My favorite dish during a four-day stay in Vancouver: a crisp chickpea-flour flatbread topped with sautéed local chanterelles, buffalo mozzarella and luscious heirloom tomatoes. The chef of Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill, Pino Posteraro, was looking to do something different, he told us, and he succeeded.
Plus, for those who care, the chickpea flour makes this dish gluten free.
I’ve been thinking about that little masterpiece ever since. So today, back home in the opposite corner of the continent, I set out to make it.
I figured Chef Pino’s crust was a riff on farinata, a Ligurian flatbread I remember as an outrageously good olive oil-soaked treat. But thinner and crisper than what I tasted there. After a bit of research, I realized it’s a “pizza” in quotes because there’s no yeast and kneading. Instead it’s made from a thin pancake (think crepes) batter.
Turns out the chickpea flour (aka garbanzo bean flour) is easy to find–among an array of Bob’s Red Mill products at Rolling Oats, a local health-food store. And the little flatbreads are easy to make, too. My broiling/pizza stone method worked fine. You can also cook the flatbreads stovetop in a crepe pan or on a griddle–but I found they still needed a trip to the oven to crisp up.
OK, my flatbreads were not quite as crisp as Chef Pino’s. But the texture and taste were irresistibly coarse and nutty. Savory shiitakes stood in for his wild chanterelles. The tomatoes I had on hand were fat grape tomatoes, not heirlooms, but they rose to the occasion once bathed in olive oil and a French quince vinegar called vinaigre de Coing.
All in all, delicious. I’ll be making these chickpea “pizzas” again and hope you will, too.
Chickpea “Pizzas” with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Micro Greens
Makes 4 to 6 appetizer servings
1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
8 ounces chanterelles (or settle for shiitake caps), cut in small pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, slivered
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium tomatoes or 12 cherry/grape tomatoes
Balsamic or quince vinegar (or any vinegar with a touch of sweetness)
4 to 6 ounces buffalo or regular mozzarella, cut in large cubes
Microgreens, frisee or watercress sprigs
1. Mix the chickpea flour, salt, thyme and pepper together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in enough water (about 1 cup) to make a thin batter (as for crepes). Stir in the olive oil. Let the batter stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Saute the mushrooms over medium high heat in a little olive oil, stirring in the garlic toward the end. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the tomatoes in small wedges or cubes. Drizzle them generously with olive oil and more sparingly with vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the top rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
4. Heat a crepe pan or small heavy skillet 6 or 7 inches in diameter, and brush with olive oil. Off heat, pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and swirl to cover the bottom. Switch the oven setting to broil. Cook on the pizza stone or top oven rack until lightly browned, about 2 minutes; turn and broil briefly on the other side. Continue making crusts with the remaining batter.
5. Spread the mushrooms over the flatbreads. Arrange the mozzarella on top. Broil the topped crusts for about 1 minute, until the mozzarella softens but before it melts.
6. Top with the dressed tomatoes and microgreens.