Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Tangy Horseradish Sauce (Vegan and Non)

When I was growing up, my Japanese grandmother  – whom we all called “Granny” –  used to make a sauce with Best Foods Mayonnaise with a bit of soy sauce in it and serve this as a salad dressing on sliced tomatoes.  I know – it sounds weird…(Japanese meets 1950’s style middle American food culture!), but actually, you know, it’s a great combination. I ate “Granny’s Best Foods Sauce” on everything when I was growing up – it was my favorite dip for steamed artichokes (still basically is) and its also great with asparagus spears, whole blanched green beans, spears of broccoli or broccolini or broccoli rabe… this sauce totally makes veggies fun!

Over the years I played with adding other flavors like horseradish and capers, and started cutting the mayo with sour cream, then yogurt, and then finally, eliminating it all together in favor of a raw vegan version. At any given time I usually have a couple of versions of this sauce in my refrigerator – maybe one with cumin and lime to drizzle over anything Mexican, and usually a horseradish or caper version for artichokes or any other steamed vegetable. I also float a spoonful of this in my Creamy Beet Borscht soup recipe….

Tangy Horseradish Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/4 c whole milk yogurt, (or Greek yogurt, or sour cream)
  • 1 T mayonnaise (I grew up with Hellman’s/Best Foods and nothing else tastes right to me)
  • a few drops of soy sauce (really, about 1/8th teaspoon – this makes it, and no one will know)
  • 1 t. horseradish (fresh, grated, if you can get it, or prepared is fine – look for “hot”)

Whisk together well in a small bowl. Serve with anything!

Vegan Horseradish “Sour Cream”

  • 1 c cashews, soaked 4 – 6 hours
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 t salt
  • a few drops of soy sauce (really, about 1/8th teaspoon – this makes it, and no one will know)
  • 1 few drops of umeboshi vinegar (optional)
  • 2 t. horseradish (fresh, grated, if you can get it, or prepared is fine – look for “hot”)

Blend all ingredients, except horseradish, in a Vita-Mix until completely smooth. Mix in horseradish. Thin with water if needed to achieve desired consistency.

Play with it!

  • Add cumin and lime juice – use it alongside salsa and guacamole to top tacos, tostadas and anything else vaguely Mexican.
  • Replace horeradish with chopped capers, ad a bit of garlic and fresh lemon for another nice artichoke sauce.
  • Leave out horseradish and serve plain.
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December 31, 2012 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Gluten Free, Low Carb Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan Recipes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi….

Besides being really fun to say, and sort of mind-boggling to spell, gnocchi are really super fun to make. And, apparently, you can make them with pretty much anything. This winter, after years of being intimidated by the process but drawn to the allure of these puffy little dumplings, I finally decided to tackle them and pulled out my mom’s old fashioned potato mill from the pantry….

I started with what looked most legitimate – the über fussy potato ones from Nancy Silverton’s gorgeous new Mozza Cookbook. Because I am incapable of following a recipe verbatim, (even my own), and because I wanted to try making them using white whole wheat flour instead of white all-purpose, I second-guessed the recipe and added about 1/2 cup less flour than she calls for.

They were incredibly delicious – maybe one of the the most delicious potato things I have ever put in my mouth. But they were also almost too delicate, and could have used more flour in them for a bit more bite…(probably exactly what the recipe called for). Making potato gnocchi is really a project and the Mozza recipes are great – very detailed and wonderfully specific – so rather than trying to re-post my only slightly modified version of that recipe*, I am going to recommend that you get that book, which is loaded with other inspiring veggie recipes, and devote an entire Saturday afternoon to the Potato Gnocchi Gods as I did.  It’s wonderfully satisfying.

On the other end of the spectrum – for everyday life – there is ricotta gnocchi, which are so ridiculously quick and non-fussy to make that a dinner for two can be pulled together in about 30 minutes. Probably less. These are really a different creature than the potato ones, even if they look the same. Whipping these off the fork last night with the help of a somewhat ambivalent 12 year old was a whole different dimension from the Saturday mega-project, which was a dedication to art and love. The ricotta dough is definitely less silky and refined, and these gnocchi of course will not give you the Sublime Potato Experience (if you are prone to that sort of thing). Nonetheless, they are possibly even more fun to make because they can be made so easily and spontaneously, and they are unpretentious enough to really be dressed up with any funky old sauce, or none at all. They are amazingly tasty just as they are.

Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi in Herbs – for 4

  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta, (organic, grass fed if possible)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (use a microplane)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour, plus 1/2 cup for shaping
  • 3 T. butter, olive oil, or a mix
  • 1 T minced fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, or a combo)
  • 1 T freshly chopped Italian parsley

In a medium sized bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, nutmeg salt and pepper. Still to combine thoroughly. Add flour and mix lightly to combine. Dough will be very soft.

Dump out onto well floured board, turn over and fold over very gently a few times just to fully integrate dough. Separate into two balls and, taking turns, shape and flatten each one into a 1 inch thick rectangle. Using a clean knife, cut 1 inch strips from this and gently, on a well floured board, roll each one out into a 1/2 inch thick rope of dough.

Cut the rope into 1 inch “pillows” and, using your thumb on the back of a fork, gently roll each gnocchi off the fork tines, creating ridges on one side and a bit of an indentation on your thumb side. Don’t be afraid to be liberal with the flour. Or, you can just forget the fancy fork thing and do some rustic “loggy” ones or whatever you like. Try some fishes! Just make batches in relatively all the same size so that they will cook at the same time.

Repeat shaping the remaining gnocchi, dropping the finished ones on a floured baking sheet in a single layer. These can be frozen like this, to be bagged up after they freeze or cooked immediately.

In a well seasoned or non-stick skillet, heat butter, olive oil and minced herbs gently while you cook the gnocchi. Keep on low-med heat so the herbs get a little crunchy, but do not burn.

To cook, bring a medium sized pan of salted water to a boil. (The rule for fantastic pasta of any kind is to make the water as salty as the ocean, and to use high quality grey, sea, or Himalayan salt to do this with. Trust me, it’s worth it). Cook the gnocchi in 2 – 4 batches at a time, for only about 2 – 3 minutes after they float to the surface. Alternately, you can skip the cooking and try just pan frying them, but I found them a bit lighter if you boil them first.

Drain with a slotted spoon or strainer, adding all the cooked gnocchi to your skillet before tossing quickly and giving a slight reheat in the herb-butter. Finish with a touch of coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and parsley, and top each serving with a bit of grated Parmesan.

*The white whole wheat flour works surprisingly well in gnocchi! Substitute 1:1 for all purpose in the recipes.  It’s delicate and just slightly nutty which works great with the butter sauce, and you know…if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | "Evil Butter" Recipes, Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Fresh, Labors of Love, Main Courses, Pasta, Potatoes, Recipes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chile Relleno Casserole with Warm Tomato-Coriander Salsa

OK, January in NYC and just finally snowed today after a freakishly warm couple of months that were supposed to be winter. And what I am thinking about? Mexico. 2 years ago exactly…laying in a hammock in an amazing little oasis in Tulum called Posada Yum Kin, which is the kind of place that once you discover, you have to work your entire trip around because you don’t want to leave. I have done a lot of tropical traveling in the last couple of years, but when I close my eyes and wish to be teleported off for a week to someplace utterly relaxing… this is where I think of. A hammock …and the watermelon margaritas at Salsalito Taco Shop. Not necessarily in that order.

I also had some of the best chile rellenos I have ever had on that trip, at a place called Wet Wendy’s on Cozumel. It’s a margarita bar right in the middle of tourista-ville which was so tacky I am afraid to link you there, but if you are ever on Cozumel you have to go for their chiles, which are just huge, divine, deep-fried goodness.

Apart from the name, this recipe has nothing to do with what they were doing. This is a hybrid between my mom’s chile rellenos, which she stuffed with a much lighter cheese mixture using fresh ricotta and onions, and my friend Linda Fry’s ingenious recipe which makes the whole thing into a baked casserole and avoids the nastiness of deep frying. Served with a Warm Tomato-Coriander Salsa, it is fresh and heavenly.

Baked Chile Relleno Casserole for 4

  • 12 fire-roasted green chiles*
  • 1  1/2 cup whole milk ricotta (fresh, organic, grass-fed if possible)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 3 oz goat gouda, in 1/2″ cubes (or raw milk cheddar, or jack)
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 t Himalayan or sea salt
  • 6 T white whole wheat flour (or unbleached white)
  • 6 T water

Oil a 9 -12″ casserole dish with olive oil or butter. Preheat oven to 400°.

Stuff the Chiles: Mix together ricotta, cheese and red onions in a bowl. Stuff each chile with about 2- 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture. Alternately, you can open and spread half the chiles in a single layer on a plate, top with the entire cheese mixture and layer the rest of the chiles on top, like a chile-cheese-chile sandwich. What is important is that you have the filling stacked up and ready to go before you do the egg batter.

Make the Egg Batter:

Carefully separate eggs into two large metal or glass mixing bowls, making sure to keep whites completely free of any oil or egg yolks. Beat yolks and salt with a whisk (or electric beater) until very light yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add flour and water and whisk lightly just to combine.

With a completely clean whisk, beat egg whites with a small pinch of salt to firm peaks. This should take only 3 -5 minutes, but should not be interrupted by anything once you start. (Ignore the phone. Make the Seventh Day Adventists ringing the doorbell wait.)

Fold whites lightly into egg yolks and spread half this mixture onto the bottom of your prepared casserole. Not missing a beat, top with your stuffed chiles, laying them carefully in a single layer over the eggs. Top this with remaining egg mixture and back for 20 – 25 minutes or until top is golden brown and puffy.

Meanwhile, answer the door, make the salsa…

Warm Tomato-Corriander Salsa:

  • 1 sweet yellow onion
  • 1 can whole organic tomatoes (such as Muir Glen) or 8 fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled.
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 1/2 t whole coriander seeds
  • pinch salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 t agave syrup, to taste
  • 1/4 C fresh cilantro leaves

Slice onion into 2″ strips. Using your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into a bowl, saving the juice.

Heat oil in a saute pan, and toast whole spices for 10 -15 seconds until fragrant, add onions, salt and red pepper if using, and saute on med-high for 4 -5 minutes until onions are just starting to color at the edges. Add crushed tomatoes and juice and sauté for a few minutes before tasting and adding a touch of agave as needed. (The sauce should be just slightly sweet, but how much to add will depend on your tomatoes). Simmer gently  for 10 -15 minutes to integrate flavors. Serve warm, adding whole cilantro leaves just before serving.

Serve Chile Relleno Casserole drenched with a generous ladle of tomato salsa over the top. Awesome with a few sprouted corn tortillas, guacamole, and a big colorful salad on the side.

¡Buen provecho!

*Roast the Chilies: I roast whole poblanos directly over the gas flame on my stove, turning to blacken all over,  let steam in a covered bowl for at least 10 minutes, then peel and seed them. You can also lightly coat whole peppers in oil and pop them into a 450° oven until they are completely black on the outside, then do the same. Roasted and cleaned chiles freeze really well so do a lot and freeze in batches to enjoy in the winter.  Or, you you can do what my mom always did, which is to use canned whole Ortega green chiles. If you do this, you might as well go totally deviant: use pepper jack cheese and spice up the sauce to give it some inside-out spiciness. Mmmm….

January 22, 2012 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Recipes, Sauces | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cashew and Macadamia Nut “Boursin Cheese” (Raw)

This is a great vegan “cheese” which also becomes the base for some delicious creamy sauces. You can use pinenuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, or play with any combo of the three. This makes about 4 cups of cheese.

  • 4 cups soft nuts, soaked for 2 -4 hours (cashews, pine nuts, or macadamia nuts)
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 4 t. nutritional yeast
  • 2 t. salt

Blend together in a food processor or blender until smooth, let chill 2 hours for flavors to mellow.

Serve as a spread on raw crackers or thin as a dip for vegetables.

For flavored cheese spreads, add any of the following to a cup of the cheese recipe:

  • 1Tbs finely minced fresh herbs and garlic
  • 1/4 c Finely diced sweet red pepper and scallions
  • Zest of one lemon
  • …or come up with your own!

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Snacks/Crackers, Vegan Recipes | , , , | Leave a comment