Seared Romanesco with Blood Orange-Olive Sauce, & Treating Vegetables Like Main Courses

 

All that geometry makes a dramatic dish!

All that geometry makes a dramatic dish!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Jacoby, co-owner and pastry chef at Vedge A vegetable restaurant in Philly. It was for an article about the trend in cooking vegetables more like the centerpiece of the plate, not the side. In the course of the interview, she described a dish that they make at Vedge with Romanesco. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I was so inspired by her ideas that I decided to try to make my own version of the concept.

Now mind you, the one at Vedge gets a blanch in seaweed infused stock, then it’s grilled over smoke,then seared to make a deeply flavored, complex centerpiece. I thought maybe I could just borrow the shape and the sear, and come up with my own sauce. At Vedge, this Romanesco is on a plate with a rouille sauce, saffron cream, a quenelle of roasted cauliflower and potato puree that has been sauteed to caramelize the exterior, and some shaved cauliflower, broccoli and Romanesco.

As Jacoby put it, “Steak used to be the most luxurious thing, but now people are looking at coconut water and goji berries as the way to pamper yourself. Meat is not the most interesting thing and not the only status symbol. You have to think about what you want to put into your body, too.”

Here is a link to the cookbook from the restaurant, Vedge  100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking.

So, with all respect due, here is my Romanesco. You could use a small cauliflower, if you don’t have access to Romanesco. The Romanesco is a brassica that traces its origins to the area around Rome in the 16th century. People love to debate whether it is a broccoli or a cauliflower, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s often called Romanesco Broccoli, or cauliflower, there was even an attempt to rename it brocco-flower at one point.

It is its own, unique vegetable. Resembling a cauliflower whose rounded florets have gone cubist, the Romanesco defies our concept of a vegetable. In a fascinating quirk, the florets are arranged in perfect fractals, cascading in orderly geometric repetition from the tips of the florets. The quirky beauty of the vegetable makes it a perfect subject for a treatment like this.

This shows off the shape, and also a uniquely charming flavor. The Romanesco has a milder, sweeter flavor than a standard cauliflower or broccoli. Like the Vedge version, I’m going to blanch it, which denatures and removes a bit of the strong flavored chemicals in all the brassicas. Then in the sear, we can get a bit of bitterness and char, which makes the sweetness more apparent, by providing contrast. Then, a roast in the oven caramelizes and concentrates the whole affair, taking the vegetable into a whole new level of complexity.

Once that is all built, a sauce full of tangy blood oranges and funky olives is going to call out the underlying subtleties of the Romanesco.

 

Beautiful blood red juice meets a deeply seared brassica

Beautiful blood red juice meets a deeply seared brassica

So, since I can’t make it to Philadelphia to try the Vedge Romanesco, I’ll just have to make do with this. It’s got all kinds of flavors, and the presentation will wake you up from your side dish slumber.

Oh, and give everyone steak knives. They will get to carve each bite from the big, juicy roast.

 

Seared Romanesco with Blood-Orange Olive Sauce

Serves 2-4

1 large romanesco or cauliflower

canola oil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

2 teaspoons blood orange zest (from orange)

1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice (about one orange)

1/2 cup vegetable stock

10 pitted kalamata olives, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly cracked black pepper

 

1. First, trim the base of the romanesco to make it stable, and remove any leaves, rinse it to remove any dirt. Set it down on the base, like a pine tree, and cut it in half cross the highest point, then lay each side flat and slice in half again. Brain a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Drop in the romanesco quarters and blanch for about 4 minutes, 5 if  it was a particularly large romanesco. Drain, let cool, and pat dry.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Lightly oil a sheet pan with canola oil. In a large skillet, heat canola oil over medium-high heat until shimmery, then place the romanesco in the pan, cut sides down. Sear, without moving, for about 3 minutes, then peek to see if it is browning. When the bottom is deeply browned, turn the vegetable and sear the second side. If desired, you can turn it to brown the tips, but it is not as pretty that way. Place the browned veggies on the sheet pan and roast for about 30 minutes, until a paring knife inserted in the stem of the vegetable slides in easily.

3. While the romanesco roasts, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and orange zest and stir. Stir occasionally and cook for about 5-10 minutes. When the shallots are very soft, add the juice and stock and raise the heat to bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, to reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the olives, salt and pepper.

4. Serve the romanesco quarters drizzled with sauce.

 

 

 

The Weeknight Vegetarian, by Ivy Manning

Beautiful, Tangy Tofu Soup

Beautiful, Tangy Tofu Soup

Ask anyone what keeps them from eating better, and most people say, time. No time to plan, no time to shop, above all, no time to cook. Of course, it is possible to eat great, vegetarian food even if you are crunched for time. It really is.

Especially with the fast and flavor forward recipes in Ivy Manning’s latest book, The Weeknight Vegetarian, Simple, Healthy Meals for Every Night of The Week (Weldon Owen $24.95)

There are plenty of lovely photos

There are plenty of lovely photos

Whether you are a long-time vegetarian, or a recent Meatless Monday convert, you will find some go-to recipes in this book. If you just have half an hour, you will be able to crank out many of these dishes in plenty of time. There are both vegan and ovo-lacto recipes, and if you are vegan, you will find plenty to love. It’s not hard to replace the cheese with your fave substitute, or to use tofu instead of eggs.

With the help of the handy pantry plan, you can use this book to eat well, year round. Arranged by season, all the recipes make the most of what is good in the moment. Manning provides a list of what is available in each season, and structures the recipes to use it to make fresh, exciting dishes.

Manning has an eye for building in lots of flavor, and collecting global flavors to keep it interesting. Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, French, even African dishes are translated into quick, easy dishes that pack plenty of the flavors of their homelands. From a creamy risotto to a mac and cheese, to a saag paneer or banh mie, whatever you are craving should easily be satisfied with this collection.

One really fast dish is this Tofu Kimchi Stew. Manning knows that a jar of kimchi is a jar of instant complexity and umami. The fermented cabbage and spice of Korea is one of the umami foods, which means that it has compounds that create a sensation of fullness and meatiness on your palate. This is a great trick for a vegan stew like this, and makes the light, plant-based ingredients into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Gochujang, the Korean hot sauce that contains fermented soy, is also an umami booster, as well as adding heat.

Ingredients for your stew

Ingredients for your stew

I made the stew in a few minutes time, and it tasted like I had slaved over it for hours.

The process is simple. A quick saute of onions, then kimchi, garlic and ginger, and then you just add vegetable stock, zucchini and some seasonings, simmer for ten, and soup is on the table.

A quick saute of chopped onion and kimchi

A quick saute of chopped onion and kimchi

I floated the gochujang in the middle of my bowl, leaving it to each diner to add to taste. Here in Minnesota, the heat from the kimchi may just be enough for the delicate palates around me, so I often leave hot sauce up to individual palates. There is a nice balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet in this stew, and you will not be disappointed.

So, if you are looking for a collection of weeknight recipes, check out the Weeknight Vegetarian. There are no fake foods, and the emphasis on seasonal dishes helps to connect the cook to the farmers who bring us our food. This is a great gift book for someone who is just dipping a toe in the meatless waters, since it is filled with dishes that will be either familiar or so interesting that they will want to try them.

For a tease, try this stew. Bravo!

All that Umami from the Kimchi

All that Umami from the Kimchi

 

 

Kimchi Tofu Stew

Recipe reprinted with permission of Weeknight Vegetarian by Ivy Manning, Weldon Owen 2015

  1. Canola oil, 1 tablespoonYellow onion, 1⁄2, thinly slicedNapa cabbage kimchi, 1 cup (4 oz/ 120 g) roughly chopped, plus 1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) juice from kimchi jarGarlic, 2 teaspoons finely choppedFresh ginger, 2 teaspoons finely chopped

    Vegetable broth, 2 cups (16 fl oz/ 500 ml)

    Small zucchini, 1, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1⁄4-inch (6-mm) pieces

    Mirin, 1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml)

    Gochujang or sambal oelek chile paste (optional), 1—2 tablespoons

    Sugar, 1 teaspoon

    Soft tofu, 1⁄2 lb (250 g)

    Soy sauce, 1—2 tablespoons

    Dark sesame oil, 1 teaspoon

    Green onions, 3 tablespoons thinly sliced

    *Makes 4 servings

    In a large saucepan, warm the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown, 4 minutes. Add the chopped kimchi, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 2 minutes.

  2. Add the broth, zucchini, mirin, chile paste (if using), sugar, 2 cups (16 fl oz/ 500 ml) water, and the reserved kimchi juice, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the zucchini is tender, 10 minutes. Break up the tofu into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces and gently stir it into the soup. Cook until heated through, 5 minutes.
  3. Taste the broth—it should be spicy, sweet, and a little sour from the kimchi. Adjust the seasoning to taste with soy sauce and additional chile paste, if desired. Stir in the sesame oil, ladle the soup into the bowls, sprinkle 
with the green onions, and serve.

 

Eye Candy! Hot Deals on Sweet and Easy Vegan E-Books

Get a Deal on Sweet and Easy

Get a Deal on Sweet and Easy

Have you gotten into e-books yet? Save a tree and download your reading material, if you aren’t already. Cookbooks will probably always be best on paper, for some people, but lots and lots of you are moving toward the electronic version.

Starting February 15th, you can get a great deal on the e-book version of my book, Sweet and Easy Vegan. These are recipes made with all whole grain flours and only alternative, natural sweeteners. For a bargain price, you can get my collection of healthy, natural treats that won’t give you a sugar hangover, just a pleasantly full belly and a feeling of gentle energy.

Dumping white sugar is a trend that continues to grow, and you can get the skinny on alternatives to white sugar and high-fructose corny syrup in my grainy little book!

To see all the Chronicle e-book deals, click here.

Here is my book on Kindle  or Nook or Apple i-books or google play or kobo

You can check out a recipe for Chocolate Chip Almond and Coconut Cookies here

These Yummy Cookies are Easy to Make!

These Yummy Cookies are Easy to Make!

And don’t miss the PB and J Crisp Recipe always a hit with kids and adults alike!:

Sweet_&_Easy_Vegan_PB&J_Crisp

Add Color To Life with Roasted Purple Carrots with Orange and Rosemary

Deep Purple Carrots with Orange and Rosemary

Deep Purple Carrots with Orange and Rosemary

Carrots have been orange for as long as I can remember. It was just one of those things we didn’t question.

Oranges are orange, greens are green, carrots, well, you know. But the original cultivated carrot, that primal progenitor of all carrots was actually purple. The original wild ones were thought to be bitter and white, so the purple carrots were a step up.

Yes, the great great grandmother of all carrots, orange and otherwise, was a Moroccan root, purple and spindly as the day is long. All carrots were a variation on this theme until Dutch growers got creative in the late 16th century and started breeding the occasional yellow and white mutant carrots to make orange. It is believed that the color was considered a nod to the House of Orange, and Dutch independence. The new carrots were also less spindly, sweeter, and became so popular that they replaced the old purple kind.

So, here in the US, you probably grew up eating orange carrots, never even dreaming that there was another way. But over the last 20 years, all sorts of rainbow carrots have been rediscovered and brought back to production. The purple carrots that are coming to market in my Coop are certainly not the ancient Moroccan kind, but a sweeter, fleshier version, thanks to careful selection.

And like so many assumptions about how things are and always will be, the orange-ness of carrots became negotiable.

A big reason that the purple carrot got a comeback is that it is crazy rich in antioxidant Anthocyanin. That is the same purple pigment that makes blueberries such a star superfood. All that purple just adds to the already potent nutritional punch of carrots, with all those carotenoids and antioxidants. What a delicious way to get super nutrition!

 

Lightly Peeled and Ready to Trim

Lightly Peeled and Ready to Trim

So to do my purple carrots justice, I wanted to play them up in whole form. So, I peeled them very lightly, preserving the color. Then, I tossed them with olive oil, herbs and chunks of Cara Cara Orange. The oven did the rest.

The result was a dramatic dish, deeply purple, with concentrated sweet carrot flavor. The orange adds a little tartness, and the result is spectacular.

Purple Carrots with Orange and Rosemary

Serves 4

2 pounds purple carrots, whole, or halved lengthwise if really fat, peeled

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

several sprigs fresh rosemary

1 large Cara Cara orange or other, cut in supremes and then chopped

a big pinch coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Trim the carrots to preserve the base of the greens, if possible. Place in a roasting pan and toss with olive oil, rosemary, orange and salt. Cover with foil.

Roast for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of the carrots. Stir halfway. Test by piercing with a paring knife, they should be butter soft. Serve warm. Keeps in the fridge for a few days, great to serve in salads or use to garnish other dishes.

 

Panini-Grilled Tofu and Veggies-Get More Out of Your Panini Press

Use That Panini Grill to Press and Sear Tofu and Veggies

Use That Panini Grill to Press and Sear Tofu and Veggies

You may remember that last week, I grilled apples in the panini grill. Here in the hinterland, only the most hard core grillers still have their outdoor grills in service. I’ve tried firing a gas grill up in the depths of winter. The poor thing blazed away and never actually got up to 250 degrees inside.

Right now mine is comfortably swaddled in its cover in the garage, waiting to emerge with the crocuses.

So when the urge to throw some food on a hot grate comes along, I can resort to a tabletop appliance. No smoke, no fire, but way easy to use and clean up. If you don’t have a panini press, you can always use a George Foreman, or even a waffle maker to do this. It might take a bit longer, but it will still put a good sear on the tofu and compress an imprint into the soft curd. That imprint is the fun part, creating pockets for sauce, while squashing the tofu into a dense, well-pressed chew.

The grill also does a good job of marking and searing sliced veggies, and makes kale leaves soft, then crunchy in spots, as it cooks the bit of marinade into the leaf surface. If you leave them in for a while, they actually become chip-like.

So, the most important part is to bathe the tofu in a flavorful marinade, which will both coat and flavor the tofu and have enough oil to keep anything from sticking. I made the whole package of tofu into slabs, and saved a few for a sandwich, as well as this lovely quinoa plate.

Tofu Marinating for the Grill

Tofu Marinating for the Grill

The simple marinade needs some sweetness to brown nicely in the heat.

Hot and Steamy on The Grill

Hot and Steamy on The Grill

Once the tofu is done, griddle some veggies, red onions are lovely. Anything sliced evenly, like zucchini, peppers, eggplant, just slap it in there.

Red Onions with a Brush of Marinade

Red Onions with a Brush of Marinade

And don’t forget some Tuscan Kale, brushed with some marinade, possibly a little extra sesame oil for extra fabulousness.

Oh Yeah, Tuscan Kale on The Panini Grill!

Oh Yeah, Tuscan Kale on The Panini Grill!

And it all come off the grill and topped a lively pile of tri-colored quinoa. Scroll down to see the crave-worthy sandwich I made from a few stray tofu slabs!

Pile that Riot of Flavor Casually on the Plate

Pile that Riot of Flavor Casually on the Plate

 

Panini-Grilled Tofu with Red Onions and Kale

Serves 2

2 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon organic sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 package organic firm tofu

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 1 1/2 cups water with a pinch of salt (you will not need it all)

1/2 red onion, sliced 1/3 inch thick

6 leaves Tuscan kale

Korean Barbecue Sauce and Sriracha Sauce

 

In a cup, stir the tamari, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil. Slice the tofu in 8 slices and place them in a large, flat bottomed storage container, then drizzle with the tamari mixture. Let stand for about 30 minutes, then turn the slices to soak the other side. Let stand another 30, or longer in the fridge.

Cook the quinoa.

Heat the grill on high. When hot, drain the extra marinade from the tofu and use it to brush the onion slices, put them on the grill and close it. Cook for 3-5 minutes, til the onions are soft and marked. Transfer the onions to a plate. Brush the kale leaves with remaining marinade (if you run out, drizzle with sesame oil) and grill them, a minute or two, longer if you like really dry chip texture in your kale.

Place the tofu on the grill and close, grill for 5-10 minutes, until the tofu is marked and firm to the touch.

Arrange half of the kale on each of two dinner plates, then scoop quinoa on top, arrange tofu and red onions, and drizzle with sauces as desired.

 

Crispy Whole Wheat Bread, Creamy Avocado, Chewy Tofu, with a Schmear of Gochujang!

Crispy Whole Wheat Bread, Creamy Avocado, Chewy Tofu, with a Schmear of Gochujang!

Panini-Grilled Tofu and Avocado Panini with Gochujang Mayo

Serves 1

3 slabs of tofu, from recipe above

about a tablespoon of Just Mayo or your favorite kind

about a teaspoon of Gochujang or your fave hot sauce

Half an avocado, sliced

a few thin slices of ripe mango

2 slices 100 %whole wheat bread

Heat up the grill.

Smear a teaspoon of mayo on the bread, then turn over on the cutting board (this will be the outside.) On one slice, smear the remaining mayo and the gochujang. Top with tofu slices, then the mango and avocado. Sprinkle a little salt on the avocado, if desired.

Grill the sandwich until the outside is marked and toasted. Eat hot.

A Grilled Apple Panini to Banish Winter’s Bite

 

Melty chocolate Almond Butter and Tender apples...

Melty chocolate Almond Butter and Tender apples…

By the middle of winter, you know who your friends are. The spouse who picked up burritos on the way home from work. The neighbor who shoveled the driveway when you were out of town. The friend who will meet you for coffee even when it’s too cold to cross the street. The  purring cat on your lap who keeps you from going over the edge when you start feeling like you are in The Shining.

Crisp, Ripe and Ready Anytime

Crisp, Ripe and Ready Anytime

One food is always there for me. My veggie drawer always holds a few apples. They can languish there for weeks, they don’t need careful shepherding to ripeness. Unlike the delicate pear or finicky peach, they aren’t hiding weird mealy spots, or pretending to be rock hard when they are actually ready to go.  No worries that they might be rotten to the core if I don’t catch them on the right day.

They have my back, so to speak.

It's better than the grill!

It’s better than the grill!

I keep a bag of small, inexpensive apples just for juicing. Adding an apple to my juice is a great way to sweeten it just a little, and add healthy antioxidants. Apples add crunch to salads and star in some of my favorite dishes.

Check out this juice from my book, Juice It!, the Super Protector, and enter to win a cookbook!

But now and then, I like to play them up a little differently. Like in this Grilled Apple Panini. I know, in Italian, a singular sandwich is a “panino.” So I’m making little panino sliders that are plural in the end.

I’ve got a panini grill. Now, you might think that a panini grill is only for making grilled cheese sandwiches, but really, you can grill veggies, fruits, and anything that needs a little two-sided heat. It’s a handy, portable tool when you cater or do cooking demonstrations out in the field. It’s especially useful when when you want to treat veggies and fruits to a little pre-cooking, then just slip them into a toasted sandwich. Try this with apples, and think about how you can do it with onions, zucchini, all sorts of veggies to go inside the panini itself, using the grill for more than just the final toasting.

Around this time of year, you are looking for a little something different, to break you out of your personal food rut. We all do it- whether you default to bean soup or burritos on the way home from work. So grab some apples and make a fun sandwich with them.

These petite slider-style treats can quell the hunger of the after-school crowd, or even be served at your festive brunch. You can even take the panini grill along to a friend’s house and grill hot, chocolatey, apple sandwiches there.

It couldn’t be easier, I just melted some very dark chocolate and stirred it into some chunky almond butter, but you could just grind almonds in the food processor, too. Peanut butter would be delicious, or if you want to drop the chocolate and go savory, your favorite non-cheese or cheese would pair well with the apples, too.

Using a Dinner Roll Makes it a Slider, Have Two!

Using a Dinner Roll Makes it a Slider, Have Two!

 

Grilled Apple, Chocolate Almond Panini 

Serves 2

4 plump dinner rolls ( I used a sunflower whole wheat, you can use GF, whatever you prefer)

1 ounce dark chocolate

1/4 cup almond butter

2 large apples, cored and sliced

canola oil for the grill

Prep the dinner rolls by halving them, reserve. Melt the chocolate and stir into the almond butter.

Preheat the grill on high. When the light goes off, brush the grates with oil and place the sliced apples on the hot plates. Close the grill and press lightly. Grill for a couple of minutes, open and check for markings. When the apples have brown stripes and are tender, take them off with tongs or a plastic spatula.

Wipe the plates with a bunched up terry kitchen towel, be careful not to burn yourself. Alternatively, you can do this part ahead, let the plates cool, and clean them beofer making the sandwiches.

Heat the grill again, and toast the insides of the bun slices, leaving it open, for just a minute. Spread the almond butter on the buns, fill with apples, put the tops on and then lightly oil the grate before putting them in. Press the grill closed lightly.

Grill for about 4 minutes, to get a nice toast and warm the nut butter. Serve hot.

A Cacao Nib and Peanut Butter Smoothie for Good Energy

Cacao Nibs for a Chocolate Boost

Cacao Nibs for a Chocolate Boost

I was in a bit of an energy slump, which is not the place to be when it’s 45 degrees in Minneapolis in January. Just as the coming weather pattern stuffed a chunk of warm air overhead, and sunshine streamed through the windows, I felt more like napping than walking. The walking paths around my house were suddenly brimming with smiling walkers.

Yes, there were people in shorts.

Luckily, I had a stash of cacao nibs that I had been playing around with. Cacao nibs are the raw bean that is ground to make chocolate and cocoa, simply cracked and dried. All the chocolate flavor, minus the added sugar and cocoa butter that make chocolate so sweet and rich.

Chocolate and peanut butter, two great tastes, wildly appealing. That would have to be the best thing to do with my cacao.

In practice, cacao nibs remind me more of coffee beans. Deep, dark and slightly bitter, they also pack a trace of caffeine, and the energizing alkaloids theobromine and theophylline along with that chocolate taste. So, instead of a coffee, I made myself a smoothie with cacao, and made it more of a meal by adding peanut butter, an apple, a banana, almond milk and a shot of vanilla.

Cacao is famous for containing chemicals that trigger feelings of bliss, or even love. It’s fun on Valentine’s Day, so why not put the beans into a tasty smoothie to share with my sweetheart?

It worked, and after we split this smoothie recipe, we hiked out in the unseasonable sunshine for a couple of hours. This was much tastier than a coffee, and we were properly fueled with real food.

Our Cacao Bean and Peanut Butter Smoothie was both a good pre-exercise snack, and a less-caffeinated, antioxidant rich alternative to tea or coffee.

Good Healthy Stuff to Buzz into a Smoothie

Good Healthy Stuff to Buzz into a Smoothie

Cacao is actually a superfood. All the qualities that you hear about in dark chocolate come from the cacao beans. They are really high in magnesium, and the whole nibs have lots of fiber. They even have some iron and vitamin C.

But their true claim to fame is their antioxidants. Pure cacao is higher in antioxidants than tea, coffee, or red wine, even blueberries and the other fruits we consume looking for antioxidants. Rich in flavonoids, cacao protects the heart, and helps to prevent cancer.

All that, and it tastes like CHOCOLATE?

Hop To It with a Cacao Kick!

Hop To It with a Cacao Kick!

As always, real food comes to the rescue, with all the great flavors of foods that are actually good for you.

Cacao Nib and Peanut Butter Smoothie

Serves 2

3 tablespoons cacao nibs

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 banana, frozen is best

1 small apple, unpeeled

1 cup vanilla almond milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla 4 ice cubes

Combine the ingredients in a blender and puree. Serve immediately.

The New “Hot Grain” and Millet Sushi with Avocado

 

Switch out Rice with Golden Millet

Switch out Rice with Golden Millet

I always love trend predictions at the beginning of each new year. Full of optimism and certainty, brave journalists try to let us know what we will be doing in the coming year. Will cronuts and cake pops fade away?  Will bone broth surpass juicing? We all want to know.

The Washington Post and Time Magazine online both posted lists of foods we will be loving this year. They even weighed in on the popularity contest in whole grain consumption. According to their considered opinion, quinoa will finally step aside and let millet, and possibly buckwheat, take their places in the sun.

Will it come true? Will millet finally make it out of the birdseed aisle and onto our tables? It’s a pretty good guess. If you look at what made quinoa into the mainstream food it is today, you can see some similarities, and also some big differences.

To my mind, the big selling point for quinoa was the protein. In our current obsession with protein (another trend that shows no signs of fading) quinoa has been singled out as a high protein grain. A cup of cooked quinoa has about 10 g, while millet has 6 grams. A cup of cooked amaranth has 9 g, teff has 10 g. Oats have about 7, wheat berries about 7. So quinoa, amaranth and teff are the “high protein” grains. Technically, they are “pseudograins”, but in practice, it really doesn’t matter.

The second big attribute of quinoa that made it a household staple was the ease with which it cooked up fluffy, with separate and not sticky grains. To my mind, that is what differentiates it from its high-pro peers, since amaranth and teff are teeny-tiny and cook up like porridge. Americans have not yet warmed to the idea of a stir-fry over soft porridge, and that is what amaranth and teff deliver.

Millet, on the other hand, has an enigmatic texture, which can cook up separate and fluffy with the right preparation and amount of liquid, or be a porridge or polenta with a little more liquid and a longer cooking time. That quality can be a curse or a blessing, as I meet people who have tried cooking millet and found the texture either too dry or too mushy, and given up on it.

So what else is the big selling point for millet? Well, it is cheap and grown in the USA, for one thing. Its gluten free, which is big these days, and has a lovely yellow color that doesn’t seem too “whole grain” to the critical eye. It has no branny bitterness, and is probably the whole grain that is closest to white rice in flavor. Which makes it a prime candidate for making Millet Sushi.

That cup of cooked millet has about a quarter of your days need for copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium, all valuable nutrients. Like all whole grains, it is protective of your heart, has cancer-preventive qualities, and has antioxidants.

If you want to get in on the millet craze, you need to know how to cook it. Then you can make Millet Sushi with Avocado, or whatever fillings you like.

COOKING MILLET:

For separate and fluffy millet: Start by dry toasting the grain in the pan. Swirl the grains over medium high heat until they crackle and give off a toasty scent reminiscent of popcorn. Then add water or stock, as little as 1 3/4 cup for very firm millet.

My secret to fluffy, not too dry millet? Saute onions, possibly a mirepoix with some carrots, maybe herbs or spices, then add the dry millet and cook until hot and toasted. Then add liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and check it in 20 minutes. When all the liquid is absorbed, let stand, covered, for at least five minutes.

For sushi millet: I used 2 cups water to one cup millet.

For porridgey millet: Start with three cups liquid to 1 cup millet. Toast if you want, for flavor. Simmer for about 25 minutes.

For millet congee: Start with 4 cups stock or water, simmer for 30-40 minutes.

So will millet be the hot grain this year? Who can say. I’m happy to see interest growing in any whole grain. If chefs are discovering my little yellow friend, more power to them.

 

A Little Wasabi and Pickled Ginger on the Side

A Little Wasabi and Pickled Ginger on the Side

 

Millet Sushi with Tofu and Avocado

Serves 4

1 cup millet

2 cups water

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar or agave

4 sheets nori, pre-toasted

1 large ripe avocado, pitted and sliced in 1/3 inch wide slices in the shell, then scooped out

a package of seasoned baked tofu, sliced 1/3 inch thick

1 large carrot, slivered

optional mayo

wasabi paste, pickled sliced ginger, tamari

gomasio for the plate (a mix of toasted, ground sesame seeds and salt, you can buy or make it)

Bamboo rolling mat, if you have one

First, dry toast the millet in a 1 quart pan over medium-high heat. Swirl it until toasty and fragrant. Take off the heat and carefully pour the water in, it will bubble up when it hits the hot pan, so hold it away from your body. Put back on the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and set the timer for 20 minutes. Check to see if the water is all absorbed, if not, let cook a little longer. Take off the heat, fluff, and cover for five minutes to let steam.

Mix the vinegar and sugar in a cup and drizzle over the millet, then gently fold in. Let cool to room temperature.

Place a sheet of nori on your rolling mat, or you can go rogue and freestyle it. It’s not hard.

On each sheet of nori, spread about 3/4 cup of millet, to cover about 3/4 of the sheet, leaving at least an inch bare at one end to seal the roll. Pat the grain lightly in place. at the end of the sheet of nori closest to you, place a row of avocado slices, a row of tofu slices, and slivers of carrot to make a neat line of fillings. If desired smear a little mayo in alongside them, or some wasabi.

Pull the nori up and roll the roll, thumbs in back, fingers holding the fillings in place. Don’t roll too tight, the millet will expand and explode the roll. Place each finished roll seam side down on a cutting board.

Slice each roll in 6 or 8 even slices, using a sharp chefs knife. Serve with wasabi, ginger,tamari,  and a sprinkling of gomasio.

 

Bashed Blue Potatoes for an Easy Appetizer

Beautiful Purple Potatoes with a Schmear of Avocado

Beautiful Purple Potatoes with a Schmear of Avocado

Oh January, we may be done with the holidays, but we still want to see our friends. Preferably over a plate of something that makes us feel happy. Even when you start your January plan, a tasty appetizer should never be banished for long. Life is for the living, after all.

Call it an appetizer, small plate, or snack, we all like a tasty bite to go with a glass of wine. You can follow up with a big salad if you really think it is necessary. But enjoy it.

Too often, we see the same bruschetta, chips and dips, and cheese cubes put out for apps. They deserve their popularity, why not try a different twist? Skip the bread, and your gluten-free friends will be delighted. Everybody loves potatoes, which have gotten an undeserved bad rap in recent years. Put out these blue beauties, still warm from the oven, and your guests can enjoy their crisp edges and creamy, rich topping, all while thinking that they are being a little sinful.

They are not.

Yes, the potato, like so many foods that have a carb or two, has gotten accused of making people fat. Of course, the tons of french fries and potato chips that are consumed every day in this country may have something to do with this. But really, the potato itself is a fine food to eat. All potatoes are a very good source of vitamin B6, which is good for your heart. It’s also a brain protector, and helps lower blood pressure. Higher in potassium than a banana, the average potato also packs good amounts of copper, manganese, Vitamin C, Phosphorus, Fiber and B3.

Then, add the blue pigment anthocyanin, and you boost the antioxidant levels to another level. All those lists pushing blueberries and pomegranate as a superfood are into the anthocyanin- so think of this potato as a superfood.

All the virtue of pomegranate, in a crispy potato? Yes, please.

So, I picked the easiest way to make a potato into a crostini-and I didn’t even need a knife. I just bought  nice small potatoes, boiled them, then flattened them with the bottom of a cup on a sheet pan. Olive oil, a sprinkling of chipotle and salt, and a quick roast in a hot oven, and I had edges crisp enough to crunch. Once they cooled a bit, they transformed into finger food, perhaps not a sturdy as a slice of french bread, but ferried to the mouth easily enough with no silverware.

Boiled, Bashed, then Baked

Boiled, Bashed, then Baked

I love a dish that I can throw together for friends without feeling like I worked. For the most ease in serving, I would go ahead and do the boil and bash, then wrap the pan and keep at room temp for a couple of hours, or refrigerate overnight. Just bring it back to room temp before baking.

Mashing the avocadoes takes just a couple of strokes, and you can casually spoon the topping on the potatoes just before serving. A slice of the only fresh tomato worth eating in winter, the grape tomato, finishes the dish.

So if you are feeling a little blue, invite some friends over and eat blue. You’ll certainly bring a little color to their chilly day.

That always makes me feel better!

 

Bashed Blue Potatoes with Avocado

Serves 4

1 pound small blue potatoes (or small yellow or red potatoes)

olive oil

ground chipotle

coarse salt

2 medium avocadoes

1 medium lemon

another pinch of salt

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced

 

Put the whole potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Test every five minutes after about 10 minutes of cooking at a strong simmer. When tender when pierced with a paring knife, take out each potato to cool. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Smear a baking sheet with olive oil. Place each potato on the sheet pan and use the flat bottom of a measuring cup, or a metal spatula, to flatten each potato. When all are flat, sprinkle with chipotle and salt to taste. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully flip and bake for 10 more.

While the potatoes bake, mash the avocado and season with a good squeeze of lemon and some salt. Taste and adjust. Slice the tomatoes.

To serve, put the potatoes on a platter, top each with a spoonful of avocado and a slice or two of tomato. Serve immediately.

 

Bashed Blue Potatoes with Avocado #vegan #glutenfree #healthyeating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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