Roasted Squash with Tahini

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I love combining different  elements from different regions into one dish. I suppose this is an amalgamation of moi. Born in New York, raised as a globe trotter, dotting all across Asia and Europe. How do I make sense of my whirlwind of a childhood?? By gravitating to dishes that are just that. Pulling ingredients and vegetables from polarized places in the world to create one cohesive dish. The acorn squash, which looks just like it’s namesake is indigenous to North America whereas tahini is Mediterranean. What you get is a symphony in it’s subtlety. Bursts of a creamy lemon sauce on browned edged squash, which caramelizes the flavor.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the squash which is so quintessentially Fall! Really any squash can be substituted for this dish and in fact, you can use a variety of squashes. I think the trick is peeling and cutting these tough skins. First, get a long serrated knife. Cut along the center on the squash. Remove all the seeds, in that way you can get your hand in there to cup it, while the other hands peels. Then you can chop to your preference.

Roasted Squash With Tahini

SERVES 6

Ingredients

2 large acorn squash (2 pounds), scrubbed, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges, seeded
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
Red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat to 425°. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet. You might need two baking sheets. Divide 3 tablespoons oil and 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin between sheets. Season squash with salt and pepper; toss. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon oil, and scallions in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat. Scatter scallion mixture over squash, dividing evenly between sheets, and continue to roast until squash is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes longer (time may vary depending on squash).
  3. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, tahini, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer squash to a platter. Drizzle tahini sauce over and sprinkle with red pepper.

Tom Kha Kai – Thai Coconut Soup

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Since I was ten years old, I have been traveling to Bangkok to visit my parents, who were once living there. We usually ate at home with the cooks preparing a dish that my mother taught them in Central Asian style, usually made vegetarian, because kosher meat was hard to find. Being so young, I did not venture out on my own in Bangkok and just ate what was served at home.

In my late teens, when I returned to Bangkok to visit my parents, I had more of a social circle and would go out with my father’s clients. My father operated a vast gemstone business where he would broker deals between the miners and purchasers. At that time, the Holiday Inn on Silom Road opened up, and looking to try some Thai foods, I ventured over there. There was a restaurant overlooking Silom Road on the top floor of the hotel. I caught my eye on the Thai Coconut Soup called, Tom Kha Kai. It’s a coconut broth soup with seasonal vegetables, that is spicy with lime and usually made with seafood or chicken.

I explained to the waitress that I would like this soup made vegetarian, since the menu stated “with chicken”. It’s very standard for Asians to put fish broth in almost everything they cook. So when I explained to her that I was vegetarian, (because Thai think that fish broth is vegetarian), I also told her that I am allergic to any fish and meat, and I will choke and need hospital care if there is any flesh in the soup. I had to make this point clear, even though I over dramatized it. She obliged and told me, “no problem”.

Twenty minutes later, came out this lemon scented coconut rich soup that was permeating the surrounding air. I had a sip, and it was AMAZING! I loved the juxtapositions of flavors that just worked. Spicy, sour and sweet, all at the same time. Years later, being now, I have replicated this soup. It is so easy to make and so flavorful.  It will impress all your friends. Trust me. Since I am in full fledged CSA season, I have just added the vegetables that I had available. You can add any vegtable like, even tomatoes work.

A note about the noodles and lemongrass. You may have heard of Zero Noddles, which is the same as Tofu Shiritake. It’s a traditional Japanese noodle made from the konjac plant, which contains high amount of fiber and zero carbs. It has no taste and like tofu, absorbs the flavors of the surrounding ingredients. You can find it in any Asian supermarket or health food store. Lemongrass is prevalent in Thai cooking, and is optional in this recipe, but if you have it or can get your hands on it, it makes the difference and adds more of a citrus zing to the soup, which also is great for colds and flu.

Tom Kha Kai

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces tofu shiritake
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk

1 (14-ounce) can water (use the coconut can to measure)
1-2 stalks minced lemongrass, optional*
2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
3 large minced shallots
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Lots of seasonal vegetables, for example this pot had:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
16 ounces shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions, sliced
Garnish with squeeze of fresh lime juice and handful of fresh cilantro into each bowl

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium high heat, bring the coconut milk, water, lemongrass (if using), ginger, shallots, red pepper flakes and salt to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.
  2. Add the seasonal vegetables to the simmering coconut milk, and cook until just tender. Depending on the vegetables used, it can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles from the bag and mix into the soup. Cook an additional 7 minutes.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a generous squeeze of lime and lots of cilantro.

* You can find fresh lemongrass in most Asian food and grocery stores. It is usually located with the other fresh produce, and is often sold in bundles of 2 or 3 stalks. When buying fresh lemongrass: Look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed, and of a lemony-green color on the lower stalk (near the bulb). The softer, fleshier part of the lemongrass – which is what you want to use in your cooking – is located under the tough outer leaves. Peel away these layers with your fingers and discard. What you will uncover is a pale yellow stalk that is softer and easier to slice. Cut off two inches from the bulb and make thin slices up to 2/3 of the stalk. Stop slicing when the stalk is no longer yellow and “fleshy”. Because lemongrass is so firm and fibrous, it helps to process the slices a little further. Place the lemongrass in a food processor (or chopper) and process well on “high”, OR pound for a minute or two with a pestle & mortar. Now it’s ready to use in your cooking. You can store leftovers in freezer bags and store in the freeze for up to six months.

Gluten Free Spiced Banana Nut Cookies

The true origin of Bananas is found in the region of Malaysia. By way of curious travelers, it ended up in India.  Alexander the Great relished his first taste of the banana, and is credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. In the late part of the 1800’s is when Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country.

Ever since then, bananas have been used as a sweetener in many desserts. These moist banana morsels are an ode to the past, and yet modernized with rolled oats which adds just the right amount of crunch and fiber. Oats contain a healthy dose of soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber in oats is slow to be digested, making you fuller longer. The fiber in oats is also beneficial to the digestive tract in keeping the bowels functioning regularly.

Mashed ripe bananas and dates adds sweetness and flavor – a delicious way to use up your overripe bananas, and add even more of a nutritional value to these cookies.Forget about buying all those power bars with complicated ingredients, instead bake these amazingly simple, gluten free and vegan nuggets and enjoy it on the go.

Yields 36 cookies

Ingredients


3 overripe bananas
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in the oats, dates, oil, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and ground cardamom. Mix well and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Grease a cookie sheet and then drop teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Indian Carrot Pudding ~ Gajar Halvah



A very popular and traditional Indian dessert that is served on festivals- Halvah, which means sweet in arabic. Gajar halva is typically made with sautéing fresh carrots in ghee and cream, however this dessert is made with vegan butter and coconut milk, reducing the calories and making it dairy free. Carrots are naturally sweet and have been used for thousands of years along the Silk Route, as a sweetener is desserts in lieu of sugar. This halva is adorned with chopped pistachios and jeweled raisins with just a hint of cardamom. A little of this densely decadent pudding goes a long way, since it is so rich and flavorful. Can be served warm or cold with a dollop of ice cream after a spicy meal.

Serves 6

Ingredients


¼ cup vegan butter

6 medium carrots, shredded

2 cups coconut milk

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup golden raisins

4 cardamom pods, bruised

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted pistachios, crushed (garnish)



Instructions

                      1      Melt butter in a skillet and then add carrots. Reduce heat to medium low and coat carrots in butter.

                      2      Stir in the coconut milk and simmer uncovered on low heat for 45 minutes; stirring occasionally.

                      3      Stir in the brown sugar, raisins, cardamom, and salt. Stir constantly until all the sugar is dissolved into a pudding like consistency; about 15 minutes.

                     4      Wait until slightly cool to transfer to small dessert bowls. Store in the fridge and when ready to serve, invert onto a dessert plate and garnish with pistachios.




Banana Coconut 5 Spice Muffins

With winter upon us, it’s easy to picture oneself on a tropical island, under the shade of a coconut palm. But even if the mercury does eventually head north, a taste of the tropics remains as close as these bite size banana coconut muffins laced with Chinese 5 Spice. Quick to throw together and under 30 minutes to bake, these individually sized muffins will dreamily take you to the sunny isles.


It might seem like an odd combination, but actually- banana, coconut and Chinese 5 Spice all originate from the Southeastern part of Asia. Marrying them together into these intoxicatingly sweet and nutty morsels made sense.


In Sanskrit (ancient Hindu language), the coconut is viewed as the kalpa vriksha (“the tree which provides all the necessities of life”). Virtually every part of the coconut palm can be utilized in some manner. Such is the case with these muffins- the coconut milk is used in place of regular milk;  coconut oil for baking;  and the white coconut meat is used as a confection. It’s wonderful when you can create something that utilizes all parts of a plant, and nothing goes to waste.


Chinese 5 Spice was originally used to make perfumes, but now is used in avant garde savory desserts. The formula is based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang in foods. The most common combination in 5 Spice is bajiao (star anise), clovescinnamonhuajiao (Sichuan pepper) and ground fennel seeds.


To finish off the muffins I sprinkled them with coconut flakes, because I love the crunchy texture it gives to baked goods.  The coconut flavor permeated the entire muffin and gave a subtle sweet note that you don’t normally find in a banana muffin, while the 5 spice gave them a warmth, and the bananas themselves allowed the muffins to be nice and moist. 



Makes 14

Ingredients
2/3 cup organic coconut milk 
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
2 1/2 All Purpose Gluten Free Flour 
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1 teaspoon 5 spice Asian powder 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed slightly so liquified 
2/3 cup packed brown sugar 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
2 large organic eggs 
3 very ripe medium bananas, mashed well 


Instructions
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Line 14 muffin tins with paper liners.
  3. Whisk together flour, shredded coconut, spices, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  4. Whisk together coconut oil and sugar until well combined, then whisk in vanilla, eggs and then bananas until well blended.
  5. Whisk in coconut milk and lime juice, then the flour until just combined.
  6. Drop batter into prepared muffin pan until each has an equal amount, and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Bake muffins until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, and they are lightly brown about 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Peach and Raspberry Crumble

Call back the summer with an old fashioned summer dessert that relies on seasonal fruits for most of its flavors. While peach and raspberry are not in season now, I actually froze them during the summer when I had an overflow of these juicy fruits.

In my cookbook that I am in process of editing, I write about the importance of seasonal eating, but I also write about how you can capture the bounty and freeze it into a time capsule for later use.


Freezing is one of the easiest, most convenient and least time consuming ways to store fruits of the season. The extreme cold slows down the changes that affect quality or cause spoilage. Freezing fruits is ideal when you will be using it for a dessert, because the texture changes and becomes softer- better for cooking than eating thawed fruits.

These little fruit jewels naturally contain a high amount of fiber, but a crumble topping with nuts add a sprinkling of whole grains and protein. The smattering of raspberries adds a bit of color and tartness to the peaches. If you don’t care for tart then use blueberries in lieu of raspberries. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yoghurt garnished with a spring of mint for added freshness.


Serves 6


Ingredients

¾ cup brown rice flour

4 tablespoons vegan butter

½ cup buckwheat flakes (or millet flakes)

¼ cup almond meal

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and cubed

1-1/3 cup raspberries

4 tablespoon orange juice

2 tablespoons tapioca starch




Instructions


  1      Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch pie dish
    2   In a medium size bowl, place the rice flour and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the buckwheat flakes, almond meal, ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
    3      In the pie dish, combine the peaches, raspberries, orange juice, 2- tablespoons sugar and tapioca starch together. Sprinkle the crumble over the top, pressing it down lightly.

    4      Bake for 40 minutes or until the crumble is lightly browned. Serve warm or cold paired with your favorite ice cream. 



Sweet Potato Vegan Pie

What do you think of when you smell sweet potatoes roasting in the oven? How about when you see a carved pumpkin sitting on the outside steps of your neighbors’ home? I think of Fall- of course, and these orange vegetables mimic the turning of the leaves with its vibrant hues bouncing off the sun.

Thanksgiving for Vegetarians can be challenging, since it’s traditionally around a turkey, however thinking about this holiday for the real essence of what it was supposed to be is about being truly conscious of your surroundings and thankful for all that you have. In that light, you are more likely to take slow, healthier steps to consecrate this holiday in a more pleasurable way.


Thanksgiving is one of the rare holidays that my entire extended family have an opportunity to get together one time during the year. All my cousins, aunts and uncles can get together to celebrate just being together. Since we are roughly 60 people gathered in my aunt and uncles’ house, each one of us has to bring a potluck dish. This pie is my contribution and my thanksgiving to my family for our cohesiveness and a gift on how to eat tastefully and humanely.


The flavors of this orange fleshed pie are full, warm and inviting- everything you would want from a holiday pie. In fact the texture is rich and creamy, reminiscent of cheesecake with a naturally sweetened oat crust. No one ever guesses, unless I tell them that it’s vegan and that it’s made from sweet potatoes. Thanks to Stella from the Witchy Kitchen for sharing this recipe and giving the gift of this pie to my entire family.

Serve 8

Ingredients


Filling

2 (1 ½ cups) Sweet Potatoes

3/4-Cup Brown Sugar

2 tablespoons Tapioca flour

3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

¼ teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

¾ cup Unsweetened Almond Milk

1/4-Cup Plain Vegan Yogurt


Oat Crust

1 1/4 Cups Rolled Oats

1/2-Cup Pecans

6 Dates, pitted

2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

1 tablespoon Almond Butter (any nut butter can work)

3 tablespoons Cold Water


Directions
                        1      Preheat oven to 400° F.

                        2      Wash sweet potatoes and prick them with a fork. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until done.

                       3      Remove from the oven and lower heat to 350° F. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool.
                       4      Place pecans in a food processor and break down to a very course meal. Add oats and pulse a few times till they become part of the course meal. Then add the dates, oil, and almond butter. Pulse till combined (the mix will be dry). Add water and pulse once or twice.
                       5      Pour mixture into a pie pan and press it until it goes up the sides of the pan (start from the middle and move out). Place in the fridge till crust is ready for pie batter.

                       6      In a small mixing bowl, combine sugar, tapioca flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
                       7      Place the sweet potato in another mixing bowl and mash it down with a fork until it is smooth. Add the sugar mixture and combine well. Then add the almond milk, yogurt, and vanilla. Blend till completely smooth.
       8      Pour into crust and place on the middle rack oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until filling hardens. Allow cooling on a baking rack for at least 3 hours.


Spiced Pear and Almond Sesame Parfait

Last week was the final week of the fruit share for the season from my CSA. Bless them… for a good portion of the fruit share I received apples and pears. So much so – that I just could not eat them fast enough. I decided that the best use for the pears was a spiced pear parfait.


 I spiced up the pears with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom- scented them with vanilla and added some golden raisins to it. The combination of golden raisins and cardamom are classic combinations along the Silk Road- adding just a bit of bite to the sweet moist plump raisins.

Then I made some tofu cream- for all those out there that are vegan or avoiding dairy all together. I spiced up Silken Tofu with vanilla and blanched almonds. To top off this creamy Sunday, I made a sweet and salty almond crunch. 

A beautiful presentation in a glass with layers of golden pears and lightly colored cream laced with cinnamon. Whip some up in the fall when pears are at their peak. Thanks to Amy from the FragrantVanilla Cake for sharing this recipe and inspiring me to recreate desserts into healthier wholesome delights.

Serves 4


Ingredients


Pear Filling

4 Forelle Pears, peeled, cored and cubed

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup golden raisins

2-teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2-teaspoon cardamom

1/4-teaspoon nutmeg

2-teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt


Cream

1 package silken tofu

1/4-cup maple syrup 

1/4 cup blanched almonds

1/4-cup raw white sesame seeds

1-tablespoon vanilla extract

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 tsp sea salt



Nut topping (optional)

½ cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2-tablespoon maple sugar

1/8-teaspoon sea salt


                      1      Place pears in a skillet over medium heat and combine with sugar, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Stir occasionally so that the pears don’t stick to the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until pears have softened. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, and salt. Let mixture cool completely then place in the refrigerator until cold.


                       2      To make cream: In a food processor, combine tofu, maple syrup, almonds, sesame seeds, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, lemon juice and salt and process until very smooth. Place in the fridge to chill until very cold before assembling parfaits.


                         3      To make nut topping:  preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Toss almonds, sesame seeds, maple syrup and salt until well combined. Spread out on prepared sheet, and bake for 7 minutes until seeds are fragrant and toasted. Remove pan from oven and let cool completely.


                       4       To assemble:  line up 4 (8 ounce glasses). Place a third of the cream in the bottom of each, dividing evenly between the three.  Top with half the pear mixture, dividing evenly between the three, then half the remaining cream, then the rest of the pears, then the last of the cream.  Top with the almond sesame mixture. Serve immediately.




Apple Crumble

If you get a chance to do your own apple picking- do it! Driving right to the orchard, where you can set up a family picnic is an idyllic way to spend the day. Wander through the orchard with a basket in tow and breath the crisp fall air.Apple picking is one of those familiar autumn traditions and with its bounty calls for an old-fashioned apple crumble. Easy to make and a perfect dessert to beckon the Fall season with warm baked apples.  An oat crust, that cracks audibly when you press it with your fork, sandwiches a moist apple filling in a cinnamon spiced syrupy juice.  Can be served warm with vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6

 

Ingredients

 

2 cups rolled oats
¾ cup vegan butter or 1 ½ sticks vegan butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin (fugi or cameo)
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup water
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup crushed walnuts
Directions

1 Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch pie pan.

2 In a bowl, combine rolled oats,  and ½ cup butter. Knead the crumble until all ingredients are mixed well.

3 Combine sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

4 Firmly pat three quarters of the dough into the pan. With finger, spread the dough out into a thin layer. The balance of the dough will be used for the crumble topping.

5 Pour apples on top of the oat crust and then the water. Cut remaining butter into pats and place over the apples. This helps to emulsify the apples when cooking. Add remaining crumble on top of the apples, firmly patting into place. It will not completely cover the apples, but that is fine. Sprinkle walnuts over the crumble and in between the gaps.

6 Bake covered for 50 minutes. Remove the cover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

7 Let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

 

Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

The most revered legume in Biblical times was the lentil, especially in the Jewish religion where lentils were eaten during mourning symbolizing the circle of life. Although viewed since ancient times as the poor mans food, in Arab culture it is considered an energizer and has flourished into many different dishes.
Preparing this soup transports me to my biblical and ancestral ties Lentils were part of the staple diet along the Spice Route; a region well known for its curry blends. Combining an ancient legume from the East with this orange fleshed potato creates a thick and hearty soup packed with spicy flavor. This soup uses the brown lentil, which has a bland flavor, however holds their shape well in cooking and so it’s ideal for a soup stew.
Servings 8
 
Ingredients
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 12 ounces each), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 ¾ cup dry lentils, rinsed and picked through
6 cups water
2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1      In a large sauce pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until the onions start to soften. Add the sweet potatoes and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes turn a bright orange, about 10 minutes.

      2      Add curry powder, fresh ginger, cumin, coriander and ground red pepper; cook, stirring for 1 minute.
      3      Pour in vegetable broth, lentils, and water; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Add salt and adjust as necessary.