The best thing that ever became of my off-campus privileges in high school was salad pizza.
An all access pass to the outside world was something we coveted all throughout middle school, when we were required to stay within the gates of the school. But once the world was our oyster, it mostly meant visiting one of two eateries in the 5-block radius that is considered the “fancy” part of the Bronx.
The favorite was a place nicknamed “the shack” that served colossal subs named after super heroes. Mine, however, was the local pizza place (whose name is escaping me…high school friends, help!). Their plain cheese slice was good, especially when doused with chili flakes. But what was a game changer in my food memory department was the salad pizza.
There was nothing gourmet about the greenery—simply a mixture of chopped romaine, cherry tomatoes and onions. The kind of mix you’d see as a side salad at any red sauce joint. But the idea of dousing a pizza in tart dressing was a revelation.
I’ve always had a palette that errs on the side of acid. If you’re one of my high school friends reading this, you will also remember my early tendency to dip sushi in carrot ginger dressing instead of soy sauce. So it’s no wonder that the red wine-based Italian vinaigrette that came with my salad slice was like pizza catnip.
These days in adult life there are very few things that I don’t enjoy eating in conjunction with half a mouthful of well-dressed greens. It makes everything from a rich risotto to a salty French fry that much better. And it’s also my back pocket trick for dressing up a simple store bought pizza pie.
Recently I shared a photo of my personal pie of cappello’s gluten-free pizza with an arugula-radicchio mixture on top. It got a shocking number of ooo’s and ahh’s. But since that sort of semi-homemade meal doesn’t really warrant a recipe, I thought I’d use the same concept to dress up this simple socca—a 2-ingredient chickpea crust that is my go-to for last minute gluten-free flatbreads and pizza pies.
You simply combine the chickpea flour with room temperature water, pour it into a piping hot skillet and bake until firm. From there, treat it like a normal pizza crust: top with tomato sauce, cheese (I used nut mozzarella to keep things vegan and dairy-free), and return to a hot oven or broiler until lightly browned.
Since socca pizza is really the type of pizza that is best eaten with a knife and fork anyway, it’s also the perfect vehicle for salad…which might be the only type of slice that a self-respecting New Yorker—even one from the fancy part of the Bronx—would dare eat with a knife and fork.
Read on for this gluten-free salad pizza recipe with chickpea socca crust, and let me know if putting dressing on your pie is as much of a life changing experience as it was for me 20 years ago.
Ok, now I feel old.
With health and hedonism,
Gluten-Free Summer Salad Pizza with Socca Chickpea Crust
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
- 1/3 cup tomato sauce
- 1 small heirloom tomato cut into thin slices
- 1/4 cup dairy-free nut ricotta or mozzarella I like Kite Hill or Miyokos
- 1 cup radicchio
- 1 cup baby arugula
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar or a combination of both
- 10 coarsely torn basil leaves
- Red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet on a rack in the upper half of the oven.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the flour and 1 teaspoon salt together until incorporated. Slowly pour in 1 cup of lukewarm water (you can test it on your forearm - it should feel slightly warm on your skin) while whisking. Stir until the liquid is absorbed and the batter is smooth. Allow to sit, covered, until the oven is hot. Note: the batter can also sit for up to 24 hours.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the batter. Remove the hot pan from the oven and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil - enough to coat the bottom with a thin layer. Swirl the oil around the pan so it’s well coated. Pour in the batter and swirl the pan so it forms an even layer.
Bake the chickpea crust in the oven for 12 minutes, until firmly set. Remove the pan from the oven and drizzle with the tomato sauce, spreading it evenly over the top leaving a 1/4 inch of room around the crust. Top with the tomato slices and dollops (or slices) of nut cheese.
Return to the top half of the oven and bake until golden brown on top and the tomatoes are tender, about 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, toss the radicchio, arugula and lemon juice or vinegar with your hands until well-combined. Season generously with salt.
Remove the pizza from the oven and top with the salad mixture, basil leaves and garnish with red pepper flakes. Enjoy immediately!