Israeli chef takes sweet stuff out of breakfast with savory pancakes

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American breakfast choices can be sugar and carbohydrate-heavy but switching grains and toppings can change that for the better. (KABC)

Having oatmeal or other grain with eggs and avocado is a good, hearty way to start your day, but Israeli chef Ruthie Rousso might have a better idea.

"It's called socca, it's actually a staple of Nice on the Mediterranean south of France. It's made of chickpea flour," said Rousso.

She is talking about pancakes. Not like the American stack, drowning in butter and syrup, but pancakes in parting a savory flavor.

"If you try it you'll see you don't really need anything, so delicious," she claimed.

Rousso likes cooking in a cast-iron skillet in the oven, then adding toppings and slicing like a pizza - but the stove version is fine, too.

Rather than traditional wheat or white flour, try chickpea flour available at most markets, especially natural-food stores.

"It's crispy, it's rich, it's earthy, it's delicious, good for you," said Rousso.

Chickpea flour is high in protein and fiber. It's also gluten-free.

The Israeli chef also adds spicy chilies, sweet tomatoes, olives, radishes, peppery arugula and drizzles it with olive oil.

Some vegetables, like avocado or corn, might be a good place to start. The pancake can even be rolled up like a taco or burrito.

If you just can't wake up to veggies, Rousso recommends to start slow. You can make your pancake, and top it with some tahini or a bit of almond butter.

Tahini is sesame seed paste that is an ingredient in hummus. By itself, tahini resembles rich yet mild peanut butter. It's definitely worth a try.

"Anything goes with tahini that's the magic," she said.

Beyond chickpea flour, trying flour made of quinoa and others can also offer a different taste and texture profile.

Look for a cookbook by Ruth Rousso out in the fall.

Ruth Rousso's basic pancake recipe:

For the batter:
- 9.2 oz chickpea flour
- 2.25 cups water
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin

For tahini:
- 1/2 cup raw tahini
- 1/2 cup cold water
- a little bit of fresh lemon juice

For toppings:
- 20 cherry tomatoes, preferably different colors, cut to 4

- 8 radishes, cut to 4 lengthwise
- fresh jalapeño, sliced
- 20 kalamata olives, pitted
- 1/2 purple onion, sliced
- arugula
- olive oil for dressing
- black pepper and coarse salt

Method:
1. Mix all the batter ingredients in a bowl. Let stand for 2 hours.
2. Meanwhile hit your oven to its max with the cast iron pan (or pans) inside, twenty minutes before batter is done resting.
3. Pour a bit of olive oil in the pan and pour the batter. Place back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Make the tahini- mix all the ingredients well. Reserve.
5. To serve: take out the socca from the oven. Drizzle some tahini on top. Arrange the fresh vegetables and add some arugula. Season with a little bit of olive oil, black pepper and coarse salt and eat while it's still hot.
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