Culinary Epiphany: Quinoa Cecina Stack with Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini

During my 5-week culinary tour in Florence, Italy this summer, my aunt introduced me to a simple yet superbly yummy classic Italian (and naturally vegan!), dish: cecina. Translated to “made of chickpeas,” the recipe contains only olive oil, chickpea flour, and water baked and served with a generous sprinkling of black pepper. I tasted my first cecina at a tiny restaurant in a quaint piazza on the Oltrarno called “5 e Cinque.” (See my review on HappyCow.net here.)

5 e Cinque

Cecina originated in Genoa, a city in northern Italy, but quickly spread throughout southern France where it is known as “socca,” which is also what the Pure 2 Raw twins refer to it as and they absolutely swear by this dish. Being the vegan and food experimenter that I am, I felt it absolutely necessary to attempt making my own cecina/socca in tribute to my summer in Florence and one of my favorite blogs. However, like the twins, I opted to tweak the standard chickpea flour/water/oil recipe by adding cooked quinoa to the batter and layering juicy grilled zucchini and eggplant between the cecina slices. So sue me for changing the recipe, but it turned out pretty darn well (a complete understatement, by the way.)

Quinoa Cecina Stack with Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)

Serves 2.

Cecina Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (linked to a how-to.)

Grilled Vegetable Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 smallish eggplant
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp fresh thyme
  • Black pepper to taste

Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a 9″ round glass, metal, or ceramic baking dish and stick into a preheating oven set to 400°F. Whisk the flour, water, and quinoa in a medium-sized bowl until very well mixed with absolutely no lumps. Once the oven is preheated, pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the zucchini and eggplant into 1/4-inch rounds and toss well to coat with the olive oil and thyme (it may seem like you need more olive oil, but as long as you toss the vegetables in a large enough bowl, they will grill perfectly and save you a whole lot of calories in the fat department). Grill vegetable slices on a regular grill or a preheated stovetop grill pan for about 7-10 minutes on the first side, then flip and grill for another 5 minutes.

Zucchini and eggplant pre-grilling.

After baking the cecina for 30 minutes, check the texture by lightly pressing on the middle of the pancake. You’re looking for a slightly springy touch. If it feels too soft, bake for another 5 minutes (mine felt perfect after 30 minutes, but my oven is also superb, sorry to have to brag). Wiggle the cecina in the pan and scrape around the edges with a knife if it looks particularly sticky, then invert the pan onto a cutting board.

 

Clearly, some of my cecina got left behind in the pan! No worries, I had a field day stealing bites of the messy, stuck-on cecina while assembling the rest of my dinner. Next time I make cecina, I plan on rubbing the entire baking dish with an oiled paper towel before pouring the tablespoon of oil in. Most recipes for cecina do call for up to four tablespoons of oil, but if I’m the only one eating the entire pan, I surely do not want an entire 1/4 cup of olive oil in there. If you’re worried about the cecina sticking and don’t mind more olive oil, go ahead and use two tablespoons instead of one which should suffice.

Cut the cecina into eight wedges. Lay a couple slices of eggplant and zucchini in a single layer on one cecina wedge and repeat until you have an eight-tiered stack of cecina, grilled veggies, cecina, grilled veggies, etc. with four layers of each. Repeat with remaining vegetables and four wedges of cecina.

 

Recipe featured on Finding Vegan.

Only two words can describe this: CRAZILY ORGASMIC. The cecina forms a crunchy outside crust while the inside remains soft and custardy. Paired with the smoky grilled eggplant and zucchini and the nutty quinoa addition, this meal inspired a vegan epiphany. The only way I could improve this recipe is by replacing the grilled eggplant with sundried tomato roasted eggplant spread slathered on each cecina wedge and adding sliced avocado to layer with the zucchini. I’m 100% positive that numerous more cecina creations will end up posted on my blog and devoured by me.

Meal Checklist: Protein–garbanzo bean flour and quinoa. Whole Grain–quinoa. Vegetable–zucchini, eggplant, and sungold tomatoes (tossed in side salad). Leafy Green–swiss chard (chiffonaded into side salad with tomatoes and liquid gold dressing).

Local Ingredients: Swiss chard from JenEhr Family Farm, sungold tomatoes from Snug Haven Farm, zucchini from Pleasant Springs Orchard, and eggplant from the Hilldale Farmer’s Market.

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