I've always loved crepes, those elegant, paper-thin French pancakes. They're great containers for any filling and — as long as you have the proper pan — they're really a cinch to make. But let's face it, the typical flour-based crepe is pretty bland. It's a messenger, not a message. We care far less about the crepe itself than we do about what's wrapped up in it.
But what if the crepe boasted some flavor and nutrition? Enter chickpea flour. Popular throughout the Middle East and Asia, as well as along the Mediterranean, it's a good source of protein and fiber and happens to be quite tasty, almost nutty. Today's recipe is a variation on a swell little chickpea pancake that's known as socca in southern France and farinata in northern Italy.
Made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil and seasonings, socca is pretty elemental. As noted, it's delicious, but texture-wise, it's sturdy, not pliable. I wanted to make a chickpea pancake that was thin enough to fold like a crepe. So I added some eggs and a tiny amount of flour.
There's a way to make gluten-free chickpea crepes, but you'll have to swap out the regular flour for cornstarch (just be sure it's gluten-free cornstarch) or gluten-free flour. If you roll with the gluten-free flour, you'll need to add an additional tablespoon or two of water to thin out the batter.
What about the filling? Anything you might want to put into a crepe or tortilla, you can put into a chickpea crepe. Here I've taken an Indian vegetarian route: Indian spices, potatoes and peas. But if you happen to be short of time, feel free to combine any leftovers you have in the refrigerator, roll them up in the crepes and heat them in a 300 F oven for about 10 minutes. Instant dinner!! (But without the empty carbs.)
CHICKPEA CREPES STUFFED WITH INDIAN SPICED POTATOES AND PEAS
Start to finish: 1 hour, 10 minutes (45 active)
For the crepes:
1/2 chickpea flour (60 grams) (available at many supermarkets and online)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing the pan
For the filling:
1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chopped (1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces) cauliflower
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced chile (with the seeds and veins)
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 cup thawed frozen peas
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Make the crepes: In a medium bowl sift together the chickpea flour, all-purpose flour, salt and baking soda. In a second medium bowl, whisk the eggs, add 1/2 cup water and the oil; mix well. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes. (Make the filling while the batter is resting.)
Brush the bottom of an 8-inch nonstick skillet and a 1/2-inch up the sides with a little oil and heat the pan over medium-high heat until it is hot. Whisk the batter to remix. Add slightly more than 1/8 cup of the batter to the pan and working quickly, pick up and tilt the pan so that the batter coats the bottom. Let the crepe cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute or until it is set. Flip the crepe and cook it for 30 seconds on the second side. Transfer it to a plate and make more crepes with the remaining batter. You should have at least 8 crepes.
Make the filling:
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
In a small saucepan combine the potatoes with enough cold, salted water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
On a rimmed sheet pan lined with parchment or foil, toss the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a hefty pinch of salt. Arrange it in one layer and bake it on the middle shelf of the oven until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside and reduce the oven to 300 F.
In a medium skillet combine the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil with the cumin and mustard seeds. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat until the seeds become fragrant and start popping, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onion, chile, ginger and garam masala. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden.
When the potatoes are tender, transfer them to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or fork until mostly mashed with a few lumps (don't overdo it or you will get gluey potatoes).
Add the cauliflower, onion mixture, peas, lemon juice, cilantro and salt to taste; stir until combined.
Arrange 8 crepes on a cutting board and divide the potato mixture among them (about 1/4 cup per crepe). Roll up the crepes to enclose the filling and transfer them to the rimmed sheet, seam side down. Cover with foil and bake them on the middle shelf of the oven until hot, about 10 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 298 calories; 132 calories from fat; 15 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 108 mg cholesterol; 320 mg sodium; 32 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 11 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "Home Cooking 101."