Mushroom Socca (Chickpea Pancake) w/ Rosemary and Tomato

by Maja Lukic


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This may come as a shock to some but I am a huge crêpe/pancake/pizza person. And so, when I saw chickpea flour pancakes and crêpes featured in a number of different vegetarian cookbooks, I had to experiment.

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Garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour is made from dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and is naturally gluten-free and remarkably high in protein. It's heavily used in parts of France (to make socca and panisses) and Italy (to make farinata).  In a way, it's the perfect gluten-free flour because it requires no gums or other binding agents to create delicious flatbreads, fries, pancakes, and crêpes. Interestingly, it tastes nothing like chickpeas, which may or may not be a selling point? I don't know. I actually really like chickpeas. It has a definitive cheesy flavor, though, and, baked into a thick pancake, works really well as a tart or pizza base. Thin, delicate chickpea crêpes can be filled with various savory ingredients and rolled like any other type of crêpe. 

I love its crispy texture, its savory notes, and its versatility. It's become something of a mainstay in my kitchen. Expect to see more of it in upcoming posts. 

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I created a thick baked pancake with a mushroom and rosemary batter and topped it off with pan-blistered cherry tomatoes. The end result is a savory pancake/flatbread hybrid with a soft crust, fragrant, slightly bitter rosemary, and earthy mushrooms. Because the "broiler" feature on my oven appears to be more decorative than anything else, the photos don't quite reflect the beautiful charred top of a traditional socca but I am told that the broiler is the best way to achieve it. For a creamy element, I added some homemade pine nut cheese but cashew cheese, goat cheese, yoghurt, harissa, ajvar, romesco, and salsa are all welcome. But my absolute favorite way to eat it is plain -- it's excellent served warm out of the oven accompanied only by a glass of crisp, white wine.

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Mushroom Socca with Rosemary and Blistered Tomatoes (v/gf)

Makes 1  10-inch pancake

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup water

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling

1 tsp sea salt 

1 tsp finely minced rosemary

2-3 portobello mushrooms 

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

3 cups cherry tomatoes 

avocado oil (or other high-heat cooking oil)

extra sea salt and black pepper

Combine the water, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tsp sea salt in a medium bowl. Sift in 1 cup of chickpea flour and whisk the ingredients together, making sure no clumps remain. Cover and let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours or in the fridge overnight. 

In the meantime, prepare the portobellos: wipe the caps clean with a damp paper towel, remove the stems, and, with a small spoon, scrape out the black gills from the underside of the mushrooms. Discard the gills. (Purists would argue that throwing out the gills removes a lot of flavor but it also prevents the gills from discoloring the batter). Chop the mushroom caps into 1/2-inch cubes or smaller.

Heat 1 tbsp avocado oil in a large pan over medium sized heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute on medium-high heat for a few minutes until the mushrooms release their moisture. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to saute until the mushrooms are cooked through. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the balsamic vinegar and increase the heat to medium-high. Continue to cook for another minute or two, stirring often, until most of the liquid in the pan has reduced. Remove from heat. 

Preheat the oven to 450 F and place a cast-iron skillet into the oven for a few minutes. Carefully add 1 tbsp of avocado oil (or other cooking oil) into the hot skillet and swirl it around to evenly coat the bottom. Add the batter to the pan and swirl it around to make sure the batter and the mushrooms are evenly distributed. Bake for about 15 minutes and then slide the pan under the broiler for another 3 to 5 minutes. 

Top the hot socca with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Allow the socca to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes in the pan. With a heat-proof spatula, gently loosen the edges. Slide the spatula under the pancake to make sure the bottom is completely loose from the pan and then slide it out onto a plate or a baking sheet. 

In the same pan you used for the mushrooms, heat a tablespoon of avocado oil (or other cooking oil) over high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes (either halved or whole) and cook them on high heat for a few minutes until they're blistered and lightly charred, shaking the pan often. Season them lightly with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and remove from heat. 

Cut the socca into triangles and top with the blistered cherry tomatoes and whatever other condiments you like. Serve immediately. 

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a day or two but it's best to reheat before serving. 

Note: Leftover chickpea flour should be stored in the fridge or freezer. You can substitute any other type of mushroom or even other vegetables (thinly sliced onions are traditional) but add no more than 1 cup of cooked or raw veg. Because the baking time is so short, I like to add already cooked vegetables but delicate ingredients such as tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, and onions can probably go into the batter raw.


Celeriac and Potato Soup w/Mushroom, Walnut and Celery Leaf Salad

by Maja Lukic


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This is a cozy, smooth little soup to usher in a season I only fully appreciate in this city. As much as I'm a beach devotee, fall in New York is a stunning array of rich colors and sweet scents. Union Square Greenmarket in October when every stand is overflowing with sweet, crispy apples and pears (and the entire place smells like hot mulled apple cider and fried apple cider doughnuts) is everything.

Fall is when my mind turns to roasted dishes and earthy root vegetables - things from the ground. After a summer of salads and juices, my body, too, craves something warm, cooked, and comforting. This soup is it for me.

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I have never really worked with celeriac (or celery root) much in the past but I'm pretty sure my mom has made celeriac soup a few times over the years. Celeriac is a type of celery that is cultivated for its edible root, rather than its stalks and leaves, according to Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy. It is very low in carbohydrates and is a good substitute for potatoes, if you are following a low-carb diet. It is also a great source of vitamins B6 and C, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. It will discolor when peeled and cut so immediately place pieces of celery root into some lemon water as you work.

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The only downside to celeriac is that it is not really feasible to use the whole plant. The root has a pleasant, mild flavor, and the root is what you want. The gorgeous stalks and leaves are reminiscent of celery but, unfortunately, taste far too aggressive to be used in large quantities. Deborah Madison suggests using the stalks and leaves "judiciously" in soup stocks or as seasonings in a dish. I tasted a leaf and found it a bit too strong for my liking but I am saving the stalks in the freezer for a possible vegetable stock. If you know of a great way to use them, please let us know in the comments.

Celery root has this clean flavor redolent of fresh celery stalks but, although it is a root, it does not taste as sweet as other root vegetables, like parsnips or carrots. Because of its delicate flavor, it works best with other similarly mild flavors, like apples and pears. And that, in my opinion, makes it the perfect fall vegetable. Celeriac is also delicious mashed with potatoes or other root vegetables or even served raw in a salad.

Because it is so well matched with potatoes, I took some liberties here with the original recipe, adding a few potatoes for a more substantial soup. Then I added some mushrooms and a Dijon vinaigrette to the salad component - once I open the door to one beloved ingredient, others are quickly incorporated, too, I guess.

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The mushroom-walnut salad is actually pretty delicious on its own and there are countless uses for it: serve it on grilled or toasted bread with a little bit of goat cheese, toss with greens and more vinaigrette, fold into an omelette, stir it into cooked quinoa, millet, farro, or wild rice, or serve on its own with a poached egg. The salad cleverly highlights celery leaves, which are deeply flavorful and yet so often tossed or disregarded. Here, they assume a starring role.

When the temperatures start to drop and you begin reaching for sweaters and scarves, keep this soup in mind.

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Celeriac and Potato Soup w/Mushroom Walnut & Celery Leaf Salad (v/gf) 

Adapted from Vegetable Literacy, p. 24

Serves 4

For the Soup: 

1 tbsp olive oil (or other cooking oil)

2 medium shallots, finely diced

2 celery roots

juice of 1-2 lemons

4-5 medium Carola or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 lbs), peeled

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup white wine

6 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable or chicken stock (or water) sea salt

For the Salad: 

1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 lbs cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

celery leaves from two bunches of celery (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 tbsp walnut oil (see Note below)

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt, black pepper

To Prepare the Soup:

Squeeze the juice of 1 to 2 lemons into a large bowl of cold water and keep it close by as you work with the celery root. To clean the celeriac, trim the leaves and the stalks (set them aside for another use, if you wish). Peel the rough, gnarly skin by cutting a slice off the top and the bottom (the way you would peel a melon or pineapple). Then, carefully slide your knife down the sides, taking the peel off as you go. Cut the celery root into 1/2-inch cubes and immerse the slices into the lemon water as you work.

Peel and dice the potatoes. Because the potatoes require slightly more time to cook than the celery root, be sure to cut the potatoes into roughly the same size or smaller. Chop the celery stalks into thin slices (and if they have leaves, trim and save the leaves for the salad below).

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Drain the celeriac (discard the lemon water) and then add the celery, celeriac, potatoes, shallots, and parsley to the soup pot. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables develop some color - about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, wine, and 1 teaspoon sea salt, and cook for a few more minutes until the wine has reduced. Add 6 cups of stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Take the soup off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a blender.

Blend or pulse the soup very briefly until smooth but leave a good amount of texture. Potatoes also tend to get gummy if blended too long.

To Prepare the Salad:

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, and 2 tbsp walnut oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Trim celery leaves from two bunches of celery. Rinse and dry the leaves and then set them aside.Toast the walnuts lightly.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the olive oil becomes fragrant, add the mushrooms and sautee for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they become brown and begin to release some water. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked through. Toss the mushrooms, walnuts, parsley, and celery leaves with the Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

Serve the soup warm and top each bowl with two heaping tablespoons of the salad. Both the soup and salad will keep in the fridge overnight. The soup may be safely stored in the fridge for up to three days.

Notes: If you don't have walnut oil, substitute truffle oil or just plain olive oil - no need to purchase a whole bottle of walnut oil for this one recipe. But if you do, it makes for some delicious vinaigrettes. 

I listen to melancholy music 95% of the time (it makes me happy, weirdly) and fall is no exception. In fact, this is when I am most likely to indulge in the saddest of the sad stuff. This week, it's vintage Bonobo:

 


Warm Kale and Mushroom Salad

by Maja Lukic


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Bridging the gap between late summer and fall today with a warm salad that incorporates the last of the summer's bounty of ripe tomatoes and hearty, substantial kale, mushrooms, and walnuts. Another raw kale salad? Correct. I know - kale is no longer the trendy, sexy vegetable it was two years ago (three years?) and we are all suffering from kale salad fatigue now that every restaurant has ventured to place one on its menu. But stay with me because I've loved kale for years and never thought it needed to be the glorified vegetable of the moment.

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With the advent of fall, though, and the slight chill in the morning air in New York these days, even I recognize that warmer kale dishes are needed now.

Feel free to use any variety of kale here - Tuscan kale has that gorgeous blue-green shade and I see baby kale popping up everywhere lately. If you would like to substitute a different green, some fresh spicy arugula or pea shoots or anything else that looks lovely at the market would work just as well.

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I had the last of my late summer cherry tomatoes for this salad but if tomatoes are not in season when you make this, leave them out. It will taste perfectly delicious without them. Or add in a few slices of a sweet, ripe pear instead.

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The salad has a lot of separate components but it comes together quickly and easily. The walnuts, mushrooms, and balsamic vinegar are added to the kale warm and the heat wilts the leaves ever so slightly making them soft and sweet. Reducing the balsamic vinegar transforms it into a tart syrup that accentuates the sweetness of the shallots, the warm toasted walnuts, the dried cherries, and the sweet juicy tomatoes.  With the meaty cremini mushrooms, it's fairly substantial on its own but to turn it into a meal, feel free to add a cup of cooked quinoa or millet.

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It's simply beautiful, healthful comfort food.

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Warm Kale & Mushroom Salad (v/gf)

Adapted from Tasting Table

Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer

1 large bunch of organic curly green kale, stemmed

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup unsweetened dried cherries (see Note)

1/3 cup raw walnuts, chopped

1 large or 2 medium shallots, finely chopped

3/4 lbs cremini mushrooms (or other meaty variety), thinly sliced

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (see Note)

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

sea salt, black pepper

Wash the kale, dry it, and then roughly tear it up into bite-sized pieces with your hands (no chopping here). Gently massage 1 tsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp sea salt into the leaves. As you work the kale with your hands, the leaves will become shiny and turn a vibrant green. Add the dried cherries and cherry tomatoes to the kale and set it aside while you prepare the rest of the components.

Toast the chopped walnuts in a skillet over medium-high heat until they are just fragrant. Be sure that they do not burn. Alternatively, you can roast them in the oven by spreading them out on a baking sheet and baking at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Start checking them at the five-minute mark and make sure they do not burn.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in the skillet you used for the walnuts over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes. If the shallots start to burn or brown too much, reduce the heat to low and cook until soft and translucent. Turn the heat back up and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for a few minutes, stirring frequently until they are browned and have started to release their liquids. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt and continue to cook until the mushrooms are cooked through, about 2-3 more minutes.

In a small saucepan over high heat, add the balsamic vinegar and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few minutes until thick and reduced. Take it off the heat when it has a syrupy consistency but note that it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Add the toasted nuts and sautéed mushrooms to the kale. Drizzle everything with the balsamic syrup and season with additional sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Serve with a bottle of wine.

Notes: Be sure to use unsweetened dried fruit. The reduced balsamic syrup is fairly sweet on its own. If you can't find dried cherries, you can definitely substitute dried cranberries or blueberries. As for the balsamic, this is not the occasion for a fine aged import - a basic grocery store balsamic vinegar will do because once it reduces, it will become a thick, luxurious syrup. Of course, if you'd like to use your best balsamic for this project, I won't stop you.


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Your soundtrack? A friend sent me this song and it seems fitting for the approaching fall evenings.