Sunday, February 26, 2012

Moroccan Spiced Vegetables and Saffron Quinoa

I received a pretty awesome vegetarian cookbook for Christmas and this is one of the dishes I've made from it thus far. The book is called Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. It's a beautiful book with lots of unique vegetarian recipes. It's great because many of the recipes in the book use ingredients and flavor combinations that are very new to me. I like the idea of cooking outside of my comfort zone.

This was one of those unique recipes. I was turned on to it at work actually, where a lovely co-worker of mine made this dish (she got the cookbook for Christmas, too) for one of the vegan entrees for the day. I tasted a bit and liked the flavor combination, so I figured I'd try to make it at home. So I bought a jar of organic preserved lemons (they weren't cheap!) and organic harissa paste and got to cooking this warming winter dish.

Yes, the ingredient list is quite long. And the preserved lemons and harissa are a bit expensive. But honestly, the recipe is just as good without the preserved lemons and you can totally add some more crushed red pepper flakes in place of the harissa. And I highly recommend you to pick up a copy of Plenty if you're a vegetarian foodie, like me. I'm sure you'll see a few more of the recipes from the cookbook posted here on the blog in the future.

Moroccan Spiced Vegetables and Saffron Quinoa (adapted from 'The Ultimate Winter Couscous' in Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
1 small onion, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
4 tbs olive oil
sea salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp chili flakes
2 1/2 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup dried apricots (organic and unsulphered if possible)
1 cup chickpeas
1 1/2 cups chickpea cooking liquid or water
1 cup quinoa
large pich saffron
2 tbs harissa
1 oz preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 cups cilantro leaves

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Place carrots, parsnips, and onion in an oven proof dish (I used a 13"x9" glass rimmed baking pan). Add cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and all the other spices and mix well. Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Add the pumpkin to the pan, stir, and return to oven. Continue cooking about 35 minutes. Then, add the dried apricots and chickpeas with their cooking liquid or water. Return to oven and cook for a further 10 minutes.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, add the quinoa and 2 cups of water plus saffron to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat to a very low simmer. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked. Once the quinoa is cooked, keep somewhere warm until ready to serve.

4. To serve, spoon quinoa into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables over the center of the quinoa. Finish with plenty of cilantro leaves.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Raw Brownie

 Never have I ever been so utterly convinced that a food this decadent tasting can also be healthy. Yes, you read that right. These super moist, extra fudgy, uber chocolatey brownies are good for you. Seriously people, I don't think I ever need to make traditional brownies ever again. They're sweetened with dates, bulked up with walnuts and loaded with the antioxidant powerhouse raw cacao powder. Other than some almonds added for some crunch, that's it. I am completely in love. There's no refined sugar, no flour, butter, or eggs. There's no chalky brownie mix, no mixing bowls to clean up, and no waiting for them to bake. Did I mention they're healthy? Oh yeah, I already did. I think I've found the perfect dessert, people. Make these.
 You will need a food processor for this. There's just no way around it. And be sure to get your hands on raw cacao powder and organic unsulfered dried dates, if you can. While you could definitely use regular cocoa powder and still get a perfect result and taste, you won't get the superfood antioxidant boost.

The Raw Brownie (from Sarah at My New Roots...what an amazing woman)
2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. sea salt

1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.

2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.

3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).

4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into an 8"x8" cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Three Bean Chili

 I've never been too much of a chili person. Maybe it's because I'm not a fan of super spicy foods. Or maybe it's because traditionally, chili is made with lots of meat. But I figured I would try out a nice version of chili that I might like. And while I wasn't jumping for joy with a new found love for chili or anything after making it, it hit the spot on a cold night. And I was loving the toppings.
Oh, beans. What would I do without them? Full of fiber, protein, antioxidants, and flavor, they're an under appreciated food. People always will ask me where I get my protein since I'm a vegetarian and I stay away from processed soy products and fake meat anything. Well, besides from a load of other plant based sources of protein out there, I consume a fair share of beans. I always use dried beans because I prefer their texture and flavor, plus they're way cheaper. The important thing about preparing dried beans, however, is soaking them overnight, even up to 24 hours, in a warm place. This deactivates phytic acid, an anti-nutrient in beans and grains, that causes digestive upset. Soaking also makes nutrients in the beans more bioavailable and absorbable. So make sure you soak those beans!

Three Bean Chili
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and chopped finely
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans
1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons stoneground mustard
1-2 teaspoons sea salt (season to taste)
water or vegetable broth as needed

Toppings: avocado, cilantro, cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, chopped jalapeno peppers

1. In a large pot, cook onion in olive oil and a pinch of salt until soft and translucent. Then, add the chopped garlic and jalapeno and cook for another 30 seconds.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, spices, mustard and stir well to combine. Add water or broth to your desired thickness and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add sea salt to taste. Be sure to season well with enough salt, especially if you used dried beans. Plus, the salt helps bring out the flavor of the spices.

3. Serve and top with your choice of toppings.

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