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.

Lebanese Nut Rice

June 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

Top Left: Slivered Almonds; Right: Cinnamon Sticks and Lamb Bones; Bottom Left: Unsalted, Shelled Pistachios Right: Pine Nuts

Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

Rice is something I’ve always struggled with. I enjoy it when other people labor through the simmering and stirring for me, but every time I concoct a rice based dish I’m sorely disappointed.  Repetitive disappointment in the rice department bruised my ego a bit. I mean over half of the world’s population probably eats rice every day, multiple times. If they can cook it so well what was I missing?  The answer – the right type of rice. This recipe uses short grain rice, which is, in my opinion more palatable than long grain which tends to be a harder and more dry (in my very humble experience). This earthy combination is one not to miss out on. The recipe comes from a Middle Eastern cookbook, Artichoke to Za’atar by Greg and Lucy Malouf. Shann gave me for my birthday last summer and I must say I appreciate it exponentially more after experiencing the cuisine of Israel.  However, it doesn’t take a trip to the Middle East to realize this rice is exceptional.

In the book, Greg and Lucy suggest stuffing a baby lamb with the Lebanese nut rice. I didn’t have that kind of time and am sure that finding someone to sell me an entire baby lamb would be a lengthy project within itself. That being said, I think this rice would be tasty stuffed in anything be it the cavity of a chicken or between the fleshy walls of a cored tomato (or any type of winter squash when they are in season). So instead of stuffing I did a bit of modifying through out the recipe. In place of the ground lamb, I substituted bones from the shoulder of a lamb I saved after making lamb confit. I preferred using the bones because they provide depth without adding ground meat, but I’m sure the meat would add a pleasant texture, especially if you decided to use this for stuffing. Also, I used about a cup of each of the nuts instead of 2/3 of a cup. This is not necessary but definitely added more flavor, texture and richness.

Bones from anything be it turkey or lamb can work to add flavor if cooked in the rice stock. Fresh cinnamon sticks are necessary so be sure to find some that are fragrant.

Rice

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil,  1 large white onion, finely diced,  5 ounces of ground lamb*,  3 cups organic short grain brown rice,  1 quart vegetable stock**,  1 cinnamon stick,  1 tsp crushed black pepper, sea salt to taste

*Ground beef or lamb bones can be used instead of ground lamb. **Chicken stock or beef stock can be substituted depending on what meat or bones you use to flavor the rice. Also, you may need 2 quarts (8 cups or 1/2 gallon) depending on the rice you use.

To Serve

2/3 cup pine nuts,  2/3 cup slivered almonds,  2/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachio nuts,  1/2 cup olive oil,  2 small garlic cloves,  juice from 1 lemon, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Lebanese Nut Rice

In a large cast iron skillet or heavy bottom pan heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Saute the onion and ground lamb or lamb bones until the onion is soft and translucent and the meat is browned. Add the rice and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil within four minutes. When boiling add the cinnamon stick, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook without stirring until the rice has soaked up a majority of the stock. If the rice is still hard add 2-4 more cups of stock and continue to simmer until the rice softens and becomes chewy.

Meanwhile, heat the 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the pine nuts, almonds and pistachios until fragrant and golden brown. With a slotted spoon remove the nuts and add them to the rice when it is finished cooking. Save the nut infused oil.

Chop and smash the garlic into a paste. Heat 3 tablespoons of the nut-infused olive oil with the garlic and lemon juice until boiling. Pour over the rice when ready to serve

Enjoy with a hearty serving of tzatziki and some sliced cucumber with a indulgent drizzling of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Bon appetite.

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.

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.

Enjoy.

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!

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