HOLIDAY MACAROONS WITH ORANGE PEEL AND ROSE WATER

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I'm on my fourth batch of macaroons for Passover. Love these because they're gluten-free but also because they're probably the easiest dessert I'll ever make. I don't know why I don't make them all year round, as what other cookie takes about 10 minutes to prepare?

Each time I make them, I add something different. I started off with lemon peel and vanilla extract. Second time, I subbed the vanilla extract for almond extract. Third time I used orange peel. And this last time, I added a little rose blossom extract, just because I'm always trying to think of things I can do with that bottle on my shelf.  

Get creative when you make your own macaroons! Sprinkle chocolate on the top. Add crushed pistachios or almonds. Try lime peel.  And don't just save them for Passover, especially if you're gluten-free.

 

ALMOND MACAROONS

Makes 2 dozen

 

Ingredients

4 large egg whites

4 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons freshly grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon rose water

Pinch of salt

 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or cover with Silpat.  

Stir together the egg whites, sugar, orange zest, almond extract, coconut and a pinch of salt until combined.  Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop onto the baking sheet.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until the tops are pale gold. Transfer with a spatula to a rack to cool.

 

GLUTEN-FREE MATZOH BALLS

Gluten-free matzoh balls

Gluten-free matzoh balls

It's hard being Jewish when you're gluten-free and don't eat meat. I mean, there goes Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls. But this year, I'm prepared and I made my own Vegetarian Matzoh Ball Soup.  While my matzoh balls weren't as fluffy as my mom's, they were quite serviceable.

I admit, they took me a few tries. The first time I tried to make gluten-free matzoh balls,  I substituted almond meal for the matzoh meal. They tasted exactly like I substituted almond meal for matzoh meal and sank like lead to the bottom of my soup.

Now that matzoh is on every store shelf, I bought a box of Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzoh from Whole Foods, (well, actually I bought three- the first two boxes got eaten before I got around to making the matzoh balls.)  I put the matzoh in the food processor and ground it into fine matzoh farfel. From there, I made the matzoh balls, just like Bubbie used to make. 

Because it's not made with one of the five grains -barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt- gluten-free matzoh, which is made with tapioca, is not really considered appropriate for a seder by religious authorities.  

Serve with your favorite vegetable or chicken broth and garnish with fresh dill.

 

GLUTEN FREE MATZOH BALLS
 

Makes 10-15 matzoh balls, depending on whether your ancestors are from the large or small school of matzoh balls.

 

Ingredients

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup gluten free matzoh meal 

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons seltzer

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (optional)

 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs.

2. Add the matzoh meal, salt, the seltzer, pepper and parsley. Add more almond flour if it appears to thin.

3. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

4. Bring to a boil a large pot of salted water.

5. With wet hands, roll the mixture into balls.

6. Drop the matzoh balls into the boiling water.

7. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. The balls will begin to float to the top.

8. Drain and add to the chicken or vegetable soup with a slotted spoon.

9. Garnish with fresh dill.

 

VEGETARIAN SPRING PEA SOUP

 

Spring and St. Patrick's Day call for a little green pea soup. I grew up eating pea soup with dumplings. My grandmother made hers with dried split peas and she sent me home with some every time I visited her. That was comfort food to me. Even my dad, who can cook only about five things, likes to make split pea soup.  Eventually, I learned to make it myself, and always had a batch around in the winter. I don't make the dumplings anymore, because they're not gluten-free, but they're easy enough to make with some gluten-free flour.

I never had fresh pea soup until about two years ago and then there was no turning back for me. Just the vibrant green color is enough to convince me that this is the only kind of pea soup for me. 

It's light, versatile, vegan and vegetarian. And of course, gluten-free. I used rosemary in mine, but feel free to substitute sage or mint. Closer to spring, I'll use fresh peas once they start to appear at the farmers' market. In the summer, I'll switch out the rosemary for basil.

 

VEGETARIAN SPRING PEA SOUP 

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch scallions, washed and chopped

4 cups homemade vegetable stock or 2 cups organic boxed vegetable broth + 2 cups water (I use Brad's Organic)

2 10 ounce packages frozen organic peas

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup plain organic Greek yogurt

1/2 cup chopped chives, mint or parsley

 

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, add the scallions, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the scallion is tender.

Add the vegetable stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil.

Add the frozen peas and rosemary and cook for 3  minutes, until the peas are tender. (Fresh peas will take a few minutes longer).  

Salt to taste and let the soup cool slightly.                              

Puree the soup in batches in a blender on low speed.        

Before serving, add the lemon juice and a dollop of yogurt.

Garnish with chopped chives, mint or parsley.                                                                          

 

GLUTEN-FREE PUMPKIN, GINGER AND BROWN RICE NOODLES WITH SHRIMP AND SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS

When I went gluten-free, I saw it as a great opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. Without having to make dietary changes, I don't thing I would have ever been curious to try grains like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat and so many varieties of rice including bamboo and black forbidden rice. Not just in main courses, but in desserts. Who knew I'd become obsessed with rice pudding?

Of course, the first thing most of us try when we go gluten-free is gluten-free pasta. I've tried brown and white rice pasta, corn pasta, and quinoa pasta from most major brands. I'm not a big fan of corn pasta, even though I must say some of them taste pretty good, because not only do many of them use non-GMO corn, but also because corn contains its own kind of gluten and some health practitioners advise to stay away from it.

Lately, I've been trying various Asian noodles that I haven't tried before. King Soba makes a variety of organic gluten-free noodles that I've been having a good time with in the kitchen. I've tried their Organic Sweet Potato and Buckwheat Noodles (all buckwheat, no whole wheat flour!) and now I'm loving their Organic Pumpkin, Ginger and Brown Rice Noodles. I like them because they are lighter, tastier and easier to digest than regular brown rice noodles. They're available at Whole Foods and most health food stores.

While I've been playing in the kitchen with the noodles, I've also been enjoying a bottle of green cucumber vinegar that someone gave me. It's lovely drizzled in a salad. (Perhaps one with that black forbidden rice.) I decided to use it in this dish, too, but you can substitute brown or white rice vinegar instead.

 

GLUTEN-FREE PUMPKIN,GINGER & BROWN RICE NOODLES WITH SHRIMP AND SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS 

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer

 

Ingredients

6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

¼ cup green cucumber vinegar

¼ cup gluten-free tamari

¼ cup water plus one tablespoon

¼ cup raw honey 

2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices

2 portions King Soba Pumpkin, Ginger and Brown rice noodles (4.4 oz)

1/2 pound raw peeled shrimp, sauteed or grilled

2 scallions, cut into diagonal slices

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

 

Directions

In a small saucepan combine the mushrooms, ginger, vinegar, tamari and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.  When cooled, add the honey and stir until dissolved.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook as this pasta gets mushy if cooked too long. Drain in a colander and run under cold water. 

To arrange the noodle dish, place the noodles in a medium sized bowl. Add the shrimp, scallions, sesame seeds and dressing. Toss to coat. To finish, drizzle with the toasted sesame oil.

STRAWBERRY, BEET & POMEGRANATE SMOOTHIE WITH ROSEWATER

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Who needs chocolates when you can start the day with this special Valentine's smoothie?

The color alone will make you fall in love! This is one of my favorite smoothies that I've made to date. I soak the cashews overnight to make them more digestible, but if you are making this at the last minute, don't worry about it.

For the beets, you can leave them raw but if you don't have a powerful blender, I would recommend cooking them. That way, you'll also have beet juice that you can save for another recipe. My favorite way to prepare them is to roast them in a pan with water and covered with foil for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Roast a few so you can use the rest elsewhere.  

Beets also pair well with apples or cherries, so you can substitute the pomegranate juice with either an apple, a handful of cherries or apple or cherry juice. I originally used pomegranate seeds instead of pomegranate juice. The taste was delicious but I kept biting into too many seeds. If you have a Vitamix, the seeds should pulverize.

If you want the smoothie a bit thicker, substitute greek yogurt for the almond milk or do half and half. And lastly, start with ½ teaspoon rose water. If you feel it needs a little more, add a tiny bit at a time. You don't want the rose water to overpower the smoothie. You can find rose water at most Middle Eastern stores.  

Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds or chopped pistachios as garnish and give to your favorite valentine.

 

STRAWBERRY, BEET & POMEGRANATE SMOOTHIE WITH ROSE WATER

 

Makes 1 large smoothie

 

Ingredients

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen strawberries, preferably organic

1 tablespoon raw cashews, soaked overnight

½ roasted or boiled medium size red beet 

¾ cup almond milk or greek yogurt or a combination of both

¼ cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ teaspoon rose water

Optional: Pomegranate seeds or chopped pistachios

 

Directions

Throw everything in the blender and puree.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds or pistachios.

 

 

VIETNAMESE GINGER TOMATO SOUP

Vietnamese Tomato Ginger Soup

 

Vietnamese food is such a wonderful world cuisine because it balances sweet, sour, salty and spicy components. Although I still have a lot to learn about Vietnamese food, I’ve noticed that the more traditional food from Hanoi and the north is often influenced by their Chinese neighbors - with stir-fries and many rice dishes. Pho, the rice noodle soup, is from the north, as are many heartier dishes with beef. 

In Saigon and other regions of the south, where many Vietnamese who live in American are from, you’ll see more seafood, vegetables and more spicy and sweeter dishes that use sugar cane. You’ll also find more of a french influence in many of these dishes. In central Vietnam, where the ancient royal courts once were, the food is more elaborate and features many small dishes.

A few years ago, I  took my daughter to Vietnam. (She was adopted from Ninh Binh in the north.)  One stop on the trip was Hoi An, which is on the south central coast of Vietnam. We were staying at a resort that served assorted regional Vietnam dishes. The food was serviceable, but like many hotels, it lacked any personality. Uninspired, we walked towards the local village and found a restaurant on stilts along the water that we ventured into with our friends who had accompanied us on the trip. 

In our family, I’m the Soup Queen as I love to make soups more than anything.   Grace is the official Soup Taster. Even though it was about 100 degrees outside, like most Vietnamese, she ordered soup. It was a tomato soup with lemongrass and Vietnamese spices. While The Soup Taster liked everything she'd eaten so far on the trip, this was the first time she said,   “Mom, you’ve got to get the recipe."   Not being able to speak Vietnamese, I knew this was going to be difficult. I tasted it and our friends tasted it, and we all agreed that I had to figure out how to prepare because it was worth eating again and again.

When I got home I consulted the three or four Vietnamese cookbooks I had but couldn’t find the recipe anywhere. Since I could make a good Italian tomato soup, I figured it wouldn't be that difficult to adapt it and make it Vietnamese. And that seemed just about perfect since we are always happy to adopt Italian food and culture into our multicultural lives.



VIETNAMESE GINGER TOMATO SOUP

Serves 4


Ingredients
2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 28 ounce can Muir Glen organic crushed tomatoes
1 stalk of lemongrass, (use only the inner yellow section and pound it so the oils are released)
1 inch thick slice of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons nuoc nam sauce (fish sauce)
Juice of 1 lime
1 quart organic vegetable or chicken broth
Cilantro for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Soft tofu cubes, drained


Heat the oil in a large soup pot.

Saute the sliced shallots in the vegetable oil until softened.

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and stir for one minute.

Add the crushed tomatoes and the lemongrass, fresh ginger, sugar and nuoc nam sauce and stir.

Add the broth.

Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the lemongrass. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the lime juice and stir.

Add more nuoc nam and red pepper flakes if necessary.

Variation: Add soft tofu, cut into cubes, during the last five minutes when the soup is simmering.

BAKED GLUTEN-FREE FALAFELS WITH LEMON YOGURT TAHINI AND PICKLED VEGETABLES

Baked gluten-free falafels with lemon yogurt tahini sauce and pickled vegetables

Baked gluten-free falafels with lemon yogurt tahini sauce and pickled vegetables

I was cleaning out the freezer where I keep all the gluten-free flours that I don't use very often- the chickpea flour, the brown rice flour, and the sorghum flour, to name a few. I decided I'd start using them up and so I proceeded to make the falafel recipe with the chickpea flour that was on the Bob's Redmill bag.

I'm embarrassed to say that I had never made something as basic as falafels before. The recipe called for the chickpea flour, onion and garlic powder and a host of other dried ingredients. I used real onion and garlic, and added more cilantro and parsley than what was in the recipe. I tested part of the batch and they were delicious but they looked like cookies I would make for St. Patrick's Day- runny green cookies. I added a bit more flour to the remaining batter and then the rest came out perfect.

The next day, I made them again using dried chickpeas that I soaked overnight. You soak them, drain, and then as with the chickpea flour recipe, you throw all the ingredients in the food processor and voila, you've got yourself falafels ready to be baked or fried. I don't know why I never made these before. They're the perfect gluten-free treat. To keep them healthy, I baked them.

They're so easy to make and while they're always great for a sandwich, they're even better to put in a salad or serve as an appetizer. I like them accompanied by some pickled vegetables and a yogurt tahini sauce. Drizzle with some dukkah if you have some around when serving.

 

BAKED GLUTEN-FREE FALAFELS

Adapted from Mark Bittman

 

Ingredients

1 ¾ cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small red onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste

1 teaspoon flax seed

½ cup fresh parsley

½ cup fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon baking soda

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the soaked chickpeas and put them in the food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, red pepper flakes, flax seed, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper and baking soda.

Pulse until minced. Taste and adjust seasonings. If they appear to dry, add a little water to the batter.

Form into about 20 balls, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. If desired, slightly flatten them into patties. Patties will make them a bit crisper. Place on a sprayed or oiled baking sheet.


Bake for 15 minutes and then flip and bake the other side for 5 minutes. Serve topped with lemon tahini yogurt sauce and pickled onions and carrots.

They'll last at least a week in the refrigerator.

 

LEMON TAHINI YOGURT SAUCE

Ingredients

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup greek or plain yogurt

¼ cup tahini

Pinch salt

Pinch paprika or za'atar

 

Put in a jar and shake. Top with a pinch paprika or za'atar.

                                                

PICKLED RED ONION AND CARROT

Ingredients

½ cup apple cider vinegar

¾ cup warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 medium red onion, sliced thinly

1 carrot, chopped fine with a mandolin or shredded

 

Combine apple cider vinegar, water and sugar in a bowl. Stir until combined.

Pour the mixture over the onion and carrot and let it sit for an hour. Pickled onions and carrots will last a few weeks in the refrigerator.

 

CARDAMOM RICE PUDDING WITH ROSE WATER AND PISTACHIOS

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In New York City, we have a rice pudding restaurant called Rice to Riches that people visit in droves. They have about 20 flavors of rice pudding from vanilla to rocky road.  Rice pudding is a lovely dessert for those on a gluten-free diet. It's an everyday dessert or can be made festive when dressed up a little with pistachios, dates and a splash of rose flower water.

I love rice pudding warm because it's soothing and feels like comfort food. But I know a lot of people prefer it cold. Last week when I had a bit of the flu, eating a bowl of rice pudding made me feel so much better.  Generally, I tend to eat one serving warm right after it's prepared and then refrigerate the rest for later.       

I kept my pudding dairy free by using almond milk, but feel free to substitute organic whole milk instead. You can also switch the kind of rice you use. I love jasmine rice, but basmati, arborio and brown rice are just as delicious. Just double check the cooking times on whatever kind of rice you use.

 

CARDAMOM RICE PUDDING WITH ROSE WATER AND PISTACHIOS

You can find rose water at Kalustyans and other middle eastern stores.     

Serves  5

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup basmati or jasmine rice, rinsed

4 cups unsweetened almond milk

6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1 vanilla bean,  split open and scraped

1/3 cup organic sugar 

4 tablespoons shelled pistachios, chopped

1 ½ teaspoons rose flower water

3 dates, pitted and chopped

Honey or maple syrup (optional)

 

Combine the rice, milk, cardamom and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and let it simmer, stirring often, until the milk has reduced by about half, 30-40 minutes.   

Add the sugar, half of the pistachios and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the cardamom pods and vanilla bean.

Stir in the rose flower water.

Serve warm or chilled, garnished with the remaining pistachios and chopped dates. Drizzle with honey or good quality maple syrup if you want it a little sweeter.

 

 

 

 

 

CARROT GINGER SOUP

I've read numerous blogs and Facebook posts about detoxing for the new year and just about every post calls for making a green juice. I love green juices as much as anyone, but it's a bit cold outside and I want something a little warm, but still clean and light. For me, that's always been Carrot Ginger Soup. No need to ring in anything new when you've got such a delicious staple around. 

When I was in culinary school at Natural Gourmet Institute, we were tested on making this soup. I've always used a sweet potato but at NGI, we used a white potato or oatmeal as thickeners. (If using oatmeal, make sure to use gluten-free oatmeal, if you're gluten-free.  Regular oatmeal can be cross-contaminated.) They all work, but I like the sweet potato as it helps maintain the vibrant orange color. It's not a bad idea to double the recipe.

 

CARROT GINGER SOUP

Serves 4

Generally when I'm pureeing a soup, I use the immersion blender. This is one of the few soups I feel it's better to puree with a blender because it makes for a smoother soup.  Cool the soup and puree in batches. If the soup is too thick, add some more broth. Make adjustments with the ginger, lemon and salt. Don't be shy with the ginger as what makes this soup special is that extra flavor you're adding with the ginger and lemon. You can grate the ginger or make ginger juice by grating peeled ginger over a bowl covered with cheese cloth. Squeeze the gratings through the cheesecloth.

 

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 lb bag carrots, peeled and roughly chopped into chunks

½ medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chucks

4 cups vegetable broth

Juice of a lemon, to taste

2 inches ginger, peeled and minced or made into ginger juice

Sea salt to taste.

Garnish: minced cilantro, sprigs of dill or orange peel

 

In a soup pot, saute the onion in the oil and the salt until translucent.

Add the carrots, sweet potato and the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer partially covered until the carrots and potato are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.  The smaller you chop them, the faster the cooking time.  

Let the soup cool and then puree in batches in the blender.  Only fill the blender about half way when pureeing. Return to the pot and add the ginger, adjust the stock, lemon juice, ginger and salt to taste. Serve with a garnish of cilantro, dill or orange peel.

 

THE GIFT OF CHOCOLATE

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In a perfect world, I'd give my friends homemade cookies and raw bars for the holidays made with healthy ingredients like almond butter, goji berries and hemp or chia seeds.  But since many of my friends,  and none of my relatives, are on the same health supportive journey as me, I thought I would settle on making something with chocolate for holiday food gifts.  I just couldn't imagine giving my building's superintendent or my mother cookies made with chia seeds and goji berries and explaining them to either of them.

If I'm going to tell the truth here, I'm too lazy to make ten different kinds of cookies so dealing with chocolate is much easier.  I usually make chocolate bark, but this year I thought I'd make some chocolate bars.  I bought some 70% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's and also some white chocolate, for no other reason than because my daughter insisted. 

To make chocolate bars, just pour the melted chocolate into a mold, and then strategically top with some add-ons.  Homemade chocolate bars are a terrific project to clean out the cupboards with - I had orange flavored dried cranberries left over from Thanksgiving, tons of pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds and a handful of pistachios sitting around and put them to use.  My daughter had been given a few candy canes, so we took a couple and chopped them with a knife  (a hammer will work, too) and decorated one or two of the chocolate bars with them. What the heck, right?

I don't think you need a recipe for these but for those who want some direction: just melt the chocolate over a double broiler. If you don't have a double broiler, fill a pot about halfway with water and put a stainless steel bowl on top with the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts over medium heat. Pour the chocolate into molds. (You can spray the molds so the bars are  easier to get out.)  If there's any leftover chocolate, pour it into a sheet pan and you can break it into chocolate bark when it dries.

Add your add-ons and refrigerate until the chocolate is hard. Turn over onto a plate. You can wrap them in cellophane bags. 

Here's to a happy and healthy holiday!

 

 

 

 

POLENTA MEN WITH KALE PESTO AND TEMPEH TOMATO SAUCE

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I'm finally getting into the holiday spirit. Since I'm really trying to avoid sugar, I'm trying to stay away from making a lot of holiday cookies for gifts because they're just too tempting!   But since those cookie cutters are just sitting there waiting to be used, I decided to go ahead and make a fun main course polenta dish using my gingermen cookie cutters. This is fun to have for the kids! It's gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, too.

 

HOLIDAY POLENTA MEN WITH KALE PESTO AND TEMPEH TOMATO SAUCE

Soaking the cornmeal will shorten the cooking time. Don't be afraid to season the polenta with fresh or dried herbs. Instead of the ginger men cookie cutters, use other holiday cookie cutters. I also tried a few stars and candy canes that came out beautifully.

When using the kale pesto to decorate, I found it easier to control it by putting a little pesto on a knife and then adding it to the polenta. First I tried putting it in a pastry bag to decorate, but the kale was clumpy and the oil just separated from the kale and made a mess.

Serve on a bed of tempeh tomato sauce.

 

Serves 6

 

Ingredients 

1 cup organic nonGMO stone ground cornmeal

4 cups water

2 teaspoons sea salt 

Leaves from 1 sprig thyme

1 clove minced garlic

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing on polenta

Sea salt and pepper

 

Soak the cornmeal in the water for an hour.

Bring to a boil. Add salt.

With a whisk, slowly drizzle in the cornmeal. Continue whisking for about 3 minutes so the cornmeal doesn't clump. Add the salt, thyme and garlic.  Partially cover the pot, and let the polenta simmer. After 10 minutes, remove the lid and stir with a wooden spoon.  Repeat until the polenta is cooked, about 20 minutes.

When the polenta is finished cooking, drizzle in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour polenta on to a  sheet tray. It should be at least ½ inch high. Smooth the top. Cool until firm in the refrigerator, at least 30 minutes.

Using a ginger man cookie cooker, cut out little men. Save the scraps for another meal.

Brush the top with olive oil. Arrange polenta, oiled side down, on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of polenta with oil. Broil until heated through and lightly browned. Alternatively, you can grill them on a stove top grill pan. 

When they're cooled, add the kale pesto buttons with a knife or spoon. You can also try eyes, mittens or any other decorations.

Serve on the tempeh tomato sauce. 

 

KALE PESTO

I like kale pesto because it has a strong flavor. Since the polenta and the tempeh tomato sauce are a bit mild, the pesto gives the dish a surprising burst of flavor. Save the extra pesto for pasta, rice or as a spread on a sandwich. It's also delicious on a baked potato.

 

Ingredients      

1 bunch kale, (about 2 cups)

Sea salt 

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

¼ cup roasted walnuts or pine nuts

1 tablespoon white miso (for a vegan version)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Destem the kale. Rinse and roughly chop.

Boil a pot of water and blanch for 2 minutes.

Prepare a bowl with ice water.

Remove the kale from the water and shock in the ice water. When it's cooled,  wring out the water from the kale.

Put the kale in a food processor with the garlic, nuts, and miso and blend until smooth.

Add the lemon and salt and pepper to taste. 

 

TEMPEH TOMATO SAUCE

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, stay away from the three grain variety because it contains barley.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups

 

Ingredients    

1/2 package organic tempeh, chopped with a hand grater

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes

½ teaspoon oregano 

1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped (Set juice aside).

 

In a saucepan, brown the tempeh in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.

Remove from pan and add onion. Cook until translucent and soft, about 5-7 minutes. 

Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute.

Add the oregano, red pepper flakes and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.

Cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When cooked, puree using an immersion blender.

Spoon on a plate and top with the polenta men and kale pesto.

EASY ASIAN KELP NOODLE SALAD

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Here's a change of pace from all that Thanksgiving cooking: kelp noodles. I'm sure maybe all of two of you out there have tried them in the past.

So what are kelp noodles? Kelp noodles are made with kelp,  a sea vegetable often used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines. Kelp noodles are gluten-free, grain-free, and soy-free, and if you're counting calories, you'll be glad to know that they have almost none.

Like tofu, they take on the taste of whatever you're preparing them with. When raw, they have a crunchy texture. Soaked, they'll be a bit less crunchy.  I generally use glass noodles (mung bean thread) for Asian dishes but these are nice for a change of pace.  You can also use shirataki noodles. Look for them at most health food stores and even at Whole Foods.

Here's a few other ways you can prepare kelp noodles:

          Serve with a pesto sauce 

          Top with avocado cream

          Use in an Asian stir fry

          Add to a broth or miso soup

          Substitute for spaghetti and add tomato sauce     

          Make pad thai 

          Stuff them in Vietnamese summer rolls 

          Serve raw in a salad

 

EASY ASIAN KELP NOODLE SALAD

The first time you make a dish with kelp noodles, I would suggest keeping it simple. You'll want to see if you like the taste.  Soak the kelp noodles in warm water with some lemon juice for about a half hour before you prepare them so they won't be so crunchy. NOTE: If you have leftovers and put them back in the refrigerator, they will get crunchy again.

I prepared an Asian dressing and served them tossed with red mizuna, edamame and toasted sesame seeds. A Japanese friend of mine noted that wakame, another sea green, would also be excellent choice to add to the kelp noodles for a delicious gluten-free dish.

 

Serves 4 as an appetizer


Ingredients

One 12 ounce package kelp noodles 

Juice of a lemon

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds 

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon agave or organic sugar

1 inch peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 cup chopped red mizuna

1/4 cup organic edamame, cooked

 

Rinse and soak the noodles for 30 minutes in warm water with the juice of one lemon.   Drain.

Toast the sesame seeds in a saute pan until lightly golden and fragrant, tossing frequently. Set aside.

Prepare the dressing in a large bowl by whisking together the brown rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave or sugar, and the ginger. 

Heat the noodles quickly in a saute pan or serve them cold.

Toss the noodles in the dressing. 

Add the red mizuna, edamame and toasted sesame seeds and serve.