Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Home Cured Olives – Sonoma County Style…

Home Cured Olives

Well… let’s just say it’s been a long time, but I have been keeping busy.

October is when the olive harvest begins in Suryalila and it is one of my favorite times of year to be there. And so when this October rolled around and I was far away from Spain, I thought I’d better see what California has to offer…

As some of you know, I have been making a slow transition this year from New York City back to Northern California, which is where I grew up. I really never intended to move back, but my father is losing his eyesight to macular degeneration, so I have been bouncing back and forth all year between my dad and his lovely 3 acre property in Northern Sonoma County, and my boyfriend Hannes in our home in Harlem, NY.  To say this is a culture shock would not do it justice, but actually, I am getting used to it and am now enjoying the radical change of pace, in both directions.Hand Picking Olives Wendy and Horse

Needless to say, Sonoma County is an exceptionally beautiful place to live, and I am beginning to develop a real appreciation for the year-round farmer’s markets and the endless opportunities to grow, forage, brew, and preserve the bounties of the county.  My father’s property is flanked by wineries on both sides; the road we live on was once called Oat Valley Road, and the next town West of us is called Hopland, so clearly, brewing and fermenting are in the air here. When you drive through Hopland, you see hops growing along side the road, and driving along Highway 101 in the Fall, the air is thick with the smell of must from fermenting grapes… it’s intoxicating!
olives on the vine 750 pounds of olives!

And… what is lining all these the vineyards? Olive trees!

So about a month ago, I got myself invited to an olive picking party at a neighbor’s magnificent horse ranch, and our small crew of 14 spent most of a day picking 750 pounds of manzanilla olives for cold pressed olive oil. It was seriously fun, hard work. And guess how much olive oil that amount of olives will yield? …. only 13 gallons! I will never grumble about the price of good olive oil again.

Later that week I went back and hand-picked another 7 gallons of the green and medium ripe olives from the remaining trees. I looked for the greener olives for eating. I couldn’t wait to cure them!

The olive curing process that I know is a water-cured process which I learned in Suryalila a few years ago from our neighbor there, Jose. What the Andalusians do is to crack or score each olive by hand, then soak for 7 to 10 days in water to remove the bitterness, and finally brine them in salt water infused with garlic, peppers and the herbs which grow wild in the area. I thought I would do the same, using locally grown and harvested Sonoma County ingredients, which included wild fennel foraged from the side of the road, California bay laurel leaves, marjoram and wild cilantro from my dad’s yard, and bright peppers and fresh garlic from the Cloverdale Farmer’s Market. Bounty of the County indeed!

Home Cured Olives  – 7.5 Gallon Yield

  • 7 gallons fresh green and medium ripe  olives
  • 3 gallons water
  • 2# celtic grey sea salt
  • 1/4 c whole peppercorns, lightly cracked
  • 3 cups unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2# fresh red and green peppers, sliced
  • 3 T whole coriander seeds
  • 10 -15 fresh marjoram sprigs
  • 10 – 20 fresh bay leaves
  • 16 stalks fresh fennel, in 4-5″ pieces
  • 36 oz white wine vinegar
  • 750 ml olive oil (to pour over tops of olives)

 

Sort the Olives:

Sorting Olives by Ripeness

Sort olives, seperating the very greenest ones to be cracked, the medium to be scored with a knive, and the very ripest ones to be kept whole and salt cured.

  1. Cracked Green: With a mallet, gently crack each green olive on one side, just so it splits open. Try not to smash it too much here – you are are just looking to crack it open.
  2. Medium Ripe: With a sharp paring knive, score each medium-ripe olive in 3 or 4 places, so that the brine will penetrate down to the pit. Again, try to do without squashing or bruising the olives too much.
  3. Dark Black:  The very dark, ripe olives I kept whole and covered in course salt and stored away in a cardboard box in a dark closet to “sun dry” them, ironically. This is a first time for me with this process so more later as I figure out what I am doing here…

Soak the Olives:

Using at least three 5 gallon buckets, cover the olives completely in cold filtered water and float a plate with a small weight on top to keep the top layer of olives submerged. Let soak in a cool dark place for a week to 10 days, draining and changing the water at least once a day. This helps to remove some of the bitterness of the olives, and the salt brining will complete the process. You will see that the cracked green olives, which have more surface area exposed, will de-bitter quickly, turning from bright green to a drab…well, “olive ” color. You should be able to almost eat one of these without grimmacing and 7 -10  days should do the trick.Homemade Olives on the Countertop

The less ripe end of the scored olives might take a few days longer – you will see them also change color. I pulled all of this batch after 7 days because of my own time restrictuions (I needed to get to NYC: Sometimes the slow food movement clashes with my jet-set lifestyle…) This will just mean a longer cure in the salt brine… it can take sometimse up to a couple of months for the bitterness to leave the olives this way.

If you soak the olives in water longer – 10 days to 2 weeks even –  you can reduce the brine curing time (and the entire curing time) to only a few weeks. These olives will tend to be less bitter, but sometimes a bit softer than olives cured using the longer brining method.

 

Make the Brine:

A day before your olives are ready to escape their water bath, heat one gallon of water, add salt, and stir to disolve. Add remaining two gallons of cold filtered water.  With your mallet, lighly crack the garlic cloves, and let sit out for at least 10 minutes to oxidize**, and then drop with peppers, herbs and spices into your bucket.  In Spain, Jose lightly muddled the peppers with the garlic and herbs with a large mortar and pestle before adding to the salt brine, but I decided not to do this on this round. Too messy!

Home Cured OlivesAdd 2/3 of the white vinegar and taste. I make half the olives at this dilution, and then add the remaining vinegar to the other half of the batch, making some of the olives a bit more vinegary. (Alternately, you can leave the vinegar out. Tradicionally the Andalucian olives are made only with salt).

Gently fill 15 half gallon mason jars with olives, nearly to the top. Pour brine evenly over olives, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the lip. Tap lightly on the counter to release bubbles, then top with olive oil to the rim.  Carefully screw the jar lids on, leaving as little air in as possible.

Store olives in cool dark place, or (ideally) refrigerate. They are ready when they have lost their bitterness, and this can take from 3 weeks to 3 months, depending on the variety and ripeness of your olives, the length of your soak time, etc. You can try the cracked green olives in 3 weeks, but the scored olive will likely take a month or two to finish. To taste, fish out an olive or two, and then top off the jar with a splash more olive oil, keeping the olive submerged under the oil and as air-free as possible.

Buen Provencho!

* Using Celtic Grey Salt: I know… it’s crazy to spend $4 a pound on salt right? Wrong. Suck it up and spend the money on high quality, high mineral salt whenever you can. Using good salt to naturally preserve and cure olives is a no-brainer and makes them even more special… I consider them medicinal!

** Releasing Allicin: When crushed, raw garlic produces a powerful antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral sulphuric (stinky) compound called allicin.  Within 5 minutes of being crushed and exposed to air, garlic explodes into a variety of sulfur-containing compounds which are supposed to be very good for the heart, lowering blood pressure and releasing more oxygen to the blood stream (always a good thing!).  Studies have also shown that raw garlic a powerful anticarcinogenic, internally halting the growth of cancerous tumours in the body.

***What’s in an Olive? 

Raw cured olives are chock full of healthy, monounsaturated fat and loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Green olives are higher in oleic acid, which has been shown to decrease blood pressure, while black olives contain more iron and vitamin E. Both also contain serotonin, the hormone which triggers your body to feel satisfied… how good is that? Eat your olives!

Advertisements

December 7, 2014 Posted by | Fresh, Labors of Love, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes, Wild & Foraged | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Gluten Free, Low Carb Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Vegan Recipes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Silky Ginger Carrot Soup

P1040513It’s starting to get blustery and cold in New York City, and all I want to do is hole up in my cozy apartment and make soup! This soup is very versatile  – I made it simply ginger for an Asian-y accompaniment to my vegetarian “Chinese Chicken” Salad and Sesame Scallion Buns meal last fall, but it can just as easily be Mexican-ed up by replacing the ginger with cumin and adding a pinch of oregano.* (And for an awesome raw version, check out this one:  Warm Winter Carrot Soup.)

The secret of this soup is to get it really really smooth – it will be ok done in a blender, but it is divine when made in the Vitamix…

Silky Ginger Carrot Soup for 6

  • 2# carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions, sliced evenly
  • 2 T olive or coconut oil
  • 1 t. Himalayan or high mineral salt
  • 1/t t. white pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained**
  • 1 – 2 cups water
  • 2 – 3 T. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 – 2 t. maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 t. umeboshi vinegar or squeeze of lemon (optional)

In the bottom of a heavy-bottomed soup pot, saute onions with salt and pepper in oil over medium heat until starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and bay leaf and sweat them another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, with a lid loosely on the pot.  Add enough water to cover carrots (about 4 cups, but you can eyeball it), bring to a boil, and cook until the carrots are tender enough to cut with a fork, but still bright orange. About 10-15 minutes, depending on how thinly you have sliced them. Remove bay leaves, add cashews, and blend in Vitamix very well, being careful to start slowly with the top securely on. You can bring the soup up to the highest speed and then leave it there for at least a minute. I walk away…

Add grated ginger, ume vinegar and 1 – 2 cups water, slowly, thinning to desired consistency. Add maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste. Finish with a splash of umeboshi vinegar, or a squeeze of lemon. Rewarm lightly if not serving immediately, but do not boil.

Serve garnished with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, or thinly sliced scallion tops.

*This recipe can also go East Indian if you do ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric with the onions, or Moroccan if you do all of the Indian spices but add cinnamon and a pinch of saffron in the with carrots… play with it!
**You can replace the cashews and 2 cups water with almond milk, or hemp, soy or oat milk.

December 6, 2012 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Recipes, Soups, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , | 1 Comment

Gazpacho Andaluz!

Hola from España! I am back at Suryalila and midway through cooking for about 45 people on another Yoga Teacher’s Training with Vidya. Everyone here is studying very hard right now and I am again in the Suryalila kitchen, where our team has happily hit cruising altitude and is flying smoothly through meal after beautiful meal.

What could be more appropriate for September Equinox in Southern Spain than Gazpacho Andaluz? Here is my favorite recipe – when I made it the first time I was here I was shy about how truly “Andalusian” it was, (especially with my obvious deviations, like fresh ginger!) but since then I have gotten the big thumbs-up from our local friend Manuel and many of our neighbors, so I now can proudly say it’s been officially sanctioned. The hard-boiled egg topping, “huevo duro”, was the only suggestion from Manuel – and it’s a great one – so I have added as an optional third condiment.

Gazpacho Andaluz  –  for 10

  • 4 cups fresh sweet tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups cucumbers, peeled (seeds ok), in pieces
  • 1 cup sweet red bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 small red onion, cut small
  • 1 T fresh ginger, cut small
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 1 T high quality sea or Himalayan salt
  • 2 T honey or coconut sugar, or to taste
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in 2 cups water

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl, then blend in batches in a Vitamix until completely silky smooth, adding tomato soak water if necessary to blend, or a little ice as necessary to keep cool. Adjust for salt and sweet, and chill well before serving.

Serve well chilled in a big bowl, along with small bowls of toppings…

  1. Homemade Garlic Croutons (or leave out, for gluten-free)
  2. Mixed Veggie Topping
  3. Huevo Duro  (or leave out, for vegan version)

Homemade Garlic Croutons

Please do not use prefab croutons here! Once you try these you will never go back.

  • 8 slices of whole grain bread, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T crushed garlic

Mix garlic, salt and pepper into olive oil in a large bowl, combining well. Add bread all at once and toss vigorously to coat all the bread as evenly as possible. Taste and adjust, adding more oil and salt if necessary. It should be delicious already. Toast slowly in a dry stainless or cast iron frying pan, stirring occasionally until browned and crunchy on all sides (my favorite method, since they stay a little soft in the middle) or toast in a 325° oven until crisp through.

Mixed Veggie Topping

  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced

Combine together and toss with a little olive oil and salt just before serving.

Huevo Duro (optional)

8 high quality eggs, hard-boiled for 10 minutes and diced.

A Note on Eggs…

Please make sure your eggs come from happy, pastured hens, or forget about using them. Seriously, this soup is fantastic without the huevo duro, and the only reason I am including it is this is how they do it here in Andalusia. Everyone who lives here seems to have chickens pecking around in their back yards, and happy, sun-drenched hens make for very good eggs.  So please just skip the eggs if you can’t vouch for the happy hens.

 

September 22, 2012 Posted by | Food Consciousness, Fresh, Gluten Free, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Soups, Vegan Recipes | , , , | 8 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

Fresh Cilantro-Coconut Chutney

Fresh cilantro is a blood purifier and excellent chelator, known for removing heavy metals from your body such as mercury, lead and aluminum. Like many herbs, it is also high in minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. It is also very high in antioxidants (cancer fighting) and and one of the highest natural sources for vitamin K (good for bones).  This recipe is super easy to make and so delicious that I sometimes eat it out of the bowl with a spoon after I run out of things to spread it on… try it with the Baked Samosas for sure.

  • 1 whole bunch fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped (stems ok)
  • 1 cucumber, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 1 whole lime, juiced (or whole, just peel lightly and add in chunks)
  • 1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut
  • 4 fresh jalapeno peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 t salt

Blend all ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender, adding in cilantro and coconut last. Adjust the spice and salt to taste.

Make it your own – there are infinite variations!

  • Mix a 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves in with cilantro
  • Replace cucumber with fresh green bell pepper
  • Add hot Indian chili peppers instead of jalapenos for more heat, or leave out chilies completely
  • Add a bit of ginger, garlic or both

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , | Leave a comment

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

This is the recipe that made me like quinoa, maybe even love it: fluffy quinoa with asparagus drenched in basil pesto, good enough right there… but then served with fresh ripe tomatoes and warm roasted portobello mushrooms – it’s a knockout combination. I owe thanks to Chef Tracy Morrisette, whom I worked with at the Goddess Garden in Costa Rica earlier this year, who convinced me with this combination that quinoa could be fantastic. If you are (like I was) in the camp that quinoa is no better than glorified bird seed, this recipe will convert you. (Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain – it is gluten-free, very high in magnesium (cardiovascular health) and also has more calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than most grains. It’s also naturally high in protein and fiber.)

This can be served nearly raw as a summer salad or lightly baked as a gorgeous entree…

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portobello (serves 4)

  • 4 medium-sized vine ripe tomatoes, (or two large heirloom)
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (for 8 minute recipe, see below*)
  • 6 T  creamy blue-green basil pesto (any version)
  • 1 cup fresh asparagus, in 1″ pieces
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 T water
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (opt)
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 4 medium portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T well aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t maple syrup, palm sugar or agave (if balsamic is not well aged)
  • Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

Prep the tomatoes: Cut the tops off of medium tomatoes, or cut the big heirlooms in half, horizontally.With your fingers, gently scoop out all seeds and inner membranes of each tomato, leaving a hollow cup. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub in gently with your hands. Let sit while you prepare the quinoa.

Prep portobello: toss mushrooms with oil and vinegar salt and pepper until well coated all around. Taste and adjust – should be delicious already. Spread out in single layer on heavy baking pan.

Make Pesto-Quinoa Pilaf: Quickly saute asparagus with a small amount of olive oil, water and salt for 1 -2 minutes until slightly tender, toss with squeeze of lemon and zest. Toss in quinoa, nutritional yeast and warm through gently. Add pesto – taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Stuff each tomato or tomato half generously with quinoa pilaf. (If tomatoes are small they can be split into 4 quarters to accommodate more filling, but not necessary.) Organize in baking dish or sheetpan and place both portobello and tomatoes in very hot oven to roast for 10 – 15 minutes or just until tomatoes are hot through and top of pilaf has a touch of brown. Portobellos should be ready in about the same time but keep and eye on them.

I served with a lightly dressed arugula salad (arugula and a squeeze of lemon in the unwashed mushroom marinade bowl… ).

~~~~~~~~Other Versions: ~~~~~~~~~~~

Stuffed Tomato Salad – just don’t roast:  serve room temp pilaf in the fresh tomato shells over arugula, with un-roasted marinated portobellos on the side.

Un-stuffed Salad: Forget the whole stuffing thing, and just serve a big  scoop of warm or room temp pilaf over a plate or bowl of gorgeous sliced summer tomatoes.

Pesto Quinoa with Garlic Scapes: replace asparagus with fresh garlic scapes in above recipe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Tracy’s 8-minute Fluffy Quinoa:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch sea salt

Wash quinoa several times to get rid of soapy taste. Cover in fresh water and let soak 1 hour or over night to activate enzymes (skip this if you are in a rush). Rinse one more time drain. Boil quinoa gently in small pot for 8 minutes only in salted water. (Yes, it’s really only 8 minutes and a 1:1 ratio- even a bit less if you are making a very large pot of 8 cups or more). Fluff with fork, cover tightly and let rest for 5-10 minutes more to totally fluff up and expand.

July 4, 2011 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Recipes, Salads, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , | 7 Comments

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan, too)

Pesto, like chocolate, is one of those wonderfully strong-flavored things that you can slip all sorts of healthy stuff into without anyone guessing. My most favorite surreptitious ingredients in basil pesto are hemp seeds and blue green algae. Hemp seeds are full of complete and easily digestible protein, have the highest essential fatty acids of any plant food on the planet – a perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid, which is good for for your heart and immune system – and best of all, they taste a bit like pine nuts. (They can completely replace the nuts in your pesto recipe without anyone noticing, but I usually do a mix of hemp and raw cashews because I really like the sweet creaminess the cashews add.) The blue-green algae is full of chlorophyll and phytonutrients, plus adds some trace minerals and vitamins, and can also go undetected, even by the pickiest of (12 year old) eaters. My boyfriend’s son Kai generally does not eat “foods of color” but curiously loves pesto, which is what motivated me to try to slip as much other healthy green stuff in as I could. The last time I made it we did it together, but I slipped in the blue-green algae at the end when he wasn’t looking. Can’t reveal everything to everyone all the time…

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan)

  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and picked (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea or Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 t umeboshi vineger (optional)
  • 1/2 t fresh black pepper
  • 4 capsules Crystal Manna Blue Green Algae

Save out a handful or basil leaves, and then blend all remaining ingredients well in blender or Vitamix until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust for salt – this should be well salted and fairly intensely flavored, as a little goes a long way. Add remaining basil leaves and blend briefly, maintain a little texture. (You can add in a few more nuts here too, if you want a little crunch). Use at once or keep in glass jar with a puddle of olive oil on the top to keep it from going brown. Will keep 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge.

Play with your pesto!

Pesto can be made with really anything so please get creative with what is in the fridge.

  • Add a little parsley to the blender to up the green intensity
  • Add a bit of nutritional yeast to make it richer and slightly cheesy
  • Use any other type of nut here, pine nuts are traditional, but I have had great pesto made with pistachios, walnuts and even sesame seeds. Or make it with all hemp.

Also, I just want to say that the amounts of everything are extremely flexible – I have make a 10 minute pasta with a  “chunky pesto” sauce using about 10 basil leaves from a withering basil plant who’s day had come… in this case it went into a mortar and pestle with 1/2 clove of garlic and a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and got chopped toasted pine nuts mixed in later. Just proving that 10 fresh leaves are infinitely superior to any pre-fab pesto sauce you could ever buy from anywhere!

Pesto is not just for pasta- its great on steamed potatoes and vegetables, and is fantastic mixed with quinoa. If, like me, you never thought “fantastic” and “quinoa” should appear in the same sentence, check out Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

July 1, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , | 1 Comment

Pura Vida Tortilla Soup (Raw)

“Pura Vida” literally means “Pure” and “Life”, and it is a term used loosely in Costa Rica as a greeting or farewell  – meaning things are cool, and that life is good, in balance…

This recipe was based on Ani Phyo’s Tortilla Soup Recipe in her book, Ani’s Raw Food Essentials, but I think Tracy Morrisette, the chef at the Goddess Garden, brilliantly improved it with the addition of a little nutritional yeast and chili powder. Not to mention some utterly addictive deep fried fresh tortilla strips covered in her nacho cheese-flavored spice mix! Tracy made this soup for us on the first retreat here in Costa Rica and it blew my mind: an utterly virtuous and creamy raw soup with a handful of wickedly delicious crunchiness on top. Pura Vida!

Serve this gently warmed up for a cold winter day, or at room temperature on a hot one.

Pura Vida Tortilla Soup (Raw) – Serves 6

  • 4 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cups olive oil
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 ½ t garlic
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno (or to taste)
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t ancho chili powder
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • 2 sundried tomato halves, soaked
  • 3 cups water (use soak water from tomatoes)

Fried Tortilla Strips

  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into half inch strips
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t onion powder
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • 1 T ancho chili powder

Blend the Soup: Combine all soup ingredients in a Vitamix and blend until completely smooth and creamy, taste and adjust for salt and spiciness.

Fry the Strips: Combine yeast and spices in small bowl and set aside. Deep fry tortilla strips in two or three batches until crisp and lightly brown.  Drain each batch well on newspaper covered with paper towels to catch the oil, and sprinkle generously with the seasoning mix, tossing to coat. Serve in bowls alongside soup.

Serve soup cool at room temperature, or warm slightly in a saucepan: stirring constantly and testing with a finger often to make sure it does not get too hot. Pour immediately into warmed bowls and pass the strips!

March 8, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Soups, Vegan Recipes | , , , , | 7 Comments

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine

Jamie Oliver calls Tagine “a sort of stew with attitude”… which sums it up pretty well, I think. “Tajine” is actually the Berber word for the earthenware pot this stew is traditionally slow-cooked in, but any heavy-bottomed pot will do the trick. While there are endless varieties, Morrocan Tagine is typically made with lamb, chicken and vegetables, dried fruits, cinnamon and other spices, and served over couscous.  Replacing the meat with chickpeas and eggplant makes for a completely satisfying and delicious stew which in the hot Costa Rica climate, we served over a room temperature barley and toasted almond pilaf.*

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine – Serves 6

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine

 

  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 8 sundried tomato halves, soaked in 1/2 c water
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 sweet potatoes or purple yams, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 onion, cut in 1” pieces
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 red and/or yellow peppers, cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 tablespoons dried currents or chopped raisins
  • 1 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped

Combine honey and ginger in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Put ginger-honey mix aside. In same blender, blend sun-dried tomatoes with lemon and spices until smooth.
In a deep heavy bottomed casserole or stew pot, heat one tablespoon of oil and add eggplant, stirring quickly to coat. Cook for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until eggplant cubes begin to sear and tenderize slightly. Remove from pan.
Saute onions in remaining 2 T oil and a pinch of salt until translucent, add garlic and saute for 5 – 10 minutes until mixture begins to caramelize slightly. Deglaze pan with a tablespoon or so of water if needed.

Add sundried tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes. Bring to a boil on medium heat and add sweet potatoes. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until potatoes are just tender.

Add peppers, eggplant, chickpeas, currents and half the honey-ginger mixture. Check for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. Simmer gently, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure all the veggies get immersed into the sauce. Remove from heat, stir in remaining ginger mixture and cilantro and serve with cooked couscous, barley or quinoa.

* A Note About Barley: Barley has a wonderful chewy bite which I prefer to couscous, and although there is a small amount of gluten in barley, it is apparently a different type and more easily digestible than wheat gluten so could be a better choice for those who are not celiac or highly gluten sensitive.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Recipes, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | Leave a comment