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.

Lemon-stachio Pesto Crusted Salmon

May 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

With the bright flavor of lemony pistachio pesto and a bold fish one can not go wrong.

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There is no beating the pesto’s crunchy top and soft innards after it’s been roasted onto the flaky salmon filet.

Salmon. The go to fish of the USA: Eat more salmon, eat more fish! You’ve heard it over and over and chances are, you’ve bought some salmon and cooked it – possibly rather unsuccessfully? Salmon is tough, especially if you don’t usually eat fish, because it does taste like fish. Now in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with fish – which I eat often, but if you like pesto (Come on, who doesn’t like pesto?!), this is a good way to tame the bold taste of salmon without squandering it.

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*To roast garlic leave it in the peel and toss it in the oven (with whatever else you’re cooking) until the peel beings to loosen and the garlic is fragrant.

 Pesto, taken literally, actually means anything that has been pounded or crushed, as the word pesto has roots in the Italian word pesta and the English word pestle. With that being said, abandon your typical ideas about pesto and be daring. Pesto originated in Genoa, Italy (when I visited this region I was inspired by their seemingly competitive gardens laced with row upon row on perky basil plants) as a mosaic of  basil, pine nuts and olive oil, yet today there are thousands of hybrids. Here we’ll use some pungent roasted garlic, basil, spinach, pistachios and lemon juice to make a bright pesto, far from overbearing. Give it a shot and don’t hesitate to tweak it to meet the needs of your taste buds.

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Pesto

1 cup fresh Genovese basil leaves,  1 cup organic baby spinach,  1 cup shelled pistachios, salted  3/4 cup pecorino romano, freshly grated,  1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil,  1 large clove garlic*, roasted,   3 Tbsp lemon juice, black pepper to taste

Salmon

Use any species of fresh caught (NOT farmed**) salmon. One person can usually eat a 4-8oz filet. To be safe, make one 6-8oz (about half pound) filet per person. Left overs are delicious topping a salad the next day.

Lemon-stachio Pesto Crusted Salmon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit on roast. Cover a baking dish or pan with parchment paper and coat with oil. Put fish in/on the baking dish and refrigerate until ready to use.  Meanwhile, combine basil, spinach, pistachios, and pecorino romano in a food processor. Process until completely mixed. Add olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Pulse until pistachios are completely ground into the pesto. Pulse in crushed black pepper if desired.

Top the salmon with the pesto and bake for 15 minutes. Cut a filet open to check the middle, it should be opaque and flaky with an internal temperature of 140 degrees. If it is slightly pink, it’s finished. Let the salmon sit (out of the oven) for 2-5 minutes so it can finish cooking. Serve immediately.

**Note: Farmed salmon may help feed the global population, but it’s not the best for anyone. Due to it’s unnatural diet that consists of a conglomeration of grains and soybeans, it’s higher in omega-6 fatty acids, which you are most likely getting in abundance from your daily diet. Stick with wild caught to get the most authentic salmon flavor, an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids and a healthy dose of astaxanthin (With no added color – Yes, farmed salmon does have added color).

Bon appetit.

Sunflower Pesto

September 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Until last summer, my appreciation for sunflowers was insufficient. While in Tuscany, on the ride from Siena to Florence, we passed by seas of young sunflowers, each one synchronized; following the path of the sun (heliotropism).  The unison of their dance tugged me (and most likely every passer-by) to stop & enjoy the beauty of their simplicity… but we just drove by.

Last summer, I began to grow enough basil to experiment with lots of different types of pesto.  In the midst of experimenting I made something similar to classic pesto, but replaced the pine nuts with hulled sunflower seeds. I was not crazy about it, but this time, I decided to be a bit more adventurous.

When I say adventurous I mean it.  The very, very small bit of research I did about eating raw sunflower petals yielded some intriguing information, information that may or may not tempt you to try this for yourself. First, I ran into the possibility that the petals could be poisonous, which could be due to the fact that according to Science News some sunflowers are used to extract lead, arsenic & uranium from the soil. I decided to eat them anyway & I am still here, but I guess you should only use them if you trust the soil from which they’ve been picked.  Then, after reading a horticulture source that listed the petals as an aphrodisiac I second guessed exactly what type of “poison” Science News was referring to. According to legend, the Mayans used to make “love potions” with the petals, but I’ll be sticking to pesto for now.

Recently, I read about how the seeds of sunflowers contain a significant (relative to other foods) amount of chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant that can work to prevent type II diabetes by slowing the release of glucose (sugar) into the blood stream.  In fact, maybe you’ve heard of green coffee bean extract, or Svetol, a European weight loss supplement (NO I am not promoting this silly idea)?  Svetol’s active ingredient is chlorogenic acid from coffee beans. Chlorogenic acid however, is not only found in coffee & sunflower seeds, but is also found in sunflower petals (in parts per million, ppm). So, I went for it & I’m glad I did because it was phenomenal.

Enough. Here is the recipe.

Sunflower Pesto

2 scant cups arugula,  1 cup Genovese basil,  1/2 cup raw, hulled sunflower seeds,  1/2 cup unfiltered, raw sunflower seed oil,  1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese,  1/4 cup grated Romano cheese,  1/4 cup sunflower petals, chopped,  2 Tbsp lemon juice, black pepper to taste

Combine arugula, basil, seeds & cheeses in a food processor. Pulse until almost uniform texture. Add oil & lemon juice, then pulse until well combined. Remove the pesto from the food processor & mix in chopped sunflower petals.

Use the pesto to garnish warm bread or to serve over spaghetti with tomatoes. I mixed some into an arugula salad & was not disappointed at all.

Oh & by the way, did you know sunflower florets have their own mathematical equation to describe the pattern of the seeds, which corresponds to the golden ratio.

Bon appetite.

Rustic Tomato “Sauce”

August 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

Oh so many summer tomatoes…

Not that there really are any other kind.

Or at least any other kind that compare to the real thing. Buy tomatoes in the winter & I’m sure you’ll be sorely disappointed by the deceptive look-a-like that tastes like nothing more than bad water & mealy flesh. It’s curious how we still eat these winter “tomatoes” even though they are so terrible. I wonder, could it be an emotional attachment, a comfort thing? Our culture praises self discipline, yet can’t even wait for tomato season to roll around to enjoy them. To me that’s just the thing; if you are eating a winter tomato, there is a very slim chance that you are actually enjoying it. In which case, what is the point?

If you think the point of eating tomatoes in the winter is to get your daily dose of lycopene, don’t be fooled.  Lycopene is a micro-nutrient that gives tomatoes their brilliant color. It is an important anti-oxidant that has been shown to rid the body of cancerous cells, fight heart disease & lower levels of undesirable cholesterol. However, according to Functional foods: biochemical & processing aspects, by G. Mazza, studies have shown that lycopene concentrations are the highest in mature, vine-ripend, sun grown tomatoes during the summer (June through August specifically) months & much lower during the winter. Tomatoes that are available in the winter are seldom vine-ripened & are usually genetically modified to survive cross-country shipping. If you don’t think  you can go a whole winter without tomatoes, buy them now & can them. In fact, this sauce can be made in bulk, canned & eaten as a treat during the winter.

I can’t help but smile when I pick the real thing; sweet & acidic, tomatoes come in all different shapes & sizes. Honeyed sun-golds are highlighter orange & need to be picked before they anxiously crack open on the vine, deep green & ruby red, black prince tomatoes are bold & savory, while scarlet brandy-wine tomatoes are misshapen rouged orbs of luscious flesh. Regardless of which types you use, the blistered tomatoes in this recipe are just as esthetically pleasing as they are tasty. This recipe requires minimum preparation.  The outcome, a thick savory sauce, is great to top bruschetta, to toss with pasta, or to can & save for the tomato-less days of winter. Recently I used it as a sauce with lamb confit &  homemade gnocchi (recipe will follow).

Rustic Tomato “Sauce”

12-14* cups of tomatoes, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 6 garlic cloves, whole & peeled,  dried oregano, sea salt

  *this recipe can easily be halved and/or doubled. I used 12 cups of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and 2 cups of Amish Paste tomatoes, but any variety will work.

Preheat oven on roast to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, chop tomatoes to uniform size. If you are using all cherry tomatoes, keep them whole. Add olive oil, garlic, a healthy dose of sea salt & about a tablespoon of oregano. Toss & roast for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling & slightly blistered.

To Can

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Put 1 Tbsp of bottled* lemon juice at the bottom of sterilized mason jars. Fill the jars with sauce, leaving a 1/2 inch of space at the rim of the jar.  Wipe the mouth of the jar & secure the two-piece lid.  Completely submerge the jar in the water & let it boil for 35-45 minutes until the jar has sealed. Allow the jar to cool, then store. If the jar does not seal, it needs to be refrigerated until use.

* bottled lemon juice has a consistent acidity & is much safer to use than fresh lemon juice.  Instead of lemon juice, 1/4 of a tsp of citric acid can be used as well.

Enjoy.

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