Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mint-Chip Shake and Sweet Potato Fries with Cashew Ranch Dip

I have a confession to make: Sometimes I’m very behind the times when it comes to food trends. I miss the excitement as everyone begins to get on board with something new, and then I’m incapable of catching up in a fashionably late kind of way. So, I thought maybe I just wasn’t hip enough for smoothie bowls or chia puddings. And, then I read a review copy of the new book Good Clean Food: Super Simple Plant-Based Recipes for Every Day by Lily Kunin and decided hip enough or not, I wanted to try these things. The book is very cheery and colorful with beautifully-styled dishes in the many photos, and it was a pleasure to read. I’ve been craving more lean and nutritious foods lately, albeit with an occasional decadent treat here or there, and this book is a nice guide to very current ideas for eating well. The author started down the path of mindful eating and avoiding gluten as a way of heading off migraines, but this book isn’t about following a specific diet plan. Instead, the mostly plant-based dishes are offered for the reader to enjoy as they are or to revise in any number of ways. There are building-block recipes and instructions for cooking beans, grains, and vegetables and prepping dressings, sauces, and toppings that give you a head-start for several of the dishes. And, in addition to food, there are recipes for homemade face masks, hair treatments, and bath salts too. My first stop in the book was at the Walnut Orange Globes page. These energy balls are quickly made in a food processor with raw walnuts, raw almonds, orange zest, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt. The balls are rolled in hemp hearts, and they are a delicious snack. I’ll be making those repeatedly now that I’ve tried them. I also made chia pudding with unsweetened coconut and almond milk and topped it with raisins and walnuts, and it instantly became my new favorite breakfast. Some other recipes I’ve marked include Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot Salad, Salted Caramel Bonbons made with dates and no refined sugar, the Cherry-Coco Ice Cream Sandwich with Double Chocolate Chews cookies, and the Taco Salad with a walnut-lentil crumble. Two other things I tried and want to tell you more about were the Mint-Chip Shake and Sweet Potato Fries with Cashew Ranch Dip. 

A shake and fries sounds the opposite of nutrition-focused eating, doesn’t it? But, not with these versions. The shake is made with unsweetened nut milk, some avocado, fresh spinach, super greens powder, mint leaves, vanilla extract, peppermint oil, and cacao nibs. There was supposed to be some honey for sweetening, but I used some frozen banana instead and skipped the ice cubes as well because of that frozen fruit. The ingredients were pureed in the blender and then topped with more cacao nibs. This was my first use of super greens powder, and it combines well with the ingredients here. The one I chose is an “Amazing Grass” blend with wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, spinach, spirulina, chlorella, and broccoli. I’ve been adding it to other types of smoothies too for a boost of nutrients. The sweet potato fries were baked with a little coconut oil. The ranch dip was made with raw cashews that had been soaked in water overnight and drained, a little water, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne, and parsley. I opted for fresh garlic rather than garlic powder. The ingredients were pureed in the blender. 

After reading this book and trying a few things, I could be a food trend convert. I’ve been buying more raw cashews and soaking them for purees. I made the ranch dip a second time and added a chipotle chile, and quite enjoy it as a dairy-free dip or dressing. The Mint-Choco shake tasted far richer and more decadent than it should have. The chocolate flavor from the cacao nibs and the fresh mint were delicious together, and all those nutritious ingredients were a bonus. I’m glad to have this book with me in the kitchen now and look forward to trying more. 

Mint-Chip Shake
Recipes reprinted with publisher’s permission from Good Clean Food: Super Simple Plant-Based Recipes for Every Day


Mint chocolate chip ice cream was my all-time favorite as a kid, largely because of the neon green color. My preferences have shifted since then, but I’m still all for a beautiful, bright green shade if it’s made from spirulina, chlorella, or spinach! In this smoothie, the peppermint mimics the classic ice cream flavor. Combined with creamy avocado, crunchy cacao nibs, and some natural sweetness from the raw honey, this makes an out-of-this- world midday energy bump. Use stevia in place of the raw honey, if you prefer.  

1 cup (240 ml) cashew or brazil nut milk, or any plant-based milk  
1/2 small avocado 
2 handfuls of spinach 
1 teaspoon super greens powder 
1/4 cup (13 g) fresh mint leaves, packed 
2 to 3 teaspoons raw honey, or a few drops of stevia 
Dash of pure vanilla extract 
Pinch of sea salt or pink salt 
Few cubes of ice 
Organic peppermint oil or peppermint extract 
1 tablespoon cacao nibs, plus more for topping
 
makes 2 servings 

In a blender, combine the nut milk, avocado, spinach, green powder, mint leaves, 2 teaspoons of the honey, the vanilla, salt, and ice. Add a few drops of peppermint oil—if you’re using the extract, you’ll need more than that. Puree until the mixture is well combined. Taste and adjust the honey as needed. 

Blend again, then add the cacao nibs and pulse briefly to combine. 

Serve the shake topped with additional cacao nibs, if desired. 

Sweet Potato Fries with Cashew Ranch Dip 
This recipe might be my hands-down favorite snack ever. Sweet, crispy on the outside, and slightly spicy, these fries disappear once they hit the plate. Unlike regular French fries, sweet potato fries are much more nutrient-dense, and won’t slow you down. The key to getting them to crisp up is giving them enough room to breathe on the pan—they shouldn’t touch each other!—so they don’t end up steaming. Serve with creamy cashew ranch dip.
 
serves 2 to 4  

cashew ranch dip:
1 cup (120 g) raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained 
1/2 cup (120 ml) water or unsweetened almond milk 
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons 
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
1 teaspoon onion powder 
Dash of cayenne 
Dash of paprika 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or pink salt 
1/4 cup (8 g) minced mixed chives, dill, and parsley 
Freshly ground black pepper 

sweet potato fries: 
2 small to medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) matchsticks 
2 teaspoons melted coconut oil or oil of choice 
2 teaspoons mixed spices such as chili powder, garlic powder, and ground turmeric 
Pinch of cayenne 
Sea salt or pink salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 

For the fries: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Lightly coat the sweet potatoes with the oil and toss them with the spices and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Lay the potatoes out on the baking sheet in a single layer. Make sure they don’t touch, as this will help them crisp up. Bake them for 35 to 40 minutes, turning them halfway through. They are done when they are golden on both sides and cooked through. Let them cool slightly before serving. 

For the dip: In a food processor or blender, combine the cashews, water, juice of one of the lemons, garlic and onion powders, cayenne, paprika, and salt. Puree until the mixture is creamy. If needed, add more water to reach your desired consistency. Transfer the dip to a small bowl, stir in the herbs, and season with additional lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill for 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld. 
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Brazilian Slaw

I’m not a vegan, or a vegetarian, but I like to dabble in that space. Most of the time I prefer plants to meat, and a lot of what I cook is meatless. So, I was intrigued by a new book called Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (That Happens To Be Vegan) from a Melbourne restaurant of the same name that happens to stick to a vegan menu. The goal of the restaurant menu and of the book is to offer “plant-based food the way it should be: big, bold, flavorful, noteworthy, celebration-worthy, and myth-dispelling.” Rather than focusing on the conscientious reasons most people choose to follow a vegan diet, here plant-based cooking is a jumping-off point for creativity. The food is inviting, fun, and hearty. The Breakfast Burrito is made up of a few homemade components and is a great example of the flavorful cooking seen throughout the book. The burrito is made with homemade Chipotle Cashew Cheese, Brazilian Black Bean Soup, Spicy Ground Chorizo made with textured vegetable protein, and Tofu Scramble. Something to note about the ingredient lists is that you will see things like “chicken stock” and “butter.” But, in the Book Notes at the beginning, it’s mentioned that vegan substitutes for those types of items are intended. The delicious-looking Sopa Seca is made with broken angel hair pasta, chipotles in adobo, and vegan chicken stock. Some other dishes I want to try include the Warm Hearts of Palm Salad served with guacamole; the Artichoke and Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Cumin Vinaigrette; and Spanish Meatballs made with brown rice, bell peppers, oats, brown lentils, and chickpea flour. The recipe that got me cooking first, though, was Brazilian Slaw. This brought back a memory of a cooking class I attended taught by Susan Feniger. The title of that class was Inspired by Brazil, and one of the dishes was a Vegetable Salpicon or slaw. I still have the notes and recipes from that class (I keep the notes I receive from cooking classes filed away), and that slaw is the dish I remember most. Feniger’s version was topped with crispy shoestring potatoes, and the mix of vegetables was slightly different. The general concept was the same, and I couldn’t wait to try the version from this book. 

Here, the crispy topping was baked corn tortilla strips rather than fried shoestring potatoes. They were baked until golden and crunchy and set aside to cool. I made a couple of substitutions based on what was fresh and in season right now. So, instead of using corn and apple, I used a mix of radishes. Along with radishes, carrots were also cut into julienne strips. Red and green cabbages were thinly sliced into ribbons. Mushrooms, and I used maitake instead of oyster just because they looked better that day, were seared with soy sauce until browned and allowed to cool. Last, pimento-stuffed green olives were sliced. To make the dressing, first a vegan aioli was prepared. It was made in the blender with silken tofu, garlic, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. The aioli was mixed with lime zest and juice and more garlic to form the slaw dressing. The vegetables were combined in a big bowl along with parsley and cilantro leaves, and all was topped with dressing. The mixture was tossed until well coated and served with tortillas strips on top. 

I’m always a fan of crunch, and it’s abundant here. The vegetables are crunchy, and the tortilla strips are really crunchy, and all that texture made this fun and delicious to eat. The aioli is also a perfect base for other dressings. I used what was left from this recipe to make a green goddess dressing for another salad. And, I also made the Coriander Cashew Cream with added chipotle to use on tacos. I may not be vegan all the time, but thanks to recipes like these more plant-based meals are showing up on my table. 

Brazilian Slaw 
Recipe excerpted with permission from Smith and Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse, published by Hardie Grant Books March 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover. 

As far as salads go, you just don’t get prettier, with more texture, more variety and more fun. 

Serves 4–6 

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
150 g (5 1/2 oz) fresh or frozen corn kernels 
85 g (3 oz) oyster mushrooms, roughly torn 
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce 
1 granny smith apple, cored and cut into thin matchsticks 
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks 
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced 
85 g (3 oz) green pimento olives, sliced into thin rounds 
300 g (10 1/2 oz) thinly shredded purple cabbage 
large handful flat-leaf parsley leaves 
large handful coriander (cilantro) leaves 

Dressing 
250 g (9 oz/1 cup) Aioli 
zest and juice of 1 lime 
1 small garlic clove, crushed 

Garnish 
3 corn tortillas, cut into 5 mm (1/4 in) strips (or use roughly crushed tortilla chips) 
olive oil spray
chilli and lime salt  

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a chargrill pan or small frying pan. Grill or saute the corn until lightly charred. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

Heat the remaining oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and soy sauce and sauté until golden and slightly crisp. Set aside to cool. 

To make the dressing, combine the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until well combined. 

To build the salad, combine all of the ingredients in a large salad bowl and add enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

For the garnish, spray the tortilla strips with olive oil spray and dust with a little chilli and lime salt. Transfer to a baking tray and bake in the oven until crisp. If you are using tortilla chips, just sprinkle with the chilli and lime salt instead. 

Build a small conical tower with the salad and top with the garnish. Big salads are always better, especially when tortilla chips are involved. 

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Gratin de Fruits Exotiques

As often happens when reading cookbooks about food from faraway places, I’m suffering from a bit of travel envy. Imagine beginning a journey in France and then continuing to several beautiful places where French colonies were established just to follow the trail of culinary influences. How fun and delicious would that be? That’s how the new book Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Faraway by Tessa Kiros came to be. There’s a chapter devoted to each stop along the way. It begins with Provence and continues to Guadeloupe, Vietnam, Pondicherry, La Reunion, and then ends in Normandy. So, the recipes begin with French classics and then veer off into use of flavors from other climates prepared with French influences. The Court-Bouillon de Poisson from Guadeloupe is made with chiles, garlic, tomato, and beurre rouge with annatto seeds. From Vietnam, Banh Mi is of course made with baguettes, and the creme caramel includes lemongrass. Some hints at French influence in foods from Pondicherry include milder flavors with fewer chiles as in the Pondicherry Chicken curry. I lost track of time when I got to the La Reunion chapter due to the fruits, rum, coconut, and interesting uses of vanilla. There’s a braised duck dish made with split vanilla pods and a mashed potato dish that incorporates vanilla-steeped warm milk. I walked straight to the kitchen when I read about the Punch de Coco. Seeds from a vanilla pod were added to coconut milk, and it was chilled while the flavor infused before being served with rum. I highly recommend this combination. Also from this chapter, I had to try a very French-sounding dish of gratineed fruit made with very un-French fruits. 

In the book, lychees, guava, strawberry guavas, pineapple, and mango are suggested for the gratins. But, some of those were too exotic for me to find them. Instead, I used chopped pineapple, papaya, and mango. The process is very simple once all the fruit is chopped to a similar size. Ramekins were buttered and filled with a mix of the fruit. A tablespoon of cream and one of rum was added to each ramekin followed by some ginger, and I used freshly grated. Bits of butter were dotted on top before putting the ramekins under the broiler until browned. I should mention that sugar was supposed to have been sprinkled over the fruit, and it definitely would have brought about more browning. I chose to skip the sugar since the fruits were already very sweet. I garnished with toasted slices of fresh coconut and some mint leaves. 

The cream and butter made this rich and decadent while the fruits and ginger added a mix of fresh flavors. And, I’m always happy when there’s rum. This dish seemed to perfectly highlight the point of intermingling cultural influences. A very French technique of gratinee-ing with butter and cream was applied to ingredients specific to a different spot in the world to bring about something uniquely delicious. 

Gratin de Fruits Exotiques 
Recipe excerpted with permission from Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Faraway by Tessa Kiros, published by Quadrille March 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover. 

The amounts here are very easy to adjust according to how much fruit you will be using and the type. Just use a good variety. Add more or less rum to suit your taste. 

Serves 2 

4 lychees, peeled, halved and stoned 
1 guava, sliced 
3 goyaviers (strawberry guavas) 
2 pineapple slices, halved 
4 good slices of mango 
2 tablespoons cream 
2 tablespoons rum, or to taste 
4 small blobs of butter 
3 tablespoons cane sugar 
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 

Lightly butter 2 shallow ramekin dishes, about 11cm (4 1/4 in) diameter and 3cm (1 1/4 in) deep. Divide the fruit between them. 

Splash the cream and rum over each, followed by 2 blobs of butter each. Mix the sugar and ginger together and scatter evenly over the tops. 

Preheat the grill (broiler) to hot. Grill until deep golden and charred here and there. Let it cool down just a little before serving. 

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pickled Mussels with Radishes, Toasted Coriander Seed, and Fennel

What meaning comes to mind first when you hear the word gather? I thought of bringing people together, gathering a group around a table. The other way to think about gathering is in the act of obtaining ingredients for a meal. You go out to gather what you will prepare, and that might be from a garden, a farm, a forest, the ocean, or the grocery store. The new book Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes by Gill Meller is really about both uses of the word but he focuses on what’s available for gathering from the landscape at different times of year. For him, it’s not the source of the ingredients that’s as important as the experience of the time and place for the flavors they offer. He encourages taking a moment to enjoy the first taste of a dish that’s particular to a season. Of course though, he also points out that considering the journey made by the ingredients before arriving on the plate makes cooking and eating more rewarding. The recipes here aren’t complex, but there are some new and different combinations of flavors. The chapters are organized by places where the food might be found like Farm, Seashore, Garden, Orchard, Field, Woodland, Moor, and Harbor. There are simple compositions like Goat Cheese with Rhubarb and Lovage served on toasted bread, Spring Cabbage Salad with Honey and Sprouted Lentils, and Barbecued Little Gems with Cucumber White Beans and Tahini. There are salads, main courses, and sweets sprinkled throughout each chapter. There are tomato and zucchini dishes in the Garden chapter that I’ll be turning to as soon as those star ingredients appear this year, and the Harbor chapter had me marking almost every page. The dish I had to try first was something new for me: Pickled Mussels. The cooked mussels are quickly pickled in apple cider vinegar with coriander seeds, and they’re served with crisp radish slices. In the book, apple slices are included but I opted for fennel instead since it’s in season here. 

Like all the recipes in this book, this one is about subtle flavors that add just the right note to a dish. Apple cider vinegar was very specifically chosen as was coriander seed. In the spirit of gathering what is available at this time of the year, I brought home locally-grown purple daikon and watermelon radishes for their pretty colors and peppery flavors. The thinly sliced fennel added sweet, fresh, anise to the mix. To prepare the mussels, I always soak them first in water with a little flour to purge them and pull off any remaining beards or debris. After being drained and rinsed, the mussels went into a large pot with a half-cup of boiling water to which a couple of bay leaves and some thyme sprigs had been added. I was delighted to gather those herbs from my own yard. The pan was covered, and the mussels opened after a couple of minutes of cooking. They were removed from the pan, and the cooking liquid was strained into a bowl. When cool, the mussels were removed from their shells. Cider vinegar, coriander seeds, some of the cooking liquid, and salt and pepper were combined and poured over the mussels. This was left to sit while the other ingredients were prepped. The vegetables were all thinly sliced with a mandoline and scattered over plates. The mussels and dressing were added to each, and I placed a few frissee leaves among the arrangement. 

In a short amount of time, the mussels take on nice pickle-y flavor from the apple cider vinegar. And, the crunchy, fresh vegetables make great partners for it. This was surprisingly good for such a simple mix of things. I’ll be thinking back to this book as I gather what’s freshest and best in the coming weeks and truly enjoying the flavors.  

Pickled mussels with radishes, toasted coriander seed, and apples 
Recipe excerpted with permission from Gather: Everyday Seasonal Food from a Year in Our Landscapes by Gill Meller, published by Quadrille March 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover. 

There is something of Normandy in this fresh salad: a bicycle ride down the Route du Cidre; a peppery-pink radish with delightfully fresh, cold butter; a bowl of plump, yellow wild mussels, cooked in cream on some beach off Gouville-sur-Mer. It’s almost like you taste it in French. This dish is about perfectly cooked mussels, sweet, crunchy apple, and the acidity of good cider vinegar—and how they all play out when they get together. I love the orangey air that toasted coriander seed brings to the delicate pickle—it’s well worth a try. You can prepare the mussels the day before, but I like them best once they have cooled and before they see the fridge. 

serves 2 

2 bay leaves 
2 thyme sprigs 
18oz [500g] mussels, cleaned 
1 Tbsp good-quality cider vinegar 
1/2 tsp golden superfine sugar 
2 tsp small coriander seeds, toasted 
1 dessert apple 
4 to 6 firm radishes, with tops, if available 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Place a large pan over high heat. Add a scant 1/2 cup [100ml] water, the bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. When the water is boiling hard, add the mussels, and place a close-fitting lid on the pan. Cook, shaking the pan once or twice, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mussel shells are all just open. Turn off the heat, then drain the mussels into a colander set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquor. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened up. 

When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells, and place it in a bowl, reserving the drained cooking liquor. Add the cider vinegar, sugar, coriander seeds, and 2 Tbsp of the cooking liquor to the mussel meat, stir through, then season with a little salt and pepper. 

To serve, quarter and core the apple and then cut each quarter into 2 or 3 wedges. Divide the apple pieces roughly between two plates. Slice the radish into 1/16 to 1/8 in [2 to 3mm] rounds, and scatter them over the apple, along with any radish top leaves, if available. Finally, spoon over the mussels along with plenty of their coriander-spiked dressing, and serve immediately.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Thai-Style Shrimp Balls with Napa Cabbage

You know what you think when someone walks into a gigantic closet filled with various types of clothing and proclaims: “I have nothing to wear?” I suspect people could think the same of me when I stand in front of shelves of cookbooks and say “I can’t think of anything new to make for dinner.” That problem may be solved once and for all with the latest book from Melissa Clark, Dinner: Changing the Game. First, it’s full of great-looking recipes, but each of those comes with options for tailoring it to suite your taste or what ingredients you may have on hand. And, there are suggestions for what to serve with the main dishes to help you make a complete dinner plan. It starts with a whole chapter just for chicken; then there’s one for other meats, a ground meat chapter, fish and seafood, eggs, pasta, tofu, beans, grains, pizzas, soups, salads, and dips and side dishes. I always mark interesting pages with sticky flags as I read a new cookbook, but this time, it got out of hand with the number of flags attached to pages. I cooked from the book for three days in a row, and I have another page marked for dinner tonight. I started a weekend with the shrimp balls shown here for Friday night dinner. Then, I made the Sticky Tamarind Chicken with Crisp Lettuce for a Saturday night meal, and the options for that include using bone-in, skinless chicken thighs or boneless thighs or breasts or wings depending on your preference. The flavorful, marinated, roasted chicken was served over a fresh lettuce salad with sliced jalapeno and cilantro leaves. The next morning, I made the Chilaquiles with Tomatillo Salsa and Baked Eggs for brunch. The layered corn tortillas with spicy green salsa and lots of melted cheese was a delicious base for the eggs that baked on top. I added some chopped greens between the tortilla layers just to include more vegetable goodness in the mix. Tonight, I’m going to make the Warm White Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto and Preserved Lemon. And, all those other marked pages? There are too many to mention, but a few include Cumin-Chicken Meatballs with Green Ghile Sauce, a savory Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby pancake, Pasta Carbonara Torte with Tomatoes and Sage, Chile and Ginger-Fried Tofu Salad with Kale, and Leek Tomato and Farro Soup. None of the recipes are over-complicated or too time-consuming, and you’ll see the time required listed next to the number of servings. 

I was actually surprised at how quickly the Thai-Style Shrimp Balls came together. The dipping sauce was a quick mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, minced fresh ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, and sliced green onions (I tend to skip the sugar in sauces like this because I prefer the tartness). Shelled and cleaned shrimp were chopped into small chunks, and there’s no need to worry too much about how small the chunks are. The shrimp does not need to be minced, just quickly chopped into little pieces. The chopped shrimp was combined with more minced ginger, minced garlic, finely chopped chives, an egg white, lime zest, and some salt. The mixture was formed into little one-inch balls. They’re not as firm as meatballs, but they hold together fine. Just line up the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. To steam, I used a bamboo steamer with its own top in a large skillet, but any type of steamer will work fine. Napa cabbage leaves were used to line the bottom of the steamer, and I was lucky to get the last of Boggy Creek Farm’s Napa cabbage for the season. The leaves I was using were small enough that I could arrange them with two shrimp balls on each. Once the steamer was placed over simmering water, it only took a few minutes to cook the shrimp balls. I removed each cabbage leaf with the shrimp balls sitting on it, and served it in the same arrangement. Last, I garnished with more chopped chives and some black sesame seeds. 

As mentioned in the recipe head note, you could serve the shrimp balls with rice noodles or plain rice, but I went for more of a pick it up with some cabbage like a little wrap kind of thing. And, these diminutive balls packed incredible flavor. The ginger, garlic, and lime zest brought a lot of zip. With this new book, I definitely have no excuse for not coming up with something new to make for dinner

Thai-Style Shrimp Balls with Napa Cabbage  
Reprinted from Dinner: Changing the Game. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
 
These juicy, ginger-scented shrimp balls are like the filling inside your favorite shrimp shumai, sans the wrappers. And since you don’t have to enfold each one individually in dumpling dough, they come together really quickly and steam up in minutes. If you don’t have a steamer basket, it’s a good thing to pick up. They are inexpensive, and the collapsible ones don’t take up much space. Or, a decent hack is to crumple up four large foil balls (at least 1½ inches in diameter) and place them in the bottom of a pot with a tight-filling cover, filled with ½ inch of water. Rest a plate on top of the foil balls to keep it above the water, bring the water to a simmer, and put the food directly on the plate to steam. It’s not ideal, but it works in a pinch. Serve these shrimp balls over white rice (page 276) or rice noodles coated with a little sesame oil, which will give you a dumpling-like texture if you eat some shrimp ball and noodles in the same bite. A salad made from pea shoots and drizzled with a little of the dipping sauce, below, would round it out nicely. They also make nice hors d’oeuvres for a dinner party. 

4 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce 
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar 
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil 
1 1/2 teaspoons light or dark brown sugar 
1 1/2 tablespoons sliced scallions (green parts only) 

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and chopped into small chunks 
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger 
1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane or minced 
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus more for serving 
1 large egg white 
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
4 to 6 napa cabbage leaves, for steaming 

TOTAL TIME: 25 MINUTES 
SERVES 4 

1. Make the dipping sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, and brown sugar, and whisk until the sugar dissolves; then add the scallions. 
2. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the ginger and the garlic, chives, egg white, lime zest, and salt. Mix well, and form the shrimp mixture into 1-inch balls. Place them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Chill them up to 4 hours if not steaming immediately. 
3. Lay one or two cabbage leaves over the bottom of a steamer basket to just cover the surface. Put the steamer in a pot filled with an inch of water and bring the water to a simmer. Working in batches, place the shrimp balls on the cabbage leaves, cover the pot, and steam for 3 minutes, turning them over halfway through. After each batch, transfer the shrimp balls and the cabbage leaves to a plate. Use fresh cabbage leaves for each batch. 
4. Garnish the shrimp balls and cabbage with chives, and serve with the dipping sauce on the side. You can eat the cabbage or not, as you prefer. 

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Blood Orange, Burrata, and Freekeh Salad

I’ve been known to brag that my compost pile smells like citrus. I do go through quite a lot of citrus fruits in my kitchen, and I’ve never met a type I didn’t like. So, it was no surprise that the new book Citrus: 150 Recipes Celebrating the Sweet and the Sour by Catherine Phipps has a lot of recipes I want to try. And, it’s such a pretty book with a bold, orange-yellow cover and full-page photos of several of the fresh- and zesty-looking dishes. In some cases, the citrus is the main ingredient, in others it’s a necessary flavor component, and the ingredient involved may be the zest, the fruit, or the leaves. I’ll definitely be trying the Barbecued Halloumi in Lemon Leaves as soon as my trees look happy and full of new greenery for the spring. And, the Sprouting Broccoli with Blood Orange Hollandaise is a twist on this sauce that I’ve never thought to try before. The Coconut, Lime, and Lemongrass Chicken Salad with radishes, carrot, and zucchini looks like a winner, and Roast Vegetables with Feta and Orange would be great as a side or a vegetarian main dish. The Desserts chapter has me craving Mandarin Creme Caramel and Blackberry, Orange, and Orange Blossom Clafoutis. There are also recipes for marmalades, jellies, candied zest and peel, and drinks with citrus. Since burrata always stops me in my tracks and since blood orange season is nearing the end, I had try the Blood Orange, Burrata, and Freekeh Salad. 

This salad highlights the blood oranges with pretty slices placed front and center, but there’s also bergamot zest and juice adding flavor to the freekeh. This was my first time using bergamots. They appear late in citrus season, and I feel kind of lucky to have found them the day I was looking. Their fragrance is citrusy-floral and a bit like that of lemon blossoms. If they’re not available, lemon zest and juice is the best substitute. The freekeh was soaked in water, drained, and then cooked with garlic and bergamot zest. Once tender, the bergamot juice was added, and the freekeh was left to stand for a few minutes before being drained. Red onion wedges were sauteed in olive oil, and chard was cooked until just wilted. To serve, the freekeh was spread on a platter, onions and chard were added on top, peeled and sliced blood oranges were added, and pieces of burrata were nestled into place. Last, a drizzle of olive oil went over everything, and I garnished with parsley leaves rather than mint because that’s what I had available in my herb garden. 

Blood oranges with burrata is a wonderful thing, and the chard and nutty freekeh were great with that combination. I quickly fell for the flavor and perfume of bergamots which were a lovely addition to the grain. A lot more citrus pieces will be added to my compost as I cook more from this book, and it’s going to smell amazing. 

Blood Orange, Burrata and Freekeh Salad 
Recipe excerpted with permission from Citrus: 150 Recipes Celebrating the Sweet and the Sour by Catherine Phipps, published by Quadrille April 4, 2017. 

Serves 4 

100g / 2/3 cup freekeh 
600ml / 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
1 tsp finely grated bergamot zest (or lemon zest) 
Juice of 1/2 bergamot (or lemon) 
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
2 small red onions, sliced vertically into thin wedges 
A large bunch of chard, shredded 50ml / 
3 1/2 tbsp water 
2 large blood or blush oranges, peeled and sliced, any juice squeezed from the peel reserved 
1 large or 2 small burrata 
A handful of mint leaves 
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

This is a very happy confluence of ingredients; smoky nuttiness from the freekeh, earthiness from the chard, a creamy sweetness from the burrata, all pulled together by the fragrant, sweet-sour citrus. The bergamot is purely optional as its flavour is subtle here, but if you can, please do: bergamots are still in season (just) when blood oranges come in, so it should be possible to find them. Use lemon zest instead if not. 

First cook the freekeh. Soak it in plenty of cold water for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly. Put in a medium saucepan with the stock, garlic and zest. Season with salt, then bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 15–20 minutes until cooked – it should be plumped up but still with some bite. Add the bergamot juice and leave to stand for a few minutes before straining. 

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion wedges and sauté over a medium heat until starting to turn translucent – you want them softened but not completely collapsed. Add the chard, along with the water, and cook over a gentle heat until the chard has wilted down and the stems are still al dente. Season with salt and pepper. 

Arrange the freekeh over a large platter and top with the onions and chard. Pour over any reserved juice from the blood oranges – there should be a fair bit. Break up the burrata over the salad, then top with the orange slices and mint leaves. Drizzle over a little olive oil. 

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Salted Almond Butter Chocolate Bars

I didn’t get a chance to tell you about these delightful treats when I made them a few months ago, so I’m taking the opportunity now. It’s another recipe I enjoyed from A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals by Anna Jones. It’s one of those not-too-decadent sweets that you taste and don’t realize anything is missing until you’re told. There’s no refined sugar in the bars and no flour or grains of any kind, and they can be made vegan. As a bonus, they’re easy to make too. You just have to wait briefly for the bars to chill at a couple of points, and then wait for the chocolate to set after dipping. Then, you’ll have something like a much better version of an Almond Joy made with the ingredients you choose. 

The first step is to grind seven ounces of whole almonds in a food processor until they become almond butter. Next, three tablespoons of honey or agave syrup or maple syrup is added with two tablespoons of melted coconut oil, the seeds from a vanilla pod, and a pinch of salt. The mixture is processed to combine. Five ounces of unsweetened, shredded coconut is added next, and you should pulse a few times to form a dough of sorts. The dough needs to be patted into a parchment-lined eight-inch square pan, and the pan then needs to be placed in the freezer for a few minutes for the dough to set. Meanwhile, seven ounces of dark chocolate should be broken into a heat-proof bowl to use as a double-boiler. Melt the chocolate over a saucepan with simmering water and set aside. The chilled dough is then removed from the pan and cut into whatever shapes you prefer for the bars. After cutting, place them on a baking sheet and chill again before dipping. Once the melted chocolate has cooled slightly and thickened, dip the cut and chilled bars and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set. Sprinkle with flaky sea sat after dipping in chocolate. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for the chocolate to set, and then store refrigerated. 

I found the mix of chocolate, coconut, almonds, and a bit of flaky sea salt impossible to resist. And, since they’re the kind of treat you don’t need to feel too guilty about, I predict there will be frequent appearances of them in my kitchen. There’s a similar recipe in the book that I need to try next called Raw Cookie Dough Bars, and that one is made with Brazil nuts pulverized in a food processor. And really, every single page of this book has something I want to try. 

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