The Real Food Journal

Spread Some Spice with Squash Butter

Slow Cooker Squash Butter with Apples and Maple

Squash Butter for all your Pumpkin Spice Needs!

Oh yes, It’s full on squash season. I’m teaching squash cookery classes, gawking at the gorgeous displays of squash at the market, and of course, cooking with squash. Like you, though, I am pressed for time. That’s why I made this spiced squash butter. I just threw it in the slow cooker, ignored it while I did my other recipe testing, and pureed it. Then I cooked it some more to get spreadable and thick.

Forget pumpkin spice everything. You need some squash butter, with all the spices you love suspended in a thick, sweet spread of real, unadulterated squash, with a little apple thrown in for depth.

If you don’t know your kabocha from your sweet dumpling, it’s high time you learned. First off, canned pumpkin IS NOT PUMPKIN.

Mind blown? Be glad. Pumpkin is just another kind of squash, in my book. The next time you open a can of pumpkin, take a little taste. It’s not sweet, in fact, it’s a little bitter. It’s thick, from long cooking, and that has its advantages. But it’s not the tastiest of the edible gourds.

That’s why when I teach a squash class, I like to roast little slices of several varieties of winter squash, so that all the participants can compare them, like fine cheeses or sips of wine. One of the great joys of teaching is seeing the faces of people who are discovering a food they thought they knew, as if it were brand new.

Winter Squash for Squash Butter

Winter Squash and a Pumpkin for Squash Butter

Your most common winter squashes will be Butternut, Acorn, and Buttercup. Butternut and Acorn are mild, very moist squashes, really best suited to eating with brown sugar and butter, or soup. Buttercup is a little denser and meatier. Little squashes, like Sweet Dumpling and Delicata are also mild and moist, and make great stuffers. (Try my Nut Curry Stuffed Squash recipe here, or my Squash Hummus Stuffed Squash recipe here.)

But my personal faves are the dense, meaty, almost dry textured Kabocha, Red Kuri, and Hubbard. Peeled and cubed, they have body, heft, and flavor to use in a pasta (try this tasty Roasted Squash and Whole Wheat Pasta recipe here.) They keep it together in soups, curries, and other dishes, too.

But the best thing is that they are so thick and intense when you puree them. Remember that can of pumpkin? Try your recipe with pureed Kabocha or Red Kuri, and everyone will think you are a genius.

Squash and Apple Butter with Spice

Spread Thick, Maple Spice Squash Butter on Everything!

I don’t can, and because it’s low-acid, this is not a good candidate for pressure or water bath canning. This is more of a refrigerator spread. It won’t last long, so you don’t have to worry that it will go bad. If you spread it on toast, bagels, apple slices, and oatmeal for the next month, you might have to make more to get through Thanksgiving.

Try making this, and you’ll have the side benefit of making your house smell fantastic. It’s alike an edible pot pourri.

Who needs a pumpkin spice sugar bomb, when we have this luscious spread?


Squash and Apple Butter

The crock pot is the perfect tool for making this slow-simmered squash butter. You can savor all those pumpkin spice flavors in a concentrated, real food spread. Makes about 2 1/2 cups, depending on how thick it gets.

Course Breakfast
Servings 10
Author Robin Asbell


  • 2.75 pounds red kuri squash peeled and cubed
  • 2 large apples peeled and cored
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespons fresh ginger minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and set it to high, and clamp the lid on tightly.

  2. Cook for four hours, then transfer the mixture to the Vitamix and puree. Return to the crock and simmer on high, uncovered, for an hour or until the desired thickness is achieved. You can speed this up by putting the puree in a pot on the stove and boiling it to reduce to a thick paste.





Warm, Savory Stuffed Sweet Potatoes for Fall

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Caramelized Onions and Walnuts Rock the Sweet Potato

Fall is Sweet Potato Time

Maybe it’s the falling leaves, or the chill creeping into the morning air, but for some reason, I’m craving sweetness. The Halloween candy displays have been up in stores for weeks, promising sugary oblivion. This is a good time to bake up a bunch of sweet potatoes.  I want to fill my belly with warm, energizing foods, not junk. Sweet potatoes just do it for me.

Sweet Potatoes are Nature’s Candy

Sweet Potatoes

Piles of Just Harvested Sweet Potatoes!

My Coop is sweet potato central, offering up this gorgeous pile of sweet potato varieties. Those purple ones in front are Stokes Purples, which I wrote about here, and made into a dramatic blue cookie.I used them in a tasty wrap sandwich here.

The white ones are my go-to when I am cooking for my gluten-free clients, and I use them to make noodles. Their pale color makes it easy to slip them in to thicken soups and bind savory cakes, when you can’t use grains.

But the classic burnished orange of the Garnet yam calls out to me in Fall. Maybe it’s the artist in me, looking for Autumn colors. That orange sure looks good on the plate.

Eat More Orange Foods

The sweet potato gets alot of love these days because of the fiber. Sweet as it is, even the low-carb people are on board. Sweet potatoes have unique storage proteins called “sporamins” that are being studied for their antioxidant activity. Of course, all that orange color comes from Carotenoids, which we know are excellent at protecting your cells, and which convert to much needed Vitamin A in the body. One cup of mashed sweet potato gives you over 100 % of your daily needs of Vitamin A, 52% of the Vitamin C, 50 % of the manganese, 36% of the copper, and good sprinkling of B-Vitamins and other minerals.

It Tastes Like Candy

For these tasty treats, I went to another plant-based source of sweetness, the onion. You may not think of the onion as a sweet food, but once you slowly saute them in olive oil, you will see them differently. Once the heat of the sulfur compounds in raw onions is dissipated, the pure sweetness underneath can come to the fore, and gentle heat caramelizes it for a natural sugar boost.

It was all so sweet that I needed to balance it out with some savory fresh thyme and some salt. That’s it. Simple. Walnuts add crunch and richness. Don’t even think about how good they are for you.These are creamy, if you want something more solid, add a cup of whole wheat bread crumbs.

Cheese lovers can always add a crumble of blue cheese or goat cheese, for a little tangy counterpoint.

This is comfort food, just a sweet, lush mouthful of orange candy.

Welcome Fall, with a stuffed sweet potato!

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts

For a vegan main course, or a side for everyone else, these savory, herby sweet potatoes are a show-stopper.

Course Main Course
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 4 small sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds yellow onions chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the sweet potatoes on a sheet pan and cut a slit the length of the top of each one. Roast for about 30 minutes, until very tender all the way through, let cool.

  2. Place the olive oil in a large saute pan and add the onions, stir over medium-high heat until the onions start to soften and sizzle. Lower to medium-low and stir every 10 minutes for about an hour, and lower to low if they start to stick. Take your time, they should be caramel colored when done. If they are soupy at the end, raise the heat and cook them until they are very thick.

  3. Carefully cut an opening in each sweet potato and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl, leaving a bit behind to support the shell. Add the onions, salt, thyme and walnuts and mix well. Spoon into the potato shells. Bake for 30 minutes, let stand for 5 before serving.






Go Whole Grain with a Matcha Green Smoothie Soak

Make a Green Smoothie Oat Soak with Matcha

Green Smoothie Meets Oats

I love my smoothies, you know I do. Blending up a bunch of energizing fruits and leafy greens is a great way to reward myself after a morning workout, or to fuel up for an active day. But sometimes, I want some whole grains, too. The fiber and nutrients in a bowl of oatmeal keep you full a little longer than other breakfasts. So I combined the two.

Smoothie+Oats=Great Breakfast

I know, I know, I can always make a smoothie bowl, like this one, and top the smoothie with gorgeous purple barley, or sprinkle any smoothie with granola. But this fun trick is much more akin to Muesli. Muesli was created in 1900 by Swiss doctor Maximilan Bircher-Benner, as a health food for his patients. It’s essentially a raw food, combining rolled oats, milk or yogurt, and grated apples and nuts.

I love a good, classic Muesli, but it’s always good to update things. So, by combining a green smoothie with the Muesli technique, we can add fresh leafy greens to the mix, and I think Dr Bircher-Benner would approve.

Green Smoothie Oat Soak with Matcha

Kiwi, Kale and Matcha Tea give it a beautiful green color

It’s also Whole Grains Month, so this is the perfect time to add a new whole grain habit to your life. The convenience of this recipe is a real selling point. Simply buzz up a smoothie, mix it with oats, and put it in the fridge. By morning, you have a tasty breakfast. You can simply grab the container and go, or you can spoon it into a glass and decorate it a bit with fruit, as I did.

Once you stir it up, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, so you can have a great breakfast when you need it. If you want to mix and match with the ingredients you have on hand, go ahead. If you are not a kale person, a couple of handfuls of spinach might be milder on your palate.

To keep it green, you could add some yellow fruits, like pineapple or peaches. If you go with blueberries or raspberries, it won’t be as photogenic, but probably taste great.

Now you can get some oatmeal without stirring a pot of it on the stove, and throw in a green smoothie.

A Green Oat Soak for Easy Breakfast

Green Smoothie Oats With Matcha

If you like a green smoothie, and also love oats, try a green smoothie oat soak. The oats gently absorb all the goodness of your kiwi-kale smoothie, and will be ready to go by morning.

Course Breakfast
Servings 2
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup almond or other milk
  • 4 leaves kale stems removed
  • 2 large kiwis save one for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon matcha
  • 2 tablespoons honey or other sweetener to taste
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • yogurt for serving
  • sliced nectarne or berries for serving


  1. Place the milk, kale, 1 peeled kiwi, matcha and honey in the Vitamix or other blender. Secure the lid and select Speed 1, turn on the machine and increase to High. Blend for 30 seconds or so to make sure the greens are completely obliterated.

  2. Place the oats in a 4 cup storage container and pour the puree over the oats. Stir to combine, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 4 days.

  3. To serve, stir the oat mixture, then layer in a glass with yogurt, kiwi, and nectarine or berries. If desired, drizzle with more honey.









Try a Sweet Potato and Corn Scone for Whole Grains Month

Vegan Sweet Potato Scones with Corn

Sweet Potato Scones Studded with Sweet Corn

Fall, and Whole Grains Month, Come Too Soon

These last weeks of summer, the sweet corn tastes like candy, and I’m buying it at the market every week, as if it could keep Fall at bay. There are still watermelons and raspberries and corn, dangit, so it’s still summer, even if the squashes and sweet potatoes are singing their own siren songs. To make the most of this great produce, may I suggest that you make Sweet Potato and Corn Scones, and celebrate Whole Grains Month?

These scones are easy, fast, and have just enough novelty to excite your jaded palate. Yes, sweet corn in a sweet scone is delicious, and the kernels have a chewy sweetness that harmonizes with the sweet potato.

They are also a lesson in whole grain flavor balancing. It’s always been my rule, when working with whole wheat, balance it with assertive flavors that aren’t lost to the whole grains strong flavors.

I used Baker’s Field Flour and Bread’s All-purpose soft white wheat flour, which is a tender, pale whole wheat flour comparable to a whole wheat pastry flour. I added some buckwheat flour for a nutty flavor and a hint of spice.

Sweet Potato and Sweet Corn Scones

Scones are an Easy Quickbread, Perfect for Fall

The corn needs no preparation other than cutting it from the cob, as the time in the oven is all the cooking it needs. I used melted coconut oil, for the plant-based crowd, but if you are a butter lover, grass-fed butter would work, too.

Of course, Whole Grains Month is the time to assess your whole grain consumption and see whether you are reaching that recommended 3 servings per day. I would hope that you are exceeding that, because whole grains are the staff of life.

Whether you are an omnivorous eater or a vegan, or any variation in between, whole grains will make a positive impact on your health. They’re great at reducing your carbon footprint, too, especially if you buy local. If your palate is accustomed to white flour foods, it make take a little adjustment, but with the right whole grain foods, you’ll be craving that crunch in no time.

The nearly effortless switch to whole grain crackers or breakfast cereals makes a difference. There are so many good breads and pastas these days, just buy a few and try them out.

Get into whole grains, and your body will thank you!


Sweet Potato and Corn Scones

At the end of summer, fresh sweet potatoes and corn combine in harmony in a sweet scone.

Course Breakfast
Calories 8 kcal
Author Robin Asbell


  • 2 1/2 cups soft white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil or margarine
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 ears sweet corn cut from the cob
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large bowl, combine whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the sweet potato, melted coconut oil, milk and cider vinegar. Stir into the dry ingredients until almost mixed, then add the corn and mix. Lightly flour the counter and scrape the dough out onto the flour. Form a disk of dough, then pat to about an inch thick. Use a bench knife or chefs knife to divide in 8 wedges. Sprinkle with Turbinado and transfer the scones to a baking sheet.

  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and firm. Transfer the scones to a rack with a spatula. Cool completely.






Savor Summer with an Easy Plum Cake with Neat Eggs

Rainbow Plum Cake with Neat Egg Substitute

A Fruity Snack Cake for Any Time of Day

Trying Out a Whole Food Egg Substitute

As a recipe developer, I’ve always got a list of recipes to create. Every recipe is like a little chemistry experiment, which has to work physically, as well as taste good. I’ve been lucky enough to write nine cookbooks, all while writing recipes for magazine articles, websites, and private clients. I cook, I bake, we eat, and I start all over again.

Recently, I’ve been on a run of savory recipe work, and found myself gazing at pictures of desserts with lust in my heart. So when a package of Neat Egg egg substitute arrived on my stoop, I knew I had to make a vegan cake. With whole grain flour, of course.

The Neat Egg is right up my alley, since it’s made from nothing but chia seeds and chickpea flour. Whole, nutritious food, not a bunch of starch or refined stuff. I’ve always been partial to ground flax and chia for vegan baking. Both seeds, when ground to release starches and fiber, can be mixed with liquid to form a thick gel. That gelling quality helps trap air and create structure in baked goods the way that eggs do.

Laura Lapp, Creator of Neat Foods

I spoke to Laura Lapp, the founder and creator of Neat Foods, about her nifty Neat egg subsitute and the line of meatless meats she has created, and it’s sold by Atlantic Natural Foods.

Lapp is a lifelong vegetarian who was raising two daughters as omnivores, when the two girls decided to go veg, too. ” My girls were 4 and 7 and saw something on TV and decided to go vegetarian. I was so used to making them spaghetti and meatballs or tacos that for a while we just ate pasta with tomato sauce because I didn’t know what to do for protein.” said Lapp.

She looked at the meat analogs on the market, and didn’t like what she saw. “I got scared off by the chemicals, it was like feeding fruit loops to my kids, except it was a veggie burger.” So she started working with beans and nuts to develop some good subs for the meatballs and taco meat she had been feeding her girls.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

“Kids are the worst critics,” said Lapp, but after many attempts, she got the thumbs up. “My daughter said, ‘It’s not meat, it’s neat.’ and that became the name of my company.”

The Neat Egg came along later, and now she has a whole line of baking mixes ready to launch. “It’s my new baby. We have a black bean brownie, a cowgirl cookie with pistachios and cherries, all keeping with the idea that Neat is clean. No extra additives, just real food. They are all soy-free, gluten-free and vegan, too.”

The Neat Egg is a convenient way to bake without eggs, since the seeds are already finely ground and blended with chickpea flour for a bit of that aquafaba magic. It’s an easy egg substitute you keep in the pantry.

Click here to read more about Neat Eggs

Rainbow Plum Cake with Neat Egg Subtitute

When the Plums are in Season

For this cake, I picked up four kinds of plums and pluots at my Coop. Ranging from the dappled green of the “Flavor Grenade” pluot to a deep black plum, they were perfect for displaying on top of a cake. I am lucky to have access to Bakers Field Flour and Bread’s soft white whole wheat flour, but you can use whole wheat pastry flour. If you’re baking for a tough crowd, you can always use half unbleached flour, for a lighter cake.

Putting fresh fruit and a sprinkle of crunchy sugar on top of the cake is just as appealing as frosting, but much better for you.

Keep an eye out for Neat Foods products wherever you live, because “It’s not meat, It’s Neat!”


Rainbow Plum Cake

Colorful sliced plums tile across the top of this easy cake. It only take a few minutes to make, and is 100 % whole grain. If you want to use part white flour, sub in half a cup.

Course Dessert
Servings 8
Author Robin Asbell


  • 4 medium plums and pluots different colors
  • 1 1/2 cups soft white whole wheat flour or pastry
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons Neat Egg or ground chia
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar


  1. Slice the plums, keeping each color in its own little pile.

    Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil an 8 inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, mix the flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, neat egg, vanilla, and 1 tbs lemon and whisk to mix. Pour over the flour mixture and stir just to combine.

  2. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums in slightly overlapping rows on top of the batter. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of white sugar, then bake for 1 hour. Take out when until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with no wet batter clinging to it. Cool the cake on a rack. Eat warm, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to a week.







September is Whole Grains Month, Enter Your Fave Charity to Win Free Food!

September is Whole Grains Month, and time to make a resolution to add a few more servings of whole grains to your life. As you know, it’s always whole grains month around here, so I have plenty of helpful recipes and tips to get you started.

I promise, this will be fun, if you try my Naked Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies, or my Kale Bowl with Quinoa and Spicy Dressing. Grilled Collard Rolls Filled with Quinoa and Avocado are to die for, really.

A Great Whole Grain Giveaway

Nominate your favorite food charity to win cases and cases of whole grain goodies! Just click here and tell the WGC how your fave charity helps address food insecurity.

Your local food shelf, a great soup kitchen, or anybody doing something creative to get real food into the hands of people who need it deserves to be entered to win.

I love this idea, for many reasons. The first being that folks who are in need will get food that really nourishes them. Whole grains are the cornerstone of health, and people who are living with the stress of food insecurity deserve to have food that supports better health. There is plenty of evidence that poverty is linked with a host of health problems, and whole grains are good for many of them.

Another reason to love this giveaway is that it may just help someone start a new, healthy habit for the long-haul. The food bank that gives away cases of tasty whole grains isn’t just nourishing families for a day, it’s showing people that whole grain foods are tastier than they may have thought. Too many people still believe that white bread and pasta are the only kinds they like, and that bias crosses all income levels. Maybe some tasty whole grain foods will change hearts and minds for the better.

Are You Eating 3 Servings a Day?

Statistically speaking, you probably aren’t. Whole grain consumption is no where near where it really should be. Maybe you’re like me, exceeding the mark on a daily basis. Congratulations. If not, consider trying a few ideas from the Whole Grains Council:

Post this list of “baby-steps” on your fridge, and try as many as possible this month:

  • I’ll buy three different loaves of whole-grain bread and taste all of them to see which one we like best.
  • I’ll serve bulgur or brown rice instead of potatoes with dinner one night this month.
  • I’ll look for the Whole Grain Stamp every time I shop.
  • I’ll try a new breakfast cereal with at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving.
  • I’ll buy some whole-wheat pasta and try it.
  • I’ll visit the health food store or a major grocery and look at all the different grains in bins.
  • I’ll make my favorite whole grain recipe for a friend.
  • On the weekend, I’ll try cooking a pot of steel-cut oatmeal.
  • I’ll make pizza for the kids with whole wheat pita as the crust.
  • I’ll make our favorite cookies with whole wheat flour next time instead of white.
  • I’ll serve hamburgers with whole wheat buns this week.
  • I’ll try all of the WGC’s Dozen Easy Family Whole Grain Recipes.

Try One of my Whole Grain Recipes

Click Here to go to a list of some of my easiest whole grain favorites. From Salads and Main Courses to Bars and Cookies, there are some whole grain recipes here to win you over.

  • Rhubarb shines in chewy, crunchy bars made with rolled barley and sliced almonds

    Rhubarb shines in chewy, crunchy bars made with rolled barley and sliced almonds

    Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

    Kamut and Chickpea Naan with Banana Chutney

    Take a big bite of bao

    Happy Whole Grains Month. It’s one celebration that your body will appreciate!








Kale, The Gift That Keeps on Giving, and Kale Pesto Tartines

Kale Pesto Tartines

Kale Pesto On Good Bread with Great Tomatoes

Around this time of the summer, the zucchini cartoons start appearing in the paper. Gardeners are creeping around in the dark of night, unloading zucchini on unsuspecting neighbors. My question for everyone trying to unload their zucchini is, have you ever grown kale?

Kale Just Keeps On Giving

Trust me, kale cranks out the harvest at a speed that puts zucchini to shame. Pick some, it grows back overnight. As summer goes on, the central stem turns into a trunk, topped with sprouting leaves. By fall, it looks like a cruciferous palm tree, and it will keep waving at you as the days get shorter. It’s actually sweeter after a frost.

Leave it there, and the sturdy leaves will peep out of a snowbank til Spring. Zucchini doesn’t do that.

Juices, Smoothies, and Grilling with Kale

I hardly need to tell you how nutritious kale is. Just the word has become a cultural signifier. If a character in a movie eats kale, they are either a California-lean yoga girl or a baby boomer hippie type. The kind of people who suffer through bad tasting but virtuous meals eat kale.

Not me, I never eat anything I don’t enjoy. The Tuscan kale growing so prolifically in my garden is sweet and tender, especially the small, young leaves at the top. And I don’t just munch on plain kale.

It pays to have a plan for your kale. I planted it so that I could make juice and smoothies with it, as well as add it to other dishes. I can power through a big pile of it in a green juice. I’ve got some recipes here to put your kale to good use.

Kale Recipes:

Lemony Pesto Kale Salad

Ingredients for Lemony Pesto Kale Salad

Pesto Kale Salad

Green Juice

Green Juice!

Cleansing Green Juice

Kale and Almond Salad

Jamaican Rundown Greens

Jamaican Rundown Greens

 Jamaican Rundown Greens

Panini Grilled Kale and Veggies

Use That Panini Grill to Press and Sear Tofu and Veggies

Grilled Kale and Tofu in the Panini Press

Grilling Kale

Grill that kale!

Grilled Kale

Make Easy Kale Tartines

Garden Kale Pesto Tartines

My Garden is in Sync for a Great Meal


Today I am hungry and in a hurry, so I’m making a crowd pleaser out of all the goodies in my garden. Fresh basil, tomatoes and kale, all on a piece of toast. Good toast is essential; I used Baker’s Field Flour and Bread’s lovely locally grown, ground and fermented whole grain bread. Look for a naturally leavened whole grain bread wherever you live, and all your meals will be better. I did boil some water for blanching the kale, but otherwise, no cooking. The kale is pretty incognito in the pesto, with a large quantity of fresh basil and some creamy pine nuts to balance out the flavor.

Of course, you could add some parmesan to the pesto, or shave Asiago over the tartines. It’s got plenty of richness from the olive oil and pine nuts, so you might not need cheese as much as you think you do.

You don’t have to be a yogi or a hippie, just eat that kale. Cultural stereotypes were made to be broken.



Kale Pesto and Tomato Tartine

Servings 2


  • 6 small Tuscan Kale leaves about 1 cup, packed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves packed
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 5 tablespoons pine nuts divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large slices of whole grain bread
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes or several small ones
  • red pepper flakes


  1. Put a quart of water in a pot and salt it generously, use it to blanch the kale. Strip the stems and drop it in boiling water for a minute, drain, rinse with cold water, and squeeze out until dry.

  2. Put the kale, basil, garlic and 3 tablespoons pine nuts in the processor bowl and process. Scrape down and process until finely minced. Gradually add olive oil, scraping and pureeing until smooth. Add salt and process. Scrape out into a small bowl. If not serving right away, cover the surface with olive oil and cover tightly.

  3. Toast the bread, spread with pesto, then top with tomatoes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and remaining pine nuts.





Try Sweet Corn Sambal with Krupuk, for an Indonesian-Flavored Summer Dip

Indonesian Corn Sambal with Krupuk

Nosh on Indonesian Corn Sambal and Krupuk Before Dinner

There’s a point in the summer when fruits and vegetables are at peak, and the challenge is to fully appreciate this moment when melons taste like melons, tomatoes really taste like tomatoes, and sweet corn sends you into a Proustian reverie. The food practically falls onto the plate, already perfect.  Take this easy Indonesian Sweet Corn Sambal.

Several years ago, in Amsterdam, I fell hard for Indonesian food. In Minneapolis, we didn’t have an Indonesian restaurant scene, but Amsterdam did. Indonesia was a Dutch colony from 1800 to 1949, and these restaurants are the delicious remains of a darker past.

Discovering Sambal

At the start of every meal, we’d be given some insanely crispy krupuk chips and spicy sambal for dipping, the same way you get bread in an American restaurant, or salsa and chips at a Mexican place. I came home looking for krupuk and sambal, and added some Indonesian flavors to my pantry.

Once you tire of boiling ears of sweet corn, you must try it Indonesian-style. I’m not pretending that it is authentic, just tasty. Sambal is the salsa of Indonesia, and Krupuk can make a great chip for dipping. I picked up some Sambal Bajak, Ketjap Manis, and Garlic Krupuk, and just wanted to have them play with my locally grown corn, jalapenos, shallots, and tomatoes.

Sambal and The Origins of Ketchup

Sambal Bajak is a chile paste with shallots, sugar, and candlenuts, and often has shrimp paste, so check your label. You can always use another chili sauce, if you don’t have it.

Ketjap Manis is a soy sauce flavored with deeply caramelized sugar and molasses, giving it a slightly bitter sweetness. It’s the forgotten progenitor of America’s favorite condiment, ketchup, if you can believe it. Ketjap Manis was one of many fermented, sweet and sour condiments of the time, probably a descendant of Roman Garum, the stinky fish sauce of the Roman empire.  The umami-rich sauce made the trek from Malaysian Islands to the Colonies with traders, who used it to jazz up their boring porridge based meals. Of course, the Colonists had to make a version with what they had on hand, and the first Americanized version of ketchup was born. In the 1700’s, American ketchup was made with just about anything, from mushrooms to anchovies, and the tomato version didn’t make the scene until much later.

Indonesian Corn Sambal with Krupuk

Indonesian Corn Sambal with Krupuk

The Global Melting Pot

Foods evolve and change, and ketchup is a perfect example of how people change something to fit their environment and tastes. Americans dropped the soy sauce, kept the sugar, and added spices and more sugar. Indonesian immigrants moved to the Netherlands and opened restaurants, where they serve “rijstaffel,” created just to please the Dutch. I put corn in Sambal.

Work with What’s In Season

Like the Americans who created ketchup, you work with what is at hand. This sweet corn is like candy, it’s so sweet and crisp. To give it some Indonesian flair, I chopped a couple of jalapenos and added garlic, ginger, and lime zest. A quick saute in a hot pan, and my sambal was ready for dipping.

I bought pre-fried krupuk, but you can also buy the uncooked chips and fry them yourself. They are quite a show, as the little pressed pieces of starch hit the hot oil and puff up to four times their size. If you just serve it with corn chips, it will still be delicious.

Enjoy the best of summer in a sambal. It’s a fresh alternative to salsa, and a great way to enjoy sweet corn.

Indonesian Corn Sambal

Indonesian Sweet Corn Sambal with Krupuk

This is a fast appetizer, or side dish to go with an Indonesian meal. If you don't have sambal, use another hot sauce, and sub for ketjap manis with soy sauce with a little molasses.

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup minced red shallots
  • 2 large jalapenos seeded and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
  • 2 ears sweet corn cut off the cob
  • 1 teaspoon ketjap manis
  • 2 teaspoon sambal bajak to taste
  • krupuk


  1. Prep all the vegetables. Place a large saute pan over medium high heat, and drizzle in the canola oil. Add the shallots, jalapenos, garlic and ginger and stir until the shallots are lightly browned and soft. Add the corn and stir until the corn is softened slightly.

  2. Stir in the ketjap manis and sambal bajak and cook for a minute, then taste, add more hot stuff if you want more heat. Serve warm with krupuk.




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