Taking inspiration from the cuisines of various World Cup nations has been really fun so far. I think no matter how much you enjoy cooking, it's easy to fall into a rut where you just get tired of planning and preparing meals. Next time nothing sounds good, or you just feel bored, turn dinner into a game. It's definitely working for me.
Our French-themed recipe is both traditional and not. It's a crêpe, so that's certainly French. And we all know the beloved rustic vegetable dish, ratatouille. The twist is chickpea flour, more often a staple of Indian cuisine, but also the key ingredient in socca, a fried pancake which is a popular street food in Nice. For connecting those cultural dots, and for the great recipe, I give full credit to Martha Rose Shulman, the New York Times' wonderful Recipes for Health columnist (Seriously, check out her archives for tons of nutritious Mediterranean-style recipes.).
Anyway, if you're still following my explanation of this recipe, we're in the home stretch. Though Ms. Shulman is responsible for the delicious chickpea-flavored crêpes, the ratatouille is all mine. It's a simple, very light and healthy version that requires a lot less oil and no frying or long stewing process. The best part is, you can use the ratatouille a dozen ways. I was dying to toss it with some whole wheat pasta (kind of like this), and it made a great breakfast accompaniment this morning.
We made these crêpes into a full meal with chopped chicken sausage, but feel free to get your protein any way you like. Cooked and drained lentils would make this a very nice vegetarian dish. To top it all off, I mixed up a quick sauce by mashing goat cheese into Greek yogurt and thinning it with a little milk.
Germany played today, so they will serve as our next source of inspiration. I can't wait to start cooking!
For more on socca (and more ways to use your chickpea flour) read Mark Bittman's take here and here.
Chickpea Flour Crêpes with Ratatouille and Goat Cheese Sauce
Crêpes based on this recipe by Martha Rose Shulman.
Find chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (also called besan) at Indian and Middle Eastern markets. Bob's Red Mill brand, which is carried in many natural food stores, also makes it. You could certainly do this with any type of crêpe, and I think ones made with various whole grain flours (like these buckwheat crêpes) would be delicious.
Makes 8 crêpes
1/2 cup chickpea flour/besan (about 64 grams)
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup reduced fat milk
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
For ratatouille and filling:
1 medium Italian eggplant, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
pinch of dried thyme
1 large or 2 small zucchini, chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes (preferably no salt added)
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
Fresh thyme leaves (a few sprigs), roughly chopped
2 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2-3 Tbs milk
2 fully cooked chicken sausages, heated according to package directions and chopped
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Add the eggs, milk and olive oil to blender and turn it on medium speed. With blender running, add flour mixture and blend 1 minute, scraping down sides as needed. Rest batter at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat broiler to high and place oven rack 6 to 8 inches from heat. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and place eggplant and bell pepper and baking sheet. Coat with additional cooking spray, and season with salt and pepper. Spread vegetables out in a single layer and broil until browned and very tender, 15 to 20 minutes, turning once.
While vegetables broil, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet on medium-low. Add onion and dried thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook until onion begins to soften, about 7 minutes. Add zucchini, season to taste and continue cooking until onions are very soft and zucchini is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer; cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes (you want a very moist, but not watery consistency). Add the eggplant and bell peppers and stir to combine; stir in herbs and remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese and yogurt, mashing cheese with the back of a spoon as you stir. Thin with milk to reach desired consistency.
When you're ready to eat, coat a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Pour a thin film of batter over skillet (about 3 Tbs) and tilt pan to spread evenly. Cook until bottom side is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until browned on opposite side, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Repeat with remaining crepes. You can eat as you go or stack a few crêpes on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm. You can also cook them all and reheat in a 350F oven, wrapped in foil, for 15 minutes.
To serve, fill crêpes with ratatouille, chicken sausage and goat cheese sauce.