Friday, March 29, 2013

Raw Vegan Chocolate Pudding

I first tasted Raw Vegan Chocolate Pudding about a year ago at the Elf Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant on Sunset Blvd.  Since then, I've been experimenting with different versions of this simple, rich, and reasonably healthy dessert.  What I've discovered is it's all about the cocoa powder; so use the tastiest one you can find.  My personal favorite is Dagoba organic cocoa powder.  They make a variety flavored with cinnamon and chilies that's so full flavored, I don't even have to add vanilla extract.  If you like almond extract, it's a great addition to this pudding.  Feel free to flavor as you wish.  A little sea salt might be a great complement to a very dark cocoa powder.

The easiest way to make this pudding is in a blender, but you can do it with just a folk.  Make sure the avocados are super ripe to avoid lumps.  If your pudding is lumpy, you can press it through a sieve to make it smoother.

For 4 servings:

2 large or 3 medium very ripe avocados
1/3 C organic unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 C agave syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 T almond extract (optional)

1.  Cut the avocados in half lengthwise.  Remove the pit.  Score the flesh of each avocado half and scope out into a blender or a bowl.

2.  If you're working with a strong blender, put all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Taste and add more cocoa or sweetener or flavoring(s) if you prefer.  Otherwise, start by mashing the avocado with a fork until completely smooth.  Add the agave syrup and combine.  Then stir in the cocoa powder and mix until thoroughly combined and smooth.  Add flavorings.  Chill until ready to serve.

Today's bounty included:

From County Line Harvest South:  Spring onions, chard, baby fennel, and French breakfast radishes;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Broccoli, carrots, red and green butter lettuce, spinach, russet potatoes, turnips, Lacinato kale, and arugula;

From Rancho Santa Cecilia:  Satsuma mandarins and avocados;

From Farmer Dave:  Arugula flowers;

From Silver Lake Farms:  Thyme, French sorrel, wood sorrel, baby leeks, or rosemary.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage is a wonderful vegetable whose versatility goes way beyond the seasonal favorite, corned beef and cabbage.  It's great cooked in soups and stews as well as raw in a wide variety of slaws and salads.  One of my personal favorites is simply steaming wedges of cabbage and serving them with plenty of butter, salt, and pepper.

Raw heads of cabbage can be stored for long periods; and cabbage pickles easily, too.  With little more than cabbage and salt, you can make a tasty sauerkraut that will keep in the fridge for about 6 months (see recipe from 4-20-12, spices optional).

Today's recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls is an old family favorite that I've modified slightly over the years.  Though there are several steps, it's not difficult.  And you'll end up with enough to serve a hungry family.  Leftovers keep well in the fridge for about 3 days, or you can freeze stuffed cabbage rolls (after cooking them) for 3-6 months.

I like to use my own, home-made Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce (see recipe from 9-24-10).  I keep quarts of it in the freezer.  But if you don't have any sauce of your own, canned tomato sauce is fine, though you may want to adjust the seasoning a bit.

For 12-16 rolls:

12-16 cabbage leaves, removed from the head*
1 t olive oil
2 small carrots, finely chopped
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 C cooked rice
1 egg
1/2 t salt, or to taste
1/4 t pepper, or to taste
1-1/2 C Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce + 1/2 C water OR 2 C canned tomato sauce

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Steam the cabbage leaves with a little water in a covered pot or vegetable steamer until the leaves are pliable, but not soggy.  Remove the leaves to a colander and set aside.

3.  In a small skillet, heat the oil and saute the finely chopped carrots and onions over low heat until just barely soft.  Turn off heat and set aside.

4.  In a bowl, mix together the ground beef, cooked rice, egg, salt, pepper, and sauteed onions and carrots until well combined.  You can do this with your hands, if you like.

5.  Test the seasoning of the meat mixture by making a tiny patty with a teaspoon of filling and cooking it (on both side) in a skillet (I use the same skillet that I cooked the carrots and onions in).  Add more salt and pepper to the meat mixture if necessary.**

6.  To assemble the cabbage rolls:  Working with one wilted leaf at a time, place a few tablespoons of the meat mixture in the center of the leaf.  Fold the sides of the leaf into the center, then roll up the leaf.  Place each rolled leaf in a non-reactive baking dish with a cover.***  Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves and meat mixture.

7.  If you're using a thick tomato sauce like the Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce, you may need to thin it a bit with water:  Place the tomato sauce and water in a medium bowl and whisk together until well-combined.  If you're using canned tomato sauce you probably don't need the water, but taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, or herbs, as desired.

8.  Pour 2 C tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls in the baking dish, spreading it evenly.  Cover and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 1-1/2 hrs or until the sauce is bubbling and the meat is cooked through.  Serve hot or cool and refrigerate for later use.  Re-heat before serving.

*Save the rest of the cabbage foe another use, like cole slaw.
**Feel free to add other seasonings if you like.  Hot red pepper gives this dish a spicy zing.  A little paprika is another nice addition.
***I like to use a glass baking dish or a baking dish with a glass cover so I can see what's going on inside, but any covered baking dish will do, as long as it's deep enough to hold the cabbage and the sauce snugly   If you don't have a covered baking dish, you can use any non-reactive baking dish and cover it with foil.

Friday's bounty included:

From Ranch Santa Cecilia:  Murcott tangerines;

From Jimenez Family Farms:  Broccoli, arugula, broccoli rabe, carrots, cabbage, spinach, butternut squash, and yellow onions; and

From County Line Harvest South:  Green bor kale, lettuce, baby beets, and spring onions.

By the way, fresh cabbage comes in several colors.  Here's a photo of a stunning head of red cabbage from a friend's garden.



Friday, March 15, 2013

Spicy Double Mustard Potato Salad

Here's another delicious potato salad, one that's full of spicy mustard flavor due to a lemony mustard dressing as well as the addition of finely chopped mustard greens.  I sometimes call this recipe green potato salad; and it's a perfect side for the St. Patrick's Day corned beef you might be cooking up this weekend.

Even without the corned beef, this potato salad is refreshingly tangy.  You can control the spiciness by choosing a mustard that's got just the right amount of zing for your taste.

I find it's easier to peel potatoes after boiling them.  Wait until they're cool enough to handle and you'll find the thin skin will peel off very easily.  Or you can leave the skins on if you prefer.

For 4 side servings:

2 large russet potatoes
3-4 purple scallions, finely chopped
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley
2/3 C loosely packed, finely chopped curly mustard greens
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C Lemony Mustard Dressing (see recipe below)

1.  Scrub the potatoes.  Place them in a pot with cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil and boil over medium-low heat until they can be easily pierced through with a fork.  Drain and allow potatoes to cool.

2.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off their thin skins and dice.  Place the diced potatoes in a bowl.

3.  Add the finely chopped scallions, parsley, and mustard greens as well as a little salt and pepper.  Pour the Lemony Mustard Dressing over and stir until well-mixed.  If you prefer, smash a few of the potato pieces to make a slightly smoother texture.

4.  Taste and adjust the seasoning and/or add more Lemony Mustard Dressing if you wish.

5.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lemony Mustard Dressing (double this recipe if you wish)

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T Dijon mustard
1/4 t fine grated lemon peel
1/2 t agave syrup or sugar
pinch salt

Vigorously mix all of the ingredients together with a fork or small whisk until combined.  Use immediately or store in the fridge.

Today's bounty included:

From County Line Harvest South: Mixed baby lettuces, mixed mustard greens, French breakfast radishes, baby rainbow carrots, purple scallions, scarlet turnips, and red beets;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Broccoli, Tuscan kale, potatoes, yellow onions, Chanteney carrots, cabbage, and purple curly kale.



Friday, March 8, 2013

Broccoli, Apple and Pecan Salad

Today's recipe is an easy-to-make salad that's attractive, refreshing, and a great way to use one of early spring's most nutritious vegetables - broccoli.

I like to steam or blanch my broccoli for a minute to lock in that bright green color.  It also keeps a little better in the fridge when blanched.  But you can skip this step if you prefer.

Broccoli, Apple and Pecan Salad is dressed with a lemony vinaigrette dressing.  I like to use preserved lemons for this dressing.  But if you don't have preserved lemons, you can use Eureka or Meyer lemons and grate a little peel onto the salad with a microplane grate (or not).  You can even use orange, if you prefer.

For about 4 side dish servings:

1/2 lb. broccoli
1 large Pink Lady or Fuji apple
1/4 C chopped toasted pecans
Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing (see below)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  To blanch the broccoli:  Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set it aside in the sink.  Trim the bottom end and tough outer skin on the stem of the broccoli.  Cut into medium to large florets.  Place florets in the basket of a steamer with water on the bottom.  Cover.  Bring to a boil and steam for a minute or so, until florets are bright green but the broccoli still has its crunch.  Remove from heat.  Drain, then put broccoli florets into the ice water bath to stop the cooking and set the bright green color.  When cooled, drain the broccoli well and chop into small pieces.

2.  Cut the apple in quarters lengthwise.  Remove the core.  Cut each quarter into thirds or quarters lengthwise, then cut crosswise into small pieces.

3.  Place chopped broccoli and chopped apple in a large bowl.  Add the pecans.  Toss with Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve or chill in the fridge until ready to serve.  Will keep in fridge for 2-3 days.

Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing

1 t finely minced preserved lemon peel
2-3 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 t agave syrup, simple syrup or 1/2 t honey

Mix all ingredients together until well-blended.  Use half or more of this recipe to dress the salad.  If you don't have preserved lemons, use 1 t fresh squeezed lemon juice and grate a little lemon peel over the salad before tossing.

I like to use a lot of freshly grated black pepper in this salad.

Today's bounty included:

From County Line Harvest South:  Baby red beets, radishes, purple scallions, purple curly kale, and mixed mustard greens;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Broccoli, white turnips, Chantenay carrots, space spinach, cilantro, cabbage, onions, potatoes, and Tuscan kale; and

From K and K Ranch;  Navel oranges and Murcott honey tangerines.



Friday, March 1, 2013


Italians make a lovely pickled vegetable mix called Giardiniera.  It usually consists of cauliflower, carrots, onions and red bell pepper.  Some recipes call for chunks of cabbage and/or pepperoncini as well, while others add enough red pepper flakes to give it a kick.  I've sometimes substituted romanesco for some of the cauliflower to great effect.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This Giardiniera can be poured into pints jars and processed in a hot water bath canner to make a shelf stable product that will keep for at least a year, or you can skip this step and store it in the fridge for up to 14 days.

It's delicious chopped and added to an antipasto salad or an Italian sub sandwich as well as on a relish plate.   Consider adding chopped Giardiniera to grilled cheese made with provolone cheese on Italian bread.

For about 3 pints:

2 T + 1 t kosher salt
4 C cauliflower florets
2 C peeled and sliced carrots
1 t black mustard seeds
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t black peppercorns
2 C white 5% vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
5 thin slices peeled fresh ginger
1 small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 C red bell pepper cut lengthwise into strips

1.  Add 1 t kosher salt to a large pot with 2 quarts of water (set aside 2 T kosher salt) and bring the water to a boil.

2.  Add the cauliflower florets and sliced carrots to the boiling water.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and add vegetables to an ice water bath to stop cooking.  Set aside.

3.  Put the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and black peppercorns in a medium saucepan and toast the spices over medium heat until fragrant.

4.  Add the vinegar, garlic, ginger, onion, sugar, red pepper, 2 T salt, and turmeric.  Add 1 C water.  Bring to a boil.

5.  Mix the red pepper strips with the blanched cauliflower and carrots.

For shelf-stable canned Giardiniera:  Pack the vegetables tightly into clean, hot pint jars.  Pour the hot brine over the vegetables.  Remove any air bubbles with a plastic knife.  Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth.  Screw on the lids.  Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.  Remove from canner and allow to cool completely.  Check seals.  Allow sealed jars to sit to 2-5 days before opening.  Store any unsealed or open jars in the fridge.

For quick pickles:  In a non-reactive and heat-resistant container, pour the hot brine over the vegetables.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 days before using.  Store quick pickles in the fridge for up to 14 days.

Today's bounty included:

From County Line Harvest South:  Collard greens, red chard, and beets;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Space spinach, Japanese turnips, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, butternut squash, potatoes, and carrots;

From K and K Ranch:  Tangerines and navel oranges;

From Silver Lake Farms:  Assorted herbs and lemons.