Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for March, 2010

CUDDLE UP WITH DUMPLINGS WINTER, SUMMER, SPRING, AND FALL

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 30, 2010

Folksy and downright delicious old-fashioned American comfort food—that’s what dumplings are to this home chef. And it doesn’t take a connoisseur to recognize that these irresistible sweet potato dumplings are so homey and captivating they could easily steal the spotlight from your main dish. Come to think of it, they’re so nutritious they COULD be the main dish. The two Brazil nut-enhanced tomato sauces elevate the recipe into one with a healthy level of protein and fiber, along with the immune boosting mineral selenium.

Ideally, many might consider a dish like sweet potato dumplings more suited for serving during the fall and winter season. And, I must admit it’s deeply soul satisfying when the sun abandons the sky and paints it gray for the day or the rains come pouring down and all I want is something warm, savory, and hearty.

That’s when I resort to the Winter Tomato Brazil Nut Sauce. So what’s the difference between the Winter and Summer sauce? Simple—fresh tomatoes in the winter cost more than a Harley-Davidson and taste like dehydrated dishwater! I save them for summertime when they’re bright red, succulent, and sweet.

In winter I turn to canned tomato paste and canned plum tomatoes and perk up the sauce with one of my favorite nuts–Brazil nuts. I count on those awesome nuts to bring a nutritious richness to the sauce. And by the way, Brazil nuts serve as a great thickener to any sauce. Just grinding them into a buttery paste in the food processor before adding them to the sauce will make you a Brazil nut devotee forever!

Summer is not so far away now, so I’m gearing up to be prepared with something special to share. Below you’ll find the recipe for a great tasting Summer Tomato Brazil Nut Sauce as well as the winter version. And if wishing really hard could make things come true, then I’ll wish for summer to arrive ahead of schedule—even if it’s just a few days early– and look forward to cooking up a batch of thick, red, saucy and sumptuous Summer Tomato Brazil Nut bliss to serve with these easy to make dumplings.

I made this recipe to bring to a veggie potluck, so I kept them homespun and unencumbered with extra ingredients. That turned out to be a smart idea and allowed the dumplings to be appreciated for their simplicity. The rave reviews were my reward, and I even had two requests for the recipe, which I’ll gladly share. But somehow I have the desire to tinker with the recipe.

Next time I make them I plan to light a little spark—perhaps I’ll include chopped sweet onions or green onions, minced carrots, and minced garlic—perhaps finely chopped spinach that might turn the dumplings into a vastly different gastronomic experience. If I make these in the summer, chopped zucchini or pattypan squash would be tasty add-ins.

If you’re wondering whether yams and sweet potatoes will be available in summer, don’t worry. Many markets carry the Jewel yams even during the summer.
The easiest way to enjoy these delicious dumplings is to prepare them a day or two before serving, place them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them. You can even prepare the sauce in advance, and refrigerate it in a covered container. Shortly before serving, combine the dumplings and the sauce in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and warm at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

SWEET POTATO DUMPLINGS WITH TOMATO BRAZIL NUT SAUCE

Yield: 28 golden dumplings or about 6 servings

3 pounds yellow or orange sweet potatoes (yams)

1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, shiny side down. Place the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for 50 to 70 minutes, or until they are softened.
2. While the potatoes are baking, place the flour in a large bowl. Fill a 6- to 10-quart stockpot two-thirds full with water, cover, and set aside.
3. When the potatoes are done, peel them and add them to the flour. Add the salt and turmeric, and mix well to form a stiff dough. You may find it’s easier to mix the dough with your hands.
4. Bring the stockpot water to a boil over high heat. Spoon out heaping tablespoons of sweet potato dough and roll each one between the palms to form a dumpling about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. When you have formed about 4 or 5 dumplings, carefully lower them into the boiling water with a spoon and boil them for 2 to 3 minutes or until they begin to float to the surface.
5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked dumplings to a dish and repeat the rolling and boiling process with the remainder of the dough.

Winter Tomato Brazil Nut Sauce

Yield: 6 to 7 cups

3 cups water
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, coarsely broken with a fork
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 1/2 teaspoons organic sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup raw Brazil nuts

1. Combine all the ingredients, except the Brazil nuts, in a stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat, if needed, to avoid burning the sauce.
2. While the sauce is simmering, grind the Brazil nuts to a buttery meal in several batches in a mini chopper/grinder or small electric coffee grinder.
3. Add the nut meal to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes longer. The sauce will thicken considerably. Thin the sauce with a little water if needed.

Summer Tomato Brazil Nut Sauce

Yield: 6 servings

3/4 cup raw Brazil nuts

3 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes

1 medium onion, cut into quarters

1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 sprigs fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1. Place the Brazil nuts into the food processor and process until creamy and buttery. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the nut butter to a small bowl and set aside. There is no need to wash the food processor.
2. Coarsely chop the tomatoes in the food processor. If you prefer a smoother, less chunky sauce, process a little longer to desired consistency. Transfer the tomatoes into a large skillet or wok.
3. Finely chop the onion in the food processor and add to the skillet.
4. Add the bell pepper, basil, garlic, oregano, fennel seeds, rosemary, and marjoram to the skillet, and cook about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Add the salt and Brazil nut butter and cook a few minutes longer until thickened. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Posted in Brazil nuts, Nut Recipes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

PISTACHIO CRAVINGS PRODUCE PISTACHIO ALCHEMY

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 6, 2010

While on vacation recently I began craving pistachios. To my surprise there wasn’t a single pistachio kernel to be bought. They were absolutely unavailable in the Philippines where my husband and I were visiting our son in Manila.

The notion of deprivation only served to spark my imagination. Soon pistachio thoughts drifted into a number of possible recipe ideas. The most potent of the creative sparks began to take shape in the form of cookies enhanced with ground pistachios. These cookies would be soft and chewy but dotted with a touch of crunch. And being so far away from home, I was surrounded by exotic herbs and spices. I could imagine infusing those pistachio cookies with an awesome combination flavors that came from the nuts’ own Middle East and Caucasus homeland—enhancers like rose water, cardamom, and saffron.

It worked! And my brief separation from those wonderful little nuts only made me grow fonder of them. As a result, the cookies not only have the ground pistachios comprising part of the flour, but they also have an appealing cluster of the nuts to garnish the tops.

Because this recipe contains no eggs, the cookies have no cholesterol. I’ve added liquid lecithin from soy to help bind the dough together. You can find lecithin at natural food markets.

Millet provides the delightful touch of crunch and certainly adds to the cookie’s nutritional value. This easy-to-prepare recipe is based on an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie recipe. I’ve adapted it to add unique texture and exceptional flavors that make these little treats quite special. I hope you find them as compelling as I have.

PISTACHIO PARADISE COOKIES

Yield: 3 dozen

2 cups whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup well packed brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked millet
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, divided

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large)
2/3 cup dairy-free margarine
3 tablespoons rose water
2 tablespoons liquid lecithin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 large jellyroll pans with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, millet, baking powder, cardamom, soda, saffron, and salt and mix well. Break up any brown sugar lumps. Set the mixture aside and prepare the wet ingredients.
3. Measure 1/2 cup of the pistachios, and set it aside. Place the remaining 1 cup of pistachios into the food processor and pulse and process until finely ground into a powdery meal. Add the bananas, margarine, rose water, lecithin, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter will become quite firm. Form heaping tablespoons of the batter into 2-inch cookies, placing them about 2 inches apart on the baking pan. Flatten them slightly and press a tiny cluster of the reserved 1/2 cup of pistachios into the center of each cookie.
5. Bake for 13 minutes. Then, reverse the positions of the cookie sheets and bake 4 minutes longer or until the cookies are nicely browned on the bottom. Remove the cookies to a dish to cool completely. If the cookies on the top rack need browning, move them to the bottom rack for an extra 2 to 3 minutes. The cookies will firm when completely cooled.
6. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the cookies in layers with parchment or waxed paper between the layers.

Posted in Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, pistachios, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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