Monday, October 26, 2009

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

I know what you're thinking, and you're right: it's hardly the season for a light, fruity soup. But maybe I can change your mind.

A few weeks ago, I made this as part of a Labor-Inducing Dinner for a friend who was desperately ready to have her baby. Pineapple contains enzymes that prepare the body for labor, and has an almost mythic heritage of encouraging it, so this was the perfect choice.

Then last week, sparked by a bit of a health issue, I spent four days drinking only juice, fresh-pressed from my Green Star juicer. With blends like spinach-garlic-lime-cilantro-cucumber-celery and beet-carrot-apple-ginger-lemon, I felt my body absorbing nutrients the instant I looked at the magenta and olive-hued concoctions! When I was ready for solids again, I wanted nothing but this gazpacho. With a bit of heat from jalapeno, and fresh, piquant flavors, it wakes up autumn-dulled senses and still makes you feel really healthy.

This recipe is inspired by Sarma Melngailis' fantastic Raw Food, Real World, in which it features ingredients like fresh pineapple juice and raw macadamia oil. While I'm sure those additions are delicious, I wanted a simplified version that anyone could put together in minutes. And this is it.

If made in advance, halve the amount of jalapeno and onion used, as it will intensify significantly on sitting. And if you have an aversion to cilantro--after receiving a lecture called What is Wrong with You, and Why in the World Do You Have An Aversion to Cilantro?, that is--just substitute mint leaves.

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho
4 luncheon or 6 first course servings

1 pineapple, skinned, cored, and roughly chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons minced jalapeno pepper (about ½ of a jalapeno), seeds removed
5 green onions, white parts only (reserve the green stalks for garnish)
juice of two limes
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

cilantro or mint leaves, for garnish
reserved chopped green onions, for garnish

In a blender or food processor, process half of the pineapple, half of the cucumber, jalapeno, green onion, lime juice, and water until fairly smooth. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary, adding more salt, lime, or jalapeno if you prefer.

Add remaining pineapple, cucumber, and cilantro, and pulse until just incorporated; the gazpacho should still be quite chunky.

Refrigerate for up to two days, or serve immediately, garnished with cilantro and green onions.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Greens au Gratin

When it comes to gratin, the potato is entirely overrated. Nutritious greens--especially good this time of year--deserve a shot at becoming transformed into a creamy, soothing mess. This simple dish uses the sunchoke, also called Jerusalem artichoke, to bind everything together. Sprouted breadcrumbs, baked until golden, create a hearty crust.

Greens au Gratin
4-6 side dish servings

Peel the sunchokes as you would fresh ginger, using a spoon to scrape the brown skin from the white interior flesh. To make the cup of breadcrumbs called for, just toast and blend 2 pieces of bread.

1 pound sunchokes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
¾ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon (ideally fresh) ground nutmeg
16 ounces mixed greens: spinach, chard, kale, and broccoli raab are excellent
1 cup wholegrain breadcrumbs (from 2 slices of bread)
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt

Heat oven to 350ºF. Oil a 2-quart gratin or casserole dish, and set aside.

Steam the sunchoke chunks until fork-tender. Transfer to a blender or food processor, along with non-dairy milk, flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, sea salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Blend until very smooth, and set aside.

Steam greens until very bright green and slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Shake briefly to drain, and transfer to prepared dish. Pour the sunchoke mixture over, prodding at the greens a bit to evenly distribute the sauce.

In a small bowl, toss breadcrumbs with 1 teaspoon olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Scatter the crumb mixture over the top, and cover with foil. Bake 15 minutes. Uncover, and bake 15 minutes more, until the gratin is bubbly and golden.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

This dish is lovely mounded over grains and topped with crispy sliced seitan--be sure everyone gets a good sprinkling of the crumb topping! It's also delicious alone, eaten in a big bowl while curled up on the sofa.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chocolate Chai Cookies

Photo courtesy of Mihl at the fantastic seitan is my motor

This past Saturday, I woke to snow, which really means only one thing: it's time for the spicy stuff. It's the season for more pungent, richer, warming foods that fortify a lighter constitution at summer's end. In that spirit, I give you Chocolate Chai Cookies. These tea-spiced gems always have a place in my holiday cooking, and I really think you'll like their unique flavor and sugary crunch.

Steep some black tea just before whisking them together, and you can sip it while baking, and have enough for the 1/4 cup called for in the recipe.

Chocolate Chai Cookies
about 2 dozen cookies

6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch sea salt
½ cup canola oil
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup hot, strong black tea
¼ cup molasses (I like blackstrap; any variety is fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
crystal or turbinado sugar, or evaporated cane juice, for rolling cookies

Chop chocolate into ¼” chunks. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the canola oil, brown sugar, molasses, tea, and baking soda. The mixture will bubble up and appear to thicken slightly; continue whisking until no lumps remain. Add the flour mixture to the liquid, mixing well to combine. Stir in chocolate chunks. At this point, the dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat an oven to 325° F. Lightly grease one large or two smaller baking sheets. Form dough into 1” balls. Roll in evaporated cane juice, and place on the prepared baking sheet spaced 2” apart.

Bake 10-12 minutes (a few more if you've refrigerated the dough), until the cookies have flattened slightly and the tops are cracked; they should be soft to the touch, but covered with a crust. Allow to cool 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Or eat warm, with a glass of almond milk or a cup of hot coffee.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sweet Potato Maple Scones

Saturday mornings, I creep out of bed, early and quiet. After some bleary-eyed fumbling in the kitchen, the house smells of good things: chocolate-studded muffins, loaves brimming with fresh fruit, or maybe an organic scone or cookie. Still hot, the pastries are packed away, ready to be snatched up by small hands. I dress quickly, round everyone up, and it's out the door.

I walk up the street to my yoga studio, where I'm greeted with the sweet enthusiasm of three-year-olds, ready for a Saplings class. After an hour of downward dogs--and lots of patience--the kids dig into whatever treat I've brought them. There are requests for seconds, and thirds, and when only crumbs remain, I know I've done it right.

This past week, I served these scones, rich with sweet potato puree and sure to wrap you up in a swath of nostalgia. A variation on my oft-baked Pumpkin Scones, they're simple and quick. The texture is slightly denser than pumpkin, and the usual citrus glaze is replaced with a drizzle of maple, reminiscent of the popular doughnut glaze. And if you've ever had a hankering for sweet potato pie, oh! this is the way to satisfy it.

Sweet Potato Maple Scones
8 scones

For the scones:
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons apple cider or other vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup canned sweet potato puree
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch salt

For the glaze:
1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
2 tablespoons real maple syrup, Grade B if you have it
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment, and set aside.

Make the scones: In a medium bowl or 2-cup measure, whisk together non-dairy milk, vinegar, oil, sweet potato puree, and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture, and pour in the liquid mixture. Using a flexible spatula, make a scraping-scooping-pressing sort of motion to gently combine the two. When you have only a few streaks of flour left in the dough, remove it to a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough evenly into a circle 6” in diameter and about 1 ½” high. Using a sharp knife, cut the mound into eight wedges; it should be fairly sticky and a bit misshapen; that’s okay. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet.

Bake until firm and just baked through (insert a knife; if it comes out clean, they’re done), 12-15 minutes.

Make the glaze: In a shallow dish, whisk all glaze ingredients together. When poured into itself, ribbons of glaze should just disappear on the surface.

Transfer scones to a cooling rack and cool 5-10 minutes. Dip the tops into the glaze, nuzzling it in to reach any nooks. Turn upright, and return to rack.

The scones are great with steaming mugs of hot apple cider or English Breakfast tea.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Toddler Who Loves to Eat

This afternoon, my daughter and I are enjoying our mid-day ritual: hot tea, taken with a spread of treats. Today's plate is filled with fresh pears sprinkled with cacao nibs, carrots rolled in dulse seaweed, apples, grapes, and raw lime and sea salted pumpkin seeds. She gobbles it up without hesitation, picking off the most flavorful bits first. And I love to see her eat!

In a country of notoriously picky toddlers, it is one of my greatest joys to have a child who eats. Who eats anything. She loves spicy curries and uncommon grains. Guacamole with flax crackers. Green smoothies. Any fruit imaginable. And lately, her favorite phrases are "more komboosha!" (kombucha tea, that is), "like dulse!" and "dup-dake, please," requesting the white-and-dark chocolate cupcakes I've been churning out for events and gatherings lately.

And the sweetest thing: sometimes I'll joke, "Should we eat a cow?" or "Should we eat a fish?"
She immediately pulls a face, and bursts into laughter, "No!" as if the idea were entirely ridiculous. She just has no idea that people do. And I love that, too.