I recently found myself in first a Cuban joint, Victor’s 1959 Cafe, and then a few weeks later, an El Salvadoran place called Pupuseria La Palmera. When I perused the menus, I realized something about myself. Whenever I see yucca on a menu, I order it. Yucca with salsa, yucca in garlic butter, yucca with salsa verde, I just can’t see it and not want it.
And I always think, why don’t I make this more often?
I had yucca, (also known as cassava) for the first time, about 20 years ago, in a now-defunct Cuban place called Cafe Havana. I had been invited by the chef, a lovely woman that I had met in my neighborhood organizing work. She was so proud to show me the menu. Of course, there was not a vegetarian entree in sight. But, there were fried plantains and yucca. I bit into the crispy fried chunks of creamy white root, and fell in love. It was good that I was so smitten, because when my friend came to the table, her face fell. She was hurt that we were not having pork.
I was madly in love with my appetizer, and just kept telling her how much I loved it. She was mystified.
I went through a phase of obsession with yucca after that. I sought out the massive brown tubers and boiled them. I made them into potato salad, I pureed them in soup. Like all culinary crushes, it passed, but to this day, the thought of a plate of crispy yucca gets me going.
If you aren’t up on yucca, it’s a starchy root vegetable, common to the Tropics. Fried yucca is the French Fry of Latin America. Like the French with their Aioli, they serve it with much more interesting sauces than our ketchup. It’s also big in parts of Africa, Southern China, Southern India, Thailand and Vietnam. In many of those places it’s used to make flour, breads, dried chips to fry, or starch.
But if you dig a little deeper (It’s a root, get it?) yucca turns out to be very different from a potato. For instance, the yucca is twice as high in calories and fat than a potato, ounce for ounce. It has the same vitamin C content, and a few trace minerals here and there. It’s so much richer and, dare I say, meatier than a potato.
But where it gets interesting are the saponins. Saponins are natural soaplike chemicals in yucca, which you may have heard about because they are similar to the coating on quinoa that we are all supposed to rinse off. The ones in yucca act as natural steroids, soothing joint inflammation like a very weak, natural cortisone shot. It’s also got polyphenols and some antioxidants. These chemicals are thought to be the source of yucca’s long-standing reputation as an arthritis cure. It’s anti-inflammatory, and helps with joint pain.
You can buy yucca pills to treat arthritis, but why not enjoy the awesomeness of yucca as food?
This got me thinking, why not make a dish with a base of yucca and a sauce packed with even more anti-inflammatory foods? It would be like eating the best French fries, ever, with the pleasant side effect of making the day that follows my morning spin class pain-free.
So, here you go, my decadent-tasting pain-relieving special, here at the home for creaky joints.
Crispy Yucca with Creamy Mango Sauce
Of course, you don’t have to fry the yucca. Once it’s boiled and chunked, you can even just heat it in the sauce and serve it like a curry.
2 1/4 pounds yucca
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon fresh turmeric, grated
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large mango, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon sucanat
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Canola oil for frying
Hot sauce for drizzling
Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water. Use a paring knife to peel the yucca, then slice it in half lengthwise. Pare out the hard core that runs down the middle, like a slightly twisty, thin root. Put the yucca in cold water to soak and to prevent browning.
Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add the drained yucca. Add salt. Bring to a boil and lower to a vigorous simmer. It may take 20 minutes, it may take an hour. Check by piercing with a paring knife, it should be very tender, but not falling apart.
Drain and let cool. Cut in chunks.
Make the sauce. In alarge saute pan, heat the coconut milk. Add the mustard seeds, ginger, turmeric and pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Add the mango, sucanat, lime and salt and simmer until the fruit is slightly softened and the sauce is thick, about five minutes.
To serve, heat canola oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. When hot, fry the yucca chunks, turning them individually with a fork or spatula, til all the sides are browned. Drain briefly on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and serve with sauce on or beside the yucca. Drizzle with hot sauce, if desired.
It’s always darkest before the dawn, or maybe “it’s always whitest before the thaw” is more appropriate. Yes, I’m talking about Winter, just a little. Locked in the house, it’s easy to fall into eating lots of comforting carbs. So we have to make sure that we are getting our salads.
Right now, lettuce is fine, but I want something more substantial, and I need deep greens. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight, but my body/mind is saying, eat some collards and kales. So I’ve been eating them. But today I looked at the bunch of collards in the fridge and said, you look like salad to me.
So, the Waldorf model came to mind. A classic salad of apples, walnuts, lemon and mayonnaise, the Waldorf is a great salad to build out with greens. That soothing bit of mayo and all that crunch stand up to a hefty leaf like the collard.
Southerners know the joy of slow-stewed collards, which they season with bits of ham and hot peppers. But The deep blue-green of the elephant ear sized leaves is a gorgeous thing to see, if you massage them to tenderness. For this salad, I thinly slivered them, and tossed in Meyer lemon juice, olive oil and salt and really rubbed and squeezed the pieces for a few minutes. They shrank and softened to a texture not much firmer than Romaine.
Good thing I ate a bunch, since Collards are a bonanza of cancer preventing sulforaphanes and other antioxidants. They deliver large amounts of vitamins A, K and C, Folate, and iron, calcium and other fun minerals. Just the thing to carry us through the Winter That Wouldn’t End.
Collard Green Waldorf Salad
A great thing about using resilient leaves like these in a salad is that you can dress it and serve it for days. Like coleslaw, it just gets more tender as it sits.
Makes about 4 cups
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and saved for juice or other use
2 tablespoons Meyer or other lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
1/4 cup vegan or other mayo
1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
2 ribs celery, split lengthwise and then chopped
1 large Honeycrisp or other apple, chopped
1/2 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup toasted broken walnuts
On your cutting board, roll up the stemmed leaves and slice thinly. Place in a large bowl and add the lemon, olive oil and salt, and massage until the greens are deep green and shrink to about 2/3 their original volume. In a cup, stir the mayo and agave or maple, and add to the greens. Add the celery, apple, carrots and toss to coat. Stir in most of the walnuts, saving some to sprinkle on top at serving.
Let me share my reality with you. Here in Minnesota, it’s been dark and bitterly cold since mid November. We lived through January with temperatures so low that even the “All above average” children were not allowed to go to school. This isn’t just uncomfortable cold. It’s serious.
We take a strange pride in being able to live here. Bundled in parkas and swaddled in scarves, we give our neighbors a quick but decisive nod as we shovel snow, hoping that our tears won’t freeze. We are the strong, the Minnesotans.
As long as we have a couple of pairs of socks on.
It’s a mental game, really. After a few months of being trapped inside, a weaker person might fall prey to self-medication. Drinking, eating, watching TV, all of these things offer comfort when the very landscape we inhabit seems to want to kill us. It’s easy to drown your sorrows in coffee and donuts, or beer and crunchy snacks. Netflicks goes from a tv channel to a friend to a lover, whose stories mainline a fantasy of another World into our cabin-fevered brains. All while we take up a little more room on that couch every single day.
So now that you know where I am coming from, I hope you will understand my current love affair with Oats. A couple of weeks ago it was Biryani, this week, I’m delving into my steel cut oat habit. Because I need some comfort, and I want to get it in a way that doesn’t have me adding an hour on the treadmill. It’s always best to know your weaknesses and plan for them.
That’s why I’ve been cooking up a pot of apple cider-infused, ginger and cinnamon spiked steel cuts, and keeping it in the fridge. We know from the biryani post that oats have a high satiety factor. Oats will help you lose weight, even out your blood sugar, and lower cholesterol. Oats are famous for their healthy benefits.
Well, the oats may be the star, but the apple juice is no slouch, either.
But did you know that apple juice, the other magic ingredient in this warming breakfast, is a potent antioxidant that protects your heart? In a study done at The UC Davis School of Medicine, researchers found that drinking 12 ounces of apple juice, or eating two apples, dramatically slowed the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the blood. The longer it takes to break down, the less it can clog up and cause atherosclerosis.
That’s great news, since I’ve always liked cooking and baking with apple juice, because it adds a sweet-tart flavor. Cooking these oats in juice instead of water sweetens them just enough for my taste, so that they need no further sweetening.
So, after filling your belly with this comforting breakfast, the combination of healthy beta glucans fiber and antioxidant-rich apple juice will be clearing out bad cholesterol in both your gut and your bloodstream.
Just another example of how incredibly tasty and comforting a healthy food can be.
Apple Cider-Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats
Serve these piping hot with your favorite milk, whether that is non-dairy or dairy, or yogurt, whatever you prefer.
2 cups apple cider
3/4 cup steel-cuts oats
1 pinch salt
1 slice fresh ginger
1 stick cinnamon
1 medium apple, chopped
Combine all the ingredients in a 1 quart pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Stir a few times. At the end it may seem a little soupy, but if you stir and let it cool it will thicken up.
If you have shopped for gluten-free cookbooks in the last 19 years, you have to know the books of our Grande Dame, Carol Fenster. She’s the author of 11 gluten-free cookbooks, and has been providing a treasure trove of recipes and information at her blog, CarolFensterCooks.com for many years. In the world of gluten -free, Carol is an internationally known expert, who speaks and consults all over the world. You can even subscribe to her meal plans at gfree.com, and for a small fee, receive plans and recipes designed to make GF easy for you.
I’ve known Carol for several years, and like many people, when I am stumped about something gluten-free, I turn to her. We first met at a Whole Grains Council conference, where we bonded immediately over our shared passion to get more whole grains into gluten-free recipes. I’ve had the opportunity to take a class from her, and to interview her for articles I was writing, and she is a great resource and inspiration.
Gluten-Free 101 is an update of an earlier book, and the fact that it is needed speaks to a big change in the gluten-free landscape. It’s an excellent book for beginners and experienced cooks alike. Carol has developed her yeasted recipes to offer the option of putting them in a cold oven, to use the preheat time as rising time, which is a really clever innovation. There are lots of contemporary flavors and new flour that weren’t there when the first book came out.
I asked Carol about the way things have evolved in the world of gluten-free.
When was your first book published?
I was told to avoid wheat in 1988, but didn’t publish my first book (self-published, because gluten-free wasn’t BIG then) in 1995 and then just kept writing books because I discovered that I wasn’t alone (as I previously thought). The idea for Gluten-Free 101 came about when I realized a few years into authoring that I was missing a group of people who didn’t have the cooking background to understand even the simple basics. Consequently, they were completely overwhelmed by the thought of cooking. One colleague avoided breakfast for 3 months because she was afraid to eat or prepare the wrong thing and then possibly get sick at work (she was a courtroom attorney). I self-published the original book in 2003 and just recently revised/expanded it for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (formerly Wiley) for publication in 2014.
How has the gluten free landscape changed, especially with respect to getting more whole foods into the recipes?
Interest in gluten-free has skyrocketed and we see a broader range of races and ethnic groups (we once thought it was primarily a Caucasian-only condition). I just spoke at a large gluten-free conference this past weekend and was amazed at the cultural diversity of attendees. As for the whole foods, we have a ways to go. There is greater interest in whole grains, for example, yet we still have a lot of highly-processed foods such as crackers and cookies being manufactured for the gluten-free community that are not all that healthy, although they’re certainly safe for the gluten-free diet.
How have the people who are going GF changed? Are they doing it for different reasons?
It used to be that the gluten-free diet was a “medically-prescribed treatment,” primarily for celiacs only. Today, we see it used for children with autism, people with auto-immune disorders, those with non-celiac gluten-sensitivity (which affects 6 or 7% of the population, far more than the 1% for celiacs), and finally (and unfortunately) people who adopt a gluten-free diet as a weight-loss approach. As any expert will tell you, a gluten-free diet is NOT a weight-loss diet. In fact, it can add pounds instead. And, it implies that once you’ve lost the weight, you can return to eating gluten…which just confuses everyone including waiters in restaurants! In reality, a gluten-free diet for most of us is a lifelong commitment because it is the only treatment for celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Do you know of any new products, grains, flours, etc, coming down the pike?
Someone just sent me a bag of flour made from grape skins, so I’m eager to give that a try. I don’t know anything about this flour but it’s fun to experiment with new flours. And, of course, I’ve been using kaniwa (baby quinoa) and I especially like the red and black forms of quinoa because they taste better to me. I’m especially impressed with the new dairy-free cheeses from Daiya. Vegan Gourmet does a great job with its dairy-free sour cream and cream cheese. It’s easy to forget that, along with being gluten-free, many people have other food sensitivities such as lactose-intolerance so it’s good to have these new substitutes to work with.
So, here we have a little taste of Carol’s latest book, and her recipe for Veggie Pizza.
It was really delicious!
To make this recipe vegan-friendly, I made some cashew cheese to dollop on top. I used cauliflower, red onions, a red Fresno Chile and some broccoli raab for the veggies.
Carol Fenster’s Gluten Free Veggie Pizza
Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)
Pizza is one of the top foods people miss when they go gluten-free. I’ve been refining this pizza crust process for years, and now the result is so good that it has received national acclaim. You can hold it in your hand and it won’t crumble! Gluten-free pizza dough is very soft and sticky—without the elasticity of wheat flour dough—so it is patted into the pan rather than rolled or stretched. The dough adheres to the pan better when it is greased with shortening rather than cooking spray. You can use store-bought pizza sauce, but try mine— it is thicker so it won’t make the crust soggy. You can make it up to 1 week ahead. I used bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, and olives to top this veggie pizza, but you can use any toppings you like, including pepperoni, sausage, ham, or bacon.
Makes 1 (12-inch) pizza (6 slices)
Pizza sauce preparation time: 15 minutes
Crust and topping preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 to 35 minutes
Pizza Sauce (Makes 1 cup)
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1[½] teaspoons dried Italian seasoning[1/2] teaspoon fennel seeds (optional) [1/4] teaspoon garlic powder or 1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar[1/4] teaspoon salt
Crust (Makes a 12-inch pizza)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar[3/4] cup warm (110°F) milk of choice [2/3] cup brown rice flour, plus more for sprinkling [1/4] cup potato starch [1/4] cup tapioca flour
1[½] teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning[1/2] teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil (for cooking vegetables), plus more for brushing the crust (optional)
2 cups vegetables, such as the following:
To use raw:
Olives, sliced or halved
Fresh plum tomatoes, thinly sliced or diced
Fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
To use cooked:
Bell peppers, (green, red, yellow) thinly sliced
Broccoli, thinly sliced
Red or white onion, thinly sliced
Zucchini, thinly sliced
1[½] cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese or cheese alternative Make the pizza sauce: In a small heavy saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Set aside.  Make the crust: Arrange oven racks in the bottom and middle positions of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Grease (use shortening or butter, not oil or cooking spray) a 12-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pizza pan. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm milk for 5 minutes.  In a food processor, blend all of the crust ingredients, including the yeast mixture, until the dough forms a ball. The dough will be very, very soft. (Or, blend in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, until well blended.) Put the dough in the center of the pizza pan. Liberally sprinkle rice flour onto the dough; then press the dough into the pan with your hands, continuing to dust the dough with flour to prevent it from sticking to your hands. At first, it will seem as though there is not enough dough to cover the pan, but don’t worry―it is just the right amount. Make the edges thicker to contain the toppings, taking care to make the dough as smooth as possible. The smoother you can shape the dough, especially around the edges, the prettier the crust will be. Bake the pizza crust for 10 minutes on the bottom rack.  While the crust bakes, make the toppings. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove the pizza crust from the oven and brush the top with the pizza sauce. Sprinkle with the cheese and arrange the vegetables on top. Return the pizza to the oven and bake on the middle rack until nicely browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. You may brush the crust edges with a little olive oil, if you like. Cut it into 6 slices and serve warm.
Per slice: 260 calories; 10g protein; 10g total fat; 4g fiber; 35g carbohydrates; 27mg cholesterol; 730mg sodium
How to Shape Pizza Crust Dough
See a step-by-step guide to making gluten-free pizza at www.glutenfree101.com. Click on Videos, then on Pizza 101.
Make-Ahead Pizza Dough
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pizzeria in your own kitchen? Well, that may be asking a bit much. But you can have pizza often and with little effort, with a little advance preparation. Make the pizza dough ahead of time and freeze it, tightly covered, for up to 1 month. Thaw the dough overnight, tightly covered, in the refrigerator before shaping the dough on the pizza pan following Step 2. Or, make the dough on weekends, refrigerate, tightly covered, and bake it up to 3 days later. The only change required for make-ahead dough is to use cold rather than warm milk so that the yeast won’t activate until the pizza goes into the oven. While the chilled dough is easier to shape, it may take longer to rise because it is cold, so let the shaped crust sit on the countertop for 10 minutes to warm up a bit before baking.
When you’re ready to bake the pizza, preheat the oven, remove the foil from the crust, and place it on a lightly greased 12-inch pizza pan. Let the crust thaw for about 10 minutes while you prepare the toppings. Add the toppings and bake the pizza on the middle rack just until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes (depending on toppings). Serve imme
I’ve come to see the sweet potato as a kind of orange Sweden. In all the food rules that swirl around me, the Garnet Yam is an island of neutrality. Vegan? Paleo? Gluten-Free? Just trying to find some tasty grub? The trusty sweet potato is on your short list for good food.
You see, I’ve been a private chef, specializing in cooking for people with special diets for years. Food allergies, weight loss regimens, diets to make it through cancer treatment, I’ve been there. Cooking the food.
If I’ve learned anything in 20 years of this, it’s that people really do need individualized diets. In a perfect World, we would all instinctively figure out which of the foods around us made us feel happy and healthy. But in our industrial food environment, many people struggle to find the combination of things that keep them humming along. All sorts of nagging problems come from eating things that seem perfectly harmless, and cause untold suffering and frustration.
So when somebody tells me that they can’t eat something, I believe them. It’s not my place, or anyone’s place, to decide that cousin Sally is just pretending to be gluten-free, or that the Jones family next door is just trying to be trendy with their vegan diet. We do seem to be in a time of flux, one that drives people a little crazy. Especially anyone hosting a party or Holiday dinner.
So, in the spirit of togetherness, I give you the Sweden of foods, a sweet potato. Now, I know, the sweet potato or even the onions might be on someone’s fodmap list. That person can probably eat something else on the menu, they are not so hard to please. This recipe is even nut-free. I used hemp seeds to make a creamy element in the stuffing, since there are not too many people reacting to hemp seeds.
Another trick I use to replace the cheese and dairy flavors in a stuffed potato is the caramelized onion. Sweetness, complexity, umami, all pile up in the panful of onions, if you coax it along patiently. It’s not cheese, but it adds so much, for so little.
Caramelized Onion Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Of course, you can replace the hemp seeds with raw cashews, almonds, walnuts or pecans. If you are a dairy lover, you can sub chevre for the hemp, or sprinkle crumbled bleu cheese on top.
Makes 2, serves 2-4
2 sweet potato, 8 ounce or so
3 large onion, sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup hemp seeds, or other nut
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Use a paring knife to score a cut along the tip of the sweet potatoes to make it easier to open them when they are done. Put on a sheet pan, slice up, and roast until soft, testing by piercing the flesh inside the cut. Let cool.
While the sweet potatoes roast, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan, add the onions and bring to a sizzle, then reduce to medium low. Stir often, cooking for an hour or so, until the onions are limp and caramel brown. Let cool.
In a food processor, grind the hemp or other nuts to a paste. Scrape down and add the lemon, salt and water and process to make it as creamy as possible.
Gently open up the sweet potatoes and scoop out the flesh, leaving a layer behind in the skins. Put half in a large bowl, and half in the processor with the hemp. Add half of the caramelized onions to the processor and process to make a chunky mixture.
Scrape the puree into the bowl with the mashed sweet potato, and add all but 1/4 cup of the remaining caramelized onions to the mixture. Stuff the mixture into the skins, then top with the reserved onions and cracked black pepper.
Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes. These can be made ahead and refrigerated, they will take longer to bake if cold.
When I teach about whole grains, I often find that there are many whole grains that people have never even seen or heard of. While that is understandable when it comes to exotica like Fonio, an African grain that isn’t sold in stores here. But it’s just kind of odd that we all eat oats, but nobody has ever seen a real whole oat groat.
The oat plant doesn’t grow rounded flat oatmeal-seeds, just perfect for putting in cookies. Those are rolled in a machine, from a whole oat groat.
Just to be clear, all grains, like wheat berries, brown rice, and quinoa, can be rolled. But somewhere along the line, we decided that we wanted rolled oats, and that became the way we see them. Yes, steel cut oats are growing in popularity, too. They are whole oats, chopped into pieces for quicker cooking.
So we never see the whole oat, and on the flip side, you don’t see rolled rice or wheat in every grocery store, either. Why? Well, oats are uniquely sweet and have a little bit more oil than many other grains, both of which make them vulnerable to spoilage. So the process of steaming and flattening them kills an enzyme that would hasten their breakdown after harvest. The sweet, mild flavor of oats is what makes them so popular, with no branny flavors.
Which is why it’s such a shame that we aren’t in the habit of eating them whole. Oat groats cook up tender and sweet, with a chameleon-like ability to soak up flavors. Unlike wheat berries, which always hold on to some crunch, oat groats become fully tender, but don’t fall apart.
This makes them perfect for all kinds of savory dishes, where they are a delicious alternative to the rice in your pilaf or farro in your risotto. Or, as in the recipe below, a big, colorful Biryani.
So why should you seek out these whole oats, and incorporate them into lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast? Well, oats are good food. We’ve all heard about their ability to lower bad LDL cholesterol. The fiber in oats, beta glucans, soaks up that cholesterol and takes it away. Beta glucans has now been found to be an immune booster, that is linked to reduced risk of cancer. Oats also contain over 20 unique polyphenols, potent antioxidants that prevent inflammation, and interestingly- itching.
Oats are also known to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. All that good fiber fills you up, so you eat less, and oats are rated as one of the highest foods in satiety, because they keep you feeling full longer than the same amount of calories of other foods. They are also pretty high in protein for a grain, and have the kinds of fiber that nourish a healthy population of good bacteria in your digestive tract.
For the gluten-avoiders, whole oat groats are usually gluten-free. Look for the gluten-free label, which will mean that the groats were processed and packed in a facility that doesn’t process gluten-containing grains. There are a few people who cross-react to the proteins in oats as if they were gluten, but most experts agree that GF oats are safe.
So if you are going to cook rice for a curry or stir fry, or throw some barley in a soup, or cook some orzo for a pasta salad, think about using whole oats for a fun change.
Here’s the nutritional info: 1/4 cup raw oat groats has 130 calories, 3 g fat, 197 mg potassium (6% RDA) 5 g fiber (20% RDA) 8 g protein (16% RDA) 241 mg phosphorus (24% RDA) calcium 2% RDA, iron 10% RDA.
Oat Groat and Veggie Biryani with Chickpeas and Cashews
Makes about 6 cups
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh turmeric
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large red chile, sliced
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaf
2 cups water
1 cup whole oat groats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cauliflower floweret
1 large carrot
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup edamame or peas
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup toasted cashew pieces
In a 6 quart pan, heat the canola oil and saute the red onions over medium high heat. When soft, add ginger, turmeric, garlic, red chile, cumin, mustard, cinnamon stick and bay. Cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant and the chile is softened. Add the water and groats, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 30 minutes.
Uncover, stir, and add the cauliflower, carrots, garbanzos, edamame or peas, coconut milk and lemon. Cover and cook for 10 minutes more. Uncover and test the oats, they should be tender. If there is liquid in the pot, simmer, uncovered, to reduce to a thick sauce. Serve topped with mint and cashews.
There is a phenomenon that occurs when we make one food a stand-in for another food. Think carob for chocolate, or broccoli stems in place of avocado in Guacamole. We take a perfectly blameless food and put it in place of another, usually beloved and somewhat decadent food, then heap derision on it. If nobody had ever compared carob to chocolate, people might actually like the sweet, fruity taste.
Such could be the fate of spaghetti squash. Thanks to its unique structure, it really does look like a barrel of spaghetti when you bake it. But to be fair, it never claimed to be a pasta. We put that on it. I first heard of it in some diet plan, and it slid into my mental file with Weight Watcher’s foods. Like drinking orange juice with extra water or roasting mushrooms to snack on like peanuts, it seemed like a thoroughly unsatisfying compromise.
Well, now I’ve finally come to see spaghetti squash for the dazzlingly unique sparklepony that it is. Sure, I still put pasta sauces on it, but I don’t eat it to avoid carbs. I love carbs. I serve it often to gluten free people, and now that I’ve explored all the options on gluten free pasta (in my upcoming book) I see it in a whole new light.
I’m not alone. I’ve been seeing spaghetti squash on the menu, here and there, like in the photo above, where the squash is seasoned with spices and stuffed in a sandwich, kind of like pulled pork. It’s a delicious, creative sandwich. Of course, the squash is even less like pork that it is like pasta, but I love the idea. I also noticed it in the quiche of the day description at People’s Organic, so somebody must like it with eggs.
So while spaghetti squash will never be pasta, it’s a natural, whole food. A vegetable, something we all need more of. Instead of thinking of it as a sad replacement for pasta, think of it as an interestingly julienned squash. The flavor is sweeter and squashier than pasta, anyway. That makes it a good playmate for tangy tastes, spice, garlic, and bitter greens.
The other thing may have turned some of us off to spaghetti squash is overcooking. The standard directions say to bake until easily pierced with a paring knife, like a big butternut squash. In my experiments, I’m finding that the flesh is usually overcooked by that point. Maybe it’s the hard shell, maybe they sit on the shelf longer than other squash, but you can’t wait that long. I test by flipping the squash over and poking at the flesh, to see if it will separate into strands. That way I can keep some al dente bite to it.
Like all vegetables, the spaghetti squash is a healthy food. A cup contains 42 calories, 10 g carb, 2 g fiber, 1 g protein, 9% RDA of Vitamin C, 3% RDA of Vitamin A, 3% of the Iron, and 3% calcium. A cup of cooked spaghetti has 43 g carbs and 221 calories, if you are concerned about such things, so when you try my recipe, you will be cutting back on those, deliciously.
Spaghetti Squash with Creamy Kale Pesto and Grape Tomatoes
I usually figure that each pound of spaghetti squash yields about a cup of strands, after taking out the seeds, baking, and discarding the shell.
Makes 2-3 servings
3 cups spaghetti squash, strands
2 leaves kale, 2 cups packed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup raw cashews
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
Bake the spaghetti squash, when al dente, remove the strands by scraping with a fork. Reserve. In a food processor, place the kale, garlic, and cashews. Grind to a paste before adding olive oil gradually. Add salt and process.
Toss the pesto with the squash and tomatoes.