago, I would have stayed far away from the name I chose to avoid comparison. But alas, she is such a newly discovered resource for me, I’m happy to have such a talented namesake).
For the Socca:
- 1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon of cumin
- 1 cup of chickpea flour
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil (optional)
- the juice of 1/2 a lemon (1 tablespoon)
- about 1/4 cup of sesame seeds, white and/or black (optional)
For the Creamed Spinach, Leeks, Chard:
- a couple tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 very large leek, sliced thin (about 6-7 cups)
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 6oz of plain greek yogurt (I used fat free)
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1/3 cup of filtered water
- 3 large handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
- 6-7 chard leaves, stem removed and roughly chopped
Prep the Socca:
In a medium bowl, combine the ingrediens, minus the sesame seeds. Allow the batter to sit for 20-30 minutes while prepping the rest of the ingredients for the dip.
Bake the Socca:
Pre-heat the oven to 450º. Grease a 9”x13” shallow baking pan. I used a tart pan here.
Pour the batter into the baking pan, sprinkle with any remaining herbs as well as the sesame seeds (if using). Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the top is golden brown. You can also cook for another couple minutes longer if you want your socca really crispy. Slice the socca into squares, remove them from the pan, and set aside until you’re ready to serve with the dip.
Make the spinach + leek dip and serve:
Turn the oven heat down to 350º.
In a large cast iron, heat up the olive oil over medium heat and then add the leeks. Cook while stirring often, until the leeks are very soft, but be careful not to brown the leeks. Add the garlic and salt and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Place ½ cup of the cook leeks into a blender or food processor along with the yogurt, water, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. Keep this mixture in the blender while you cook the spinach, arugula and chard.
Place the leeks back over the burner and turn the heat on to medium. Add the chard, arugula and spinach and cook, while stirring, until the leaves have wilted. Turn the heat off again, add the leek cream mixture, and stir to combine everything.
Place the cast iron in the oven and bake the mixture for 5 minutes. Remove and serve immediately with the socca squares.