It may be hard to imagine that life on an idyllic Italian farm could have any practical implications for your own crazed weekday routine, but Valentina Solfrini, the force behind the award-winning Hortus Cuisine blog, has some tips on bridging that gap.
Solfrini grew up on a farm in Italy, enjoying fresh, local, seasonal foods on the reg. In her dreamy new cookbook, Naturally Vegetarian, she shares recipes that are inspired by her Italian farm upbringing, but practical enough for real life. Take for example, her veggie-loaded chickpea pancakes with pecorino, a savory alternative to the sugar-crash that comes with syrup-drenched pancakes, but with all the convenience of frozen waffles.
Chickpea flour adds protein while keeping them gluten-free, and onions, zucchini, and fresh herbs add bulk and flavor without extra calories. “These pancakes have fiber, protein, and veggies, so they’re really perfect for any time of the day,” says Solfrini, who often enjoys them for dinner with a salad or garlic sautéed broccoli. The best part? They can be made ahead, frozen, then re-heated as needed.
“These pancakes have fiber, protein, and veggies, so they’re really perfect for any time of the day.”
Eat these pancakes as-is or come up with a healthy, creative topping. “I love to make a sauce out of yogurt, pesto, and a few drops of lemon juice,” says Solfrini, who usually has a homemade pesto on hand, thanks to the abundance of aromatics growing in her garden. Okay, so maybe Italian farm life is a bit different after all…
Want a taste of the Italian farm life? Scroll down for the recipe.
Veggie-loaded chickpea pancakes with pecorino
Makes 10 two-inch cakes
2 cups chickpea ﬂour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
5 spring onions, thinly sliced
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 small zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
6 zucchini ﬂowers, thinly sliced
Pinch of pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 small sprigs of fresh marjoram
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese (substitute 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast for vegan variation)
1. Make the batter: Put the chickpea flour and salt in a medium bowl and slowly whisk in the water, making sure there are no lumps. Whisk until the batter thickens, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for best results, or overnight.
2. Prepare the vegetables: Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the onion, leek, spring onions, and shallots. Sauté for about 10 minutes, until translucent and golden. Add the zucchini, zucchini flowers, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, and marjoram (if using). Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft, checking every now and then. If the vegetables dry out too much, add two tablespoons water.
3. Once the vegetables are ready, scrape the mixture into the bowl with the batter and mix to combine well. Add the pecorino and mix.
4. Heat a nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and lightly oil it. Add a scant one-fourth cup of the batter per pancake, cover, and cook for a minute and a half. Flip the cakes and cook for one minute more on the other side, or until golden brown.
Recipe reprinted from Naturally Vegetarian by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Valentina Solfrini