Matcha Lime Bars

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May 29th, 2015

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To this day, the recipe for the gluten free Lemon Bars with Pistachio Crust from our book gets brought up most often by my family and friends. During the beginning stages of work on the book, Paloma liked to play a game of flipping through our working binder with recipe photos, much like through a menu in a restaurant, pointing out what she would like to eat that day. The Lemon Bars were pointed out by her little fingers time and time again. A friend of mine, who has been devotedly cooking through the book, has made many variations of these bars, once even turning them into a chocolate-citrus birthday cake. Needless to say, they are a hit.

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With so many new amazing cookbooks coming out, it’s been a while since I’ve cooked from my own book. Recently I began craving this dessert, with the tart silkiness of lemon mousse against the tender pistachio shortbread, and decided to make a variation on the original recipe. I substituted lime for lemon and added matcha for its beautiful color and lovely, mild flavor and undeniable health benefits. Since I haven’t cooked from my own finished, written recipes in a while, I was pleasantly reassured by how smoothly the process went, thanks to my editor and many hours of meticulous work and recipe testing.
I like to use whole leaf Irish moss or vegan gelatin for the mousse, both work great. The amazing translator for the French edition of the book was kind enough to adapt the recipe using agar-agar for our French readers as well.

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Paloma and I are getting ready to travel to Russia for the summer. We are both very excited to see family and friends, drive to the mountains, take a few train rides, and spend a some time swimming in the Black Sea. I’m thinking about sneaking a few of these bars with us on the plane to brighten up the long flight to Moscow.

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Gluten Free Matcha Lime Bars

(adapted from The Vibrant Table)
makes 18 large or 36 small bars

for the pistachio and millet shortbread
1/2 cup (80g) raw pistachio nuts or other nuts – walnuts, pecans, etc.
6 tablespoons almond butter or other nut/seed butter (pumpkin seed butter would work great here)
2 tablespoons ghee at room temperature or coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (90 g) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (45 g) millet flour
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
pinch of sea salt

for the matcha lime mousse
3/4 cup (135g) white chocolate chips (I use these vegan ones) or chopped white chocolate
2 teaspoons vegan gelatin or 1 ounce (30g) dried Irish moss
1/2 cup (75g) raw cashews – soaked for 4 hours
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, preferably homemade
zest of 2 limes or lemons
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons matcha powder, plus more for dusting on top
2 strawberries – thinly sliced, optional

to prepare and bake the shortbread
1. Place pistachios in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Mix almond butter, ghee/coconut oil with honey and vanilla until creamy. In a food processor, grind the pistachios into a meal, taking care to not turn them into butter. Combine the ground pistachios, flours, tapioca starch, and salt in a large bowl, then add the cream. Mix with a spoon until just mixed, then knead the mixture into a sticky dough with your hands.
2. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with a piece of parchment paper, extending it up all sides. Press dough into the bottom of the pan in an even layer, pricking the finished layer several times with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
4. Remove the pan from refrigerator and bake crust for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.

to make the matcha lime mousse
1. Slowly melt white chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Drain and rinse cashews.
2. This step varies according to the thickener you are using:
Vegan gelatin - Bring the almond milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add vegan gelatin and whisk until dissolved. Pour into a high-speed blender, add melted chocolate, cashews, lime or lemon zest and juice, honey, coconut oil and matcha powder. Blend until very smooth.
Irish moss - Rinse Irish moss under cool water to remove as much salt and debris as you can. Place in a large bowl and soak in plenty of hot water for at least 10 minutes. Irish moss will expand significantly, so make sure that it’s completely covered with water, add more throughout if needed. Drain and rinse Irish moss again, making sure it’s completely clean. Place into a high-speed blender together with melted white chocolate, cashews, almond milk, lime zest and juice, honey, coconut oil and matcha powder. Blend until very smooth.
3. For both thickeners:
Pour the mixture into a medium bowl. Let sit in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally, until the mousse begins to thicken but is still pourable.

to assemble
1. Pour or spoon the mousse over the cooled shortbread, still in the pan. Smooth the surface with a spoon if needed. Optionally, decorate with sliced strawberries. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Remove the pan from the refrigerator. Holding the ends of the parchment paper, lift the matcha bars out of the pan and carefully transfer the whole bars onto a large cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, cut into desired shape and size pieces. Wipe the knife clean after each cut. Dust with more matcha powder through a fine mesh strainer. Keep refrigerated in an air-tight container, layer parchment paper between the bars if you’re storing them on top of each other to keep from sticking.

Tags: dessert, gluten free, lime, matcha

Salad with Ghee Poached Radishes and Smoked Salt

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May 12th, 2015

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Sarah B. of My New Roots hardly needs an introduction. Her blog has been a major source of inspiration for a long time now, and I look forward to her new posts, which are always full of interesting culinary ideas and encouraging nutritional facts. Sarah has a talent for explaining the benefits of whole foods in a friendly, approachable, yet very knowledgeable way, which without fail leaves me hungry after reading her posts. Sarah was one of the few people to see an early copy of our cookbook and wrote a very kind review, for which we are thankful.

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Sarah’s new, much anticipated cookbook is a beauty, full of inspiring photographs, engaging writing and appetizing recipes. She covers the basics – sprouting, nut milks, ghee and the like – and then goes on to presenting delicious, healthy recipes for all five seasons, dividing Summer into Early and Late Summer (with which I agree with much enthusiasm – those two are quite different in terms of produce).

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I chose to make this spring salad with Ghee Poached Radishes, having never tried cooked radishes before. I immediately regretted waiting to try it as long as I did. Sautéing radishes rids them of any bitterness, transforming them into mildly sweet, silky spheres. I even threw them on pizza, which turned out delicious. Smoked sea salt is another interesting ingredient that this recipe calls for. I bought a bottle of it months ago but could never find a dish to incorporate it into. I was happy to finally utilize the beautiful, grey colored salt in this recipe, and it worked perfectly with the buttery radishes.
Among the recipes I plan on trying from the My New Roots cookbook are Caramelized Fennel on Herbed Polenta, Roasted Cauliflower with Lebanese Lentils and Kaniwa, Ginger-Rosemary Roasted Grapefruit, Salt ‘n’ Pepper Chocolate Chip Cookies, and I’m confident that any reader of this blog will benefit from having Sarah’s book on their kitchen bookshelf.

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Salad with Ghee Poached Radishes and Smoked Sea Salt

1 bunch radishes – tops removed
2 tablespoons ghee (I’ve also tried unrefined neutral coconut oil here, it works well)
2 garlic cloves – minced
pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons raw honey or pure maple syrup
about 3 cups arugula or other salad greens (the original recipe calls for dandelion)
smoked sea salt – for sprinkling over the salad
sunflower sprouts or other microgreens for garnish – optional

1. Slice radishes in half lengthwise or quarters for bigger sized ones.
2. Melt the ghee (or coconut oil) in a large pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and saute for about one minute. Increase the heat to medium and add radishes, cut side down, together with a pinch of salt. Saute for about 10 minutes until they become translucent and tender, but not mushy.
3. Drizzle the vinegar over the radishes and toss to coat. Remove the pan from heat and drizzle honey over, tossing to incorporate.
4.  Arrange arugula or your greens of choice on plates, top with radishes and drizzle the juice from the pan over the salad. Garnish with microgreens, if using, and season with smoked sea salt.

Tags: radish, salad, smoked salt

Eggless Sprouted Mung Bean Pasta, Spring Style

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April 20th, 2015

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Chances are, you’re familiar with mung bean noodles, some clear and some ghostly white, that can be found in abundance at Asian markets. I’ve always been fascinated with the simplicity of their ingredients list, which typically includes only mung beans and water. Making pasta at home has become somewhat of a hobby for me over this past winter, and I was determined to nail down this healthy, protein-rich mung bean version.

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The first attempt, which involved just grounding mung beans into flour without sprouting them, resulted in pasta with too beany of a taste that I wasn’t satisfied with. I noticed long ago that sprouting grains and garbanzo beans improves the taste of the resulting flour, so I decided to sprout the mung beans for this pasta as well. My next attempt, made of sprouted flour, was much better and mild tasting, but included eggs, and I didn’t care for the texture.

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When I was ready to give up the idea, I bumped into the possibility of using psyllium husks as a binder in gluten free pasta. I gave them a try and it turned out absolutely amazing – a nicely pliable, flavorful, freshly-made pasta, that is very light and gentle on your stomach, and quite easy to make once your flour is ready.
I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m pretty sure that other types of gluten free flours such as quinoa, buckwheat, etc. will work great in this recipe as well.

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It may seem like a lot of work to make such flour at home, but in reality what you will mostly have to do is wait until beans sprout and dry. If the process is not for you, however, there are several companies that make sprouted flours and my latest favorite is Blue Mountain Organics. Our local health food store carries and array of their flours and they are not only delicious, but also less expensive than regular flour. For this post, I prepared the pasta with peas and spinach to celebrate spring, but it will work well with your favorite homemade tomato sauce or any other pasta toppings. Happy Spring!

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Sprouted Mung Bean Pasta
adapted from here

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon psyllium husk powder
1 cup sifted sprouted mung bean flour (see below), plus more for rolling out pasta
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
2 tablespoons coconut oil – 1 tablespoon melted, divided
3-4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
splash of canned coconut milk – optional
freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan – optional

1. Mix together psyllium husk powder and 4 tablespoons filtered water in a small bowl. Let thicken while mixing together dry ingredients.
2. Combine flours and salt in a large bowl, mix to combine. Make a well in the center, add 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, gelled psyllium husk and 4 tablespoons of water. Stir to combine with a fork as much as you can. The mixture will appear dry, but don’t add more water at this point. Begin working with your hands, mixing and kneading the mixture into slightly sticky (but not wet) dough. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, if you find that it’s absolutely necessary, or more flour if dough seems too wet.
3. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts, keep them wrapped to prevent drying.
4. Working with one portion at a time, roll out on a well floured surface into a paper thin thickness. Cut it into pasta of any desired shape using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife. Sprinkle with more flour to prevent from sticking (the same sprouted mung bean flour or brown rice flour will work great for rolling and dusting).
5. Divide the pasta into two equal portions. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook one portion of fresh pasta at a time for 2 minutes, until al-dente.
6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add half of the spinach, sprinkle with salt and stir to coat. Drain pasta reserving about 1/4 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta, 2 tablespoons of reserved liquid and splash of coconut milk (if using) to the pan with spinach, stir until spinach is wilted, for a minute or so. Add half of the peas, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, stir them in and remove from heat.
7. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan if desired.

Note: You can continue cooking the other portions of pasta in the same manner or keep the remaining dough wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Remove from refridgerator to warm up 15 minutes prior to rolling. 

Sprouted Mung Bean Flour
1. Rinse 2 cups of mung beans and place them in a large bowl covered with filtered water, soak overnight.
2. Drain and rinse again, cover with wet kitchen towel and leave to sprout. You should see white tails in 24-48 hours. Make sure to rinse every 8 hours and keep the towel damp. For the purpose of this flour, sprouts don’t need to be large and thick – tiny white tails will be sufficient.
3. When you are satisfied with the look of your sprouts, rinse them thoroughly, drain well and shake off water excess as much as possible. If you have a dehydrator, spread sprouted beans on mesh screen covered trays and dehydrate at 115 F until completely dry.
4. Alternatively, spread on a dry kitchen towel or paper towels and let dry for 24 hours, change towels to dry ones after the first 8 hours. Spread on a baking sheet and continue to dry in the oven at the lowest temperature for a couple of hours, until completely dry.
5. Grind into flour using a high speed blender, mill or coffee grinder (in batches). Sift through a fine mesh strainer.

Tags: gluten free, mung beans, pasta, peas, spinach

Black Sesame Cappuccino

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April 1st, 2015

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I don’t mean to offend those who are passionate about their coffee by naming this drink cappuccino, but I can justify. The rich, foamy texture and deep flavor of this black sesame tea reminded me so much of all of cappuccino’s finest qualities, that I couldn’t resist giving it this name. I generally don’t drink coffee, but that changes as soon as I find myself on the other side of the Atlantic, where vacation mode and the magic of the European lifestyle make coffee into a very pleasant necessity for me. Otherwise, it’s always tea. Out of the caffeinated teas, good quality black, loose leaf tea is my drink of choice.

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In my latest attempt to take a break from caffeine, I came across the possibility of using black sesame seeds and dates in a hot, tea-like drink. Chinese black sesame tea has long been known for its therapeutic properties. It is especially believed to nurture and restore hair strength, and is generally a great, calming whole body tonic, thanks to the overwhelming amount of nutrients in black sesame seeds.

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When I made my version of black sesame seed tea for the first time, I couldn’t believe its rich taste and velvety texture. It really hit the spot and I’ve been drinking it in the morning for the past couple of weeks, not missing caffeine very much. Sesame seeds contain lots of lecithin, which, aside from helping keep your arteries flexible, accounts for the silky, creamy texture of this tea. In the absence of black sesame seeds, I’ve substituted with unhulled tan sesame seeds, which worked great as well.
I’ve included a recipe for another sesame drink I discovered while making my cappuccino. The taste of this milk reminds me of halva, one of my favorite childhood treats. This one is quick to prepare and quite satisfying in its own way.

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Black Sesame Cappuccino

1 cup black sesame seeds
2 soft dates – pitted
3 cups water
1 cup homemade almond milk or almond-sesame milk (see recipe below)

1. Combine sesame seeds, dates and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, adjust heat to a strong simmer and cook for 30 minutes, partially covered. The water volume should reduce by about 1/3. Towards the end, mash dates against the sides of the pan with a spoon, letting them further release their sweetness. Strain the liquid and collect black sesame seeds in a large strainer.
2. Pour the strained liquid back into the saucepan, add one cup of almond or almond-sesame milk and reheat gently. Add sweetener of choice, if needed (I find the subtle sweetness from dates to be enough). Optionally blend at high speed to make it foamy. Enjoy hot.

Note: Optionally, you can dry the leftover black sesame seeds for future use. To do that, spread them on a baking sheet and keep them in the oven at the lowest temperature for a couple of hours. When almost completely dried, turn off the oven and leave the seeds in until the oven is cold.

Halva Milk

2 cups homemade almond-sesame milk (see recipe below) – warmed if desired
2 tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds – ground in a coffee grinder
any preferred sweetener – to taste.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender until well combined and frothy. Enjoy hot or cold.

Almond Sesame Milk

1 cup almonds
1/4 cup unhulled sesame seeds

Soak almonds and sesame seeds in purified water overnight. Drain by catching the seeds in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse under cold water. Combine nuts and seeds in a strong blender with 4 cups of purified water. Blend until smooth. Strain through a nut bag or cheese cloth. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Tags: almond, black sesame, drink, sesame seed