Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cumin Chickpea and Tomato Quinoa Salad

I'm sure you've figured this out but I think chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are quite divine. They are so delicious and diverse, I could eat them everyday in a different form. Their innate starchiness makes them perfect for roasting and provides a distinct satiety needed in vegetarian dishes. Here is a recipe I made last week for my Wellness for Life cooking class. When making it for my audience I used cherry tomatoes however in preparing it again the other night I used heirloom tomatoes, compliments of River Dog Farm.

You only need 1 cup of tomatoes but buy extra for a beautiful panzanella salad or simply sliced heirlooms with fruity olive oil, basil, and sea salt. The point is, tomatoes are only around once a year and now is the time to eat up. Enjoy!

Cumin Chickpea and Tomato Quinoa Pilaf
Serves 4 as a side dish

2 cups of water
1 cup quinoa, picked over and rinsed
1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1-2 medium red onions, sliced into half moons
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil plus an extra drizzle
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander, ground
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 cup cherry or heirloom tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh parley, chopped
Sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium sauce pan add quinoa, water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

In the meantime mix together chickpeas, onion, oil, lemon juice, cumin seeds, coriander, cayenne, and 1/4 tsp. sea salt and place in a baking dish. Put the dish in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.

When the beans are done, transfer to a ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Mix in quinoa and add the tomatoes and parsley. Season with salt and an extra drizzle of olive oil to taste.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Melons, Green Beans and Purple Basil on the Santa Barbara Coast

As a youth, every summer was dotted with trips to my grandmother's beach house in Santa Barbara. We visited year around (it is California after all) however there was always something special about vacationing there during the warmest months. Though more business woman than cook, I have distinct memories of my grandmother's glazed chicken drummettes, pea salad with onions and mayo, and lots of melon. To this day, not much has changed. Before heading out on Friday, I picked up a beautiful Crenshaw melon from Happy Boy Farms at the Thursday Berkeley Farmer's Market. I wanted to bring something nostalgic and what do you get the woman who has everything? Melon, of course. Had I thought my plan through I'd have remembered my grandmother's aptitude for preparedness, but I guess I forgot that point. After a beautiful 6 hour drive down the coast we pulled up to the house. With melon in hand, I walked straight through the brightly lit foyer and into the kitchen. Unfortunately as I turned the corner I saw not one, but two HUGE melons sitting on the marble counter. SO as you can imagine, just like the old days at grandma's beach house, we had lots of melon.

Where do green beans come in, you ask? The next day my grandmother, Gray and I went to the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmer's Market. This trip again brought up lots of foodie memories for it was my grandmother who took me to my first farmer's market. Being a child who took every experience at face value, I thought farmer's markets only ever happened in Santa Barbara and that sugar snap peas (my favorite farmer's market purchase) could also only be bought there. I remember eating them until my tummy hurt, knowing I could not get them anywhere else.
I truly forgot what a brilliant market it is. Granted, I love my bay area markets but Santa Barbara's is definitely a close second. After the melon mishap I decided to make dinner for my grandmother, her husband, Gray, and my parents, you know, as a thank you gesture. And to show my grandmother what kind of a cook I've become.

The first thing to catch my eye were these gorgeous green beans.

Beautiful, right? I know, I could barely contain myself. I grabbed a bundle of nearby fresh shallots while Gray spotted a bunch of purple basil. Green bean saute? All set! I swear by the end of shopping my grandmother pronounced me "food possessed!" And so what if I am? Home we went to cook up a storm. Next to this amazing dish I served chili and garlic steamed red snapper (recipe from my beautiful Mom, on its way), cumin scented jasmine rice, green salad and an amazing view.

Dinner was simply delicious, made even better by the company. As the evening wined down and the older adults retired I couldn't shake the feeling that tonight had been special. A rare treat to cook for my grandmother in her own kitchen and repay her with the same love and nourishment she has bestowed upon me over the last 30 years. I hope we can do it again soon but if not, this is just another memory locked in the vault under the file "Summers at Grandma's Beach house." Enjoy.

Green Beans with Purple Basil

1 pound green beans, stems trimmed
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh shallots with greens attached or 3-4 without, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh mint, leaves torn
1/2 cup purple basil, leaves torn
juice of 1/2 a lemon
sea salt
ground pepper

In a large pot, bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and drop in the green beans. Cook for about 2 minutes, until they brighten up but are still a bit crunchy. Drain the beans and run under cold water to stop cooking.

In a medium saute pan, heat up the olive oil. Add shallots and salt/pepper and saute until the shallots soften. Turn off the heat and toss in the beans, mint, basil, and lemon and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Zucchini Tahini Gratin

I have always been a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food fan. Maybe it's that hummus was a staple growing up. In his youthful hippie days (or should I say daze), my Dad wanted to move to Israel and live on a kibbutz. Unfortunately my grandparents nixed that idea, leaving my father to live vicariously through consuming copious amounts of tabbouleh, babaganoush, and hummus instead. Hey, it worked out for me and I should thank my parents for the early introduction to ethnic cuisine. That being said, I was definitely the odd kid in Oxnard, CA who ate "weird white paste on pocket bread".

A primary ingredient in hummus and in Middle Eastern cooking in general is sesame. Sesame oil, sesame seeds, sesame paste or tahini, the little seed is found everywhere. When I stopped eating dairy about 6 years ago tahini became my go-to food. It's thick, creamy texture is an ideal substitute for regular cream, sour cream, and cream cheese.

So, last week Gray and I both had a craving for tahini sauce. A favorite winter dish in our house is sweet potatoes baked in tahini so I decided to play around with a summer version. Using seasonal zucchini, I thought to layer it up between hefty dollops of savory tahini sauce and fresh herbs. WOW! Now, I know something is good when Gray can only get a few words out after tasting it. His first word after the initial bite was, "Amazing!" Second word after his next bite, "Unbelievable!" Needless to say, we've got a new favorite summer dish. Feel free to use any fresh herbs you like. I used cilantro and mint but fresh parsley and basil would be stellar too. You could also substitute eggplant for the zucchini. Just be sure to let the slices drain a bit on a paper towel after your saute them. Enjoy!

Zucchini Tahini Gratin

3 large zucchini, ends trimmed and cut vertically into 1/4 inch pieces
4 tsp. ghee, divided (you could also use olive oil, though it doesn't crisp up as nicely)
a little less than 1/2 cup of tahini
zest of one lemon
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
4 tbs. water
1 large yellow onion, cut into half moons
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get out an 8 in. round baking dish with a lid (I used my Le Cruset but any equivalent round or square dish will do)

Heat 2 tsp. of ghee in a large saute pan or skillet. Place zucchini slices into the pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Cook on each side for about 5 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown. Once the zucchini is done cooking, place the slices on a paper towel to soak up any added moisture. (This will make sure the gratin is not too watery.)

While the zucchini is browning, make the tahini sauce. Whisk together tahini, lemon zest and juice, and a touch of salt. Add water to thin the mixture. You want the sauce to resemble a thick Ranch dressing. Not too thin or too thick. Keep adding water until you reach the desired consistency.

Once the zucchini is done, using the same pan, heat 2 tsp. of ghee and toss in your chopped onions. Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until they've started to caramelized.

Now it's time to assemble. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with zucchini. Make surethe slices are packed tight so as not to see the bottom of the dish. Now add a thin layer of onions, a few tablespoons of herbs, and a thin layer of tahini sauce. Continue with another layer of zucchini, then onions, herbs, and sauce. Continue layering until all ingredients are gone. You want to finish with a last drizzle of tahini sauce.

Cover and bake for about 15 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes to let the gratin settle. Serve with a little extra tahini sauce on the side, just in case. Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Plum Compote with Lavendar and Cream

What kind of a Health and Lifestyle Expert am I, giving out dessert recipes! First the Star Anise and Honey Tea Biscuits and now this! Let me say that just because I'm against white, refined, bleached sugar does not mean I forgo all sweetness. In fact, we need sugar to provide daily energy and sustain proper body function. That's why there are so many locations to find natural sugars whether in fruit, vegetables, whole grains or legumes. And in fact you will notice that summer fruits tend to have higher concentrations of water and sugar to help us maintain our energy during the hotter months. It's all part of nature's grand plan.

So, back to desserts.... It's safe to say that when it comes to food, particularly free organic, locally raised food, I have no shame at all. For example,when our friend Eddie mentioned his overflowing fruit-laden plum tree, I rudely exclaimed, "Can I have some!!!" A more civilized person might have waited for an offer, but not me. The second he mentioned his tree thoughts of plum crisp, plum cookies, and plum jam raced across my mind. With plums, the possibilities are endless. Luckily my rudeness paid off and a week later I had 7 pound of plums. No joke. And let me say that Eddie is one talented urban farmer because they are the most amazing plums I've ever had. Sweet yet tart, juicy with a bit a crunch... just spectacular!

I made this dessert as a treat for Gray a few nights ago and have subsequently made it almost every night since (We do have 7 pounds to get through). I prefer the compote chilled, giving it a jello like consistency, but warm is quite good too. In this recipe I serve it over a cookie but I also ate the leftover compote straight up for breakfast yesterday morning. Needless to say, it's good anytime.

Plum Compote with Lavender and Cream

5-6 very ripe and juicy plums, pitted and cubed
1 tablespoon unpasteurized honey (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh lavender (can use dried as well)
1 1/2 tablespoons Eden kudzu powder (natural thickening agent that is better than cornstarch)
5 tablespoons of water
1 pint organic heavy whipping cream (I like Clover or Strauss Creamery)
1 tablespoon rapadura (optional)

For the Compote

Place the cubed plums in a small sauce pan. Add the honey, cinnamon and two tablespoons of water and bring to a low simmer. Let the fruit cook for 4-5 minutes. While the fruit is cooking, mix kudzu with the remaining water and stir until the kudzu is completely dissolved. Add the kudzu mixture to the fruit, stir well, and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until the fruit begins to thicken. Once the fruit has thickened, take it off the heat and serve immediately or place in the refrigerator and let it chill for 2-3 hours.

For the Whipped Cream

Chill the cream and the beaters or whisk in the fridge for 10 to 20 minutes. Pour the whipping cream and sugar into the bowl and beat until it begins to thicken. Once the cream begins to form peaks that gently fold over when the beaters are removed, you are done. If using an electric mixer, start on low speed to prevent splattering, then speed up. (We learned the hard way.) If you are using a whisk, I'm sorry! This will be a serious workout for your arm, but well worth it. You’ll know if you have over-beaten the cream if it starts to turn to butter.

Place one tea biscuit in a small bowl and ladle over the plum compote. Top with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream and you are good to go. Happy Summer!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Star Anise & Honey Tea Biscuits

I love it when your first introduction to something is still your favorite. My first experience with food blogging came through Heidi Swanson's beautiful site 101Cookbooks and I have to say, it is still my favorite food blog, healthy or not. Yes Heidi's writings and recipes are based upon organic whole food eating, which I love, but what draws me in every time are her photos. Simply gorgeous!! It does help that she is a professional photographer but still, I could look at her pictures all day long. They make me want to put my computer screen in my mouth!

Anyway, most recently she posted a recipe for Marathon Cookies. Now I'm not in love with baking (much to my husband's chagrin) but these caught my eye. Primarily because one of the main ingredients are beans. "Beans in my cookies?!?", you exclaim. You read me right. Heidi uses white beans, which when pureed, create a wonderfully light and creamy texture. You get fiber and protein without even knowing it. So cool!

So how did I go from Marathon Cookie to Tea Biscuit? Well, as with all recipes I like, I had to give it the JAMIE LIVING touch. I used honey for the sweetener and cut the sugar in half. I substituted almond flour for pastry flour and also substitute star anise for regular anise seed. The star anise is much stronger and gives the biscuit a very unique, light licorice taste. Don't worry. I'm not a huge licorice fan either but just a little adds an amazing flavor.

The is a delicious summer treat to enjoy with your favorite cup of tea or as an afternoon work snack (I sent Gray with a few this morning though I doubt they will make it to 3 pm). They would also be ideal as the base of a fruit shortcake. Place the cookie in a bowl, layer with cooked plums or strawberries, slap on some whip cream and dessert is served. Happy baking and enjoy!

Star Anise and Honey Tea Biscuits

2 cups whole rolled oats, not quick or instant
1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon of star anise, ground in a spice grinder (you can also buy is pre-ground)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

one 15-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed & drained (I used the Westbrae brand)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup organic honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped Medjool dates

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sesame seeds (I used unhulled, which make them more brown in color)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and get out your favorite cookie sheet. I actually can't find mine so I used a Pyrex baking dish. Worked just fine.

Put oats in a food processor and mix until they look like flour. Transfer the oats to a large bowl and whisk in the almond flour, star anise, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt.

Put the beans and olive oil in the food processor and mix until creamy. Add the honey, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until the ingredients come together. Add the dates and walnuts into the batter and mix well.

Place the sesame seeds in a small bowl. Make each cookie about the size of a large golf ball (a little less than 1/4 cup each). Roll each scoop of dough into a ball and coat with sesame seeds. Set each ball on your baking sheet and with your hand flatten the dough just a bit. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Everyone Likes Fried Chicken!

"Everyone likes fried chicken," she said to me with a look of both annoyance and exasperation. "Now just eat it!" I could tell Barbie had had it with me. Being a close family friend and mother to my BFF Laurie, she was naturally the "tough love" enforcer. Laurie was seated next to me and shot me a look pleading," Seriously Jamie, please just eat it." Barbie had been raised in Oaklahoma where fried chicken (from what I know of the Midwest) is a common indulgence. Being raised by a Midwestern mom, Laurie too was all about the fried chicken. And why shouldn't she be? Well, my hippie earth mama was born in LA so the richest thing we ever ate was avocados in our salad. We didn't even have butter in the house so to eat fried chicken was simply beyond my 7 year old sensibilities. "Well, can you take the skin off for me?" I pleaded. "What! Jamie that's the best part. Now please stop being so picky and just eat," Barbie said. I, of course, didn't see myself as picky. I just didn't like chicken skin, or chicken fat or any visible gristle for that matter. Any time my mother made meat there couldn't be a single sign of fat or a vein or anything thing that made the cubed item in front of me appear to have once been an animal or I would freak out. "Mom, there's FAT on this!!!!", I'd scream. OK, I guess I was picky, though I prefer culinarily sensitive. At least we know I've always been meant for my profession.

It also didn't help that Laurie ate everything! That girl constantly showed me up which didn't help my cause as she downed her KFC drumstick while her mother glared at me. There was nothing I could do. I was hungry, Barbie was giving me the stink-eye, and Laurie was elbow deep in grease. I had to eat it. And so I did...and promptly threw up. That greasy hormone-laden, antibiotic pumped bird barely made it to my stomach before it was pushed back out. I couldn't help myself and to be honest, a little part of me was glad I puked everywhere. "Serves Barbie right for making me eat grody chicken," I thought. Thankfully, I was never asked to endure KFC again.

That was the first and last time I ate fried chicken. Recently though I did try something kind of close to it...crispy chicken skin. Two weeks ago my friend Jacqueline came over for dinner (the squidgy egg girl) to make baked chicken. Jacqueline and I are truly perfect eating companions for as much as I hate fatty gristliness, she adores it. A meal is simply not a meal without some sort of bacon, chicken fat, bone marrow, or headcheese thrown in (all humanely sourced, of course). She'd been going on about her AMAZING chicken skin and how I just had to try it. OK, fine. The worst that can happen is I throw up and as you know, been there done that. What the heck!

We covered the chicken thighs in pesto and baked as usual (30-35 minutes at 400 degrees). After baking and to crisp the skin, Jacqueline turned the broiler on high and broiled each side of the thighs for 4 minutes. The chicken came out beautifully, I must say, with the skin perfectly blistered and crisp. was time to taste. I took a deep breathe, snapped off a piece of skin and put it in my mouth. It wasn't bad. In fact, it was good. Like a very rich potato chip. The problem is, I'm not a huge potato chip fan. (Again, I was born for my profession.) Throughout the remainder of our dinner I gave Jacqueline the rest of my chicken skin. It really was a win win. I had tried it and decided it still was not my thing, and she was in crispy chicken fat heaven. The moral of the story is that chicken, when fried or crisped, is not for me. Barbie was right, I am picky. I mean, who doesn't like crunchy, salty fatiness for goodness sake? Me, that's who.