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!

 

 

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!

Raw plant based beet brownie with chantilly and kumquat

Hi Everyone!

This is just a quick post of the recipe of my final project dessert at Matthew Kenney Culinary. I have just finished the course, and this dessert, which my husband found so amazingly good, is definitely worth a quick post here, because Valentine Day is coming… And some of you might want to make something, that is stunning, delicious, decadent, and leaves your body light after eating it….. you know, for the rest of the night 🙂

So here it is.

Beet brownie

Walnut / Chantilly / Kumquat

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This dessert has more components, you decide which parts you want to add . The beet brownie itself is rich, relatively sweet, chocolate-y.  The chantilly cream goes really well with it, the sauce adds some bright fruity flavor and the kumquat chips, which are my favorites deliver crunch, tartness, so a bit of a punch.

Beet brownie

  • 1 C walnuts (+1 Tbsp chopped to mix in)
  • 1 C soft medjool date
  • 3 Tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 3 Tbsp grated, dried beet. If you have no time to dry in the dehydrator, make sure you squeeze it very well with a paper towel
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Combine ingredients  (except for 1 Tbsp of the walnut, grated beet and the cocoa nibs) in a food processor until sticky and still has a bit of texture. Do not blend to smooth.  Blend in leftover cocoa nibs, grated beet and chopped walnuts.  Transfer dough into a tin, press it down and refrigerate.

For the ganache

  • 1/2 C dark agave
  • 3 Tbsp  melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup raw caco powder
  • pinch of salt

Mix agave well with coconut oil and slowly mix in cacao powder, constantly stirring until fully incorporated. Spread ganache evenly on top of chilled brownie and put back in the fridge, or freezer so it cools really well so you will be able to cut. It is a soft brownie so you need proper cooling.

 

Chantilly cream

½ C Soaked cashew
½ c coconut meat
¼ C Almond milk
¼ C agave
Squeeze Lemon juice
2 tsp Vanilla extract
½ Vanilla bean
pinch of salt
¼ C Coconut oil

Blend all the wet ingredients except for coconut oil until smooth. Gradually add coconut oil to emulsify. Keep it in fridge and either pipe, or simply scoop for plating.

Kumquat chips

Slice kumquats starting at both ends. Kumquat has the seeds in the middle of the fruit. If you slice them from both ends, you will be left with the middle part with the seeds which you can use for the puree.

Place kumquat slices on the mesh sheet and dehydrate overnight, until crispy.

Kumquat, blood orange puree

  • 1/4C chopped kumquat
  • 2-3 Tbps blood orange juice
  • 1 tsp coconut nectar
  • 1 T lemon juice

Blend kumquat with orange juice and coconut nectar until smooth.  Put in dehydrator for an hour. It will thicken, without actual cooking. Before serving push it through a mash strainer if you want a really smooth texture.

To plate put some kumquat puree on the plate, place small brownie cubes, alternated with Chantilly cream on the puree and decorate with lots of kumquat chips.

 

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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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!!!