Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fresh Mint and Fennel Frond Tea




There are several vegetable trimmings that just don't belong in an all-purpose
homemade stock: cilantro, lemongrass, ginger, mint and fennel, among other ingredients. Their flavor is either too strong or incompatible with the flavors of traditional root vegetable trimmings. Using these ingredients to make fresh tea is a great way to use up these delicate yet potent leftover ingredients, and a healthful way to enjoy their clean and crisp flavors. When making fresh tea, use very hot (but not boiling) water—it can break down and destroy the herb's beneficial oils and unique medicinal properties. I made this mint and fennel tea the other day and it tasted fantastic. It yielded a beautiful pale green color and the flavors complimented each other perfectly.

INGREDIENTS
10-12 mint leaves, cut chiffonade
handful of freshly cut fennel fronds and/or fennel pieces
4 cups very hot water

METHOD

Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan or stump teapot. Steep for 20 minutes. The herbs can be reused several times for fresh tea throughout the day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Roasted Brussel Sprout Leaves

Brussel sprouts, when roasted, emit a wonderful aroma that's similar to fresh-popped popcorn. This tiny belgian cultivar's leaves are both chewy and caramelized, smoky and crispy when roasted to perfection in a 400-degree oven. I usually just roast halved brussel sprouts but, for this dish, carefully removed the leaves with tongs as they were roasting to give every inch of them a good sear.

INGREDIENTS
10-12 brussel sprouts, washed and halved (remove and reserve the bases for making homemade stock later)
6 cloves of garlic, halved
olive oil
coarse sea salt

METHOD
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with some olive oil. Place the brussel sprout halves face down on the aluminum foil, topping each sprout with a little more olive oil. Place in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using tongs, gently lift off the multiple layer of leaves from the sprouts, and place around the baking sheet, ensuring that the leaves do not overlap each other too much. Add the garlic to the baking sheet and return it to the oven. Check on the leaves and garlic every 3-5 minutes, removing any leaves that begin to slightly caramelize, placing those onto a plate or small bowl near your stovetop. Repeat this process until all of the leaves and garlic are slightly caramelized. Top with the coarse sea salt.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Raw Kale with Tofu Croutons and Pomegranate-Sesame Dressing







































I like to make this as a quick dinner during the week. Kale (especially in its raw form) is packed with nutrients, easy to prepare and tastes really good when paired with other textures and complimentary flavors. For this dish, I made a dressing by reducing some sweet, tangy and salty ingredients with toasted sesame oil and a touch of pomegranate molasses. The introduction of dry-fried tofu "croutons" to the dish adds some heartiness to this perfectly healthy and easy dinner.

INGREDIENTS
for the dressing:

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup toasted sesame oil
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB raw agave nectar
1 tsp pomegranate molasses

for the salad:
14 oz. firm tofu, cubed into dice-sized pieces (no need to press the tofu: dry-frying actually works better when there is some moisture left in the tofu.)
1 bunch of curly kale, destemmed and ripped into small pieces
pomegranate seeds (optional)

METHOD
Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Dry-fry the tofu cubes on each side until browned, about 7 minutes per side. It's not necessary to saute all sides. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then add the dressing to the saute pan and toss the cubes around to coat them. Allow the sauce to reduce slightly until it is bubbly and slightly thick, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Toss the kale and tofu together, and drizzle the leftover dressing from the pan onto the salad. Top with the pomegranate seeds.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spicy Thai Hummus

I love hummus. It's easy to make, cheap and packed with protein. I also love the spicy, citrusy and rich flavors that define thai cuisine. Could these two things possibly taste good together? This weekend, I got to work figuring it all out. I paired the plain yet noble chickpea with the vibrant and unique flavors of sriracha, coconut oil and cilantro, among other ingredients, with a fantastic outcome. I've made classic hummus a zillion times, but strayed far away from my usual course by replacing:
  • the olive oil with a blend of peanut, coconut and sesame oils;
  • the paprika with some sriracha;
  • the tahini with chunky peanut butter;
  • the salt with soy sauce; and
  • the lemon juice with lime zest.
To build upon and round out these flavors, I introduced lemongrass, fresh ginger and cilantro. Rice crackers (instead of pita bread) were a perfect vehicle for scooping up this flavorful, unique and delicate hummus.

INGREDIENTS
15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed
1 lemongrass heart, chopped
10 sprigs of fresh cilantro, stems included, roughly chopped
zest of one lime
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 piece of fresh ginger (about the size of your pinkie finger), chopped
4 TB chunky peanut butter
1 TB organic, raw virgin coconut oil
1/8 cup peanut oil
1/8 cup toasted sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 TB sriracha, plus more to taste
water to thin out as needed

to serve:
chopped peanuts
fresh cilantro sprigs
thinly sliced shallots
crushed red pepper
sriracha


METHOD
Add all of the ingredients to a food processor, except for the water. Combine well. Start by adding in 1 TB of water, and keep adding more until a desired consistency is achieved. Sprinkle peanuts, shallots, cilantro springs and crushed red pepper over the top. Serve at room temperature with sriracha and rice crackers.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Vegan Rice Krispie Treats






































Making and eating these this past weekend made me supremely happy. I remember eating Rice Krispie Treats out of ziploc bags when I was a kid and these kind of brought back some of those good memories. Last weekend, I visited the nice people at
Green Street Natural Foods in Melrose, looking for some Sweet & Sara Vegan Marshmallows to make these, which I found. However, the shop owner pointed out that Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme is better suited for making these rice krispie treats, as it melts instantly and is super-soft. I tried the ricemellow creme straight out of the container when I got home—it was rich and creamy and extremely airy and light. These turned out perfect: buttery, crispy, sweet and soft.

INGREDIENTS

4 TB Earth Balance
10 oz container of Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme
6 cups of crisp rice cereal
cooking spray

METHOD
In a large saucepan, melt the Earth Balance over medium-low heat. Add the ricemellow creme, stirring constantly until well combined. Turn off the heat. Add half of the cereal to the saucepan and mix well. Add in the rest of the cereal and mix until well combined.

Spray a large pyrex dish with the cooking spray. Transfer the mixture to the dish and spread evenly. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Minted Quinoa Spring Rolls with Toasted Cashews and Tahini


These spring rolls were really fun to make. Pairing fresh mint and raw tahini with quinoa created a rich and clean flavor that worked well with the smooth texture of the spring roll wrapper. I make this lime-soy sauce often to to go with a lot of fried dishes—but it also tastes great with this mostly raw dish.

INGREDIENTS
For the sauce:
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 TB brown sugar
2 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice
red chili flakes
1/2 tsp lime zest


For the spring rolls:
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed in a fine meshed sieve
1 cup water
2 TB raw tahini
1/2 tsp salt
2 shallots, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
olive oil for sauteeing
8-10 spring roll wrappers

METHOD
Make the sauce by whisking together the first seven ingredients. Set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the 1 cup of water to a boil, and add in the quinoa. Lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa has absorbed most of the water. Remove from the heat and add in the tahini and salt. Mix well.

In a small skillet, saute the shiitake mushrooms in some olive oil over medium heat until softened, about four minutes. Transfer to the quinoa. Next, saute the shallots until softened, about five minutes. Transfer that to the quinoa.

Wipe off any extra oil from the skillet and throw in the raw cashew pieces. Saute until they are slightly toasted, about three minutes. Add that, along with the carrots and mint, to the quinoa, mixing well. Place in a covered container in the refrigerator until cooled completely, about one hour.

To assemble the spring rolls, I use a large circular baking sheet. Run the spring roll sheets under some warm (not hot) water for about 30 seconds and lay it down on the baking sheet. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the mixture into the center of the spring roll wrapper.

To roll them, simply take the edge that's closest to you and fold it over the mound of quinoa mixture. Gently tuck it under the mixture, ensuring a tight fold. Roll it away from yourself just a bit, ensuring that the wrapper is tightly folded around the mixture. Now fold the sides in and continue rolling it away from you until its a nice cylindrical shape.

Before you proceed to rolling the next one, wipe off any moisture on the baking sheet. These will hold up very well in the refrigerator for about two days.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Roasted Beet Stack with Balsamic Vinegar and Fresh Thyme



My mandoline slicer is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. It's great for slicing beets because it produces perfect and uniform cuts in under a minute. Dousing those slices in balsamic vinegar and olive oil and roasting them brings out their earthiness while creating a unique caramelized flavor and wonderful chewy texture. When roasting, be sure place the bigger pieces along the outside of the baking sheet—those pieces will develop a beautiful char around the edges while the smaller interior pieces will develop a chewy texture and bright red color.

INGREDIENTS

2 large beets, washed and peeled
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, plus more as needed
salt and pepper
1 TB fresh thyme, chopped

METHOD
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease lightly with some olive oil. Slice the beets on a mandoline slicer and arrange on the baking sheets so they are slightly overlapping each other. Douse with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and flip all of the beets over. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, ensuring that the beets do not burn. Once they are done, sprinkle with the fresh thyme and then let them rest on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.