Broccoli rabe is in season! I love this flavorsome vegetable, and find it especially appealing that it can be eaten in its entirety — stalks, leaves, and florets. In fact, it’s a perfect candidate for grinding up into a nutritionally dense and delicious pesto-like topping for flatbread. These chickpea flatbreads taste great warm from the oven or at room temperature, making them an easy addition to parties and cookouts (hmm… I wonder how they’d taste cooked on the grill?) We munched on ours at an impromptu movie night with friends.
Not interested in baking flatbreads? Try serving this broccoli rabe “pesto” over pasta, stirred into cooked quinoa or another whole grain, spooned onto avocado halves, or top thickly sliced tomatoes for a quick appetizer. I keep using “pesto” in quotation marks, because this isn’t really a proper pesto. The mixture should ideally be cooked before eating to mellow the broccoli rabe, which can be quite peppery and bitter raw (see recipe, below).
I took my inspiration for the chickpea flatbread from Clean Cuisine and More‘s flatbread pizza crust recipe. I made some modifications to the recipe because I can’t eat chia seeds; they drop my already low blood pressure down into the danger zone. However, chia seeds are so nutritionally potent that I recommend trying the original recipe if you can. I replaced the chia seeds with ground flax, which has its own anti-inflammatory powers and a good amount of fiber. Since I like a chewier crust and the texture of whole wheat, I mixed whole wheat and white whole wheat flours, rolled the dough a bit thicker, and baked at a slightly lower temperature. The result is a soft but hearty, slightly chewy flatbread with lots of flavor.
I’ve also added tumeric to the dough. If you don’t keep turmeric on hand, then just leave it out. However, if you’re looking for ways to add more anti-inflammatory ingredients to your cooking, then earthy but non-assertive turmeric would be a great addition to your spice rack. It’s closely related to ginger root (in chemical composition, but not in flavor), and it often shows up on the ubiquitous Top Ten Lists of anti-inflammatory foods. The baked dough tastes wonderful on its own thanks to the chickpeas and whole grain flour, but a little bit of cumin or other aromatic spices could really… um… spice things up. This is a forgiving recipe, so play with it and have fun!
Broccoli Rabe Pesto
2/3 cup whole, roasted almonds
5 cloves garlic, peeled
about 4 cups fresh broccoli rabe, coarsely chopped
about 1 cup beet greens (or spinach), coarsely chopped
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup sweet cherry tomatoes, sliced into thirds lengthwise
Grind the almonds in a food processor until well chopped, but not ground into dust. Pour the almonds out into a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Next, grind the garlic cloves in the food processor until finely minced. Add the greens and olive oil, and process until finely chopped. Empty the greens mixture into the bowl of almonds. Add black pepper and shredded parmesan cheese, and stir until combined well.
If making baked flatbreads: Spoon topping thickly onto rolled-out flatbread dough (recipe below), top with sliced cherry tomatoes, and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 450 F for 10 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
If adding “pesto” to pasta, whole grains, or as a final topping: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the broccoli rabe mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Broccoli rabe should be bright green. Stir in cooked pasta (a little of the pasta cooking water can be added, too) or whole grains and heat through, stirring constantly. Or, to use as a topping, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Top avocado halves, sliced tomatoes, or whatever else you like.
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp honey
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, well-rinsed
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (plus more for kneading)
1/2 cup ground flax
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dissolve the honey into the water in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add the yeast and let proof for a few minutes. Add the yeast mixture, olive oil, and chickpeas to a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the yeast-chickpea mixture. Using a fork, gently work the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. When all the flour has been absorbed, gather the dough into a ball and knead — adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking — for about 8 minutes. You will almost certainly need to add some extra flour while kneading, but try to be conservative; adding too much extra flour will make the dough tough. After kneading, the dough should feel soft, pliable, and elastic.
Let the dough rest for 5 to 10 minutes, and then roll out to desired thickness on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Add toppings and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. The flatbread is done when the edge springs back firmly when depressed with a finger, and the bottom is golden brown.
This recipe makes four 5″ x 10″ oval flatbreads, rolled and patted to 1/4″ thick before baking (about six servings). However, you can roll the dough as thin as you like, in whatever sizes and shapes you like. If the dough is very thin, just watch the flatbread while it’s baking to avoid burning.