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.

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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.

Sprouted Buckwheat & Date Granola

August 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

Crunchy granola. Yes, crunchy granola is right and in more ways than the one mind-blowing, muscle powering, tongue tantalizing way I’m about to share with you. This recipe basically defines crunchy granola in the flowing floral skirts, worn sliver jewlery, kombuch brewing, feathers and fern trees, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, mung bean sprouting, beeswax boiling, make love not war, downward-facing dog kind of way. This buckwheat granola was my best friend during my mountain and rock climbing excursion through New Hampshire.

While we are on the topic; I Googled “crunchy granola” and was so amused (maybe a bit too much) by the Urban Dictionary definition of “crunchy granola bar” that I felt it completely necessary to share so you can use it to spice up your everyday vernacular.

Crunch Granola Bar: a noun used to reference a very attractive “granola”  guy. They are most often found in states like Colorado, generally in the mountains, at co-ops, or canvassing for the Green Party. A Crunchy Granola Bar is a vegetarian, if not a vegan, and usually buys from local organic farmers.
Example- Beth: “Have you met Kasey’s new boyfriend Brandon?”
Heidi: “Oh that Crunchy Granola Bar? I heard he just moved here from Denver.”

Hiking and rock climbing with two crunchy granola bars is not easy, so I made a huge batch of raw sprouted, vegan (if you omit the raw local honey) buckwheat granola and figured it would be the best fuel (screw over-processed power bars) to power my butt up the mountain as fast as my boyfriend and his friend. And I must say, it worked very well. Not only did we make it up Mount Washington, but we completed the ascent, which usually takes about 4 hours, in only 2 hours and 40 minutes (including our granola eating breaks). I was impressed.

Since the “crunchy granola bars” I was hanging with both spend most of the year in the mountains of Arizona and Colorado, they are into rock climbing. Because Rumney, NH has some good spots to climb, we spent our last day there so they could remedy their climbing craving. So, for the first time I climbed outside, and have to say, it was a lot of fun – but again, without my sprouted granola I probably would not have been able to keep up and complete all the climbs that they did!

After leading the climb so I could top rope, Shann decided try a route that was unconventional before he cleaned the route.

Between climbs I came across some pretty cool looking mushrooms but decided to stick with eating the granola. I don’t think hallucinating is smart while rock climbing but what do I know? Anyways, let’s talk about this granola. Buckwheat is a serious power food. Not only is it gluten-free, but it also, according to Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, may help to lower blood glucose levels which allow those who enjoy it to stay satiated while managing and preventing diabetes. Plus, buckwheat is high in fiber, flavonoids and minerals such as magnesium. These mirconutirents harmonize to synergistically lower LDL (low density lipoproteins aka bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (high-density lipoproteins aka healthy cholesterol). Almost as impressive as our Mt. Washington ascent, huh?

This is a pretty common edible mushroom called Hen of the Woods or Maitake which is found on or near dilapidated oak trees.

Sprouted Buckwheat & Date Granola

3 1/2 cups raw buckwheat*,  25 large Medjool dates,  1 cup water,  2 Tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil,  2 Tbsp raw honey (optional),  1 Tbsp organic vanilla extract,   1 tsp Himalayan pink salt, 2 Tbsp Ceylon Cinnamon, 2 cups whole raw nuts (almonds, pecans or cashews),  1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

*the amount will increase after sprouting because the buckwheat will hold water

Optional Additions: Flax seeds (raw or sprouted), crystallized ginger,  dried Turkish or Black Mission figs, dried bananas, seeds, cacao nibs or beans, etc.

To Sprout: Rinse the buckwheat in a sieve, then put it in a baking dish or bowl fully submerged in water. Let the buckwheat sit in the water for 1 hour. After an hour, pour the buckwheat back into the sieve and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 24-48 hours (depending on how sprouted you want them) rinsing every 12 hours. When you begin to see the “tails” you can make the granola.

Date Paste: In a blender, combine 18 dates, the water, coconut oil, honey (if using), vanilla and pink salt until they for a somewhat smooth paste. Taste and adjust adding more dates, honey or vanilla depending on your preferences.

Meanwhile, chop up the remaining dates into fourths. Mix dates, nuts, coconut and cinnamon into the sprouted buckwheat. Add the date paste making sure to scrape every last drop from the blender into the buckwheat mixture.

To “Dehydrate”: Set your oven to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly coat with coconut oil. Split the buckwheat mixture into two and evenly press it out on to the baking sheets. Dehydrate for 10 to 24 hours until the date paste is dry and the buckwheat forms sheets or clusters.

Note: My oven takes about 20 hours set on the “drying” setting, but every oven will be different depending on the setting and the heat. If you have a dehydrator, set to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit and dehydrate for 3-6 hours flipping the granola over after 1.5-3 hours.

Enjoy in yogurt, tossed into a kale salad (my favorite), with some fresh figs or berries, on a peanut butter banana, in nut milk or just straight up in big handfuls! Be careful though, this stuff is addicting…. and crunchy!

P.S. for more on sprouting check out this old post or this recipe.

 

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!

Oaxaca: The Proud Cuisine of a Humble People

May 14, 2012 § 3 Comments

A woman cleans, packages, and sells produce outside Oaxaca’s 20 de Novembre market.

Known all throughout the world, Mexico’s (especially Oaxaca’s) food culture is nothing short of vivacious, but what gives it the pure liveliness we know and love it for today?

El Pochote Market is an all organic market with vendors (all women aside from the man who sells mezcal) selling everything from chocolate and coffee to tamales.

A delicious meal; organic chicken stuffed with Oaxacan cheese served with orange glazed carrots and mashed potatoes at El Pochote Market.

The Mexican foodways are part of a dynamic culture rooted in resistance, but also in adaption. As we look at our diets now, in the modern era, it is imperative to consider who we are, who came before us and who came before them; as all these details determine the foodways in which we take part.

Chayote, the green-butt-like vegetables seen above, taste like summer squash. They are a staple of Oaxacan cuisine.

Mexico’s cuisine is defined by an intense preservation of indigenous foodways combine with those of the conquistador settlers. Many of the indigenous foodways have been preserved, many adapted and some eliminated. As food cultures evolve from cultural encounters, social and political hierarchies, socioeconomic castes, and the conjunction of surrounding life, Mexico is a prime example of how the richest food culture, those of the Aztecs, Miztecs, Zapotecs and Mayans, are those that have endured the test of time (even if they have had to adapt to do so).

As seen above, food is delivered to the market, purchased and prepared all in the same day – a fast way to do slow food.

In the Sierra Norte mountain range, most of the steep hills are plowed by oxen-team and used to grow maize.

Food, and how it is portrayed within a society often speaks volumes about that society’s culture, and in Oaxaca it’s clear that influences from all around the world play a pivotal role in the ever-evolving food culture. One trip to Oaxaca and it is quite obvious that influences from ancient, pre-Colombian Mayan and Aztec civilizations, from Spaniards during post-conquest period, from West Africa during the slave trade, and from Europe and America, also known as “Creole” have penetrated the Mesoamerican foodways yielding those of Mexico.

Oaxaca, known to many as the Land of the Seven Moles, has preserved the ways of the indigenous people, sticking to hyper-locally grown produce, spices and meat as well as traditional food preparations and gatherings.

The woman in the picture recently started a business making and selling flour tortillas. Each day she presses hundreds of them. Here she made us her special beef filling with bay leaf, cloves, chiles, avocado leaves and tomatoes then wrapped it up in a hand pressed tortilla.

What is so impressive about Oaxaca is that good, integral food is expected from and by everyone. Between the open-air markets and the sustenance farming, the women (and some men) of Oaxaca have fanned the flame of what it means to eat “slow food”.

The cuisine of Oaxaca is incredibly labor intensive (both in the kitchen and in the field) due to the from-scratch mentality, yet regardless of where you go, the women will only feed you the best of what they have. While in Oaxaca I tasted everything: mole, tamales,  hand-pressed blue corn quesadillas, tlayudas, elotes, traditional guacamole, chapalinas (crickets), chocolateatole, mezcal, agua frescas, agua de chocolate, flan, stuffed squash blossoms, etc, etc.

Chile infused spinach soup with hot of the comal blue corn quesadilla.

This beautiful indigenous woman enthusiastically sells her roasted peanuts, a popular Oaxacan snack, day in an day out.

Despite the fact that I’ve been back home, in the US, for a few months now, the spirit of the rich Oaxacan food culture still resonate with me. Each time I experience a new culture it becomes part of me. The spirit of the humble Oaxacan people serving their proud cuisine is now one of my favorites.

Elotes are spared ears of corn rolled in butter, chili powder, lime and queso fresco.

Now off to Israel and Greece!

Slow Food Snacking

April 28, 2012 § 3 Comments

Slow Food Snacking

Yes we, Slow Food URI, love local (Narragansett Creamery Ricotta) cheese with nasturtiums after some work in the soil. Nasturtiums are edible flowers with lots of possibilities; they can be tossed into a salad, served as tapas with cheese and crackers, stuffed, pickled or turned into butter to enhance its flavor.

Nasturtiums are like beautiful women; boldness is to be expected. With every bite of this seemingly delicate flower you’ll experience a water-cress-like bite that not even arugula can deliver.

Renaissance ricotta, nasturtium and a chive flower packed on a cracked black pepper, gluten free Glutino cracker.

Nasturtiums can easily be grown and can usually be found a farmers markets from spring to fall.

Stay tuned for Fiery Ricotta Egg Noodle post.

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

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