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.



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!

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.


Kale & Roasted Raisin Jumble

November 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Toasted fennel seeds, chewy roasted raisins, slightly charred red onion & of course the indispensable winter green, kale.

Now don’t go turning up your nose saying I’ve tried kale, I hate it & everything about it, or the infamous I’d cook that but my husband & kids will kick me out, because there is a secret to eating kale – actually, it’s a secret to harvesting kale. Kale harvested after a frost is much sweeter & more palatable than summertime kale. All it takes is a little chill & kale is transformed almost as much as a scrawny young girl after puberty – I’m not kidding. It’s probably best if I leave out the fact that it’s high in calcium, beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin K, sulforaphane, a molecule in all cruciferous & brassicas vegetables that is known for it’s anti-cancer properties & a plethora of various other carotinoids, at the risk that you’ll think I’m just trying to convince you to eat it. I’m not though, I promise. Skip the kale & their will be more for me.

Fennel seeds change from a muted green to a brilliant golden after being heated. Their licorice-like aroma will enhance salads, breads & cookies.

This recipe may seem like it has some tediously skip-able steps, like toasting the fennel or baking the raisins, but I assure you that they are there for a reason. Toasting the fennel seeds allows for a multi-sense experience. As the volatile oils are released, we are able to not only enjoy the flavor of the seeds, but also enjoy the aroma. The raisins are heated to further concentrate the sugar simple sugars, glucose & fructose, as heating is just a way of drawing out more water.

Maybe I'm bias because I'm sitting here eating this, but this picture does no justice to the flavor combinations in this dish.

Kale & Roasted Raisin Jumble

  • 8 large leaves of kale, stemmed & chopped
  • 2 red onions, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings
  • 1 cup of any grain, or pasta*
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 1/3 cup of raisins, roasted
  • 4 Tbsp fennel seed, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (garlic salt)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper & salt to taste

*Here I used sprouted bulgur wheat, but quinoa, amaranth, barley, linguini, orecchiette, etc will do. Sprouted bulgur is cooked in the microwave with 1 cup of bulgur to 2 cups of water, covered well, for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to roast (or bake) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add onions to a skillet over medium heat & saute for about 10 minutes, until soft.  Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil, cover the onions for 2-3 minutes & allow them to brown without burning. Meanwhile, prepare what ever grain or pasta you’ve chosen to use. In a small baking dish mix the raisins & black pepper. Roast for 7 minutes, until the raisins swell slightly, then set them aside to cool.

Add chopped kale and 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the slightly charred onions and toss in the saute pan until the kale has wilted, but is still a vibrant green. Add the coriander & garlic powder. Continue to saute over low heat. Add the bulgur (or other grain) & walnuts, then salt to taste. Last, add the raisins & toss one more time.

Serve hot or refrigerate immediately. This will last refrigerated for about 5 days.


Wheat Berry Sumac Salad

October 2, 2011 § 3 Comments

Sumac is not poisonous, well some varieties are, but this lemony seasoning certainty isn’t. In fact the sumac I used was given to me by my boyfriend’s mother. Her husband just returned from visiting family in Israel & brought back with him lots of the spices his family uses in their everyday cooking. I am lucky enough to be a recipient of some of those authentic spices, so I figured I’d share with you.

Sumac can be described as sour. It is native to the Middle East & is used widely there & in the Mediterranean to season meat, fish & vegetables. I’ve been putting it in everything; in hummus, on top of salads & sprinkled on my pesto salmon (a recipe Shann taught me).  Sumac works so well in this fall salad, as it does add an unexpected tang to the otherwise standard grain-vegetable dish.

This wheat berry salad is relective of the colors of Autumn & the vegetables it gives us. The pepitas, translated little seed of squash, with their robust, almost chewy texture, simple flavor & sophisticated nutritional profile are a must.  Actually, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry the phytosterols that occur in many nuts & seeds can help to naturally lower LDL (undesirable cholesterol). Pepitas, have about 265mg/100g (100 grams is about 3oz) – pretty impressive for the inside of a pumpkin seed.

Now, if you are wondering where the sprouting part comes in, listen up. The wheat berries I used were sprouted when I bought them, but you could certainly use bulgur wheat, barley, or un-sprouted wheat berries as the grain for this salad. I used the sprouted wheat berries by Shiloh Farms & because sprouting does enhance the nutritional benefits of many foods, I do recommenced you try to find them (try your local health food store).

Wheat Berry Sumac Salad

2 cups of sprouted wheat berries,  1 1/2 cups parsley, any variety, chopped,  3/4 cup pepitas,  3 large carrots, roasted, 1 delicata squash, roasted, 2 small eggplants,  3 tomatoes,  1 large white onion, chopped,  organic refined coconut oil, cold pressed,  5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil,  2 Tbsp sumac,  5 sun-dried tomatoes, crushed into a grainy powder,  1 tsp garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper & lemon juice

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil, then remove from heat.  In a seperate bowl, cover the wheat berries with 4 cups of the boiling water & let them sit for an hour, or until they are soft enough to eat. If there is extra water that has not been absorbed by the wheat berries, strain the berries in a sieve. Refrigerate until ready to use.

*If you are crunched for time, this can be done it the microwave. Place 2 cups of wheat berries & 4 cups of water in a microwave safe bowl. Cover the bowl with a paper towel & a layer of plastic wrap. Microwave for 10 minutes. There should not be any extra water when finished.

Preheat oven, on roast, to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut delicata squash in half & take out the seeds. On a baking stone drizzle whole carrots & delicata with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté onion, eggplant & tomatoes in coconut oil for about 15 minutes over medium high heat until caramelized. Add 1 Tbsp sumac, salt, pepper, garlic powder & sun-dried tomatoes & sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from heat & mix them into the prepared wheat berries.

Chop parsley & add it to the wheat berry mixture. Cut the roasted carrots into 1/4 inch thick rounds & the delicata squash into cubes, then add them as well. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, pepitas, sumac & some salt to taste. Spritz with lemon juice & refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving sprinkle with some sumac.

Bon appetite!

Cool Dill Weed Yogurt Dip & Crudités

July 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

If there is one thing I’m sure of, it’s that dill weed & cucumbers have one heck of a sweet romance.

Fresh dill weed is irreplaceable when picked & immediately used to garnish soups, dips, salads & cocktails. It is refreshing, clean & somewhat sweet with a little tang of bitterness. Dill is quite delicate & loses it’s flavor when heated or is aged. I am not a huge fan of dried dill, but I’ll happily use fresh dill any day.

This dip is wonderful for the heavy heat of mid summer. Make it before hand, store it in the refrigerator & enjoy it with crisp summer cucumbers, julienned raw beets & sweet tomatoes.

I will warn you, this recipe is not for the chef who is opposed to taste testing as they go. Always go by taste for this dip; if you desire more richness add more tahini, if you like things a bit more creamy, add an extra hefty tablespoon of yogurt. I promise it won’t hurt. Lastly, don’t be afraid of adding water. I know it seems a bit counter intuitive to pour water into a yogurt dip, but the salt you add with off set water’s bland properties. Plus, the water really helps maintain the lightness that we’re all used to when we eat store-bought dips. Note: this will thicken when refrigerated for several hours.

Dill weed dip served with Lemon-drop cucs & Sungold cherry tomatoes

Cool Dill Weed Yogurt

1/2 cup organic whole milk yogurt or low-fat Greek (I like the Cabot low-fat Greek for this),  1/2 cup tahini, plus 1 Tbsp (made with roasted sesame seeds),  1/2 cup water, room temperature,  2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill, fine grain sea salt

Be sure to mix tahini well, combining the oil & the thicker buttery part. Combine yogurt & tahini in a small mixing bowl. Whip with a fork until the mixture is smooth. It’s okay if there are a couple of lumps of tahini, they will thin out when you add the water.

Add water in a slow stream while you continue to stir the yogurt-tahini mixture. After adding a 1/4 cup of the water, add a bit of salt & taste. Continue to add more water, stopping when you feel the dip has thinned out enough. Taste & add more salt. Season with fresh dill. Mix again until all dill has been mixed into the dip. Taste again & adjust seasonings if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Before serving, drizzle tahini over the top & swirl with a thin-pronged fork. Add more fresh dill to garnish if desired. Serve with crudités.

Enjoy everyone, stay cool!

Purslane & Calendula Salad

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Portulaca oleracea, with it’s broad shoulders and long body, has inhabited my culinary fantasies since the very second I observed it unearthing itself at the feet of the towering Brandywines.

I’m not sure you’ll think I’m sane when I tell you that I was more than extactic upon the discovery of purslane (Portulaca oleracea) in my garden. Purslane is a weed attracted to rich soil & humidity. Its deep tap root provides extra moisture and nutrients to the plants that have the pleasure of neighboring it & contains more omega-3 (alpha-linolenic) fatty acids than any other leafy green vegetable! According to the Journal of American College Nutrition, 1 cup of purslane has 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA ), not to be confused with linoleic acid. That means that purslane is about 35% ALA. Compare that to flax seed which is 55%, hemp seed which is 20% & soy beans which are only 8% & I think you may understand my slightly ridiculous excitement?

But I know what you’re thinking… “Okay, she has really lost it, she thinks I’m going to eat a weed. That’s funny”.

Would it change your mind if I tell you that purslane sells for almost $13 dollars a pound at health & specialty food stores, or that top chefs use it as a bed for only the most decadent entrees? Trust me, this stuff is good. Plus, I’m not telling you to lay down in the dirt & nibble it like a rabbit would- now that would be funny.

Purslane with calendula, an edible flower known for its healing properties.

In this recipe, purslane’s lemony flavor pairs well with the mild addition of calendula petals & sweet Sungold tomatoes. Sungolds are an exquisitely bright orange heirloom cherry tomato (found at any farmer’s market in mid to late July) that easily put all other cherry tomatoes to shame. I picked my first dozen Sungolds today & felt I needed to share them with you. Here is the outcome:

Note: the egg yokes should be mainly liquid after soft boiling, this serves as a dressing for the salad.

Purslane & Calendula Salad (serves 2)

2-3 cups purslane, ripped into bite size pieces,  2 large eggs, very softly boiled,  1 pint of Sungold tomatoes, cut in half,  1/4 cup calendula petals (about 5 flowers),  1/4 cup fresh sage,  freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt & black pepper

Bring water to a rolling boil in a small sauce pan. Add eggs gently, being careful not to crack them & cook for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of cold water large enough to submerge both eggs completely. After 6 minutes remove the eggs from the boiling water & gently crack them. Be extra vigilant, cracking them only slightly to allow cold water to move between the shell & the meat of the egg. Submerge the cracked eggs into the cold water. Let them sit for 5 minutes, then peel.

Mix the eggs, purslane, petals & tomatoes, then toss.  Add half of the sage, a quick squeeze of lemon juice, salt & pepper. Toss again. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving garnish with the rest of the chopped sage & Thai basil flowers (if available).

This salad is savory so I served this with a simple potato salad, but it would be delightful with a piece of freshly baked bread to soak up the egg. Also, if you are into bacon (from Pat’s Pastured of course), I think it might just be a great addition to this salad.


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