Smitten With Squash! Enter To Win a Copy

Smitten With Squash!

Smitten With Squash!

Zucchini season is here! Do you know what you are going to do with the next giant cucurbita pepo that gets dropped off on your doorstep? Well, if you need some fresh ideas on what to do with the bountiful summer squashes piled up at the local Farmer’s Market or appearing like magic under the wide leaves in your garden, look no further. Amanda Paa’s new book Smitten With Squash (The Northern Plate, Minnesota Historical Society Press $17.95) has lots of great recipes to help you truly celebrate the bounty.

In fact, this book will stay in use far beyond the hot summer months, since it is evenly divided between summer squash and all the lush winter squashes that we will still be eating through Spring.

Do you know your way around a Pattypan, Kabocha, Red Kuri or Zephyr? If not, You will love the informative introductions to all things squash. History, lore and of course, info on selecting, storing and cooking are all conveniently organized for you. The book is structured around each variety of squash, so if you find yourself with a hunk of Hubbard or a basket of Pattypans, you can just go to that section and browse for a recipe.

Then, of course, there are the recipes. Amanda has a lovely way with a dish, and there are lots of tasty and creative uses for all your squashes. If you are pressed for time, she includes some quick weeknight hits, and if you have a few more minutes, you can make a galette or gratin. Nothing takes hours of work, and everything is full of interesting flavors and textures. You can enjoy your squashes at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then polish off one for dessert, all with fresh new flavors to keep it interesting.

For the Gluten-avoiders in our midst, Amanda has made all the recipes with an option to use gluten-free flours. The recipes do an amazing job of straddling the divide between “regular” and gluten-free recipes, making them a perfect solution for the cook who wants to keep everyone happy. Nobody will know or care that these dishes are GF.

I have to hand it to her, Amanda Paa has brought her passion for this vegetable to your kitchen. Tacos, Pastas, Noodles made from Zucchini, and even Baba Ghanouj and Hummus enriched with squash will tempt your palate. I was immediately drawn to the Kabocha “Frites” with Spicy Sriracha Dip, but will have to wait for the Kabochas to come to market.  Muffins, cakes, even a pudding will keep your sweet tooth happy,as you get all the healthy benefits of squash.

Buy Smitten With Squash here.

Pattypans at the Farmer's Market!

Pattypans at the Farmer’s Market!

So, I made the Garam Masala Dusted Pattypans with Tahini Sauce. It was fun to focus in on those sweet little squashes, the ones that only appear briefly in Summer, so that you have to get them while you can. I found some lovely ones at the Farmer’s Market and at the Coop, so now is the time.

I loved this recipe, the roasted squashes are like roasted new potatoes, with spiced, sealed exteriors, but very juicy inside. Adding the garbanzos to the roast made the familiar beans wonderfully chewy  and nutty. A garlicky drizzle of tahini sauce made it into a meal.

 

Dusted with Garam Masala, Smoked Paprika and Olive Oil

Dusted with Garam Masala, Smoked Paprika and Olive Oil

Delicious! I, too, am smitten. Smitten with Smitten with Squash!

Garam Masala–Dusted Pattypans and Chickpeas with Tahini Sauce 

Sauce 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 clove garlic 
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro 
1/3 cup tahini 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
3 tablespoons water 



Squash 
1 1/2 pounds baby pattypan squash (about 1–2 inches in diameter) 
1 medium to large red bell pepper, cut into half-inch squares 
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and dried with a towel 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
2 teaspoons garam masala 
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
cilantro or parsley for garnish 
Greek yogurt for garnish 



To make sauce, place salt, garlic, and cilantro into bowl of food processor and process for 20 seconds. (The salt helps keep the garlic from sticking to the blade.) Add remaining ingredients and process for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl, then process for another 30 seconds. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If pattypans are wider than an inch in diameter, halve them. Place in a bowl with red pepper and chickpeas, then drizzle in olive oil and spices. Stir to fully coat and spread onto a large parchment paper–lined baking sheet or divide between two pans if one seems crowded. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until squash pierces easily with a fork. 

To serve, mound vegetables on a plate and drizzle with tahini sauce. Garnish with cilantro or parsley and a bit of Greek yogurt. 

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Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen Brings You the Nutrition CHAMPS

All Hail the Kale Salad with Almonds

All Hail the Kale Salad with Almonds

So you say you want to eat more veggies? Well, maybe you should get to know the Veggie Queen. Meet Jill Nussinow, the vegan chef who tirelessly champions the joys of eating plants. I’ve mentioned Jill before. I blogged and cooked a delicious dish from her last book, The New Fast Food which is all about using the pressure cooker to get genuinely healthy, truly fast meals on the table using the pressure cooker.

 

Nutrition Champs!

Nutrition Champs!

Her latest effort is an ebook, soon to become a print book. You can snap up the e-version of Nutrition Champs The Veggie Queen’s Guide to Eating and Cooking for Optimum Health, Happiness, Energy and Vitality at a bargain price at her website, and while you are there, browse her other books The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment  and DVD Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes. 

This time out, The Veggie Queen has constructed a new framework for thinking about your plant-based selections. You see, CHAMPS is an acronym. Cruciferous Vegetables, Herbs and Spices, Alliums, Mushrooms, Pulses, Seeds and Nuts are the chapters of the book, and if you cook your way round it and eat these foods every day, you will be buttressing your great health with the healthiest foods on Earth.

Jill is a good friend and colleague of mine, so I know very well just how completely she embraces the plant-based life.  Jill is a dynamo of veggie energy, and glows with pure good health. When most cookbooks promise that foods will be fast and convenient, they mean that there will be shortcuts, like using prepared foods. When The Veggie Queen does fast and convenient, it means that she is pressure cooking some whole foods like beans and grains. A fast food meal at Jill’s table is quinoa and kale, not pizza with fake cheese.

She walks her talk because she is the Veggie Queen, and an RD to boot. In CHAMPS, Jill reached out to her many vegan chef colleagues for their best dishes using the ingredients featured in the book, and compiled the contributions of about 40 chefs, authors and veggie aficionados. I contributed a couple of recipes, and am honored to be in the company of so many great champions of the plant based diet. Jill also filled in with her own recipes, too.

A collection of recipes from such a diverse group of contributors could have been all over the place, but I have to say, everybody knows what Jill is about. I know that when I was developing my dishes for the book, I was doing my best to channel what I think of as the “Veggie Queen ethos”.

And what is that ethos? Well, this is vegan “soul food.” Not in the sense that it’s Southern, but it’s the kind of food you want when you are hungry and your body is calling out for something real. It’s flavorful and diverse, hearty and sustaining, and genuinely loaded up with all the plants your body craves. You won’t find Jill constructing vegan cookies out of margarine and white flour, or touting her latest knock-off of a vegan hot dog.

This is vegan as it should be practiced, day to day, living the life, eating and keeping it real. If you eat the CHAMPS way, you won’t have days when you have to count how many vegetables you ate and realize that you didn’t hit that 5-a-day goal. You will meet and exceed all the markers of a great, tasty plant based lifestyle, with plenty of nutrition and variety.

So check out The Veggie Queen and her fun, eminently practical way of getting real foods on the table every single day.

We should all look for those CHAMPS on the plate, and if Jill is any example, find the vitality and health to pursue life.

Buy Nutrition CHAMPS

 

Hail to the Kale Salad

By Chef AJ

Even people who don’t like kale will go for this salad.

Salad

2 large heads curly kale (24 ounces) stemmed and finely slivered

1/2 cup chopped almonds

Dressing

1 cup raw almond butter

1 cup coconut or regular water

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 cloves garlic

1 inch fresh ginger

2 tablespoons tamari or Braggs’s coconut aminos

4 pitted mdejool dates

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

 

Chop the greens, then make the dressing. For dressing, combine all the ingredients in a high powered blender and process until smooth and creamy.  Pour the dressing over the kale and massage the dressing into the kale with your hands. Sprinkle with almonds before serving. “Like a woman, this only gets better with age.”

 

 

Preserved Lemons, Why Did I Wait So Long To Try Them?

Preserved Lemons, Green Olives, Cumin and More Give This Salad a Moroccan Spin.

Preserved Lemons, Green Olives, Cumin and More Give This Salad a Moroccan Spin.

Preserved lemons have always been on my list of things to try making. Not at the top, but on there. Most recipes that call for them seem to involve chicken and fish, so I figured maybe that was what they were all about. That and I already work lemon zest and juice into just about everything in my kitchen- how much better could the salted, aged lemons be?

Duh, for somebody who is so into fermented foods and umami, I let this one get by me for far too long.

So when I got a request to make them, I thought, finally, yes, especially because Meyer lemons are in the market. Perfect.

So, if you thought, as I did, that there was alot of work involved, you have been lead astray. They couldn’t be easier, or more flexible. Basically, you trim the stem tip off the lemons, cut them in quarters (but not all the way!) and then salt them as you pack them in a jar. Pack them in tightly, and have a few extra lemons to squeeze over them in the jar, so they are covered with salty lemon brine. If you are so inclined, you can add some spices, like whole cuminseeds, whole coriander seeds, tiny red chiles, or other flavors.

Let them sit out at room temp for a month or so. Since they are your very own lemons, you can open them up and taste them to see how they are doing. When they are soft and taste a little fermented, put them in the fridge.  You want the peels to become silky soft. The fermentation gives the lemons a boost of complexity and umami, although the main flavor is tangy and salty.

So once you have this jar of magical lemoniness, what do you do with it? It’s a very fun ingredient to play with, just look at your usual standards that include citrus or vinegar and try them with some preserved lemon. It’s summer, so salsas, guac, gazpacho, and salads of all sorts can benefit from a mysteriously different bit of lemon.

Or, give this easy salad a try. It can easily grow to include chickpeas, crumbled feta, or tofu chunks if you are looking for a main course.

It’s lemon magic, in a jar. Don’t wait as long as I did to try it!

Farro with Preserved Lemons, Olives and Tomatoes

Serves 4

2 cups cooked Farro or for GF- brown rice (about 1/2 cup raw before cooking)

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

8 large green olives, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

1 large red fresno chile, slivered

1/2 preserved lemon, pulp rinsed and zest chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups salad spinach

 

In a large bowl, combine the grain, tomatoes, olives, onion, chile and lemons. Drizzle with olive oil, cumin and salt and toss to mix. Serve on spinach.

Fun with the Juicer: Cucumber-Lime Sorbet!

Cooling Cucumber Sorbet, with a Kiss of Lime

Cooling Cucumber Sorbet, with a Kiss of Lime

As you may know, I’ve been juicing up a storm, taking my juicers out on the road, and doing lots of talking about juicing. It’s been a ball (the occasional oddness aside) and I’ve found that I am even more inspired to broaden out from my own juicing habits.

So as I was setting up to make my juice for the day, pulling out my cucumbers, greens, apples and lemons, I decided that I should make something completely different.

Today, as well as my juice for drinking, I decided to make dessert. Yes, a cucumber juice sorbet that would be cooling on so many levels.

Cucumber is already a cooling food, capable of creating balance in an over-heated body. According to the timeless Paul Pitchford book, Healing with Whole Foods, cucumber is cooling in its energy, diuretic, and it cleanses the liver and lifts depression. It helps with conditions of heat, such as inflammation, sore throats, acne and more. Cucumbers are good for the skin, both eaten and applied topically. When you leave the cucumber skin on, it’s high in silicon, chlorophyll and magnesium, and helps clear cholesterol from the blood and supports a healthy heart.

So, a cooling vegetable made into a frozen sorbet will be a perfect antidote to the current temps and humidity. As a bonus I’ll cleanse my liver and clear up any inflammation that might have been creeping up on me.

And who am I kidding? This is nothing but fun. I’m enjoying the heck out of this cool, lush little dessert. This is like one of those sorbets that chefs send out on a little spoon between courses-the ones that you slurp down in one bite and then secretly wish for a whole bowl of.

Or maybe that is just me.

But I have a whole batch of this to revel in. Chillin’ with my juices, cool as a cucumber.

Cucumber-Lime Sorbet

The makes about 3 cups of finished sorbet, to divide up as you will!

2 pounds cucumbers, unpeeled (about 2 cups juice)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 cup full-fat organic coconut milk

1/2 cup light agave syrup

First, make the juice. I left the pulp knob on my Hurom on open, which made the juice extra pulpy. More fiber. Stir in the lime.

If your coconut milk is lumpy, heat it briefly just to mix in the lumps, and whisk in the agave.

Mix it all together and freeze in your ice cream machine according to manufacturers instructions.

Nasturtiums, Beautiful, Edible, and Easy to Grow

IMG_3887

Black Ramen in Basil-Nasturtium Leaf Pesto with Garlic Chives

I love planting nasturtiums in my flower box. They start easily from seed, and quickly billow up and spill over over the sides of the box, trailing in a colorful show of flowery energy. Their leaves are shaped like little lily pads, lifting their faces to the sun. I always plant a mix of colors, and the plants flower generously all summer long.

They are so pretty, in fact, that I almost forget that I also love to eat them. Edible flowers always seem like a touch of magic, as if a faerie built my salad with woodland plants. They remind me to take a moment to look at my food.

They are tasty, too. The tender green leaves taste lemony, with an herbal tartness that makes them a fabulous addition to salads, even soups. The flowers themselves have a similar, if milder tanginess.

I’ve used them as my go-to cake decoration, and the blooms can just be pressed into the frosting on the sides and top of a cake for an all-natural finish. Much easier than mixing up a bunch of colored frosting and piping flowers!

So today, with the first basil ready to trim and garlic chives multiplying in the garden, I decided to make a little pesto from the leaves, for a lemon-basil flavored noodle dish. I had a couple of packages of these gorgeous Forbidden Black Rice Ramen Noodles, and the thought of the brilliant blooms against the striking noodles was too exciting.

Black Ramen

Black Rice Ramen and Nasturtiums, Meant to Be

The Lotus Foods brand black rice ramen is gluten free, and whole grain, which makes it just my kind of new product. I first tried the ramen a few weeks ago during the whole grains sampling day, and loved it.

So, I figured that a simple pesto of the nasturtium leaves, basil and garlic chives would be delicious, quick and easy. So I threw them in the processor while the noodles cooked. It was that fast.

The whole point being that a light, not too oily sauce would show off the unique flavor of the flowers, and the nutty tasting noodles.

It worked out well. My flowery lunch added a just a hint of magic to my day!

Nasturtiums and Their Lemony Leaves

Don’t you want to cook with me?

 

Black Ramen in Basil-Nasturtium Leaf Pesto with Garlic Chives

Serves 2

Of course, this would be good with other noodles, from cellophane to spaghetti.  For a more substantial main, I would add cubed tofu or some pine nuts.

2    2.8 ounce packages black rice ramen

1/2 cup fresh basil

6 large nasturtium leaves

2 tablespoons chopped garlic chives

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 nasturtium flowers, leaves, and chives for garnish

 

Put on a big pot of water to cook the noodles. In a food processor, combine the basil, nasturtium and garlic chives, and process to mince. Add the oil and salt and process until smooth.

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain well. Toss the noodles with the pesto and garnish with flowers and more leaves and chives.

Roasted Rhubarb and Wild Rice Salad, Sweet and Savory Spring!

Roasted Rhubarb on Wild Rice with Blueberries

Roasted Rhubarb on Wild Rice with Blueberries

Oh, my Garden. It’s emotionally intense, compared to gardens I had in Illinois. The beginning is fraught with peril, as I watch weather reports for hard freezes and frosts, trying to time my plantings for the earliest possible moment. I have to be ready to jump in with my trusty trowel, often while the snow pile on the driveway is still melting.

If the timing isn’t right, and a book deadline or tour comes at the decisive moment, the summer heat will be on my late plantings before the spinach has even germinated, and that spinach bolts like lightning. A salad or two and its time to move on to kale, which seems to be more philosophical about the seasons.

Good thing we have such amazing Farmer’s Markets!

But this year, I may have gotten a good start. Sure, to the rest of the world, mid-June for rhubarb is absurd, but to me, it’s nice to have it. I’ve got baby kale, and salad-ready spinach, thank  you very much.

So it’s time to make salad while the sun shines. In this case, I thought it was high time I did something with my rhubarb besides the ever lovable sauces, chutneys and pies. Sure, they are evergreens, but the tart beauty of rhubarb offers so much more.

It was time to go (dramatic music..) SAVORY.

Well, with rhubarb, I can only go so savory, since it is so sour that you just have to goose it with some sweetness. But roasting it with thyme, salt and pepper and then piling it up on a big salad, that was a new thing for me.

Rosy Red Rhubarb with Thyme, Fresh From the Garden

Rosy Red Rhubarb with Thyme, Fresh From the Garden

So I chopped the fat, juicy stalks into planks, spread them on an oiled pan, and drizzled them with maple, thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. A brief roast at 400 and they were meltingly soft and a little browned.

From there it was clear that my local wild rice and some spring-themed berries would go well, and I had enough baby spinach to mix with some store bought greens and make a salad of it. I thought about complicating things by pureeing some rhubarb for the dressing, but it was nice to use some raspberry infused white balsamic I had in the cupboard.

You could always try that at home.

Roasted Rhubarb, Wild Rice and Berry Salad

This is a lovely side salad for four, although you could make a meal for two out of it, especially with a handful of toasted walnuts, or if you are into dairy, a crumble of soft goat cheese.

Serves 4 as a side

1/2 cup wild rice, cooked to 1 1/2 c
1 stalk rhubarb, 4 ounces
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, leaves torn
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, divided
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 cups mixed greens

Cook the wild rice, drain and cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. On a sheet pan, smear a tablespoon of olive oil. Cut the rhubarb in thin planks lengthwise, then in 3 inch pieces. Place on the oiled pan and drizzle with maple, thyme leaves and some of the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
To assemble salad, whisk the remaining olive oil, maple, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix with the cooled rice and blueberries. Pile greens on a large plate, then top with wild rice. Arrange the rhubarb over it and serve.

 

Farmer's Market Rhubarb

Farmer’s Market Rhubarb

Simple. Spring. Asparagus.

Broiled Asparagus with Walnut Sauce

Broiled Asparagus with Walnut Sauce

Our local asparagus is in, despite weather so tiresome that we can barely stand to make small talk about it. It seems that we shifted from winter to summer overnight, and the asparagus was there, pushing its way out of the muck. Kudos, asparagus! Huzzah and hooray for your insistent upward movement.

So I’m at first blush of love with my asparagus, still savoring it nearly naked, not ready to throw it in a pasta to be drowned out by garlic and chiles. I want to hear it speak, whispering something about rebirth, and renewal, and relentlessness.

Especially relentlessness. We all need a touch of that in this world.

So today I opted to go with the old-school purity of a Japanese walnut sauce for my asparagus. I’m sure I lifted a version of this from one of my Japanese cookbooks, and then did my American thing and added more of everything. But I kept it to the same ingredients. I held back from throwing in ginger, or pepper flakes, or miso or something. I tried to be still.

So I hope you will take a moment to be still and let your spring vegetables speak. Be here now, and all that.

It will all be over before we know it!

 

Local Asparagus and Walnuts

Local Asparagus and Walnuts

 

Asparagus in Walnut Sauce

Serves 2-4

You could grill this, to keep from heating up the house. I broiled the asparagus, but steaming would be fine, as long as you don’t overcook it. If you want to get a little creative, try a different nut, like pecans or pistachios. It will be delicious.

 

1 bunch asparagus

oil for pan

1/2 cup walnut halves and pieces

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon raw sugar

2 teaspoons sake

water to thin

 

1. Preheat the broiler or grill, and put the trimmed asparagus spears on a sheet pan. Drizzle with oil and roll around to coat.

2. In a large saute pan, toast the walnuts or other nuts over medium high heat, stirring and shaking the pan constantly. When the nuts are toasted and oily, transfer to a food processor bowl. Grind to a paste. Add the soy sauce, sugar and sake and process, then scrape down. Add water by the tablespoon until a thick paste is produced.

3. Broil or grill the asparagus until the tips are toasty looking and the skins are wrinkled. Serve drizzled with sauce.

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