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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Cauliflower grits, chanterelle and the perfect sunny side up egg

This cauliflower grits was a result of necessity…. I had a cauliflower in the fridge that really needed to be used. And while I was making our brunch, on a Sunday morning, coming back from Hollywood Farmers market with fresh eggs, chanterelle, and pea shots, the idea came. When we cook cauliflower and blend it, it comes up with an amazing silky, creamy texture. And what is it that we do with grits? We cream it. With butter, cream, mascarpone, or anything else. Just cream it, right?

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So while the grits were cooking in simple vegetable stock, I quickly added the cauliflower in a small pot of milk and water, added aromatics, a small onion and a bay leaf. Once that cooked, and the grits was ready, blended the cauliflower in just enough cooking liquid to be able to process and added to the grits. Also remember grits require 1:4 ratio of polenta to liquid. You can reduce it a little bit here, because the cauliflower cream will losen it up. You can play with the texture when mixing everything all together, to your liking.

I am not really keen on standing at the stove and keeping an eye on grits for a long time. So this is a trick I came up with, and it did help me to reduce cooking time. I buy the coarse grits in bulk and blend them superfine in my blender. Do this only when you are not bothered about losing the grits texture, but you want lets’s say a quick brunch option. This fine polenta will cook much quicker.

For dairy free and vegan version:

My original recipe requires milk and I also added eggs to make it a full meal. If you are dairy free or vegan, leave out the eggs and cook the cauliflowers in stock with all the aromatics mentioned below. Once cauliflower is cooked, transfer into blender and blend it with home made, thick cashew milk/cream. When I made a vegan version I served it with radish sprouts and quick pickled radishes.

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Ingredients for non vegan version (serves 4)

  • 1/2 cup grits, or the finely processed cornmeal
  • 3-4 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 small cauliflower torn into florets (the orange one will give a beautiful color to your grits! go for it if you have them)
  • 1 cup whole milk and some water (enough to just cover the florets in the pot)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small onion
  • salt and 3-4 black peppercorns
  • 2 cups small chanterelle or any other wild, strong mushroom (see below other dishes)
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley and chive
  • 4 eggs
  • olive oil for frying eggs
  • pea shoots or other greens to serve the dish with (it will require something fresh, crunchy with a touch of acid)
  • lemon juice and olive oil for the greens

Instructions

  1. Add milk, water, bay leaf, peppercorn, salt, onion and cauliflower florets in a small pot. Bring to a boil and cook it covered on low heat until florets are cooked. Don’t overcook, all the cauliflower flavor and bits will disintegrate into your liquid…. and we are not using all the cooking liquid.
  2. Discard onion, bay leaf and peppercorns  when cauliflower is cooked.
  3. Transfer into blender and blend into creamy texture with just as much cooking liquid as necessary to process the blending!
  4. In the meantime toast grits on olive oil for a minute, while whisking add vegetable stock. Cook it under constant supervision, stirring frequently. Add just as much liquid so you end up with a thick, firmer grit texture, so the cauliflower can loosen it up.
  5. You can also pay with ratios of grits to cauliflower, depending on how much flavor of the veggie you would like in there.
  6. To finish the dish pan roast mushrooms on butter and olive oil mixture with adding a couple of thyme sprigs. When cooked, discard thyme, and add mix of parsley, chive and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep it warm.
  7. Fry eggs on olive oil. Heat olive oil and before it is too high, add eggs, turn down heat and fry slow to keep a nice look.
  8. Put the greens in a bowl and drizzle with a squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil.

To serve:

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In a shallow deep bowl and cauliflower grits, making a dip in the middle for the egg. Put mushrooms and shoots or other greens around the egg, on top of the grits. ENJOY!

 

And if you like the flavor profiles, you can make other, bit fancier dishes based on the same concept. This is a pot de creme of cauliflower grits with pan roasted mixed wild mushroom with garlic and thyme, parmesan crisps and some spicy nasturtium oil and leaves.

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Kabocha and shrimp risotto with toasted pumpkin seeds

Risotto facts

Some people are scared of risotto, some just think it is too much of a hassle. You should not feel any of these.  If you understand what happens when making risotto you will never again have problems with making the perfect one.

So risotto is an Italian dish where you need to cook the rice into a creamy consistency. The rice is cooked with wine, stock and at the end creamed some sort of dairy product. The rice has to be cooked, but still needs crunch in the middle, so it is al dente. At the same time the risotto is creamy. So how to achieve this?

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  1. Use rice specifically used for making risotto, that is a medium grain variety, fairly large and can tolerate the unique cooking method that removes starch from the rice surface so that it thickens the cooking liquid into a creamy consistency.  The most well known type is Arborio, anywhere outside Italy. There are some other varieties too, such as Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, but these are not very easy to get hold of.
  2. Make sure you have everything prepared in advance. Chopped, measured, cleaned or pre cooked on a tray. From start to finish a risotto will need 30 minutes of your undivided attention. There is also a method where you can precook the risotto to about 90%, lay out on a tray to cool quickly, (stop cooking) refrigerate and finish it off  in 10 minutes when your guests arrived. (I will explain this method later)
  3. Use right size of pot, meaning for the amount of rice. The pot should not be too big compared to the amount of rice, because you will add too much liquid.
  4. Preheat any liquid to boiling! you will be using for cooking the risotto, such as stock, broth. Also have boiling water ready, in case you run out of stock and the rice still needs liquid to be cooked. This is imperative. The liquid has to be hot constantly, so when you add it to the rice, it will not stop the cooking.
  5. Always add liquid in small amounts, just barely cover rice, and stir constantly. This might sound too much of work, but actually stirring constantly means that the rice grains are subject to constant friction, rubbing off the softened parts constantly, so they can become part of the liquid. If you only let it cook, this particles will not be part of the cooking process, you will just rub off everything in one go, at the end, when you stir it.

Kabocha and shrimp risotto

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I decided to use this winter squash variety because of its texture and not too sweet flavor. Kabocha turns into a creamy dream once it is blended. Shrimp goes really well with risotto in general and it is also a classic pairing with this squash.

The squash will be added to the risotto in two different ways. We will roast and puree half of the kabocha and dice and cook the other half.

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Instructions

First prepare everything

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  1. Peel, deseed kabocha, cut in half. Cut one of the halves into big chunks and roast them on a tray in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend to a smooth puree with just the necessary amount of stock, you need for blending. Dice the other half into small cubes. Blanch them in salted boiling water until they are just cooked. Do not overcook, they will fall apart. Immediately drop them in ice water to stop cooking and drain.
  2. In a small amount of vegetable oil deep fry sage leaves. You will need 3-5 on each plate.
  3. Cut each shrimp into bite sizes. Pan sear them on butter, olive oil, seasoned with salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  4. Toast pumpkin seeds and set aside.
  5. Chop the shallots very finely.
  6. Cut very finely pancetta too.
  7. Measure rice and get it ready.
  8. Measure wine and stock and bring stock to a simmer and keep it warm.
  9. Prep rest of ingredients on a tray: olive oil, butter, fresh sage leaves, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, mascarpone.

Cooking instructions

  1. Heat olive oil and butter.
  2. Add pancetta, render fat so it becomes crispy.
  3. Add shallots, sweat for a few minutes.
  4. Add rice, stirring constantly and toast for a minute.
  5. Add wine, stirring constantly until it cooked down and almost absorbed fully.
  6. Start adding hot stock. Always add just as much to cover rice, stir constantly and add another ladle only when it is absorbed. Keep doing until rice is al dente,  about 20 minutes.
  7. additional step for later consumption: If you want to keep risotto and serve it at a later stage, stop cooking, lay risotto on a tray, cover with plastic foil and refrigerate until next day. When reheating, add some more stock, stir, let it absorb and finish it off as below.
  8. Mix in kabocha puree and mascarpone and add diced squash and shrimp.
  9. Season with salt, ground black pepper and cayenne.
  10. Adjust texture with a little bit of stock if needed.
  11. Plate risotto in a deep bowl, topped with fried sage leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Don’t forget about a glass of light chardonnay! 😉

Enjoy!

Ingredients (yields 4)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 big shallot or 2 smaller ones
  • 4 slices of pancetta, cut into fine pieces
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tablespoon of mascarpone
  • 1 cup of roasted kabocha puree
  • 1 1/2 cup of diced, cooked kabocha
  • 1 lb of shrimp, cleaned, cut and pan seared on little olive oil and butter
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • vegetable oil for deep frying sage leaves
  • sage leaves
  • optional micro greens

Spaghetti squash with mushroom cashew alfredo, brussels and hazelnuts

I was not really thinking about putting this dish on my blog. When I came up with the recipe, it was really all about the textures and look in my mind. And eventually it turned out to be a very flavorful dish. When my husband came home in the evening, tasted it, and I heard “hmmmmm it is very interesting and yummy”, I knew I had to share it with you. Bear in mind, he is not vegan. Not even vegetarian… Also the dish is very easy to make, so I thought to share.

This dish is all about the fall produce available at the moment at the market.It also has a very classic combination of mushrooms, hazelnuts, cream, brussels sprouts. So good togeher.  The “spaghetti” of the dish is simply roasted spaghetti squash. The cashew Alfredo sauce made richer with the umami flavor of sautéed mushrooms. Quickly blanched brussels leaves and toasted hazelnut to finish off the dish. I used those fall colors of the marigold petals, not only to make the dish look prettier, but the petals’ peppery flavor goes so well with the dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • fresh rosemary strings
  • salt, black pepper, olive oil for roasting the squash
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashew
  • almond milk (just as much to get a sauce consistency
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 minced garlic bulbs
  • salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice to taste
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of a mix of chopped parsley and chive
  • brussels sprouts taken into leaves
  • 1 tablespoon toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 marigold flower
  • some micro greens

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Instructions:

  1. Cut one medium size spaghetti squash in half. Drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt, ground black pepper and put one rosemary string and 3 garlic cloves in each halves. Put on a baking tray and bake at 420F for about 40 minutes.
  2. Check with a fork and if the spaghetti strands fall off easily, it is done. Carefully scrape out the spaghettis 🙂  with the fork, set aside to cool.
  3. In the meantime in a blender blend  1/2 cup of soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, minced garlic with enough almond milk to get the texture of sauce.
  4. Add the sautéed mushrooms and chopped herbs, blend together.
  5. Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Blend together.
  6. Blanch the brussels sprouts leaves in rapidly boiling, very salty water for 1 minute. Quickly drain and drop in ice water, to stop cooking and retain color.
  7. Plate spaghetti squash and drizzle with the sauce, top with brussels leaves, chopped hazelnut, marigold leaves and some micro herbs.

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ENJOY!!!