Roasted shishito peppers

I have the pleasure to get hold of these very pretty looking peppers for a  long season here in California. First they appear in April and there is more and more of them as we are moving into the summer. I love everything hot and spicy, so I feel lucky when I pick one and feel the heat alongside the sweetness of these peppers. Although they are good raw too, they really are the best prepared cooked. Olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, chili flakes, sesame are the best to pair them with. Simply coat them with oil and your choice of herbs, spices and either grill them, or pan roast them on high heat, make sure to get a nice char of the skin. Their flavor will change when roasted or grilled, so do give them a try!

The other day when I got lots of them, I simply pan roasted all with olive oil and garlic. Then I served them two different ways.

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Serve with a home made tahini sauce as an appetizer to share over a glass of wine

For a flavorful appetizer, great to share on the table with a glass of chardonnay or cabernet, I made a thick sauce (dip) with tahini to accompany these charred peppers. I made my own tahini because for some reason I never found any in the stores I liked… Making your tahini is very easy. First simply toast sesame in a pan or on a tray in the oven. Be careful not to burn them, they will be bitter and so not pleasant. If you are on a raw diet you can simply make a tahini without roasting the sesame seeds. Place the sesame seeds in a powerful food processor with a pinch of salt and start blending. Process as much as you can without any oil, and then gradually start adding grapeseed oil. Add as much oil as needed for smooth blending and to achieve a silky consistency.  Place the tahini in a jar, cover with more oil and store in the fridge. You can make the tahini with both black and white sesame seeds. For the tahini dip, leave some of the tahini in the food processor and  add lemon juice, water, salt, black pepper or chili flakes and grated garlic. Keep blending to achieve a good consistency. I am not giving you measurements, because this is best tailored to your own taste buds. Adding water will loosen up the tahini, lemon juice will give some acidity and will also take away the heaviness of the fatty tahini. Salt, garlic, black pepper and chili flakes is there to tailor the dip to your taste. Once ready, divide the sauce in small bowls and serve individually to your guests.

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 Zucchini noodles with roasted pepper sauce and blistered tomatoes

When I realized I had waaaaaay too much of the roasted peppers, I thought about making something else with them. We all know pepper sauce is really good with pasta. I am Hungarian, so for me if you say pepper, let it be any Mexican, Hungarian or Spanish variety, I am all in… I have actually just visited Hungary after a 5 year break, and there was no day without the white or green pepper there…. When we left Hungary 15 years ago there were so many things I missed. Today if I have to name only one thing I really miss, it will definitely be the peppers. I am lucky to have access to very good Hungarian peppers at the Santa Monica farmers market. And now we are also going to grow it in our plot with Kelley, so I am hoping to have continuous access to good quality peppers.

BUT back to these roasted shishito peppers…  I had way too many of them roasted and also having lots of summer squash in the fridge so I decided to make a zucchini pasta with a roasted pepper tahini sauce.

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Simply spiralize the zucchini and either blanch it for 2 minutes in rapidly boiling water or if you are on a raw diet, marinate with salt, black pepper and lemon juice for 15 minutes. This will do the “cooking”.  For the sauce blend roasted peppers with some of the tahini sauce, adding more water and lemon juice if needed. You will need a pretty thin sauce in order not to have a heavy dish. To serve mix zucchini noodles with the sauce and top with with blistered cherry tomatoes and baby arugula. You can also add a sesame parmesan which is simply white sesame seeds blended with equal amount of nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt.

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ENJOY!

Nasturtium tacos

In the world of edible flowers maybe nasturtium is the tastiest.

Its leaves have a stronger peppery taste than the flowers, and some flowers might carry sweetness too. The flowers are definitely a great addition to any salads, for pop of color and spice. The leaves look beautiful on any plated dish. When it comes to the leaves they can be used as basil, and added to pesto, sauce, oil. The result is a herby-peppery flavor that is so very distinctive. These flowers are very easy to grow, they will look beautiful in your garden, or in a deep pot on your balcony. I was told they do not like to be replanted and they can grow well only if there is deep enough space for them. If there is not enough soil for them, they will still grow, but their leaves are going to turn into smaller and smaller ones. Those are really good for presentation, but to use them in cooking, you would need lots of bigger ones.

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This flower inspired my cooking tremendously and when I found some huge leaves, I decided to use them as taco shells and fill those with all sorts of plant based goodness.

If you cannot find big leaves, you can use some salad leaves as taco shells. In any case I recommend these to have as an appetizer, or a quick bite.  I also classed this dish under raw and vegan but I actually toasted the seeds and coriander for the dukkah. To keep the dish fully raw you will need to make this condiment with untoasted, sprouted seeds.

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To have balanced flavors and textures I came up with a few layers. For a start, our taco shells will originally have quite some spiciness. I was thinking about adding a slightly sweet crema made with avocados, and since it is spring I blended that with peas and sugar snap pea juice. If you don’t have a juicer to make pea juice (you will need that to achieve soft, crema texture), you can either add little bit of water or just simply process avocado and pea in a food processor into a dip like texture.  Peas will bring lots of sweetness and flavor to the green crema. To keep the natural flavor I only added a little bit of garlic, salt, black pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.

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To make a substantial base salad I decided to go with carrots and cauliflower. I bought some very tender ones at the market, and both veggie is great with the cumin-smoked paprika flavors that I chose to add to it. After slicing them not too thin on mandolin, mixed them with the spices, avocado oil, salt, fresh chopped cilantro and some lemon juice. Make sure to keep tasting the salad and add enough cumin and smoked paprika to deliver a chorizo kind of flavor.

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For a crunchy component I made a quick dukkah with toasted pumpkin, sesame and coriander seeds. After toasting each seed separately, added them in food processor and pulsed a few times.

For the pickle (because there is no taco without something pickled!) I sliced fennel very thin on mandolin and for the pickling liquid I used agave, lime juice and champagne vinegar. Also added the fennel fronds to the pickles.

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Ingredients (4 tacos)

  • 4 big nasturtium leaves (or soft lettuce leaves)

for the avocado-pea crema:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup of young, tender peas
  • juice of sugar snap pea (just enough to be able to blend crema)
  • 1/2 garlic clove, smashed
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice

for the spicy carrot-cauliflower salad:

  • 1/2 C sliced carrots
  • 1/2 C sliced cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp avocado or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp chopped scallion
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

for the dukkah (there will be lots of letover)

  • 1/4 C toasted pumpkin seed
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seed
  • 2 tsp coriander seed (or more if you like to have strong coriander flavor)
  • salt, cayenne to taste

for the pickled fennel

  • 1 big fennel bulb (thinly sliced and salted)
  • 1 Tbsp fennel fronds, chopped
  • make the pickling liquid to your taste using
  • agave
  • lime juice
  • champagne vinegar
  • water

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To plate the tacos spoon some of the crema on the leaf, top with the carrot salad and nasturtium leaves and petals, sprinkle with generous amount of dukkah and serve with pickles on the side.

TIP:  In case you are missing the creaminess, you can also make a simple cashew sourcream which is made with soaked cashew, lemon juice, salt, apple cider vinegar and just enough water to be able to blend into a cream.

ENJOY!

 

 

Beet and sprouted lentil falafel

So finally I decided to broaden my horizons, and after learning to be a chef at Le Cordon Bleu, attending bootcamps on farm to table cooking at the Culinary Institute of America, I am back to school. This time at Matthew Kenney, learning to be a raw, plant based chef.

This might be a weird choice for some, knowing I am not vegan. But most importantly I am a chef, one that always wants to learn, loves and craves challenges and eventually strives to be diverse and current.

So here I am more than half way through Level I in Raw Cuisine. And I already faced a challenge, which I am actually quite excited about. Produce challenge means I can use whatever I have in my fridge, 3 spices, 1 cup nuts, and just a couple of extra raw pantry ingredients. I must tell you, in a way I was lucky. I got to the assignment just after making a vegetarian dinner party for friends, making beet gnudi with goat crema, beluga lentils and pickled beets. So I had lots of raw and  pickled beet left in my fridge. A few days ago I bought sprouted lentils at the market to make a pate, so I was really keen on using some of that too.

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First I wanted to make a ravioli, or lasagne. These are so basic and typical dishes in raw plant based cooking. There are many vegetables that are perfect vessels just as they are, to become raw ravioli or lasagne sheets. Just like beets, kohlrabi, daikon just to name a few. But then I started thinking… this is a challenge. Make it a bit more difficult for yourself.

So gave myself proper time to think. What can you make with sprouted lentils and beets? And than I thought, falafel. OK, but will it hold? And beet and lentil only? So decided to add some soaked cashews, not as much as I wanted to, because I was restricted…. And also put some flaxmeal in the mix, which is a binder in vegan baking. So I ended up with a raw beet, lentil flavor. I seriously needed spices, herbs. Along with salt and pepper, I added chopped parsley, chive, cayenne and cumin and some apple cider vinegar to balance the sweetness of the beets and harmonize the flavor. Finally the flavors were right, and texture did hold, after squeezing out the juice.

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For the sauce I had a definitely easier job. I did make horseradish cashew cream before. In this case though I added some pickled golden beet juice, fresh grated horseradish, pepper, salt, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to the blender. As usual, the sauce was amazing. I really love horseradish, and it goes so well with a cashew cream. The sauce had depth, sweetness and spice.

Finally the only thing I needed for a complete dish was some green, crunch and maybe acidity. I diced to add some of the pickled golden beets to the dish and because I only had pea shots in the fridge I added those with a simple lemon vinaigrette and used beet powder for garnishing. The beet powder was homemade too. After juicing beets, I dehydrated the pulps and once it was completely dry and cooled, I ground  into powder.

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After tasting the dish, I was pretty happy about it. My husband, not that much…. He did love the sauce, but he didn’t like the raw sprouted flavor in the falafel. It is a very specific flavor, but those who eat a raw vegan diet, or occasionally eat raw food are definitely familiar with it. Next time I will add smashed garlic and finely chopped shallots to the falafel to make it a bit more close in flavor to traditional falafels.

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Summer bruschetta

OK. So I keep saying this.

Good food starts with the best possible ingredients.

The reason I am an advocate of farm fresh, farm to table or farm to fork cooking apart from the fact that I want to support sustainable farming, is the taste, look and most of the time simplicity. When you have amazing, in season ingredients you just need to respect them, find the best possible herbs, other ingredients to enhance flavor and make sure you don’t overcook and don’t overdo.

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This summer bruschetta was the appetizer at my summer welcoming dinner over the weekend. It looks stunning, it is simple, you just have to follow a few easy steps.

You will need to have the following ingredients:

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  • Bread
  • Avocado
  • Garlic
  • Lime
  • Corn
  • Heirloom tomatoes in different colors
  • Micro cilantro
  • Micro arugula
  • Shallot
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Olive oil

 The components of the bruschetta:

  • Garlic avocado spread. Intentionally I put garlic first. This will not be a guacamole, or an avocado puree. You want a strong garlic spread. Use very good, ripe avocado. I found that you will almost need half an avocado per toast. So I suggest follow this rule and if there is leftover, it is not a problem. For 4 slices of bread smash 2 avocados and mix with 4 smashed or grated garlic cloves, juice of 1 lime, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Charred corn. Cook 2 corns on the cob, drain, pat dry, and put on grill at high temp to char a little bit. You can also keep it over flame or use blow torch, or just leave it cooked only. Cut kernels off the cob.
  • Heirloom tomato ceviche. You could easily just add slices of heirloom tomatoes. But let’s think for a while. We will have a garlicky spread, sweet corn and almost sweet tomatoes. You will need a bit of acidity to break through the sweet and spice and let everything shine. This is the reason I marinate the tomatoes. Slice tomatoes chunky, at least 1/4 inch. Then cut them in half. I took a photo of how to cut heirloom tomatoes to keep their look and this way of cutting will ensure that liquid and seeds will not separate.

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Use at least 4 halves on each toast. To make the marinade chop 1 shallot, squeeze juice of 1 lemon juice add some salt and black pepper. 10 minutes before serving, marinate the tomatoes. Don’t let them sit in the liquid longer, it will start changing the texture.

  •  Bruschetta. Use a very good quality, whole grain, sourdough bread with big holes in there. Use it at 1-2days old. This type of bread will give the most amazing texture when toasted and also contains good grain. Or if you don’t mind white flour (you should!) traditional ciabatta is really good here. I made the toast on the griddle. The advantage of using a griddle is to get nice, crispy, yummy bread which is left soft inside. So good. Cut bread into chunky slices, at least 1 inch thick. Heat the griddle to a very high heat. Drizzle olive oil on the bread. Once the griddle is smoking hot, put your bread slices on it and press them down a little bit, to make sure it is even. Check in a minute, make sure it is not burnt!!! When you are ready to flip it over, drizzle olive oil on the up side, and sprinkle a little bit of himalayan pink salt over, from high above!. Trust me. It will make a difference. Flip the bread and toast second side.
  • Assemble. Spread generous amount of garlic avocado on toast. Add corn kernels, then tomato slices and finish off with generous amount of micro cilantro and arugula. The reason we were not using any green herbs in the spread or in the marinade is because we are adding it in a salad form at the end. In case you have no access to micro cilantro and arugula, slice the cilantro into chiffonade (thin slices) and top your toast with that and with a few wild arugula leaves.

ENJOY!

 

 

Strawberry and goat brie bruschetta

Just like most bruschetta, this is an easy one and at the same time very beautiful, colorful and tasty.

Toast some bruschetta in the oven or on a grill. Add a slice of goat cheese brie on each slice of bread. Top with sliced strawberries, micro basil, or if you don’t have it, slice basil leaves thinly and finally drizzle with good quality balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

And please remember! Have the best quality ingredients! Especially in this case when you don’t modify any of the produce with cooking, it is imperative to use the best you can get.

Make this when strawberries are in season, buy at the market or order from a farm or if you buy it at the supermarket make sure it is organic, and from a local producer.

The basil should be fresh, the balsamic good quality, aged, thick. Your goat brie ripe and intense with flavor. ENJOY!

 

 

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