Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stuffed Squash Blossoms



One of my greatest joys of summer in New England is eating fresh, local produce. After a long winter, I feel lucky receive such a great bounty of fruits and vegetables from farms in towns I recognize - including my own dense city - and even from our own backyards and balconies. Even though I keep learning, I don't always stagger my planting well enough to have a constant harvest all season. Right now, my own garden is in a transitional moment. My first planting of salad greens is starting to flower, and everything else is not quite ready - green tomatoes, white pea blossoms, purple eggplant flowers.

Urban agriculture means growing in raised beds and containers.
(Zucchini plants are center right.)

A zucchini plant with several green buds at the base.
Fortunately, zucchini (or courgette, a dark green summer squash) has something to offer, even before it's time to harvest the fruits. Mine have great big leaves and produce several male flowers a day, but I have yet to see a female flower. As soon as I see a female flower, I will hand pollinate and hope for a squash to grow.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying the squash blossoms themselves. The flowers only open for a few hours in the morning, and I pick them once they're closed.


Rinse the blossoms in cold water.
I've heard you can eat zucchini blossoms raw in salads, but my preference is to go all out and stuff them with (vegan) cheese, dip them in batter, and fry them up. This recipe is for about 5-7 large blossoms.


Zucchini blossoms:
First, wash the blossoms by rinsing them carefully in cold water. Be sure to open them up and rinse the inside too, to get rid of the pollen and any critters who got caught inside when they closed up. Gently shake out the water from inside and pat dry with a paper towel. 


Easy cashew cheese filling:
1/3 cup ground raw cashews (grind them yourself or use pre-ground cashew meal, like the bag I bought at Trader Joe's)
1 scallion, sliced or snipped with kitchen scissors into 1/4-in pieces (green part only)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-3 tablespoons water
salt to taste
Mix all of the above with a spoon in a small bowl. Add water a little at a time, so that the result is the consistency of a thick dip. (Note: In lieu of the ground cashews, you may use soaked raw whole cashews in a food processor. You may also substitute this filling with any very soft cheese, but I highly recommend including scallions or chives.)

Fill the blossoms with about a teaspoon of cashew cheese (more or less, depending on the size of the blossom). This can be tricky, this is how I do it: hold two petals, spread apart, between the pointer and middle fingers, and the other petals between the thumb and ring finger, as in the photo, and then using a narrow butter knife or spreader to drop the filling in.


Batter:
1/2 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water

Mix the dry ingredients together and add the water.  You may adjust the water to your preferences, but I recommend keeping it thick, at least the consistency of a good pancake batter. (Note: with this recipe, you will have excess batter, but you're sure to cover all the blossoms completely.)


Heat about a 1/4 inch of rice oil (or another oil that works well at higher temperatures) at medium-high heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile, immerse the whole stuffed blossoms into the batter, a few at a time, lift them one-by-one, and drop them into the heated oil, being careful not to splash.


Once all sides are golden brown, remove the blossoms from the pan and drain excess oil on a paper towel and serve.

I had these with cucumber-yogurt-dill salad for lunch today.

Enjoy!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Great Green Hummus

I love green leafy vegetables, and we all know that they are healthy.   My current favorite is baby kale; I buy a pound of baby greens in a clamshell from Earthbound Farm or Olivia's Organics for $5, and that lasts me the week.  Most greens are best just simply sauteed with olive oil and fresh garlic.  But sometimes it's nice to mix it up a bit - literally.  Here's a quick and easy way to sneak greens into everyday, delicious food - for yourself or your kids!


1 can (or equivalent) chick peas, drained
2 big handfuls mixed baby greens (about 3-4 cups)
1/4 cup water
2 T tahini (sesame paste)
2-5 cloves garlic (according to your taste)
2-3 T olive oil
1-2 T lemon juice1/4 tsp smoked paprika + a dash for the top
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth.  I recommend using minimum amounts of garlic, spices, salt and lemon juice at first and adding more to taste.  Add a dash of olive oil and smoked paprika on top adds a bit of flavor and makes it pretty for serving.  Eat with pita bread and/or veggies, like carrots and celery sticks.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chocolate Beet Cake with Maple Cashew Frosting (Vegan)

You know when you have a lot left over from your farm share, you're due to pick up the next one, and you have a chocolate craving?

What?  It happens to me all the time.

This is what came out of that last combination of circumstances night.  I was not intending to turn this into a blog post, and so I apologize for the paltry poor quality photos.  With modifications, the recipe for the cake recipe was drawn from one on  Yummly, the frosting from a recipe on Nouveau Raw.


Cake:

3-5 small beets (enough to make about 1-1/2 cups when cooked down)

water to cover beets for boilingunsweetened applesauce (if necessary, to fill in for the beets)1/2 cup soy milk (or other nondairy milk), unsweetened
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup agave syrup (or other liquid sugar) to taste (I used only 1/4 in my first try, but I'd add a bit more next time)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used raw cacao powder)2 tsp baking powder
12 tsp salt

Add apple cider vinegar to soy milk, stir, and set aside.

Wash and dice beets, place them a small saucepan, and add just enough water to cover.  Boil them down, covered if possible, until translucent, adding water as necessary.  There should be a little bit of water left when you remove the beets from heat.  With an immersion blender, small food-processor, or blender, mash the beets until they are the consistency of applesauce.  Put the mashed beets in a measuring cup and allow to cool (or speed up the process with an ice cube or two.)  If you have less than 1-1/2 cup, add unsweetened applesauce to make up the difference.

Add vinegar-soy milk mixture, agave syrup, and vanilla extract and stir well.  Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt) separately and then mix the wet and dry ingredients until wet.  Avoid overmixing.

Add to your pans of choice.  I used 2 8-inch rounds and baked for 25 minutes at 350 F.

Frosting:

I'l admit here that I did not measure a thing, and so you might want to follow Nouveau Raw's proportions - or better yet, try it as you go.  You never know what your cashews will taste like, or your maple syrup or vanilla, for that matter.  Nature doesn't follow our rules.

1-2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours (I rushed it this time, and the blending was a PAIN)
2 Tbsp-1/4 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened)
2 Tbsp-1/3 cup maple syrup
1-2 tsp vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to blender, and blend until as smooth as possible.  This is a very thick substance for most blenders; if the blades are not moving, stop the blender and move things around a bit with a kitchen tool.  If that doesn't work, add a little liquid (almond milk, maple syrup) until you can get it moving again.  I found that if I left the top off and very gently coaxed the cashew mixture  from the sides, as if I was petting the top of the mixture with a silicone spatula , towards the center (without dipping down or coming anywhere near the blades), it got things going.

Add the milk and syrup gradually, trying to keep the frosting as thick as possible (less almond milk) and only as sweet as necessary (less maple syrup).  Keep tasting it (aw, darn!) - turning off the blender and using a spatula - until it reaches the consistency and taste you want.  Remember that the cake, as per my recipe, is not very sweet, and so if you want a sweeter final product, add more syrup.  Also, pay attention to what kind of almond milk you have.  I used unsweetened, but if you're using sweetened, you'll need less maple syrup.

Short break for a TSA: When using a blender, never stick your hand anywhere near the blade and don't ever ever put your hand in there while it's plugged in.  Please, people, Goonies still haunts my dreams.  Thank you.

Once you let the cakes cook on wire racks, you can frost them like any layer cake with the cashew frosting. It turned out better the next day, after everything soaked into everything else a bit.



Nutrition per slice (assuming 12 slices):  160 calories, 21g carbs, 7g fat, 4g protein, 2g fiber, 13g sugar

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beet Rangoon with Nut Cheese (Vegan Crab Rangoon)


For a vegan potluck the other day, I made a Raw Beet Ravioli with Nut Cheese from an Epicurious recipe:


It was delicious, but I used up all my nice big beet slices and had a cup each of the "cheese" and cream sauce leftover.  Soliciting help from my Facebook friends, I came up with this recipe, using the leftover nut cheese, some bits of beet (which had come from my wonderful CSA), and scallions from my garden.  Thanks especially to my childhood friend E, who has grown up to be a chef, and who came up with the idea and suggested using beets as a sweet substitute for the crab.  The wrappers are homemade - a rare attempt on my part to make dough from scratch - drawing from another vegan crab Rangoon recipe on the Purple Carrot blog.

Filling:


Pine Nut "Goat Cheese"
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • pinch of sea salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped beets (1/8-in pieces), cold and dry
  • 1 -2 scallion, cut into 1/8-in pieces.
Soak nuts in fresh water overnight or at least 3 hours.  Mix all ingredients except beets and scallions in a food processor until smooth.  Mix in beets and scallions.

 

Wrappers (makes double recipe)
  • 2 cups whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 egg substitute, mixed (I used Ener-G)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup water
Put flour in a bowl and make a well in the center.  Mix 1/3 cup water with the egg replacer and pour it into the center well in the flour.  Mix well with hands and then add the rest of the water, bit by bit, until it forms a dough.  Knead for 5 minutes and let sit  under a cloth for 30-60 minutes.

Assembling and Cooking Rangoons


Separate dough into two and set one ball aside for another recipe (can be frozen, best wrapped in plastic).  Take the other lump of dough and roll it out as thin as possible.  In order to get the dough thin enough, I cut 2-3-in squares and continued to roll them out individually, ending with 3-1/2-in squares.  If they're too rounded or uneven, just gently push or pull the dough with your fingers.


Drop about 1-1/2 tablespoons of filling onto squares, wet edges using a finger dipped in water, fold, and press into triangles.  I used triangles instead of the traditional Crab Rangoon shapes so that less oil would cover them for frying.


Heat coconut oil (or your preferred oil) in a wok and drop the Rangoons into the oil, frying at high heat until crispy on both sides.






Makes about ten, but I only made five tonight because they're really best eaten immediately, and five is about all I can handle.
Yeah.  That's some fried goodness.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Camping with Greens

I spent a few days camping at Savoy Mountain State Forest this week, and on the way out there, I picked up my CSA share.  I found myself with the following haul: two quarts of strawberries, two tomatoes (which could use a couple more days of ripening, imho), a bag of spinach, a bunch of rainbow chard, and a head of green leaf lettuce.  The strawberries were too good for anything but eating straight, as many as I could in three days.  I saved the spinach and tomatoes in the cooler, and they survived quite well the return home.  But I had to use some of the greens, no?  How does one cook greens on a campfire?  I could have cheated and used my camp stove, but instead I had great success steaming them in foil.


Soaking the greens in fresh water in the wash basin, just as I would do at home, removed all the grit and such.  I saved the water for the first rinse of the dirty dishes.

Break up the chard and the lettuce separately by hand.

Mix together the following to make a salad dressing for the lettuce:
2 packets of soy sauce
pea-sized amount of wasabi
dash of lemongrass
pinch of galangal
dollop of maple syrup
good helping of sesame seeds










Did I mention that I always take a little box of spices with me when I travel (and have the prospect of cooking)?




For the rainbow chard: Lay out greens on a large piece of aluminum foil.  

Sprinkle olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper on the greens, and toss together.

Fold foil lengthwise and secure closed.

Join ends of foil together to form a handle.  Heat over fire and allow greens to steam until wilted.








Those are Field Roast Vegan Frankfurters on Whole Foods organic whole wheat buns.  My new favorite hot dogs!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Raw Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting


I recently decided that, even as I cut back on calories overall, I need more chocolate in my life. More and more research is coming out about the health benefits of chocolate, with the only caveat I see is that it comes with unhealthy fats and refined sugars we don't want. So let's eat chocolate in forms that are healthier and still enjoy the benefits (including deliciousness)! This recipe gets its sweetness from agave syrup and dates, and the fats come from nuts and legumes.


I adapted this recipe from a few others, and really, you can adjust ingredients and amounts to make this your own.

Brownies:
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup raw pecans
2 cups pitted dates
1 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
1/2 cup agave syrup
dash of salt

In food processor, chop walnuts and pecans coarsely.  

Add dates and cacao powder and chop together until a fine crumble; then add coconut, salt, and agave syrup.  

Run food processor until the mixture forms a coarse paste or dough.  Press into a 9x12" pan.

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth.  Spread on top of brownies.









Cut into 18 squares and enjoy!  (Note: what is shown in the photo above is a half recipe.)


Nutrition info per square: 255 Calories, 32g Carbs (5g Fiber, 23g Sugars), 14g Fat (3g Saturated, 4g Polyunsaturated, 3g Monounsaturated), 5g Protein, 2% Calcium, 6% Iron.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vegan Spanakopita with Cashew/Tofu Ricotta

What can I say?  Spinach pie, made with cashew/tofu ricotta and lots of garlic.


Filling:
Half pound of baby spinach
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight (or at least 3 hours)
1/8 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/8-1/3 cup water, to facilitate blending
12 oz (one package) silken tofu


Saute spinach with olive oil and garlic (or have a willing friend do it, as I did).  Blend next nine ingredients (cashews through water) together until smooth.  Crumble silken tofu into mixture and mix by hand.

Stir cashew/tofu mixture into cooked spinach.



 Lay out defrosted phyllo dough (store-bought is all I know how to use) sheets flat.  Take one at a time, and assemble spanakopita as follows:

 Fold phyllo dough in thirds and drop a large spoonful of filling near the top edge.

Fold the top corner down at a diagonal.

Fold the filled piece down along its bottom edge.

Continue folding until you have a triangle.


Place spanakopita on a greased cookie sheet and brush tops with olive oil.  Bake at 375 F for about 19-20 minutes.  Remove and enjoy!