Welcome to Health Goth, our column dedicated to cooking vegetables in ways that even our most cheeseburger-loving, juice-bar-loathing readers would approve of. Not everyone realizes this, but vegetables actually do taste good. We invite chefs to prove this assertion—and they do, time and time again.
Ksandek Podbielski, co-owner of Portland’s Coquine, has found his people amongst us here at MUNCHIES. His wife, co-owner and chef of Coquine, Katy Millard, tells us, “When we got an email from our PR team saying you wanted to do a column called ‘Health Goth,’ he goes,”—and here she stage whispers—"'I am health goth!’”
“It’s like a thing in Portland!” Podbielski insists. “It’s when you’re super into fitness and you wear all-black Adidas, but you’re also super into, like, death.”
It’s true, we owe him and his fellow Portlanders a debt of gratitude for the inspiration for this whole column, given that the phrase was coined right there in Portland. Podbielski is wearing a pretty normcore get up of dark jeans and a crew neck sweatshirt today, but we’re not here to flame him for his health goth authenticity. The dish the two are making today—socca pancakes with sweet potato and brassicas—abides by the health goth rules, in that it’s healthy, but it’s not an Instagram darling of the wellness and mindfulness set. It’s aesthetically pleasing but not twee. It’s got kale, but charred kale, not juiced kale. And it’s also freaking delicious.
“Socca is magic,” says Millard. “It's a street food that I ate in Nice in the south of France when I lived there. It actually exists in many forms around the Mediterranean, and is probably Moroccan in origin. It’s basically just chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt. …It's vegan and gluten free naturally, you don’t have to do anything to tweak it.”
It’s a dish they’ve had on the menu since basically the beginning of Coquine’s brick-and-mortar existence (after they graduated from their pop-up days). Today it’s going to be served with a spicy sweet potato puree, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, crispy kale, and a fried egg. (You can skip the egg if you're vegan.)
To start, Millard makes the batter with a nice-quality French olive oil, chickpea flour, a bit of salt and cumin, and water added gradually until the mixture reaches her desired consistency. She sets that aside while she preps leeks, shallots, celery, garlic, chiles, and sweet potatoes for the puree.
They’ll cook down in a Dutch oven until the celery and thinly-sliced sweet potatoes soften, then get blitzed in the Vitamix until silky smooth, with a squeeze of lemon juice.
While the potatoes are sautéing, she preps a whole host of brassicas—a generously sized head of cauliflower, a large stalk of broccoli, and a bunch of lacinato kale. Nothing goes to waste here, either—the leaves on the outside of the cauliflower will get the same treatment as the florets and the stalk of the broccoli gets peeled and diced as well.
They get tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread out on a baking sheet to roast until perfectly charred and tender.
The consummate professional and brand ambassador for all things Portland, Millard has also brought along with her a brand spanking new Finex cast-iron pan, made in the PDX. She gets it nice and hot and throws some butter in to coat, then ladles a generous amount of batter to make a socca pancake the size of the pan.
She lets it get a nice deep brown on one side before flipping, and the pattern on the surface of the pancake is truly mesmerizing.
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To plate the pancake, she drizzles the entire thing with a lot more olive oil, salt, and several cracks of fresh pepper. She artfully smears the spicy sweet potato puree across the top, and heaps the roasted veggies and a perfectly fried over-easy egg on top. We barely had a chance to take a picture before half a dozen forks were tearing into this sucker.
I don’t know what more we can say to convince you this dish actually revolutionized the way we’re gonna think about breakfast forever, so we submit for your consideration the following: