Sometimes, I crave something so often, it might seem repetitive to anyone watching. I’ll think, “hmm, I don’t have a recipe test to work on tonight, so I can make whatever I want.” And as if I pushed play on a paused song, I go right back to where I left off with the obsessively desired food.
So, lately, it’s braised kabocha. That’s not new, I put a braised squash, garlic and hazelnut tart in my book, The New Vegetarian, back in ’07. In fact, I put that recipe on a menu recently, and was reminded just how much I love the way it works.
First, a saute of shallots, to get a little caramelization started, then the peeled hunks of squash go in, to seal their edges a bit, then herbs, garlic and wine. Putting a lid on seals in the flavorful steam of the wine, braising the squash just to tenderness while reducing the wine to just coat the squash.
This time out, I thought it would be fun to play with some browned cabbage as part of the mix, and use apple juice and vinegar to create a sweet and sour braise.
I think you’ll like it. It’s a punchy, palate-clearing side for any winter meal, and would break the monotony at a spread of rich holiday favorites. The hunks of squash melt in your mouth, and crunchy pumpkinseeds add textural contrast. That fact that you can do it ahead, carry it easily, and it can be served warm or at room temperature is also a plus.
It’s really easy to peel and chop the squash, despite what you may think. I used this showy member of the kabocha family, the red kuri.
Don’t bother with a peeler, or even a paring knife. Just halve the beast, scoop out the seeds, and then cut in inch wide wedges. Lay each flat on the board and use your chefs knife to slice straight down, removing the skin in inch or two inch long sections. Then slice the peeled pieces in bite sized chunks.
For the four cups of chunks, I started with a 2 1/2 pound squash and used half of it for this. (you may remember that I am obsessed, so having four more cups to use later is a GOOD THING.)
So give this a whirl at your next meal, it will be a nice break from peas and carrots.
Sweet and Sour Braised Squash and Cabbage with Pumpkinseeds
You can prep this one ahead. The squash can be peeled and cubed and kept in an air-tight container until time to cook. Or, the whole dish can be made ahead, just wait to add the toasted pepitas at serving time.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallot
2 cups chopped cabbage
4 cups cubed squash
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pepitas, toasted
freshly cracked black pepper
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the shallots. Add the cabbage and saute over medium heat until slightly browned.
Add the squash and stir for five minutes.
Add the garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add the apple juice, sugar or honey, and vinegar, and cover.
Steam for 5-8 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a paring knife. Stir in salt.
Serve topped with toasted pepitas and black pepper.
Happy Holidays! It’s the time of year when we plan to sit down for some shared meals, with the people we love. That always means it’s time to navigate the mixed diet-style table.
It’s really not that difficult to do, with a dash of planning and and splash of creative thinking. I’ve been merging meals for so long that it’s just an automatic part of the menu. If you are an omnivore, hosting a vegan, an ovo-lacto eater and a gluten free person, this dish can be customized to serve all three. If you are the vegan, vegetarian of gluten avoider, you can make this dish to suit your needs and bring it to the table.
The Holidays should be a time to practice compassion. To share the bounty and try really hard to let some stuff go.
I know it can be a challenge. But as long as you have a delectable vegetable dish, you can sink into the soft, roasted veggies and be comforted. The food is the easy part.
So, to make a memorable dish for everyone, I went with roots, herbs and nuts.
To add lots of depth of flavor, I started with caramelizing a big pile of onions. That’s always a good start. Then, a mix of earthy, sweet parsnips and yams, and some brilliant blue potatoes. It’s a little bit special to have an unusual vegetable for a holiday treat, to draw the eye to your dish. Then, slow roast to bring out all the nutty, sweet flavors of your roots, and make them meltingly tender.
Stir in some parsley for a fresh note, and add some crunchy hazelnuts. If you have some gluten-avoiders in your group, you can save half of the veggies to serve solo, with a tasty sauce for drizzling and dipping. Just proceed to make a single strudel, instead of two. For everyone else, crispy filo will turn your veggie side into a showy main for the veg eaters, and a dressed up veggie side for everyone else.
I hope this dish will become an edible problem solver, pleasing all the people at your table. No need to wait for the holidays, either, you can start making this in September and rotate it with your regular menus until Spring.
I know I’ll raise a glass to having a happy, well-fed Holiday this year!
Savory Roasted Vegetable Strudel with Hazelnuts
This makes two strudels, serving about 6 per strudel. For gluten-free diners, just save some of the roasted veggie filling to serve without wrapping in filo. You can always make one with half a cup of shredded Gruyere cheese, for the ovo-lactos, or save one for you to eat as special leftovers the next day.
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large onions, chopped
3 large parsnips, 5 cups peeled and cubed
1 medium sweet potato, 2 cups cubed
4 small blue potatoes, 2 cups cubed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped coarsely
6 sheets filo dough, thawed
1/2 cup olive oil, approximately
Two or three hours before you will assemble the strudel, heat the first measure of olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Bring to a sizzle, stirring to coat, then lower the heat to medium low and stir every ten minutes or so for two or three hours. Fully caramelize the onions until shrunken and caramel brown.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Combine the vegetables in a large roasting pan and drizzle with the tablespoon of olive oil. Add the sage, thyme, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cover the pan with foil or another pan that covers it completely, then roast for 25 minutes, uncover and stir, then cover again for 20 minutes. Let cool.
When the vegetables come to room temperature, add the onions, parsley and hazelnuts, and if desired, the cheese. Reserve.
Use a pastry brush to brush two sheet pans with olive oil, and then brush each sheet of filo and stack three on each pan. Divide the vegetable mixture between the two stacks, forming a rectangle in the middle with a border of about four inches of filo on all sides. Shape the filling evenly, the fold in the short sides, then the longer sides, and then carefully turn the strudel over. Brush the top with more oil. Use a paring knife to cut about six slits across the top, for steam to escape.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden. Serve warm.
We hear a great deal about what humans “originally” ate, these days. Do you want to go back a few hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand years? Do you really know what a hunter-gatherer would have eaten in your neighborhood?
We do have a pretty good idea what was being foraged and cultivated in the Americas in the last few thousand years. From Wild rice to quinoa, corn and beans to pine nuts, our sprawling continent provided many culinary treasures.
If you’d like a glimpse of the food that was consumed by the original inhabitants of North America, right up to today, take a trip to the Mitsitam Cafe in Washington DC. The cafe is nestled into the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, where it provides some edible education on the Native cultures that lived here for thousands of years before Europeans came along to start a global fusion cuisine.
Mitsitam is an award-winning restaurant, and an oasis of genuinely healthy food in a city filled with tempting restaurants. If Quinoa and Wild Rice sound like real food to you, you will love Mitsitam. It’s not claiming to replicate the original cuisine, mind you, but more of a showcase of the ingredients, with some updated touches. I noticed that fry bread was a prominent menu item, which is a food that only exists in Native culture because the US government provided the reservations commodity flour and oil, after they had taken most of their land. It’s not ancient, but many of today’s Natives grew up eating it.
And I am pretty sure that chocolate chip cookies aren’t really a Native invention, just popular with museum goers.
In keeping with the museum vibe, the cafe is arranged by regional cuisines, with a station for each region. It’s divided into:
Northern Woodlands- Region that spans from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi and from Southern Canada to the Chesapeake
Mesoamerica- Home of the Papago or “Bean People” and spans from the American Southwest to Mexico and Central America
South America- Region that encompasses the entire southwestern hemisphere
Northwest Coast- Region that stretches from Southern Alaska to Northern California
Great Plains- Region that stretched over the great landscape from Alberta, Canada to Texas
In the photo at the top, you see my friend Rebecca ordering Sopes with Calabacitas (squash) Refried Beans, Latin Cream, Queso Oaxaca, and Avocado. This is the dish:
I had to try several things, so I went ala carte, with this feast:
The quinoa was crunchy and fresh tasting, with sweet hits of fresh corn kernels and bits of salty feta. The roasted vegetables were delicious, with the roasted squash falling apart to meld with the dressing. The tart, which I cut up and shared with my friends, was amazing, rich and creamy with an herbal note adding a bright, piney flavor.
My friend Diane ordered from the Northern Woodlands:
The fry bread was light and chewy, not greasy as is sometimes is. The wild rice salad was nutty and laced with peppery cress. The honey roasted carrots, sweetly earthy. The apple soup was like nothing I have every had, a puree of smoked apples and celery root, with no cream or anything to interrupt the sweet, smoky taste.
I also indulged in a Hunk of Concord Grape Cake.
The cake was buttery and tender, served warm with melting whipped cream on top. The meltingly soft Concord grapes were underneath, adding a genuine grape flavor and a hint of bitterness in the deep purple skins. We all shared bites of that, too.
My friend Jan also tried the Buffalo Chili, which he thought was spicy, but good.
Sonia went for the Paella of the Day, with chicken. I’m not sure how paella is Native, except that the Spanish brought it to the continent and may have taught natives to make it. There’s that global fusion.
The menu at Mitsitam changes with the seasons, so it will be shifting from the Fall selections to the Winter, soon. I thoroughly enjoyed everything I tried, as did my fellow diners. For anyone looking for gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan options, as well as whole grains, Mitsitam provides many exciting dishes.
Good food with a side order of education, now that is a meal with benefits. Getting to know more about the foods of our own continent is just as important as learning about the great foods of Europe or Asia, and touches our lives in a different way. As part of the experience of visiting our historic capital, it provides a deep and delicious part of understanding a bigger picture. The museum is filled with fascinating artifacts, and the things you see there will stay with you for years to come.
After eating a little piece of history, I was fueled to walk the National Mall, and absorb a different perspective, carved in stone and cast in bronze. I’m glad that I had a taste of the Native side.
The Big Thanksgiving Feast is over, and at this point, the pie should all have been joyfully consumed. I know that I am thankful for every delicious bite.
In this post-holiday lull, before we start ramping up for the next one, it’s time to keep it simple. Cooking with elemental foods and eating lighter, simpler food feels right to me.
This is the time when an earthy, grainy bowl of food will fill you up and energize you, without all the heaviness. Rich foods will be coming soon enough, might as well set yourself up to make some lean and customizable dinners in the mean time.
That’s what I love about a Buddha Bowl. It’s basically a pile of your favorite grain, with some veggies and beans or tofu, or whatever you want arranged on top. A really tasty sauce or dressing ties it all together. If you really get into it, you can fill your fridge with pickles, like the beets in this recipe, or kimchi and kraut, and add them as you see fit. Share it with kids, and sub their fave veggies or toppings, right there at the table.
One big bowl of food is dinner. How simple is that?
Quinoa Buddha Bowl with Sweet Sriracha Drizzle
1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup apricot jam
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces baby kale, chopped
1 cup pickled beets, slivered
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup microgreens, washed and dried
Bring the water to a boil in a 2 quart pot, and add the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover tightly for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and let stand.
In a medium bowl or pyrex cup, stir the jam, tamari, sriracha, cinder vinegar and garlic. Reserve.
On four wide pasta bowls, place 3/4 cup of quinoa, and arrange 1/2 cup of beans, and 1/4 of all the reamaining ingredients on top. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
It’s time to have your Thanksgiving dishes planned, there are only a few shopping days left. So, for your recipe searching convenience, I have put together a roundup of a bunch of my holiday greatest hits.
Get to the store now, so you can get the ingredients for a fanyastic Thanksgiving!
Nutty Curry-Stuffed Squashes
These colorful, single-serving squash halves are speckled with golden millet, green jalapeño, and crunchy nuts. Redolent of spice and a touch of coconut, they will draw your guests to the table by scent alone.
3 small sweet dumpling squash or mini pumpkins (about 13 oz/370 g each)
1 tsp canola oil
½ cup/60 g chopped onion
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 medium jalapeño, chopped
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup/50 g millet
½ cup/120 ml coconut milk
½ tsp salt
½ cup/55 g raw cashews
½ cup/55 g whole almonds, toasted
2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F/200° C/gas 6. Cut the squashes in half from the stem to the tip, or if you are using pumpkins that sit flat, cut off the tops as shown in the photo above. Scoop out the seeds and place them cut-side down on oiled baking sheets/trays. Bake for 10 minutes (they will not be completely cooked). Take the pans out and flip the squash halves over. When they have cooled, use a spoon to cut into the flesh, loosening it in spots but leaving it in the shell. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° F/190° C/gas 5.
2. In a 2-qt/2-L saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion, ginger, and mustard seeds. Sauté over medium-high heat until the onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon and stir until they are fragrant. Add the millet and stir to coat, then add the ¼ cup/60 ml water, the coconut milk, and salt and bring them to a boil. When it boils, cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the nuts, then stuff the mixture into the squashes. Sprinkle each with 1 tsp of coconut.
3. Bake the squashes until the filling is set and bubbling and the squashes are easily pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Let them cool slightly before serving.
Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffing with Apples
My favorite thing about Thanksgiving when I was growing up was always the sage-laced stuffing. This hearty rendition has chewy wild rice and whole wheat bread, and apples and nuts for even more sensations as you chew. Don’t wait for the holidays to make this dish; it’s a great way to use up stale bread and can be made with bulgur, buckwheat, or any of the rices.
Makes 6 cups, about 6 servings
1 cup water
1/4 cup wild rice
4 cups cubed whole wheat bread (about 5 slices)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or oil
1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and cook the wild rice in it. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and let them dry out for an hour or so, if you have time.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F In a large Dutch oven or pasta pot, heat the butter or oil and sauté the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat until all are tender. Add the apples, stock, pepper, herbs, and salt and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cooked wild rice. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the bread cubes.
3. Scrape the stuffing into a 2-quart casserole or baking dish and top with the chopped walnuts, pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. You can cover and refrigerate the stuffing for up to 4 days at this point. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Big Salad with Caramelized Pumpkinseeds, Pears and Pomegranate
From The New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books)
This is a great wintertime salad, with the pomegranates that only appear around the holidays and pears and pumpkinseeds. Vegans can just leave out the cheese and enjoy the crunchy spiced seeds instead. To take seeds out of the pomegranate, cut through the skin from stem to tip, dividing the fruit in quarters. Hold it over a bowl and pull apart the sections, then tear apart the pieces, gently freeing the seeds.
1 cup pumpkinseeds, raw
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 large bosc pears, sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, optional
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice concentrate
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave or organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted pumpkinseed oil
1 small pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed
1. Make the pumpkinseed topping up to a week ahead. Heat the oil for a minute in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the pumpkinseeds and toss in the pan over high heat, until the seeds are popping and browning, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the brown sugar and toss constantly until seeds are coated with melted sugar (careful-it will burn easily). Quickly mix in the spices and salt, then spread on a plate to cool. Cool completely and store in an air tight container until ready to use.
2. Make dressing in processor by mincing garlic and mint. Add pomegranate concentrate, lemon, honey and salt and pulse to mix. Gradually drizzle in oil with machine running.
3. Wash and dry romaine, then slice across the leaf in 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange on plates or in bowl. Top with shallots, pears and cheese. Drizzle over the dressing and top with the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.
Simple Cranberry Whirl
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup raw cranberries
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
Put all ingredients in blender, blend to desired consistency. Drink.
While I was writing Juice It!, I remember having a conversation with another green juice aficionado. Comparing our usual green juice configurations, our favorite little touches. Of course, citrus, ginger, perhaps an herb like mint. But she said something that stuck with me.
“I used to put two apples in my green juice.” She said. “And then I just put one, and then I just stopped putting it in at all. I don’t need it now.”
Well, it was a comment that I continued to mull over, as I designed the juice recipes for my book, and later, as I did interviews about the book. It seems very grown up, to my mind, to shift away from needing your juices to be sweet. Of course, apples in juice are perfectly healthy, in fact, juicing a whole apple, skin and all, with a slow juicer, puts tons of heart healthy and protective nutrients in your drink.
But the one thing that people seem to have heard out there in the amorphous world of nutrition lore is that juices are all “just sugar.”
Like all the attacks on foods that bounce around the internet, or that you hear from your cross-fit trainer, this is an overly simplified soundbite.
Yes, many pasteurized, filtered juices that you buy in bottles on the shelf are probably just a step better than soda. Just a step, in that they aren’t concocted in a lab, but simply extracted and cooked. When you take a fruit whose main health benefits come from fiber and vitamin C, and filter out the fiber and cook away the C, well, you have something left that’s not as good for you as the original plant, but still sweet.
But a fresh green juice is hardly “just sugar.”
I use a slow juicer that crushes the plants, pressing out the liquids and even allowing a noticeable amount of fiber into the juice. And as a grown-up, I can make a juice that is hardly sweet at all.
So, like my wise friend, you might want to try cutting back on the sweeter fruits in your juices, and add just enough to make it palatable for you. For the everyday juice, lean toward veggies.
Of course, this is assuming that you are not drinking sugary sodas. Even the sweetest fresh pressed juice is a far cry better than a soda, or a sweet coffee concoction at the coffee shop.
It’s silly to eat bags of Halloween candy, then point the finger at a juice made with a bunch of vegetables as being empty sugar.
This juice is carrying the juice of fresh turmeric and ginger along with the veggies, giving you a dose of brain-protective, anti-inflammatory plant chemicals. All the peels of the cucumber and apple are hiding anti-cancer compounds, so juice them along with everything else. Kale is one of the most nutritious foods we eat, so juicing some to add to your healthy, fiber-filled diet just pumps up the calcium and green goodness in your diet.
So give my grown-up green juice a try. Start by juicing all the ingredients up to the apples, and then taste. Do you need the sweet? It’s perfectly ok if you do. Add two apples, one apple, half an apple. Maybe next time, you’ll need less.
Don’t worry about perfection. Just the fact that you are making yourself a fresh juice is putting you in a small group of health-seekers, people who want to take care of their bodies for the long haul.
I still like an apple in mine.
Grown Up Green Juice
Makes about 2 cups if you add the apples
1 bunch kale
2 inches fresh turmeric
2 inches fresh ginger
1 large cucumber
1 large lemon, peels removed
2 apples, to taste
Juice it all, adding apples at the end and stirring it up to taste. Drink within 24 hours.
Have you ever seen “Fox Sushi” on a menu? Did you wonder what kind of sushi a fox might make?
There are two reasons for the name. One is an old belief that fox spirits are roaming about in Japan, where their mischievous, sensual behavior is to blame for unexpected events. Like troublemaking fairies, these spirits need to be placated. They are known to follow the god or goddess of the rice harvest, called Inari. Because of this, the fox spirits enjoy a nice bite of sushi. Over the years, a specific type of sushi was invented for the roving foxes.
Also called Inari Zushi, the dish features a lovely golden brown piece of tofu, opened up like a pita bread and stuffed with sushi rice. Often, the rice is plain, or it might have some veggies mixed in. The fried tofu also has two corners, which could be construed to resemble the ears of a fox, giving the dish a second meaning.
Many Shinto and Buddhist shrines in Japan today have shrines dedicated to Inari, and shops nearby will sell Inari Sushi to leave as an offering.
The tofu wrapper is called “Abura Age” or as this can says, “Inarizushi No Moto, and you buy it canned, which makes this the fastest, easiest way to wrap your rice. It’s available at Japanese markets and online (one source is here)
I know that some of you find cooking with tofu a little daunting, so you will be thrilled to give these nifty pockets a try. You can make them yourself, by slicing tofu thinly and deep frying it, then simmering it in a broth of soy sauce and mirin. Or you can buy it. It’s pretty tasty and good in other dishes, too, so give it a try.
To keep to the Japanese tradition of eating seasonal foods, I opted for some lovely kabocha squash in the filling. It’s orange as a fox, and has a wonderful meaty texture (see a previous post raving about kabocha here.) I like to braise my squash, and use the tender cubes in lots of dishes. In making this recipe, you can make just enough for the 12, or you can go ahead and cook extra rice and braise the whole squash, and take out what you need for this dish.
I always love making extra of things that I will certainly use. The black rice can become a breakfast dish or a quick fried rice, later in the week. And extra bean curd slices can be sliced on salads or stuffed in sandwiches.
Of course, the mythic fox spirits probably have a taste for their traditional white sushi rice, so in this version, my use of black rice might surprise them. I hope that it would delight.
Black Rice Fox Sushi
Of course, you could use other grains, like a red rice, or even quinoa, although the dramatic black rice goes so well with the orange squash, it really works in this.
Makes about 12, appetizers for 6, a meal for 2-3
1/2 cup black medium grain rice (Forbidden Rice is one brand)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon canola or coconut oil
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup peeled and cubed kabocha squash
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 (about 2/3 can) abura age
pickled ginger, wasabi paste, and kimchi
First, cook the rice. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rice and cover, turn to the lowest setting, cook for about 25 minutes. Let stand, covered for about 5 minutes before seasoning.
Season the rice with the maple and rice vinegar, stir in by folding, don’t break the rice.
For the squash, heat the canola or coconut oil over medium heat in a small saute pan and saute the onions for five minutes. Add the kabocha and stir for a minute, then add the stock and salt and cover. It should cook the squash through in about 5-8 minutes. Uncover, test with a paring knife, and raise the heat to boil off any extra liquid. Let cool, then fold into the cooled rice.
Stuff the rice mixture into the tofu pieces. Garnish with piles of ginger and kimchi, a dab of wasabi, and if desired, pass tamari for additional seasoning.
You know that when a gorgeous new vegetable appears in the produce section, I’m going to grab it. Purple Sweet Potatoes? Yes, please.
It turns out that the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato is actually pretty new, at least to the commercial market. A farmer in Stokes County, North Carolina, was looking for a profitable crop to replace tobacco, since tobacco is not such a great bet, these days. The story is that a mysterious woman saw him win a prize at a local fair for his sweet potato, and she came up to him afterwards, to give him the enigmatic yam. He patented the variety in 2006 and it’s been on the market since 2008, and is grown in California now, too.
The purple yam has many of the great health benefits of a regular sweet potato, with the bonus of the purple pigment, anthocyanin. That puts them in the antioxidant star category with blueberries. The purple replaces the orange that gives orange sweet potatoes all that Vitamin A, but you can get your beta carotene from a carrot. Purple is harder to find.
So alongside the purple antioxidants, the sweet potato has all that great fiber, vitamin C and trace minerals. Sweet potatoes have the unique quality of tasting really sweet, but not raising blood sugar levels very much. Studies have found that other phytonutrients in the sweet potato actually act to stabilize blood sugars, making them a good treat for diabetics.
There’s even some compelling evidence that the protein in sweet potatoes kills cancer cells and stops them from metastasizing. (watch a video on this here)
But lets get back to the fun here, these roots are like a pot of purple paint, waiting to be used. Take a look at the color of a baked and pureed one:
Of course, baking with the puree was going to be fun, but I also had to give them a try in a savory dish, so I sliced one up and tossed it with a little canola and roasted it at 425 for about 20 minutes. Here are the “fries” with a little guac I put together.
The purple sweet potato is just a little different from say, a Garnet Yam. It’s a little drier and denser, and the texture is more like a mealy baking potato. The dryness makes them perfect for making these fries, as well as for making a concentrated purple paste for baking. I’ve also roasted them whole and then sliced the cooled flesh for a salad, and thrown them into vegetable soup.
As you can imagine, a bowl of simply mashed purple sweet potatoes, with a little olive oil and garlic, or a little maple syrup, would make a fun side dish at any Fall dinner.
If you are lucky enough to have a source for the purple sweet, by all means give them a try in any sweet potato recipe. Or, try this cookie. Not too sweet, and vibrantly colored, they are definitely a conversation starter at lunch!
Purple Sweet Potato-Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Cherries
Makes about 22 cookies
Of course, you can use regular sweet potatoes if you don’t have purple.
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons ground golden flax
3/4 cup purple sweet potato puree
1/4 cup canola or coconut oil
1/2 cup raw honey or light agave
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour (for bright color, or use half white wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 F, line two sheet pans with parchment.
In a medium bowl, combine the almond milk and flax, stir to mix and let stand for 5 minutes to thicken. Add the sweet potato, oil, honey or agave and vanilla and stir vigorously to mix.
In a large bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the sweet potato mixture, it will be thick, switch to kneading it with your hands just until mixed. Mix in the cranberries and chocolate.
Use a tablespoon to form rounded balls of dough, about 2-3 tablespoons each. Form into balls and place on the sheet pans, leaving 2 inches between the balls. Wet your palms and flatten to 3/4 inch thick.
Bake for 8 minutes, reverse the pans and bake for 8 minutes more, until golden on the edges. Transfer to racks to cool.
November is underway, and it’s time to start planning that big Thanksgiving menu. This is the fun part,when you can spend hours mentally rolling through a list of your most beloved holiday dishes. It’s easy to come up with far more must-have dishes than you can possibly make, much less consume. Then comes the process of cutting the list down to the essentials.
Thanksgiving is all about the feast, and it’s an opportunity to roll out your favorite Fall flavors. How many starchy side dishes can we fit on the table, with mashed potatoes, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, rolls, bread stuffing, and wild rice pilaf? Which pie can possibly be the one, when we absolutely have to have pumpkin, apple, pecan and sweet potato, and a pumpkin roll cake and gingerbread and…
And on it goes.
I’m lucky enough to get to be a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner, which means I get to bring some sides. The hostess is making and serving a turkey, mashed potatoes and pies. So I can rock out on the veg sides that will serve as mains for the vegetarians in the room.
I actually teach a class on these at cooks of crocus hill in December, if you live in the Minneapolis Area, link here. I’ve been a meatless guest for so many years, I’ve been working on dishes that I will enjoy as a meatless main, while the omnivores can dig into them as really great sides.
But back to Thanksgiving. I won’t be making pie for the meal, which could mean no leftover pie the next day. That just won’t do. I need my morning pumpkin pie fix.
Don’t worry, though, I got started early with this recipe for a pie made from fresh, real pumpkin and all clean foods. So I peeled and chopped a pie pumpkin. You could do this with a kabocha squash, too. I wanted to make a pumpkin pie with no tofu or filler, just sweet pumpkin and some almond butter for flavor. Lots of spice, and a crunchy crumble topping.
It’s not too sweet, if you want it to be closer to typical pie sweetness, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar to the filling, and a couple tablespoons to the topping. It would be great with a whipped coconut milk topping, or some vanilla ice cream.
So, for those of you looking for a new, plant-based pie for the holiday, this could be a contender. I’ll keep making my epic menu lists.
Because its just as fun imagining the meal as it will be to eat it!
Chunky Pumpkin Streusel Pie
You can also make your favorite gluten free pie crust and use brown rice flour in the topping for a gluten free pie.
4 cups peeled and cubed pumpkin (or kaboch squash)
1 tablespoon canola oil, or butter
3 tablespoons apple juice
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons cold water, approximately
1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup sliced almonds
First, braise the pumpkin cubes. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the pumpkin, stir to coat with oil and lightly brown. Add the apple juice and cover, reduce to medium so that the apple juice steams. Keep covered for about 5 minutes, then pierce with a paring knife. When tender, take off the heat and let cool.
Make the Crust: In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Drop in the coconut oil and use a fork to break the oil into chunks throughout the flour. Quickly stir in the water, a tablespoon at a time, use your hands to gather into a bowl. If you need a little more to help make a dough, sprinkle it in.
Flour the counter and roll out the dough, fit it in a 9-inch deep pie pan, and flute. Chill the crust.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
In a food processor, place 3 cups of the pumpkin and puree, reserving the remaining cup of pumpkin pieces. Add the almond butter, maple syrup, arrowroot, spices and vanilla and puree. Let stand while you make the topping.
In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt and cinnamon, and mix. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and stir to mix. Add the almonds and mix.
Take the chilled crust out of the refrigerator, and scrape the pumpkin puree into the crust. Sprinkle the pumpkin chunks over the puree and tap down. Sprinkle the oat mixture over the pumpkin evenly.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is puffed around the edges. Cool and chill for the neatest slices.