When I first met Michael, and we were in the "honeymoon" phase of dating, we cooked a lot at home. However, instead of eating super healthy stuff like we do now, we were eating super indulgently .... blissfully downing a bottle of red wine and a cheese plate before every meal. The thought of doing that now makes me laugh, but that's what you're supposed to do when you fall in love, right? Eat twice as much and twice as indulgently as you normally do and become plump and happy-in-love?
Eventually those cheese plates caught up with me, and my body started to reject those types of foods. Also, once that honeymoon phase fades away (but you're still very much in love) a desire to take care of and nourish each other takes over. During out "cheese plate days" I starting having these strange symptoms, like acne and a chronic cough, and I was spending a lot of time visiting doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Eventually I did figure out that dairy (cow's milk in particular) might be the culprit. I cut dairy completely out of my diet for a few months, and my strange symptoms magically disappeared. I got some tests done, and it turns out that I am allergic to cow's milk, and my body had a weird way of telling me. To this day, I still try to avoid it as much as possible, but I do make room for things like goat and sheep's milk cheese, and plain greek yogurt, which do not seem to have the same negative effects for me. (Oh, and that occasional slice of NYC pizza might happen once in a while too.)
Since omitting some dairy, there is not much that I miss. I do find there are so many great substitutes, however, the one thing that is pretty hard to replicate melty, gooey cheesy dishes. I realized when I first cut out dairy, it also cut out a lot of appetizer foods that I was so used to, like that good old classic cheese plate, and creamy dips like a spinach and artichoke. Recently, I became determined to experiment and come up with a version of a spinach dip, that I could feel good about and that I could feel good about serving guests for the upcoming holiday season.
And here we are, not 100% dairy free, but the yogurt is a lighter more healthful sub to all that mayo and cheese in a traditional spinach dip. There are very few ingredients in this dip, and the caramelized leeks are blended with the yogurt to give it that gooey-ness that makes this dip so good. Just so you know, I did experiment with a cashew cream and a white bean cream, and while they are fine if you don't do yogurt, they weren't quite as balanced and delicious as the greek yogurt version. If you want to sub a cashew cream, just make a cup of your favorite version and swap out the yogurt.
Also, this socca is one of my favorite naturally gluten-free, quick-to-make, cracker / bread type snacks. It's so easy to make, sometimes I whip some up to snack on all by itself. This version I shared today has a good helping of dried herbs and spices to make it super flavorful. I teamed up with my favorite spice brand, simply organic, and my favorite food sharing community, feedfeed, to develop this recipe ...... and I am also sharing of few of my favorite Fall recipes over on their instagram and website today so be sure to check it out!
herbed socca flatbread with creamed leeks + spinach + chard
several as an appetizer
for the socca:
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
¼ teaspoon of cumin
1 cup of chickpea flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of water
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
3 tablespoons of olive oil (plus a little more for the pan)
the juice of 1/2 a lemon (1 tablespoon)
about 1/4 cup of sesame seeds, white and/or black (optional)
for the creamed spinach + leeks + chard:
a tablespoon of ghee or butter
a couple tablespoons of olive oil
1 very large leek, sliced thin (about 6-7 cups)
½ teaspoon of salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6oz of plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/3 cup of filtered water
3 large handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
6-7 chard leaves, stem removed and roughly chopped
Prep the socca:
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind the rosemary, thyme, salt, peppercorns, garlic powder and cumin until finely ground.
- In a medium bowl, combine the chickpea flour, water, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and half of the spice mixture and whisk to combine. Allow the batter to sit for 20-30 minutes while prepping the rest of the ingredients for the dip.
Bake the socca:
- Pre-heat the oven to 450º. Grease a 9”x13” shallow baking pan.
- Pour the batter into the baking pan, sprinkle with the remaining spice mixture as well as the sesame seeds (if using). Bake for 10 minutes, until the top is golden brown. You can also cook for another couple minutes longer if you want your socca really crispy. Slice the socca into squares, remove them from the pan, and set aside until you’re ready to serve with the dip.
Make the spinach + leek dip and serve:
- Turn the oven heat down to 350º.
- In a large cast iron, heat up the ghee + olive oil over medium heat and then add the leeks. Cook while stirring often, until the leeks are very soft, but be careful not to brown the leeks. Add the garlic and salt and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Place ½ cup of the cook leeks into a blender or food processor along with the yogurt, water, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. Keep this mixture in the blender while you cook the spinach and chard.
- Place the leeks back over the burner and turn the heat on to medium. Add the chard and spinach and cook, while stirring, until the leaves have wilted. Turn the heat off again, add the leek cream mixture, and stir to combine everything.
- Place the cast iron in the oven and bake the mixture for 5 minutes. Remove and serve immediately with the socca squares.