Archive for June, 2012
I recently entered the avocado contest over at FOOD52, the food website founded by Amanda Hesser. Every other week, they announce a new contest in which entrants must use a particular ingredient in a recipe (or recipes). It can be a recipe that a member has already posted or it can be a new recipe. I decided to enter 4 recipes.
Out of 157 entries, they picked about 20 or 25 and, sadly, mine were not among them. So, I thought I’d share with you here those recipes, which I think are pretty darn good. You can also find them on the avocado test page at FOOD52. Look for the ones “added by MizChef.”
The first one I’m posting is Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse. It’s a rich chocolate cake layered with a zesty avocado mousse and white chocolate chips, which give it a gratifying solid, chewy element but because they’re white, they don’t compete with the chocolate cake. There’s a health benefit in this dessert, too. No, really! Chocolate has antioxidants and avocadoes have omega-3 fatty acids, so go on—indulge. It’s decadent but HEALTHY, so the problem?
Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse
1 chocolate sheet cake (9×13”)
2 Haas avocados
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime or a combo)
1 teaspoon maple crystals
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1. Trim off about 1 inch from each end of the cake. Split the cake in half, lift off the top half, and set aside.
2. Combine avocados, lime juice, vanilla, honey, citrus zest, and maple crystals in a food processor and process until completely smooth. (Stop the machine and push down the mixture with a rubber spatula, if necessary.)
3. Spread the avocado mixture evenly over the bottom half of the cake. Sprinkle the chips evenly over the avocado.
4. Replace the top half of the cake. Cut into 12 squares, or use a 2 1/2-inch ring mold to cut out circles.
5. Serve as is or sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.
Once again, I found myself in Patel Brothers, the big Indian market in Jackson Heights, looking at something I’d never seen or heard of before. This time, it was samo seeds, also known as jungle rice and morio. These seeds are from a wild grass that grows in tropical Asia and are commonly eaten in times of famine. But samo is also eaten during a fasting period called Ekadasee, which occurs twice a month, once when the moon is closest to the earth and once when it’s the farthest. Samo seeds have an earthy flavor and once cooked, looks much like couscous or millet. Uncooked, they could almost pass for white grits.
I found a few recipes for samo seed pulav (pilaf) and this is one version below. I’m going to try a few different other versions, but for now, here’s a recipe for a basic samo seed pilaf, great for a side dish to just about anything.
Samo Seed Pulav
1 cup samo seeds
2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup peanuts, skinned
1 chile, minced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced small
Salt to taste
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup minced cilantro
1. Place the samo seeds in a bowl of water and let it soak for about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, rise, and drain well.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a wide pan over medium heat; add the cumin seeds and toast for a minute. Add the peanuts and sauté until they are browned. Add the chile and sauté another minute. Add the potatoes and sauté about 3 minutes more, stirring often to prevent sticking.
3. Add the samo seeds and cook, stirring often, to dry it out.
4. Add the salt and 2 cups water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer until water is absorbed and seeds are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Fluff up the grains with a fork, then mix in the lemon juice and cilantro. Serve hot or warm.
In my quest to diversify my breakfasts, I keep trying new versions of standard breakfast fare: different kinds of smoothies, whole-grain pancakes, and low-carb or gluten-free muffins. The goal is to keep everything as healthy as possible. So I have been experimenting quite a bit. Sometimes the recipes work out, sometimes they don’t.
This one did. I found a recipe somewhere for sweet potato muffins and I decided to make my own version. These muffins are light and not very sweet, making them perfect for breakfast. Barley gives it a nice chewy texture and the addition of almond milk and whole wheat flour make it a healthy alternative to standard muffins (if you can make your own almond milk, as I did for this recipe, all the better). You can serve them with preserves or sorghum molasses or honey spread on top, whipped cream, or cream cheese for added sweetness.
Breakfast Sweet Potato-Barley Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
¾ cup barley
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup mashed bananas
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
¼ almond milk
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sorghum molasses or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries or other fruit
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
2. Soak the barley in a bowl of water for about 20 minutes; drain and rinse. Place the barley in a pot with enough water to cover the barley by about an inch. Cook for about 15 or until tender but still firm. Drain well. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and salt. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas and sweet potatoes, almond milk, coconut oil, egg, sorghum molasses, and vanilla.
4. Add the cooked barley to the wet ingredients and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture and dried fruit to the sweet potatoes mixture and fold it in just until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
6. Distribute the batter evenly into the muffin cups; it’s okay if the cups are overfilled. Bake for 2 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place the tin on a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes; turn the muffins out onto the rack. If they stick, run a knife around the muffins. Let cool completely.
7. Serve with fruit preserves or butter. Store in a plastic bag or tin.
I don’t think that anyone would argue that food made from scratch is far superior to anything purchased in a package. Tomato sauce made at home is way better than the jarred stuff; homemade mac ‘n’ cheese blows the box out of the water; and canned soup doesn’t hold a candle to freshly made soup.
Sometimes there are food products that people don’t realize you can make fresh at home. It just doesn’t enter their minds. But there really isn’t much that you can’t make from scratch, including “alternative” milks. One of the things we learned to make at the Natural Gourmet Institute is almond milk. Some people might think that things like almond or soy milk go through some mysterious process, but in actuality, almond milk is one of the easiest things you can make.
Almond milk is naturally dairy free, so it’s the perfect option for people who are lactose intolerant. Soy milk is also dairy free but there’s a lot of controversy surrounding soy. While soybeans are known to have antioxidants, ironically, they also contain estrogen receptors, making it a player in breast cancer. The reports go back and forth, but for those at risk for breast cancer or worry about eating too much soy, almond milk is the way to go. Almond milk has vitamins A, D, and E, calcium, iron, and protein. It helps in maintaining good eyesight, healthy skin, and strong bones and teeth. It’s also low in carbs, making it ideal for weight loss plans
Soaking nuts and seeds overnight add another dimension of health. Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors, preventing the absorption of nutrients. Soaking releases the enzymes and phytic acid, making the nutrients accessible by the body.
Any recipe you make that calls for almond milk will benefit greatly if you make the milk yourself. You can make it up to a week in advance of preparing your recipe and keep it in the refrigerator. Let me warn you, though, that while the process is a simple one, it does get a little messy. You might find that the ground almonds tend to stray. But it’s worth the little bit of mess to get fresh, rich, homemade almond milk.
Fresh Almond Milk
Makes about 6 cups almond milk
1. Start with 3 cups almonds. The almonds need to be skin-free, so you can purchase blanched almonds or blanch whole almonds yourself. To do it yourself, bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add the almonds and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain. When almonds are cool enough to touch, remove the skin. They should pop out if you squeeze them. (Beware of flying almonds!) Place the almonds in a large bowl.
2. In a clean pot, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Pour it over the almonds, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth that has been rinsed and squeezed. Place the sieve over a bowl large enough to catch the milk.
3. Carefully transfer the almonds and water to a blender (do this in two batches if necessary). Puree thoroughly. Pour some into the sieve. Gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze out as much milk as possible. Discard the almond pulp and repeat with the remaining puree.
4. Pour into glass bottles and let it cool completely. Refrigerate.
Fresh almond milk will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.