Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for March, 2011

PEANUTS & KALE ANNOUNCE ENGAGEMENT

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 25, 2011

Peanut lovers like me, who never tire of those crunchy, nutty-tasting wonders, always gravitate toward recipes that include them in any form. I’m also an avid fan of kale, raw or cooked. So I thought why not combine peanuts and kale. How could I miss?

Slowly, another kale salad was beginning to take shape, but was still in the process of creative cultivation and ripening. What would the dominant flavor be? Would it be sweet, tart, savory, or a pungent kaleidoscope of all those flavors.

The decision ultimately fell onto my taste buds. They were craving a kale salad with a taste-popping dressing that could be defined as sweet and sour, but also yearned for something pungent with a strong umami edge. That magical blend of flavors spoke to me from far-away places like Thailand or possibly Indonesia, where sweet and sour sauces are king and crafted so well.

Starting with a crunchy peanut butter, I found it really easy to assemble a sweet and sour dressing within minutes. Smooth peanut butter would be all right, too, but I love the texture of those little tidbits of chopped peanuts that deliver a petite crunch with every forkful of the bite-size kale leaves. All I needed was a bowl, a wire whip, a measuring cup, and some measuring spoons. My feet sprung into action and led me instantly to “kitchenland”–my favorite little creative nook.

I chose to include another ingredient, low-fat coconut milk, to lend richness to the dressing. It would certainly have been richer still with a thick coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk, but a little restraint delivered great flavor and far less fat, especially saturated fat, and fewer calories, for sure.

I learned a little secret from a raw chef who makes heavenly kale salad. In working with raw kale to make it a little softer to the palate and to best infuse the dressing throughout, he lovingly and patiently massages the dressing into the kale pieces before adding other ingredients. The results are unmatched! The pampered kale salad becomes a divine symphony, rich with flavor notes and innovatively embellished with a chorus of sweet fruits and crunchy veggies.

Enjoy the recipe along with the great health benefits from two highly nutritious gifts of nature–kale and peanuts.

BANGKOK KALE WITH PEANUT DRESSING

Yield: 4 servings

1 large bunch kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces

Peanut Dressing
3/4 cup crunchy, unsalted peanut butter
1/2 cup low-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/4 cups chopped or whole tangerine segments
1 cup sliced hearts of palm or quartered, water-packed artichoke hearts
2 Persian cucumbers, quartered

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1. Place the prepared kale into a large, deep bowl and set aside.
2. To prepare the Peanut Dressing, combine the peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, maple syrup, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and cayenne in a medium bowl and mix well with a wire whip until creamy and well blended.
3. Measure 3/4 cup of the Peanut Dressing and pour it over the kale. With clean hands, mix and massage the dressing into the kale until it is well incorporated and the kale is well coated. Refrigerate the remaining dressing for another salad.
4. Add the tangerines, hearts of palm, and cucumbers and toss well. Divide into 4 salad plates and garnish with the diced red bell peppers.

Leftover Peanut Dressing
This dressing is so tasty you won’t need to wonder what to do with the leftovers. Here are a few ideas:

Tuck it into the fridge and pour it over next day’s steamed veggies.
Dress another salad.
Use it as a dressing over a pita sandwich filled with bean burgers and veggies.
Pour it over coleslaw and toss well.

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THE ULTIMATE NUTTY BALL-OFF

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 3, 2011

Once again, the inimitable Chef AJ set the ultimate challenge to her students to create the most delicious ball ever using nuts, fruits, seasonings and spices, and a good measure of innovation and creativity.

The stage was set. The evening had arrived. The judges had cleansed their palates and were readying their taste buds. One could almost feel the electric charge mounting in the cozy room. The crowd was large, the contestants were many and anxiously waiting for the judging to begin. The Great Ball-off was under way!

Sixteen contestants spent the previous week blending pounds of nuts of every variety with all manner of innovative ingredients to present their creations to the panel of judges. Their goal was to win the contest and bring home an autographed copy of my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet. I was privileged to be included as one the six judges of this wild and wacky contest created by Chef AJ to encourage her cooking students to leap into the creative world of the kitchen for some fun and perhaps a little mayhem.

Each of the judges was given a rating sheet and was asked to judge using four distinct categories for their criteria: appearance, creativity, texture, and taste. The challenge was on!

The balls were presented one at a time, beginning with Hawaiian Truffles. Then came Apricot Pineapples, followed by Tricky Treats, Goji Crunch Pop, Mud Bites, Pumpkin Fudgy, and Mommie’s Minty Mounds. Even the names of the balls had an inventive flair as did their presentations. Some were shaped in unique ways, while others were coated with an imaginative array of ingredients to catch the attention of the judges.

When the tasting and rating of all sixteen balls was completed, the judges gathered in a huddle to choose their top three finalists. Full of nutty balls and a little nutty spirit, we quickly came to a consensus.

Taking the top prize was the sister team Melony Jorenson and Belle Temkin with their Old Hairy Belle Peckers that were the sensation of the evening, not only for their exceptional flavor, but also because of their daring, belly-laugh producing, and shocking appearance!

Second place went to Brenda and Doug Cohen for their Helluva Hallava Bitty Balls. Landing a third place was Pam Leelayuwapan with her Goji Berry Crunch Pops.

You, too, can prepare these tasty First and Second Place prize-winning sensations in your own kitchen because the convivial sisters, Melony and Belle, and the husband and wife team, Brenda and Doug, have generously shared their recipe:

OLD HAIRY BELLE PECKERS

1 6-ounce package of dried Bartlett pears
1 cup spiced apple cider

2 cups whole almonds

1 1/2 cups dried figs
1 1/2 cups dried dates
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon caramel extract

Shredded coconut

1. Soak the dried pears in the spiced apple cider until soft. Reserve any liquid remaining.
2. Combine the nuts in the food processor with the S blade and process until they are finely ground. Add the dried figs, dates, nutmeg, and cinnamon and process until well incorporated.
3. Add the vanilla and caramel extracts and process until the mixture has the consistency of a soft dough. If needed, add some or all of the reserved cider to achieve a moist, yet firm consistency.
4. Roll the mixture into balls, then, flatten them out to make a disk. Use a penis cookie cutter or a knife to create the intended shape. Alternatively, use other cookie cutters to create your desired shape. For the finishing touch, dip the surface into the shredded coconut.

HELLUVA HALLAVA BITTY BALLS

1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
2 teaspoons raw cacao or carob powder
1/2 teaspoon maca powder
Dash cinnamon
2 tablespoons yacon syrup or date syrup
1 tablespoon raw tahini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cacao nibs (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in the food processor one at a time and process until a cohesive mass forms. Roll into bitty balls and enjoy!

Well, there you have it. These sensational little treats left us breathless and almost speechless!

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