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!

 

 

Pea and stinging nettle gnudi

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for being away a bit long from my blog and not to be sharing new recipes with you. I have been very busy with moving and finishing my raw vegan studies at Matthew Kenney Culinary. But now I am back!

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Probably those of you following me on Instagram, saw that I found an urban gardening plot very close to our new home in Encino, California. It is called Sepulveda Garden Center. It is a spacious community garden with hundreds of plots of flowers & plants maintained by local residents. I had my friend @farmerkelley to visit the plot today and even she was soooo impressed!!! And that is a big thing because she does farming, gardening for a living!!! On the hottest day of this year, in 97F we just never wanted to stop exploring the gardens… And Kelley has her own garden, grows beautiful edible produce for chefs in Los Angeles. Still, again, she was impressed….

So back to my story about the pea tendrils…. Last week when I discovered the place, I saw people cutting out their pea full of tendrils and leaves!!!

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If you never tasted pea tendrils, you may not know what you are missing out…… Imagine eating crunchy lettuce that tastes the most delicate, sweet pea! (not the not edible sweet pea flower!!! but real, spring pea that is sweet. ) So insanely delicious, not to mention its beauty, how stunning it looks in salads and other dishes. So when I saw that some people are not aware of what they are throwing out, of course, I had to say hello 🙂 and suggest them not to do this next time:) 🙂 :)… So hopefully when they cut their peas back in the future, they will take the tendrils and blossoms home and eat them…. Until then with their permission I took some home. And of course I could never stop thinking, what to do with them, how to show you their beauty, and how to use them to highlight everything they have to offer. The only way to do it if the dish is all about them. Peas. Different textures, but same flavor. I also picked some stinging nettle (using a plastic bag;) during one of my walks. Stinging nettle is another spring messenger and has to be blanched to lose its stinging ability, and then it can be handled without gloves. This weed is true to its name for sure! Stinging! It is full of nutrients and really good to make tea, soups, sauces, oils.

So I decided to make a vegan gnudi using blanched peas and stinging nettle. Gnudi traditionally is made with ricotta, so I made my own almond one to replace it. I didn’t want to cook the gnudi, and the almond ricotta, blanched peas and nettle had the perfect texture to hold. If you want you can also try adding some flax meal or almond flour to the mix. I knew that I will add the pea tendrils and blossoms with a touch of lemon juice, to bring more pea flavor and crunch to the soft gnudi. So now the only thing I needed some cream to bathe that gnudi in. I decided to use almond milk because I didn’t want a different nut profile to introduce.

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To make a flavorful crema, I braised some fennel and blended with almond milk and meyer lemon zest juice. The dish is fresh, vibrant, full of springy pea flavor with lemon essence and it is also an easy one to make.

I really hope you will try either making this whole dish or at least just use it as a flavor or technique inspiration in your own translation!

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ENJOY!

Ingredients ( serves 4 )

  • 1 C  blanched peas
  • 1/4 C blanched stinging nettle
  • 1 C almond ricotta
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 2 small fennel bulbs or 1 big fennel bulb sliced
  • olive oil
  • zest of 1 meyer lemon
  • salt, black pepper
  • optional cayenne and ground nutmeg
  • meyer lemon juice to taste
  • pea tendrils and blossoms and/or blanched peas
  • fennel fronds

Instructions

  1. How to blanch peas and stinging nettle? Bring a very big pot of water to the boil. Add salt so the water so it tastes like sea. (it doesn’t mean your pea will be salty- because you blanch for a very short period, but the beautiful green color will be retained!) Prepare another big bowl with cold water and lots of ice cubes in it. Working in batches blanch your vegetables only for a minute, and add only as much vegetable to the boiling water so that you don’t lose boiling. It might be a bit tricky, but the result is very different! So once you blanched the peas/nettle, immediately transfer it into ice cold water, to stop cooking and retain color. Drain well and dry it on a paper towel.
  2. How to make almond ricotta? Soak almond overnight. Next day remove the peels. Add almond with enough water to blend into a ricotta like texture in a food processor and process it. Do not use blender, that will make it into cream/milk. Add water bit by bit so you don’t get a loose cheese. Once you are happy with texture, add nutritional yeast, salt and a few drops of lemon juice. Then flavor with a smashed garlic clove or garlic powder if you want it. The nutritional yeast content is very subjective. For 1 C of almond use at least 1 tablespoon, and keep tasting it to achieve the cheese-y like flavor you like. Nutritional yeast is good for you, so don’t hold it back! 🙂
  3. To make the gnudi add blanched peas, blanched stinging nettle and almond ricotta in a food processor. Process it to keep a good structure, see on my close shots of the gnudi. I left the gnudi tasting very fresh and spring, so didn’t add anything else to it. I decided to shape them into quenelles with the help of two small teaspoons. If you don’t want to do that, you can simply make small balls. But the two spoon way of making quennels is so easy, and it looks beautiful with this dish.
  4. To make the crema first I sautéed the sliced fennel on a tablespoon of olive oil. Added a little bit of water (you can add stock), covered and cooked on very low heat until soft. Once cooked, in a high speed blender I blended the fennel and almond milk. Start adding little milk and add more bit by bit to make sure the sauce is not getting too thin. Season the sauce with salt, black pepper, meyer lemon zest, meyer lemon juice, touch of cayenne and the optional ground nutmeg.
  5. Drizzle pea tendrils, blossoms and blanched peas with olive oil and and meyer lemon juice. (my plating doesn’t have added blanched peas, but it is really good to add!)
  6. To plate, place a swirl of the crema on a shallow plate, arrange gnudi quenelles or balls alongside the swirl and arrange the pea tendril and blossoms and the peas, if you add that too, so that they form a close unity.

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ENJOY!