My favorite recipes are those that open up a new lane of cooking and prompt me to imagine that lane leading in all sorts of new directions.
Take the Pesto Socca Pizza I came across recently in “The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook,” a collection of more than 600 recipes by seven authors. Now, I’ve used chickpea flour in myriad ways, starting with pancakes that take shape in France, called socca, and in Italy, known as farinata. But writer Marie Reginato does something different, using much less water - and a touch of almond flour - to quickly form a dough you can roll out and bake until crisp. The flavor and texture of the crust remind me of pastry more than pizza: It’s a little crumbly, in a good way.
After baking the crust by itself, I followed her lead and topped it with pesto, roasted squash and sliced radishes, adding pumpkin seeds and arugula for color and crunch. This pizza is designed for just one or two servings, and the crust might be too delicate to make much bigger, but you can always make more than one. Reginato offers that any roasted vegetable could work in place of the squash, and I’m envisioning the sauces that could swap in for the pesto, too - marinara, hummus, garlicky yogurt. The crust could even turn into a cookie.
Did I mention that it happens to be gluten-free? Sweet.
Pesto Socca Pizza
Feel free to replace the squash with the seasonal vegetables of your choice.
2/3 cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup almond flour/meal (may substitute chickpea flour)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 to 4 tablespoons store-bought or homemade pesto (preferably cheese-free to keep it vegan, such as Trader Joe’s Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto)
1/4 cup roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Sliced radish, for garnish
Handful arugula leaves, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together the chickpea flour, almond flour and salt in a small bowl. Stir in the water and 1 tablespoon of the oil, and keep stirring for a couple of minutes to make sure it is very well blended, with the tacky-but-not-wet consistency of Play-Doh. Form into a small disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the squash with 1 teaspoon of the oil on a small rimmed baking sheet, then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Roast until tender, for 10 minutes.
Roll the rested dough between sheets of parchment paper to an 8-inch round that’s 1/4-inch thick. Peel off the top layer of parchment, and lightly rub or brush the top of the dough with the remaining teaspoon of oil. Transfer the dough, still on the bottom sheet of parchment, to a regular-size baking sheet. Bake until the crust is firm and its edges are turning a light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
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Carefully transfer the crust, which is a little delicate, to a serving plate. Immediately spread the pesto evenly over the surface of the crust, then top with roasted squash and pumpkin seeds. Garnish with the radishes and arugula. Serve warm.
Nutrition - Per serving (using 3 tablespoons pesto): 530 calories, 17 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 38 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 510 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar
Source: Adapted from “The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook: The Must-Have Resource for Plant-Based Eaters,” by Emily von Euw, Kathy Hester, Linda and Alex Meyer, Marie Reginato, Celine Steen and Amber St. Peter (Page Street Publishing, 2018).