December 15th, 2014
Before we share our holiday dessert for the year, here is a dish that I’ve been hooked on lately. It will make for a light and nourishing lunch or dinner between those big celebratory meals.
Spaghetti squash has been in high demand in my kitchen this fall, I love it for its versatility and convenience. It never ceases to amaze me how a little yellow squash produces delicious natural ‘noodles’ after some time in the oven.
Something magical happens when coconut milk mixes with the spice of ginger and chili, citrus, lemongrass and tamari into a creamy sauce. Mung beans, and later spaghetti squash absorb the flavors of the sauce, while broccoli and carrots provide a freshness and crunch. The garnish of toasted sesame seeds and herbs adds a bold finishing touch.
I recently rediscovered mung beans and have been experimenting with them in the kitchen (I even managed to make this fettuccine, stay tuned). For this recipe, you can either cook or sprout the mung beans, I’m a fan of the latter. Sprouting them is very simple: cover with filtered water overnight, then drain and keep in the same bowl, covered with a damp kitchen towel for about two days, until satisfied with the size of your sprouts. Rinse every 8 hours. For this dish, one day of sprouting is plenty.
And if you are looking for a light seasonal dessert for your holiday table, grab the recipe for Earl Grey Poached Pears and Hazelnut Panna Cotta from our cookbook over at Chalkboard Magazine.
Lemongrass Mung Beans over Spaghetti Squash
for the spaghetti squash
1 medium spaghetti squash
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
for the lemongrass mung beans
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 stalks lemongrass – bruised with the back of a chef’s knife and chopped finely
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
2 cups sprouted or cooked mung beans
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
2 cups broccoli florets
2 large carrots – julienned
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamari
toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped green onions
basil or cilantro leaves
to cook spaghetti squash
Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Rub the flesh with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place onto a rimmed baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for 30 minutes or longer, until soft throughout. Let cool.
to make lemongrass mung beans
Warm up coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add lemongrass, ginger, mung beans, sriracha, lime juice, rice vinegar and a pinch of salt. Saute for 4-5 minutes. Add broccoli, carrots, coconut milk, remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and soy sauce. Stir over the heat for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Scoop out the spaghetti squash and distribute between bowls. Spoon lemongrass beans and veggies over the squash. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, green onion and basil/cilantro leaves.
December 7th, 2014
Today I’d like to talk about At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, a book I’ve been cooking from non-stop since getting my copy. You may be familiar with author Amy Chaplin’s work through her beautiful blog, where she shares some of the most practical and creative natural foods recipes around. As for her cookbook, I feel as if anything I say about it will be an understatement: it’s wise and useful beyond words, as well as visually stunning, with photography by Johnny Miller. The book’s vastness and wealth of fascinating recipes and tips has me reaching for it daily.
Some of the dishes I’ve made include Cherry Coconut Granola, Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup, Eggplant Curry, Almond Butter Brownies, Chocolate Hazelnut Layer Cake.
To complete my love serenade for Amy’s book, I made this decadent cake. I played with the original recipe a bit, making the ganache white, while Amy’s is chocolate. I also added chocolate into the batter, while the original recipe only calls for cacao. I also previously made the original one and loved it as well.
Amy and I share the same publisher, and the nice people at Roost Books were generous to send me an additional copy of At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen to give away. To enter, leave a comment here until December 14th, 2014. Good luck to all!
Double Chocolate Layer Cake with White Chocolate Ganache, Tart Cherries and Pomegranate
Notes: In the original version, Amy frosts the entire cake with dark chocolate ganache. She crushes 1 1/3 cups toasted hazelnuts and presses them into sides of the cake like this.
for the ganache
2 13.5 oz cans unsweetened full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
5 tablespoons agar flakes
pinch sea salt
3 1/2 oz white chocolate, I used this brand (you can use dark chocolate as per original version)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
for the cake
2/3 cup toasted hazelnuts (original version calls for 2 cups)
2 cups whole spelt flour – divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup melted extra virgin coconut oil, plus more for oiling the pan
1 1/2 cups maple syrup
1 teaspoon unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (my addition to original recipe)
for the filling (my simplified version)
cocoa nibs – optional
frozen or canned tart cherries – thawed/drained well
1 large pomegranate
to make the ganache
1. Whisk together coconut milk, maple syrup, agar flakes and salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisk often. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, covered, whisking every 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, add chocolate and let it melt for 2 minutes in the covered pot. Whisk until smooth. Pour into a shallow bowl and allow to cool until it stops steaming. Put in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, or until cold and completely hard.
3. Roughly cut ganache into 1-inch pieces and add to a food processor with orange juice and vanilla. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until cake is ready for frosting.
to make the cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil cake pans and line bottom of each with a parchment paper. (I used 7 1/2-inch spring form to bake 3 layers. Original recipe calls for two 8-inch layers.)
2. Add 2/3 cup of hazelnuts and 1/4 cup of spelt flour into a food processor and grind finely. Transfer into a medium bowl and sift in remaining 1 3/4 cups spelt flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to combine well, set aside.
3. Whisk cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth in another medium bowl. Add ground flax seeds, coconut oil, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla and salt, whisk until thoroughly combined.
4. Add flour mixture to liquid ingredients and whisk to make a smooth batter. Fold in chopped chocolate. Divide the batter between prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
to assemble the cake
1. Invert first layer on a cake stand or a plate. Remove parchment paper. Cover with a layer of tart cherries. Scoop 1/3 of ganache on top of cherries, even it out. sprinkle with cocoa nibs (if using) and pomegranate kernels.
2. Invert second layer on top, remove parchment paper. Repeat with cherries, ganache, cocoa nibs and pomegranate.
3. Invert third layer on top. Frost with the last 1/3 of ganache and top with pomegranate kernels. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve, try to wait at least a couple hours before cutting the cake; overnight is great too.
November 23rd, 2014
Both my husband’s and my family live far away, so instead we celebrate Thanksgiving with the other family – our friends. This tradition of friends getting together at our house has developed naturally over the past ten years that we’ve called the West coast of Florida our home. I always look forward to that one Thursday in late November – usually, it’s cold enough to light a fire in our seldom used fireplace, and I have a bunch of new recipes ready for a test run.
Our Thanksgiving table is never a traditional one – I rarely cook the same dish two years in a row and our international circle of friends assures plenty of exciting variety. This colorful pilaf is destined to join this year’s celebration.
Up until recently, I had only heard of sorghum flour as a great gluten free option for baked goods. Then a bag of whole sorghum grains caught my eye in one of the isles of our health food store, and I had to try it out.
Sorghum is a nutritious grain native to Africa. It has a nice, pleasantly chewy texture and neutral flavor, which combines very well with roasted juicy cranberries and grapes, Brussels sprouts, nuts and aromatic herbs. If you are still looking for a flavorful veggie dish to complete your Thanksgiving table, this one is a winner.
Note: feel welcome to use different grains instead of sorghum, such as rice, barley, millet, farro, etc.
1 cup whole sorghum grains or other grains of choice – soaked in water overnight (important for sorghum)
1 lb brussels sprouts – ends trimmed and cut in half
about 3 cups grapes (I specifically love Thomcord grapes here)
8 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
large handful walnuts
3 tablespoons melted coconut or olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons each chopped thyme, sage and rosemary
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Drain and rinse sorghum. Place it into a large saucepan, pour 3 cups filtered water over it and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower heat to simmer, add a pinch of salt and cook for 50-60 minutes or until soft (the sorghum will still be slightly chewy, but cooked).
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the rest of ingredients and toss to coat.
3. Spread on a rimmed baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, until brussels sprouts feel soft when pricked with a fork, but not mushy. Gently stir and turn the tray halfway through the baking.
4. Spoon the cooked sorghum into a large mixing bowl and add the roasted brussels sprouts with fruits, nuts, herbs and their caramelized juices. Stir gently to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated in an air-tight container and serve cold or at room temperature.
November 14th, 2014
When creating recipes, I keep in mind a few key points for what my dishes should be: flavorful, healthful, new, accessible. I don’t always hit all of these points – sometimes it’s easier to make a meal that feels very unique and fresh, but doesn’t score high on the accessibility scale, or often a dish won’t feel very new if it contains common ingredients and is simple in preparation.
But from time to time, I manage to come up with a recipe that can be described by all those adjectives, and this Warm Cauliflower, Grape and Black Rice Salad is one of them.
With the exception of Concord and Muscadine grapes, which have a relatively short season in the late summer and early fall, I rarely use table grapes in my cooking due to their overwhelming sweetness. This salad is the best home for very sweet grapes – they will provide a delicious contrast to the subtle spiciness of the dressing, the earthy roasted cauliflower and textural black rice. I’ve probably made this dish five times in the past two weeks, yet it disappears so quickly that I can never catch a good portion for myself.
Besides the very tasty combination of flavors and textures, this salad is strikingly beautiful and could make an excellent addition to your holiday table. To make it even more festive, sprinkle with some fresh pomegranate seeds.
Lastly, thank you for all of your expressed interest in the Abruzzo retreats.
Warm Salad of Roasted Cauliflower, Grapes and Black Rice
for the salad
1 cup black forbidden rice
1 cauliflower head – cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove – minced
1 teaspoon cumin – preferably freshly ground
2 cups seedless grapes – cut into quarters (optionally, use a variety of grapes)
1 small chili pepper – seeded and minced (optional)
bunch cilantro leaves
for the dressing
1 tablespoon sesame tahini
1 tablespoon unpasteurized miso paste
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sriracha
to make the dressing
Mix together tahini and miso paste in a small bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir into a smooth dressing.
to cook rice
Bring 1 cup of black rice, 1 3/4 cup of water and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
to roast cauliflower
Preheat oven to 400 F. Drizzle cauliflower florets with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic and cumin and mix to coat using your hands. Arrange in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft, rotating the tray half way through and turning florets if you wish.
to make the salad
Combine rice, cauliflower, grapes, chili and cilantro leaves in a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss to coat. Serve immediately, so that the cauliflower and rice are still warm.
It tastes great cold as well and keeps well covered and refrigerated for at least 3 days.