Sugar Pumpkin “Hummus”

October 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

This is going to be quick; no convincing, no nutrition information or wordy phrases (sorry Paul) and it’s mainly because every second spent doing something other than studying alpha helices, beta-pleated sheets and amino acids seems kind of, I don’t know, unproductive. BUT we all have to eat so I might as well share one of my recent favorites.

I know, why didn’t we think of this before? Anyways, this can be used as a dip, a spread, a body mousse or a dressing and, can be made with other fleshy winter squash, nut/seed butters and spices. With that said, this lightly spiced pumpkin-tahina combo has been my favorite thus far.

I do have to mention that a creamy tahina (also know as tahini but I have had trouble calling it that since hearing Israelis throatily proclaim it tah-hina as if it’s a goddness of some sort) and pungent garlic are necessary here (since they are really the only ingredients). Cumin, sumac, nutmeg, black pepper, paprika or a touch of cayenne would certainly lend some character, but here is the base, you do the rest. Also,  I will give the recipe for homemade tahina, which is by far the strongest and most satisfying, but you can certainly fine some decent tahina around.

Oh by the way, I was joking about the body mousse thing…

Sugar Pumpkin “Hummus”

Hummus: 2 cups of sugar pumpkin puree*,  1/3 cup tahina,  2 cloves raw garlic,  about 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and fine grain sea salt to taste.

*Roast a large, gutted pumpkin at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or until soft then scape out the flesh. In a food processor, or blender pulse the pumpkin until sooth. 15oz of organic canned pumpkin works as well.

Tahina: 2 cups hulled sesame seeds, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or sesame seed oil and 1/4 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)

In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds one cup at a time until light brown and fragrant. In a food processor pulse the toasted seeds until they form a fine meal. Add the salt. While running the food processor, add olive oil in a stream, processing for about 15 seconds. Pour the tahina into a bowl and mix with a fork until there are no dry lumps. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.

Note: Freshly milled tahina can be stored in a mason/bell jar in the refrigerator for approximately 2 weeks.

In a bowl combine the pumpkin puree, tahina and olive oil. Mix until fully combine. Press (with a garlic press) or chop the garlic then add it to the pumpkin mixture. Mix well, and season with salt or desired spices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe makes about 4 servings. It can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for 4 days, but I guarantee it won’t last that long.

Black Quinoa, Pignoli & Tomato Toss

September 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

What do you do with a tomato beaten by the sun, scorched fiery red, with flesh so plump and juicy that it has folded over upon itself?

I found it cloaked with purslane beneath a mound of weeds while picking kale at my secret kale picking spot.  I got lucky, had it been there much longer it probably would have turned to mush, but its scarlet skin caught my eye. Tomatoes are delicious, but I only eat them in the summer because, well you know; they suck in the winter. First off, they are gassed red with ethylene gas made from petroleum. Secondly who wants to eat a cold, watery tomato when it’s snowing – I’ll take a warm, sweet buttercup squash over a mealy tomato any winter day. Anyways, a lot of the tomatoes we grow end up getting cooked down and jarred, so they can be used when the days are short and there is snow on the ground, but big ones like these require eating now.

Brandywine, Amish paste, Aunt Rudy’s paste, Pineapple Bicolor (my personal favorite), Sungold, Cherokee Purple, Black Prince, Cosmonaut Volkov, Green Zebra, Big Boy, Verde Puebla, Tomatillos, Jubilee, Rutger’s, Early Girl, Grandma Mary’s paste and Black Krim tomatoes made up this summer’s collection. I will miss going into the backyard before every meal, but I am relishing in it, using every bit of fresh food that I can.

So, while tomatoes are everywhere you should be throwing them into everything (unless of course you’re allergic to them, in which case I’m very sorry but you’ll have to sit this one out)! Here I’ve combine bright tomatoes with organic black quinoa, pignoli (aka pine nuts but pignoli sounds so much better), basil and a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice. This recipe is fast and delicious, it’s vegan, gluten-free and because it’s quinoa based, it is a good source of complete protein.  Oh, and it makes a convenient salad topper; keep it in your refrigerator and scoop some onto a bowl of hearty spinach or spicy arugula.

Black Quinoa, Pignoli & Tomato Toss

2 3/4 cups vegetable broth,  1 cup black quinoa,  1/2 cup pignoli nuts,  4 large tomatoes, any variety, diced,  1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped,  juice from 1/2  of a lemon,  1/2 tbsp dried mint, 1 tsp dried tarragon, black pepper and sea salt to taste and extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sauce pan over high heat bring 2 cups of vegetable broth and quinoa to a boil. Once boiling, cover and turn the heat down to medium. Stir every couple of minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid.

If the quinoa doesn’t fluff up, but remains chewy add the remaining 3/4 cup of broth and continue to cook over medium heat until the liquid is gone and the quinoa is fluffy. When finished quinoa has tiny white strands that separate from the black part of the grain (see above).

When the quinoa is completely finished toss it with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, transfer it to a serving bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until cool.

While the quinoa is cooling, dry roast the pignoli nuts in a cast iron skillet or saute pan. This takes less than 5 minutes. Once the pan is hot the nuts will brown and become fragrant; this means they are finished.

Chop the tomatoes, discarding the water and seeds in the center; this prevents the dish from being watery.  Julienne the basil and combine it with dried mint, tarragon, lemon juice and a teaspoon of olive oil.

When the quinoa has cooled toss in the basil dressing and the pignoli nuts. Season with salt and black pepper before serving.

Enjoy.

Sweet Kale Breakfast Salad

July 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

It makes sense to eat what the garden gives you right?

We are in the heat of the summer and finally the zucchinis are sprouting their phallic protrusions like it’s going out of style, the cucumber vines are spotted with petite yellow flowers that morph into miniature cucs, the nasturtiums are going wild, broccoli crowns royally spring up after every cutting, snap peas line the twirling tendrils, green tomatoes sun bathe trying to turn their sick skin ruby red, the chard is plentiful, garlic scapes emit their pungent fragrance and the kale isn’t stopping any time soon.

A small broccoli crown after a long rain.

A very fertile garlic scape, filled to the brim with seeds and flavor.

Russian Red garlic has purple cloves and deep flavor. This is an early bulb I pulled up last week – curiosity got the best of me. In the background are the first sungold cherry tomatoes of the season.

Large lilly-pad-like leaves of the edible nasturtium.

Along with the boisterous produce, eggs with yolks that are as orange as the sky at sunset are coming rapidly. The four chicks are growing faster than the purslane at the feet of my brandywines and I’m excited to figure out their sex. I’m hoping for no more than one rooster, but that would be some ridiculously good luck.

Good food is always plentiful in the summer as meals are always straight from the garden. It takes a lot to grow the food so to not take advantage of each morsel that comes from the rich soil seems silly. With that being said, I’m sure you can image how much chard and kale I’ve been eating, no? After eating greens for breakfast, lunch and dinner I guess it’s not surprising that I would start doing “crazy” things. First I started using nut butter to dress the leaves of the salad, next I added some fruit and then I went wild, mixing cacao nibs into my plate of Russian Red kale. Oh so good.

Here I used organic smooth peanut butter, half of a frozen banana and a dusting of homemade halva.

Not many greens can hold up well in a salad of this caliber, but kale is as hearty as it gets so experiment until you get the right proportions. Here I used organic peanut butter, a frozen banana and some homemade halva.

I guess it may seem strange if you’re stuck on the black and white idea that cacao = chocolate and chocolate = cacao but if you step out of the narrow-mindedness of typical associations, cacao is no more than a dried seed that belongs nestled between the chlorophylly leaves of your kale salad. Plus, cacao + kale = super food extravaganza. Together (2 cups kale and just one ounce of cacao nibs) they deliver over 1300% of the recommended vitamin K and over 300% of the needed vitamin A. Plus calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, fiber and more flavonoids than almost any other super food (think blueberries, wine, green tea, etc).

If that is not enough, both kale and cacao contain a significant amount of the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin, found mainly in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals is known to promote feelings of happiness and well being (ever wonder why chocolate is magical?).  Now maybe you can see why it’s a good idea to start your day with cacao and kale, never mind just consume the stuff in general. Edible optimism.

This is not really a recipe per se, but more of a suggestion. I’ve used raspberries, blue berries, or strawberries and  if it’s really hot I substitute half of a frozen (organic/fair trade) banana. Depending on the fruit I use I interchange peanut butter with almond butter but anything works. Also, I’ve been breaking up pieces of homemade halva into the salad to give it more nuttiness – it’s a  nice addition and adds some extra calcium if you like halva. Toasted coconut or buckwheat granola also work really well with the flavor of kale. Remember, kale is bitter so taste as you go to make sure you like the flavor combinations.

Kale Salad

1 1/2-2 cups raw kale, chopped, 2 Tbsp nut butter,  1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil,  1/2 cup fruit,  1/8 cup organic, raw cacao nibs or beans

Chop kale, toss it in 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Mix remaining olive oil with 1 tbsp of nut butter and mix with a fork until it’s homogenous. Pour the oil and nut butter mixture over the kale and toss.  Add nibs and toss until mixed. Add fruit. Top with the remaining nut butter and a sprinkling of nibs.

Share and enjoy!

Dandelion Flower Fritters

April 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

Hear the word dandelion & almost instantaneously feelings of annoyance pulse through your body. In our world of green grass, Scott’s lawn care & petroleum based fertilizers we have been trained to loath the petite flower-mimicking “weeds” .

On that note, I decided to take advantage of the fact that none of my neighbors would mind if I yanked a few from their front yards (first I made sure no chemicals had been applied).  Weeding with a reward, what could be better?

These little fritters cook up best right after you pick the flowers so fry them as soon as possible otherwise the flowers wilt & brown quite fast.

Dandelion fritters with arugula & dandelion greens

This recipe is so simple & will surprise even the toughest critic (14 year-old Dorito-fiending boys). The mixture of flint corn meal & light brown sugar quickly fried creates a crispy coating for these somewhat tangy flowers. Oh, and a dollop of soft chevre on the side never hurts.

Serve the fritters with their greens & you’ll end up with a plate full of vitamin a, fiber & potassium. In fact, dandelion greens (& roots) are used medicinally to clean the blood as well as for their diuretic-like properties.

To enjoy the essence of the greens, keep them simple. Mix the them with canola oil & season with salt & pepper.

Yes, I know they aren’t exactly the most attractive dish you’ve ever made, but I guarantee that after you try these fritters once, they will find their way back into your kitchen every spring.

Dandelion Fritters

2 cups of dandelion flowers, with stems,  1/2 cup flint corn meal,  2 Tbsp organic brown sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda,  1/2 tsp salt,  1/2 cup organic half & half,  large egg*, organic canola oil for frying

*I used a duck egg from the farmer’s market, but chicken eggs will work just as well.

Cover a plate with several layers of paper towels or napkins. Set the plate aside for later.

In a medium size wok or cast iron skillet heat 1 inch of canola oil over medium-high heat until ready to fry ( when ready, the temperature oil the oil will be 320-350 degrees Fahrenheit). Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine cornmeal, brown sugar, baking soda & salt. Mix well pressing out all of the clumps then add the half & half & the egg. Mix until smooth.

When the batter is smooth, dip the flower end of the dandelion into the batter until it’s fully covered. Carefully place the battered flower into the hot oil. Watch the flowers closely as they will brown very quickly. As soon as the fritter turns golden brown flip it over to fry the other side, remove it (with a slotted spoon) & place on the paper towels to soak off some of the excess oil.

Buon Appetito

Tea Simmered Winter Squash Quinoa

December 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Simmering sencha: earthy, grass-toned, mellow & slightly astringent. Browned Garlic: bold, pungent, spicy & sweet.  Preserved Lemon: bright, acidic & a bit adventurous.

These flavors from common kitchen foods meld together to create something worth repeating; again and again and again.

Anyone who has been sorely disappointed by the flavor, or lack there of, in quinoa can join the millions. I’m sure many people who are on the quest toward healthier eating lug home a bag of this protein-packed grain in hopes it will solve all of their problems. They get home, cook the grain in water, add some salt, pepper & olive oil & never touch it again. To those of you who have experienced that, this will certainly change your minds. Plus, who doesn’t love butternut squash & some savory mushrooms?

Oyster mushrooms add some "umami" depth to an already teeming-with flavor & nutrients vegetable-grain dish.

Not to mention the fact the this is a perfect whole grain option for people who have to eat gluten-free. Whole grains (wheat berries, oats, barley, rye, millet, amaranth, etc) were not meant be consumed in the ugly form of “whole wheat” pre-sliced bread, “whole wheat” Pillsbury Frudals, “whole grain” pre-made packaged pancakes or any of the like (I’m not kidding, this is what our government, according to MyPlate, considers a serving of whole grains).  Whole grains are meant to nourish our bodies – stop falling for the health claims on the sides of corporate packaged foods & get adventurous.

People complain that it is too expensive to eat healthfully, but buying bulk whole grains is probably one of the cheapest things you can get. Things get expensive when you start buying the “healthy” packaged stuff.  Oh, and forget the MyPlate recommendations – let’s make all of our grains whole.

But getting back to the bliss; if you don’t have preserved lemons this really won’t be the same. I’m sure you could try peeling lemons, then letting the peels hang out in sea salt for a couple days & you would probably get something similar, but if you want to preserve your own lemons the link is here: Preserved Lemons. Or you can always buy them online (if you’re in a rush): Buy Preserved Lemons

Tea Simmered Winter Squash Quinoa

5 cups of water,  5 heaping Tbsp Sencha tea (5 green tea bags works too), 2 cups white quinoa,  2 whole butternut squash,  1 cup mushrooms, assorted, chopped,  7 cloves of garlic, 1 preserved lemon,  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp,  3 Tbsp dried oregano,  feta cheese to garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit on roast. Slice the squash into 1 inch thick pieces & roast for 35 minutes until the skin has lifted & the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork. Fill a medium sauce pan with 5 cups of water – cover & bring to a boil. Add the tea & steep for 10 minutes. Strain the water to remove the loose tea leaves or remove the tea bags. Add the quinoa & bring to a rapid boil while covered, then reduce the heat & stir constantly (keeping it uncovered) until the quinoa has absorbed all the water (it will be light, fluffy & will expand to about four times the original amount).

Meanwhile, peel garlic & gently smash it under the side of a large knife. This can be done by putting the garlic on a cutting board, holding your knife so the blade is parallel to the bored & banging the side of the blade with the heel of your hand to squish the garlic. Slice the lemon vertically into eighths, then chop the slices into 1/4 of an inch pieces.

In a skillet add olive oil & heat for 2 minutes. When oil is warmed, add garlic & the chopped lemons. After 5 minutes add the oregano. Continue cooking over medium heat until the garlic is browned. When the garlic is golden brown, pour the oil mixture over the quinoa.

In the same skillet used to brown the garlic, saute the chopped mushrooms in 1 Tbsp of olive oil until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Chop the squash into cubes & toss into the quinoa. Add the sauteed mushrooms, taste & season as desired. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil & throw in a handful of feta for added creaminess.

This is a good recipe to make at the beginning of the week & refrigerate. It tastes great on top of kale or spinach or can be reheated for a quick dinner.

Enjoy.

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