Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Winter Wheat Berry Salad

Ah the wheat berry. Have you ever had them? I am not sure at what point they were lost to the average American, but somehow this whole grain has become virtually absent in most home kitchens. Not to say that we don't consume our fair share of wheat. This is reflected on virtually any packaged ingredient list you read. The problem lies in the fact that our adoration for the grain is for its modified, refined and processed form. Most people don't even know what the whole grain looks like.

But here is the good news: whole wheat berries are simply delicious, healthy, and packed with fiber. In fact, I would argue that enjoying whole wheat berries again is the answer to our nation-wide wheat allergy crisis. I would be willing to bet that if we all committed to consuming unprocessed organic wheat berries in place of wheat flours, additive and enhancers, the allergy would virtually disappear. So here is your first step towards health, for yourself and for your neighbors. The next step? Don't forget to spread your enthusiasm.

A quick note: wheat berries do need to be soaked before they are cooked, much like a dried bean. Not hard at all, but does require a bit of fore-thought. Just set them out to soak the night before in a large bowl with plenty of water, as they will absorb quite a bit. Drain, rinse and cook the next day. If you are like me and like to have things easily on hand, prepare a big batch and freeze the extra after cooking in 2 cup portions.

I served this with Eggplant Manicotti last night for the CSK, and the flavors play off each other perfectly. Who needs cheese and pasta to make an Italian meal when you can have this instead?

If you like this recipe and want to try the warm weather version in a few months, make sure to try my Summer Wheat Berry Salad.

Winter Wheat berry Salad

Serves 6

1 cup wheat berries, soaked overnight
½ head of kale, chopped
2 tbs. pomegranate molasses
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp dried rosemary, crushed
½ cup walnuts, toasted
¼ cup dried cranberries


Drain soaked wheat berries and place in a large pot with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and lower heat, simmering until tender, with a pop, about 45-60 minutes. Add chopped kale, stir, cook until wilted and drain well in a colander. When dry but slightly warm, transfer to a large bowl.  

Whisk pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic, rosemary and salt together in a small bowl. Add to warm wheat berry/kale mixture and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Before serving, toss in cranberries and toasted walnuts.

Relax. Eat Well.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Samosa Curry

I have been playing with samosa-twists lately, largely due to more than a few pounds of sprouting potatoes in my pantry. First, I did a Samosa Rice for the CSK, using chunks of potato, green peas and curry spices in brown basmati. The next night I tried Stuffed Samosas for dinner, baking a few russets, scooping out the insides and mixing them with peas, sauteed tempeh and onions and turmeric, cumin and coriander before re-stuffing. Now the kitchen smells of a Samosa Curry, that could be served over rice or stuffed inside a won-ton wrapper for a more traditional packet. For those of you going to Waterbury's Winter Farmers Market tomorrow, you will get a chance to try it there as I do some demos with the recipe. The idea here is to un-wrap and un-fry, while celebrating the local potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic that still grace the market tables.

Potatoes have taken a bad rap over the last half a century, as a white starch to be avoided in a healthy diet. Turns out, it is what we have turned them into (french fries, buttery mashes, tater tots) that strips them of their nutrition. As a whole package, skin on, potatoes are quite high in fiber, magnesium and potassium.

So my "when life gives you sprouting spuds....." lesson of the day is: potatoes freeze well! Not too surprising, when you think about the freezer aisle of your grocery store, filled with homefries, sweet potato fries and shepard's pie. Simply prepare them as you normally would, cool and freeze in an airtight container or bag. I did roasted cubes as well as wedges, tossed with a touch of salt and olive oil. Simple, so that they can be dressed up on a whim once defrosted and re-roasted. The cubes are actually what I am using today for this Samosa Curry. The disclaimer may be that the thawed potatoes will lose a bit of their sturdiness in the freezer, resulting in a different mouth-feel. But all in all, much better than a pantry of rotten potatoes.

Fresh curry leaves are a traditional Indian ingredient, completely different from the curry spice blend. I have noticed them showing up on co-op shelves with more frequency lately, and have found them at both Hunger Mountain Co-op and City Market, if you are a VT resident. The good news is they freeze beautifully, and can be pulled out sprig by sprig as needed. If you can't find them, no worries, your dish will still be delish.

Serves 4-6

1 tbs. unrefined coconut oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cups yellow potato, in 1/2 inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
1-inch ginger root, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. tumeric
1 cup green peas, frozen
1 tbs. tamari
1 tbs. sherry
a few sprigs of curry leaves, optional
a dash of cream or lime juice, optional

In a medium cast-iron skillet (or heavy bottomed stainless steel), heat oil over medium heat. When it will sizzle when spritzed with water, add the mustard seeds and coriander. As the seeds begin to pop, cover and cook 1-2 minutes. Add minced onion, potato and carrot and continue to cook until soft 5-8 minutes.

Add garlic, ginger, cumin and tumeric, stir for one minute, until spices have toasted. Add frozen peas, tamari and sherry, stir to deglaze pan, cover and let cook for one minute or until heated through. Add curry leaves if using. Taste, and adjust seasoning as desired, adding salt, heat, acid (lime juice) or cream to taste.

Relax. Enjoy

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

This is one of those recipes that has been bouncing around for awhile. I can by no means take credit for the idea, a simple google search will show you that. But I will say that I have tweaked this to my liking over repeated sessions, and think it ends up pretty high on my list of favorite desserts.

Avocados lend a satisfying note, that lets your brain know this is a treat while your body still celebrates. Due mostly to their high density of monounsaturated fat, they offer a certain creaminess that can not be beat. Combine that with a good quality dark cocoa, and you have yourself the base to a delicious (and healthy) mousse. Rich in fiber and antioxidants, low in saturated fat and sugar, this is a finale you can feel good about.

A word about Medjool dates. On many nights, they are dessert within themselves. Soft and chewy and indulgently rich, these dates offer the perfect  balance. Their sweetness is just right, leaving you satiated, but without the incessant craving that overly saccharine treats will trigger. Nature's true taste of heaven.

Chocolate Avocado Mousse
Serves 4-6

4 ripe avocados
10 soft medjool dates
1/4 cup maple syrup (or raw agave)
2 tbs. high quality cocoa powder (using cocao if going for raw)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (optional)
a pinch of salt

Pit and scoop avocados into food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend until whipped and thoroughly combined. Add additional cocoa powder and salt to taste. 

Relax. Eat Well.