January 30, 2013

Gluten-Free Pear + Cranberry Crisp

Crisps, crumbles, cobblers, buckles, slumps, and grunts. (No, I didn't make up that last one -- the grunt actually exists!) To me there's no better sweet treat than warm, tender fruit bubbling with juices and crowned by a buttery, crumbly top that's baked to a golden brown. And there's always a new and interesting combination to be tried: stone fruits, berries, rhubarb in spring and summer; pears, apples, quince in fall and winter; fresh and dried spices, citrus zests, different types of flours, nuts and seeds in the topping. Add a dollop of yogurt, creme fraiche, coconut cream, or of course ice cream, and you've got a swoon-worthy dessert on your hands.

A couple of weeks ago I had the awesome opportunity to work with a couple of fellow Natural Gourmet school alums cooking for a weekend yoga retreat. This was a dream come true for me, since yoga and cooking are basically my favorite things in the world. And as a bonus to working in the kitchen, I got to eat a lot of really good food -- meals that were healthy and balanced, as well as satisfying and incredibly delicious. Silky root vegetable soups, creamy brown rice risotto, hearty kale chickpea stew, crisp and refreshing salads at every meal. Natural foods chef heaven.

In the mornings, over cups of coffee and fresh-squeezed juices, recipe requests poured in from the yogis for the latest dishes they had tasted. Over the course of the weekend the most in-demand recipe was for a pear-cherry crisp, made gluten-free with a GF all-purpose flour blend and almond flour in the streusel topping. I decided to recreate it this weekend for mr. yogi and me, taking it in a slightly more tart direction by replacing the cherries with cranberries (I can't get enough of cranberries this time of year), and with coconut flour in place of the gluten-free flour blend in the topping.

Arrowroot powder
In addition to orange zest and juice, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and ginger, I also added a bit of orange blossom water to the pear and cranberry filling. It bumps up the citrus flavors and adds a fragrant, floral element that goes nicely with fruit (try it in salad dressings, too - fantastic).

Arrowroot powder is my thickening agent of choice in fruit desserts like crisps, pies, and tarts. Unlike wheat flour or cornstarch, arrowroot is gluten-free and grain-free (made from the dried and powdered root of the tropical arrowroot plant), high in calcium, easily digestible, and soothing to the gastrointestinal tract.

Getting the streusel going: clockwise from left, coconut palm sugar, coconut flour, blanched almond flour.
Coconut and almond flours are high in fiber, low in sugars, and good sources of healthy fats (though coconut flour has been partially defatted, some fat remains) and protein, all of which help to stem the blood sugar spike that occurs when ingesting sweets. Coconut flour is also a good source of iron (just 2 tablespoons provides about 10% of our daily requirement) and almond flour is a good source of calcium, iron, vitamin E, and magnesium (the 'relaxation' mineral). Using coconut palm sugar, which has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, also makes the crisp somewhat more friendly on the waistline.

Even though the crisp is otherwise grain-free, I like the hearty texture of rolled oats in the topping; you can easily leave them out, in which case I suggest doubling the amount of chopped almonds. If you'd like to veganize, chilled coconut oil can be substituted for the butter.

Fresh from the oven ... bubbling, browned, buttery and oh-so-tempting. As you can see, this is a crisp that doesn't skimp on streusel -- it's thick, nubbly, almost volcanic-looking.

Warm pear + cranberry crisp with a dollop of thick, tangy Greek yogurt (flavored with a touch of orange blossom water) and a few shreds of orange zest for a pop of color. Sweet-tart fruit dessert perfection. Get your spoon ready and dig in!

Gluten-Free Pear + Cranberry Crisp
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds pears (about 5 medium - I used a few Bosc and a couple of Bartlett), peeled, cored, and diced
8 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
pinch of sea salt (about 1/4 teaspoon)

1 cup almond flour (I used Bob's Red Mill blanched almond flour)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick + 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted organic butter, cut into cubes (or 2/3 cup chilled coconut oil)
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats (optional - if omitting, double the amount of chopped almonds)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (or freshly squeezed orange juice)
grated orange zest, to garnish

Heat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl combine pears, cranberries, orange zest and juice, orange blossom water, sugar, spices, arrowroot, and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor add almond and coconut flours, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture comes together and has a cookie dough-like consistency; not too sticky, but moist enough to stay together when you squeeze a bit in your palm. Turn mixture out into a bowl and stir in chopped almonds and oats.

Transfer fruit to a 9-inch pie dish (or other baking dish), and top with the streusel mixture, evenly distributing it over the fruit. Bake for about 1 hour, until juices are bubbling and streusel is lightly browned.

In a small bowl combine Greek yogurt with orange blossom water, stirring until smooth.

Serve crisp warm or at room temperature with a dollop of orange blossom yogurt and a grating of orange zest.

January 23, 2013

{ Fabulous Fermentation Week } Golden Beet Soup with Sauerkraut + Ginger Cream

Growing up in a mostly-Italian family with a kick-ass cook for a mama, many delicious dishes graced our table over the years, and yet (perhaps not surprisingly) despite our unanimous fondness for beets, borscht was never one of them. My first encounter with this dark and delicious concoction was only a few short years ago during culinary school, when I was assigned the job of borscht-maker during one of our soup and stew classes. An hour (and a hot-pink-splotched-and-stained recipe) later, I had fallen in love with this earthy, sweet, pleasantly tangy and comforting dish. Perhaps I was Eastern European in a past life? Anything is possible. But I do know this: beet borscht is one of the most under-appreciated dishes of all time.

When brainstorming recipes to share for Fabulous Fermentation Week, created by two of my favorite healthy bloggers, the lovely Elenore of Earthsprout and Sarah of My New Roots, I landed on the idea of a lighter and brighter take on the classic borscht: a golden beet soup with sauerkraut. And, lucky me, I happened to have a batch of homemade kraut in the fridge, just waiting for such an occasion...

A mason jar of tangy, fermented goodness is always a good thing to have around: this one is chock full of green cabbage, carrot, and ginger.

This soup is definitely of the let-the-sunshine-in variety. Perfect for these cold, dark January days; its yellow and orange hues make me feel like I am being filled with the gorgeous glow of late afternoon. Root vegetables, warming and grounding for this time of year, plus the potent medicinal triad of onions, garlic, and ginger, make this a pot of ultra-winter-appropriate goodness to nourish the body and spirit. Caraway seeds and dried dill are must-haves in my book - classic borscht seasonings that pair so beautifully with beets - and a pinch of turmeric enhances the broth's golden color to an even richer hue. 
Sauerkraut, stirred into the pot after the soup has cooled for a few minutes to preserve its wealth of beneficial bacteria, provides gentle notes of sourness and salinity to the sweet and earthy roots, along with a dose of homegrown probiotics. And last but not least, a dollop of ginger-spiked Greek yogurt, ready to be swished and swiped with each spoonful, makes for a bright and tangy finishing touch.
golden beet soup with sauerkraut + ginger cream
serves 6

for soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
pinch of ground turmeric (about 1/8 teaspoon)
3 medium-sized golden beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded in a food processor (about 4 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded (about 2 cups)
1 small fennel bulb, finely diced (about 1-1/2 cups) (reserve green fronds for garnish)
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon dried dillweed
1/2 cup to 1 cup raw sauerkraut (depending on sourness of the kraut and your personal taste), drained, liquid reserved*
1 tablespoon sauerkraut liquid (or to taste)
sea salt

for ginger cream:
1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt, and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, caraway seeds, and turmeric, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in beets, carrot, and diced fennel.

Add water, bay leaf, dill, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring soup to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender and broth is flavorful, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

To make the ginger cream, whisk together yogurt and ginger in a small bowl. Reserve until ready to serve (can be made up to 24 hours in advance and kept chilled).

Remove soup pot from heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, and stir in sauerkraut. Season to taste with sauerkraut juice and additional sea salt, if needed. Serve in warmed bowls, garnishing with a dollop of ginger cream and a few torn fennel fronds.
*sauerkraut with carrot + ginger
makes about 1 quart
1 small head green cabbage (approx. 1 lb), shredded (about 6 cups)
1 carrot, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sea salt
Combine cabbage, carrot, and ginger in a large bowl. Sprinkle sea salt over vegetables. With clean hands, massage the vegetables until they soften and release their liquid, 5 to 10 minutes.
Pack the cabbage mixture into a sterilized quart jar, pressing with a pestle to tighly pack down. Pour remaining liquid (brine) into jar to cover vegetables by at least 1 inch. Weight the top of the cabbage mixture to help the vegetables stay submerged (I use a sterilized spice jar, filled with water and covered with a tight-fitting cap). Cover jar with lid or a clean cloth and twine.
Leave jar at room temperature to ferment, using the weight to press down the vegetables if they begin to rise above the level of the brine. Ferment for anywhere from several days to several weeks, depending on temperature and how sour you like the kraut. Taste along the way, and transfer to the refrigerator when it tastes right to you (the kraut will continue to ferment when chilled, but at a slower rate).
** Fermentation Friends **

January 10, 2013

roasted roots with miso + poppy seed dressing

In the name of local, seasonal culinary love, and that epic farmers' market trip where my haul included about 10 pounds of roots, welcome back to what has turned out to be Root Vegetable Week here at Kale & Cardamom headquarters. Are you excited? I know I am ;) The Yogi, not so much, though he's made a big pot of chili (with habaneros!), so he's doing just fine (and I'm delighted, because he makes the best chili I have ever tasted).

Even though I've taken to braising my roots recently, that doesn't mean I've abandoned roasting altogether (winter dryness be damned!). Case in point: a dish of roasted carrots, rutabaga, and turnips with miso-poppy seed dressing that I've taken quite a shine to.

Savory, salty, umami-rich miso paste is a great pairing with sweet, starchy vegetable matter -- especially roots and winter squash like kabocha. Here I whipped up a miso-based dressing, perked up with rice vinegar for tang, walnut oil for nutty richness (and super-healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids), and poppy seeds for cuteness factor.

You can use any root vegetables you like in this recipe. I used rutabaga, turnips, and multi-colored heirloom carrots; sweet potatoes would also be great, and red or golden beets. Or head in the winter squash direction and sub in kabocha, butternut, delicata, or acorn squash, either cubed or cut into long, thin sections before roasting.

I served the roots over a little heap of massaged purple kale salad (recipe for that is below, too), which made a nice match. For a heartier meal, add some rice (black or red rice would be particularly dramatic) or other grains to the mix.

And one more thing: leftovers are fantastic with a soft-cooked or poached egg (or two) on top.

roasted roots with miso + poppy seed dressing and purple kale
serves 4 to 6

1 large rutabaga (about 1 pound), peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
3-4 small turnips, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 pound carrots, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

4 cups purple kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
1 teaspoon nama shoyu (or tamari)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon mellow white miso or chickpea miso paste (unpasteurized)
1/2 teaspoon ginger juice (grate the fresh root on a ginger grater or microplane and squeeze to release the juices)
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 425 F.

Arrange the root vegetables on one or two sheet trays (I used one for the cubed rutabaga + turnips, another for the carrots, since they are cut into different shapes and therefore cook at different rates). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir to coat, and arrange in a single layer. Transfer to the oven and cook until caramelized and tender, about 25 to 35 minutes for the cubed vegetables, 35 to 45 minutes for the carrots). Stir halfway through.

In a medium bowl combine the kale, shoyu, and rice vinegar. With clean hands, massage the kale for a couple of minutes, squeezing to release its juices. Marinate for 15 minutes before serving.

In a small bowl whisk together the miso paste, ginger juice, walnut oil, rice vinegar, and poppy seeds until smooth. Season with black pepper to taste. (The miso is salty so I did not season with additional salt.)

To serve, place a handful of kale on each plate, top with roasted vegetables, and drizzle with miso dressing.

January 7, 2013

braised parsnips with cumin and coriander

As usual for January in New York, I returned from my Greenmarket trip yesterday hauling no less than 10 pounds of root vegetables. Among them, a rutabaga almost the size of my cranium, a bunch of rainbow-hued carrots, little white turnips, big golden beets, and a bag of slender, creamy-hued parsnips. No matter how often I eat these starchy winter roots this time of year, I never tire of them; often I simply roast them in large batches on a couple of sheet pans until their natural sugars are concentrated and their edges caramelized. Then they're ready to eat throughout the week: solo, maybe seasoned with a spritz of lemon and a dash of tamari, and added to soups, stews, and salads. They make a fantastic addition to a winter Buddha bowl, too.

This week I got into reading a couple of my Ayurvedic cookbooks, which recommend liquid-based cooking rather than dry-roasting for most vegetables, especially starchy ones like roots and winter squash. The logic is that roasting increases the drying energy of these foods, and in winter, a cold, dry, and windy season, this is not exactly what our bodies, already struggling to hold onto moisture, really need. So, with a home-brewed humidifier already steaming on the stovetop (our apartment has been so dry lately, and this has helped a lot -- and smells amazing; I've included a pic of the brew below), it made sense to let the oven rest and give the parsnips a quick braise.

First I toasted cumin seeds and ground coriander in homemade ghee until the spices were fragrant, then added the peeled and chopped parsnips, cooking them until they began to caramelize around the edges. I added a little water, so the parsnips were about half-submerged, covered the pot, and simmered the mixture for about 10 minutes, until the parsnips were fork-tender. Done.

Braising made the parsnips ultra-tender and seemed to bring out their sweetness even more than roasting. The toasty, buttery richness of the ghee and brightness of the cumin and coriander were perfect complements to the sweet, earthy roots. This could be a fast, simple, and flavor-packed side dish alongside braised, grilled, or roasted meats; or add greens, beans, and a grain for a complete plant-based meal.

{Roll-cut parsnips}

{Old-school humidifier: orange peels, star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cloves}

braised parsnips with cumin and coriander
serves 2 to 4

Choose smaller, thinner parsnips at the market, if possible; they are sweeter and more tender than larger specimens. If you don't have ghee on hand, sweet butter, coconut oil, or olive oil can be substituted, although they will not impart quite the same richness and depth of flavor. Also try using carrots, turnips, rutabaga, sweet potato, or kabocha squash in place of the parsnips.

1-2 tablespoons ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 pound parsnips, peeled and roll cut (or diced into 3/4-inch pieces), about 2 cups
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a 2- to 3- quart saucepan melt ghee over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and coriander and toast the spices, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the parsnips, stirring to coat with ghee and spices, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook until the parsnips are golden around the edges, 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Add water until parsnips are about halfway submerged (about 1/2 cup). Stir, cover, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until parsnips are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. At this point most of the water should have evaporated. If the parsnips look too wet, cook uncovered for a few minutes to allow the liquid to evaporate.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.