25 August 2013

Melon and Avocado Refresher

As I write this, it is pouring outside and the temperature online reads 15 C (59 F). It doesn't feel fitting to share such a cooling summer recipe at the moment, but I've made it several times in the recent warm days and really love it. Plus I know many of you in the Northern hemisphere are probably still flaunting your cute shorts and sun-kissed bare skin and can certainly use such a recipe.

Summer melons, stone fruit, and vegetables are bursting with a vibrant flavor that is clean and bright in a way no other season's produce come close to matching. Little preparation needs to be done in order to bring out this vibrancy. And if we listen, this lesson to think and act simply in the kitchen is what summer whispers to us each year. But it doesn't stop in the kitchen, it applies to everything we do. Don't you find it is easier to let our minds wander and get the best of us? It takes much more focus and awareness to just be, to be present in the moment and quiet our minds.

I deliberately challenged myself to make a simple recipe as a reminder to declutter the thoughts in my head and make space for quiet simplicity. Because being present and quiet is very nourishing. For me whole nourishment is more than just the food I prepare and enjoy, it's a holistic approach to health. It's the sum of nourishing the body, mind, and soul. And I can't help but see that the way we think about food and what we choose to eat is connected to the way we approach life and nourish other aspects of our being. Health is dynamic, the mind-body-soul connection is real, and I have found summer to be a great time to focus on quiet simplicity, in the kitchen and beyond.

Melon and Avocado Refresher
Serves 2-4

1 small Galia melon (or other green melon variety such as Honeydew or Jerusalem), cut in bite size pieces
1 avocado, diced
1 large scallion/green onion (2 small), chopped
Juice from 1/2 lime
Few pinches chipotle chili powder or regular chili powder (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Drizzle honey
Pinch salt
Handful cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds, toasted

In the bottom of a medium serving bowl, add lime juice, chili powder, and the next four ingredients (through cilantro). Add the melon and avocado and gently stir to coat with the vinaigrette. Scatter around pumpkin seeds and extra cilantro to garnish, and serve. 

20 August 2013

Nectarine Galette with Sour Cream Pastry

This is a no-fuss rustic nectarine tart to match the casual mood of the remaining summer days. It's not summer in my opinion without one of these. Yes, there's dough-making involved, but it's a simple, free-form dough that's fitting for summer. And it's the kind of soft and slightly flaky dough I feel works really well in a rustic tart. Nectarines are fabulous here at the moment, and although they were great on this Bircher muesli,  I wanted to make sure they were the star of the show before summer got away. But if peaches or plums are better where you are, they would work well here too.

Nectarine Galette with Sour Cream Pastry
Serves 4-6
Notes: Other flours or an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend may be substituted in the pastry. However, regular whole wheat flour will be too heavy and should not be used.
The almond flour layer is important because it absorbs juice from the nectarines  and prevents the dough from becoming soggy.

Sour Cream Pastry
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup light spelt flour
Heaping 1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. cold butter (56 gr), cut into chunks (or cold coconut oil)
1/4 cup sour cream (or full-fat yogurt)
1 Tbsp. almond oil (or other mild oil)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup ice water

Almond Flour Layer
2 Tbsp. almond flour/meal
2 tsp. arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 Tbsp. muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
Pinch salt

Nectarine Filling
Notes: If your nectarines are not very sweet you may need to add more sugar

3 medium, ripe but firm nectarines, sliced (6-8 slices per nectarine)
2 Tbsp. muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
3 tsp. arrowroot (or all-purpose flour)
Splash almond extract
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Squeeze of lemon juice

Apricot or peach jam (optional)
Sour cream or yogurt, sweetened with maple syrup and almond extract (optional)

Dough: Add flours and salt to a food processor and pulse once to combine. Add butter and pulse several times until the mixture is sandy. Add sour cream, oil, and maple syrup and blend until just combined. Then blend in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until mixture starts to come together. You may not have to use all the water. I had to, but altitude, humidity level, etc. will affect this. The dough won't form a ball but if you press dough together between your fingers it should be moist enough to stick together. When this happens, pour contents out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, knead just to form a ball, then wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Prepare almond flour mixture by mixing all ingredients in a small bowl. Prepare nectarine filling in a medium bowl by gently tossing sliced nectarines with remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Assemble: Once dough has chilled, unwrap the plastic and place dough on a piece of parchment paper (or baking mat). Place the plastic over the dough and roll it out in a rough circle, approximately 10-10 1/2 inches in diameter (or ~ 1/8 inch thick). Transfer parchment paper with dough onto a baking sheet. Spread the almond flour evenly over center of the dough, leaving a 2 inch border. Then place nectarines on top of the almond flour, in whichever organized or non-organized fashion you desire, overlapping slightly. Fold edges of the dough up and over the filling, overlapping dough as you go.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Remove and brush crush with jam (optional). Let tart rest for 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with sour cream or yogurt, if desired.

13 August 2013

Cherry-Choco Antioxidant Smoothie

There is such an abundance of juicy, ripe produce in the markets at the moment that I can barely keep my head on straight when I shop. August is the month when early and late summer produce all must share the limelight. Everything is at its peak ripeness and you can almost taste the sunshine in each bite; cherries, nectarines, melons, tomatoes, corn, zucchini...the list goes on. I can sense fall around the corner, but I am not ready for these summer jewels to go away. Ifeellike thejust gohere! I am insatiable, and in fact, I still have recipes to share with you that honor sweet corn and tomatoes, honeydew (galia) melon, and nectarines.

But today the attention is on cherries. I grabbed two cartons of cherries recently; one for now and the other to freeze. Some found their way into this smoothie which is a great summer morning antioxidant-rich drink. Here's why you should be enjoying it right now.

Cherries: Packed with antioxidants to protect against heart disease and cancer; anti-inflammatory properties reduce symptoms of arthritis and gout as well as joint soreness for athletes.

Spinach: High dose of phytonutrients that play an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant role; excellent source of Vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium for bone health; good source of iron.

Raw cacao - Consumed in moderation, cacao can be beneficial due to its very rich source of antioxidants and minerals. It also adds a depth and richness that you can't always pinpoint.

Cherry-Choco Antioxidant Smoothie
Serves 1

Notes: If cherries are not in season where you live, frozen cherries work just as well.

1 cup cherries, pitted (use frozen if not in season)
1 Tbsp. almond butter
1/2 avocado
1 small banana
Handful spinach (kale or chard work too)
2-3 tsp. raw cacao powder (unsweetened cocoa powder can work in a pinch)
1/4 - 1/3 cup almond milk
4 ice cubes (leave out if using frozen cherries)

Add everything to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Optional Add-Ins
2-3 tsp. Maca powder
1 Tbsp. Hemp seeds
2-3 tsp. bee pollen
Cacao nibs (to top)

Or pour into a bowl and top with granola and/or cacao nibs. Happy days.

08 August 2013

Happy Bircher Muesli

I'm not unique when I claim Bircher muesli as one of my top go-to breakfasts during the 
warm months. It is appealing to many of us thanks to minimal prep work the night before, next to none the morning of, and the fact that it is cooling and light but still filling. Not to mention the benefits of improved digestion and absorption of nutrients from the soaking process.

Switzerland is the birthplace of Bircher muesli, and it shows up everywhere you turn; at hotel breakfasts, community events, and in grocers where you can buy it pre-made or as the packaged mix of raw oats, dried fruit, and nuts ready to be soaked. Over time I've made many versions of this muesli, but the version I'm sharing today keeps it simple and clean and is one of my favorites.

I like using a combination of rolled oats and rolled spelt (also know as dinkel) because the spelt is nuttier and thicker, contributing to more textural interest and complex flavor. Additionally spelt and oats are both a surprisingly good source of protein. Spelt in all forms (rolled, whole berries, and flour) is readily available in Europe. In the U.S., Bob's Red Mill, along with other natural food brands, makes rolled spelt and can be found in Whole Foods and on Amazon. 

If you cannot find rolled spelt or are gluten-free, using only rolled oats is also delicious. But either way, I prefer a quick toasting of the oats and nuts before soaking because it helps the oats absorb the liquid while keeping some shape, and it adds a deeper nutty element to the end product. The morning of, stir in chia seeds for an Omega 3 boost and to firm up the mixture and top with seasonal fruit; right now I am enjoying the contrast of tangy red currant and juicy, sweet nectarine. In the fall I like to add grated apple and pear.

Happy Bircher Muesli
Serves 1

Notes: Want a head start on breakfast for the whole week? Multiply the recipe for the desired servings, toast oats and nuts, and store in an airtight container. Each night, scoop out a portion to prepare and soak.
Rolled oats should be the 'old-fashioned' type, not the fine-cut/quick-cooking.

Night Before
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup rolled spelt
1 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (nut, coconut-rice, rice, or hemp milk are all great choices)
2 Tbsp. natural, plain sheep's milk yogurt (or other yogurt of choice)
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses (or squeeze of lemon)

Spread oats and sunflower seeds on a small baking sheet. Place in the middle of the oven and broil for 3-5 minutes, stirring halfway through, until lightly brown and toasted. Remove and let cool.

In a small glass container, mix toasted oats and nuts with the remaining ingredients, cover, and leave in the refrigerator to soak overnight.

Morning Of
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
Red currants (another tart-sweet berry such as raspberry, boysenberry, or blueberries work as well)
1 nectarine, chopped
Honey or maple syrup to drizzle, if needed

Remove muesli from the refrigerator and stir in chia seeds, if using. Let sit for 5 minutes so the mixture firms up. Add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, if needed, and top with fruit.