Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The most delicious and clean tacos ever! Sweet Potato with Greens and Plantain Tortillas, Paleo, Vegan and Awesome

Today is Cinco de Mayo (yay!) it is also the middle of a strict springtime vegan-paleo goal for me. So what to do. I looooove Mexican foods, it will be one of my favorite cuisines ever and always. My eyes were first opened to mind blowing vegan Mexican food at Gracias Madre in SF. I was lucky to eat there many times, but it was a taco plate when I first fell in love. There were piles of cooked leafy greens, spiced sweet potatoes, and all the crunchy toppings. I think there were beans and loads of their wonderful freshly made tortillas. This today is my homage to them.  The tortilla making is easy as pie, but if you love corn tortillas-by all means use those!

Paleo Plantain Tortillas 
Chili Sweet Potato, Leafy Greens, and Avocado

Makes about 14 tortillas (taco "corn-tortilla" sized)

  • 4 green plantains
  • 1/4 cup hot water (or more)
Leafy Greens:
  • 1 bunch collards, swiss chard, or kale
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt
Sweet Potatoes:
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1  teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Raddishes
  • Cilantro
  • Salsa

For these tortillas I want a savory or neutral sort of flavor so we use the unripe or green plantains. Peeling them can be a little bit of a chore, here is a link to my earlier instructions how to do this quickly. The plantains need to be peeled and sliced into chunks before boiling for 20 minutes. You will see the raw plantain is a very pale yellow color, once it has cooked in the boiling water there's a much deeper yellow color to the flesh. 

When the plantains are fork tender drain into a colander in the sink. Wait 5 minutes so they cool a bit. Place plantains in the bowl of a standing mixer, mix on low for about 5-8 minutes. If you have the plastic guard that keeps things from jumping out the sides of the bowl now is the time to use it. If not you can hold a tea towel around the top of the bowl until pieces stop trying to jump out. 

At first it may seem very dry and crumbly, but there is a nice point when everything comes dough like. Depending on your plantains and how ripe and cooked they are this may take more time than you expect just keep the mixer on. If everything is looking very dry, which happens due to moisture escaping through the steam, add a splash of hot water until you have a consistency like cookie dough. 

With our plantain massa ready we can move onto shaping and cooking the tortillas:

You will need a tortilla press or two rigid cutting boards. Parchment paper folded in half or a plastic bag cut into two pieces.Some coconut oil or other oil of your choice. A hot griddle or frypan. 
  1. Heat the griddle.
  2. Apply a tiny bit of coconut oil to the inside spots of the full department where you will flatten the dough. 
  3. Roll a ball of the dough in your hands.
  4. Place in between the two sheets of parchment or plastic
  5. Position this parchment sandwich in between your two cutting board or tortilla press. 
  6. Press straight down, with all your bodyweight. 
  7. Remove the top cutting board and check your tortilla. 
  8. Peel off the parchment carefully, this is easier than you imagine.
  9. Move the tortilla in hand directly to the griddle.
  10. Cook on each side for about 5 minutes. They will look dry, pale, with not much color. The edges will turn out just a bit. 
Repeat until the dough is all used up! 

Cut a bunch of collards or Swiss chard into thin ribbons. Cook on the stove with two cloves of minced garlic, salt, a teaspoon of cumin, and a 1/2 cup of water. Simmer and sauté until the water has about braided and your greens are tender and bright. 

Cube your sweet potatoes into roughly half inch pieces. Toss to coat with olive oil  and 1 to 2 teaspoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Spread on a sheet pan in one layer. Bake roast at 350° for about 30 minutes, until they're tender. There is no need to stir the sweet potatoes while they are roasting see you can just forget about them until the timer beeps!

Clearly, tacos should be assembled right as you are going to eat them. Place a small bed of greens as a base on the tortilla, followed by sweet potatoes, then topped off with thin slices of avocado, radish, cabbage and cilantro. salsa or hot sauce is always a good idea in my book.

***The tortillas will keep for a few days in the fridge kept sealed up in a bag. Very good just microwaved for 20 seconds to warm them up again. Or even better, throw on a hot dry pan till warm.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chocolate Lovers Ganache Tart / Vegan and Paleo

This may be the most simple decadent chocolate dessert. Chocolate ganache in a chocolate nut crust, serve it with whipped coconut cream and berries (or whipped cream for you milk lovers). Bring it along to a pot luck, or if you are like me, cut thin slivers off the leftover piece in the fridge, eating them standing up in the kitchen. Somehow it all disappeared too quickly.
cocoa and coconut syrup for the crust.
I needed to whip up a dessert to bring to a girlfriends dinner party over the weekend. I was late, as usual I had overbooked my day, and had not left much time to bake. Rifling through my recipe box the ganache stared at me. It had been staring at me for a few weeks. I used to make it often, but it had been ages. It would be fast, simple, and with minimal baking time of about 10 minutes. Perfect! 
Flax seed hydrating in water.
I whipped it up, no problem, and threw it in the fridge to set. But, I needed to be getting on my way over to the party and it hadn't quite set yet...really not much at all...it was still jell-O jiggling. So I fitted a basked with ice packs and my chocolate tart and crossed my fingers that any chocolate flood would stay off the car carpet. Miraculously not a drop was spilled, we stuck it in her fridge when I arrived. By the time for dessert it was well set and ready to slice with a sharp knife. 
Serve small pieces, it is quite rich and depending on the chocolate you use, can be on the bitter side. Better to see who really loves chocolate and wants to come back for more. 

If you have even a moderately stocked kitchen, you can probably throw this together from things in your panty. Usually I make one large tart in a fluted pan with a removable bottom. A very elegant, shinny, solid chocolate presentation. This time I used a throw away aluminum pan because I misplaced my tart pan. And sometimes, I make small personal tarts, they are easy and adorable. The crust to ganache ratio is different, but with some berries would be quite balanced. 

Chocolate Lovers Ganache Tart / Vegan and Paleo

  • 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (sifted makes your life easier)
  • 1.5 Tablespoon coconut syrup (honey, or maple syrup)
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 lb (16 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (Taza or other vegan chocolate)
  • 1 Tablespoon dark rum

Preheat oven to 350°. (makes a 9" or 10" tart pan, a 9" pie plate, or about 10 small tartlets)

Mix flax seed and water in a bowl. Let sit to hydrate for 5 minutes. 
Add cocoa powder and coconut syrup to the flax seed. Mix together with a rubber spatula. If you wisely sifted the cocoa powder this will go easily. If you are absent minded, like me, and didn't sift, you will now need to mush up many of the cocoa clumps. Sing something good, it goes by faster.
Add the almond meal and salt to the chocolate mixture. Mix everything together using the spatula. It will be dry and difficult at first, mix for about 1 minute and you will find it becomes more like a moist dough. 

Lightly grease your pan. Using your fingers, press the chocolate dough into a crust in your tart pan. Go up and sides and make sure there are no holes. If your hands get sticky, rinse them under cool water and return to crust making. 

Blind bake the crust for about 10 minutes in the 350° oven. Looking for it to puff slightly and smell a little toasted. There is nothing which needs to be cooked out, the flax will set and the almonds will be toasted. You can't mess it up, is what i'm saying. Just don't forget it and burn it. 
You can do this next step while the tart is baking. Open a can of full fat coconut milk, put in a saucepan and put on a medium low heat. Weigh out 1 pound of chocolate bits. If you have a chocolate bar, cut it into pieces. With a spatula, stir the coconut milk so it warms up but does not scorch. Heat it to just less than a simmer, just a few bubbles around the edge of the pan.
Turn off the heat. Pour in all the chocolate bits. Nudge them with your spatula to submerge them. But don't stir. (Double check the flame is turned off!) Give it a moment to melt all on its own.

About now you can remember to remove the tart crust from the oven to cool a bit.

Give the melting chocolate a stir or two. It will melt with no more heat, just stir with the spatula, it likes that. Once it is all velvety and smooth, you are home free. Stir the rum into the chocolate, stir to combine, and pour all the amazing melty chocolate into the chocolate crust. Dab the spatula on the top to flatten out the ripples. Place in the fridge to chill. This should happen in an hour or two, depending on how thick your tart pan is. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Red Pozole with Chicken Meatballs

Many of you were clamoring for this recipe after a cooking demo the other day. If you can make soup, you can make this Red Pozole, it is quite simple. The rich flavors of dried chilies which make up the velvety broth are both earthy and seductive. 

In my cooking demo set up you can see red chilies soaking in the top left corner. The dried chilies are soaked for about 30 minutes in warm water, then blended to a puree, which I can most closely associate with canned tomato sauce. It is used for the same reasons you would add tomato puree into a soup or stew, adding sweetness, body, color and character. The chilies are not too spicy, there is a warmth to the whole dish, but seems to be palatable even for children.  

The garnishes are an essential part of this dish, radish, shredded green cabbage, cilantro, and lime. The sour, herbal, and fresh crunchy elements provide a totally needed balance for the warm meat stew. 

Pozole tradition goes back a long time! It is from southern Mexico, a traditional dish of the Aztec people. Usually it is made with shredded meat, meatballs are a novelty. But I think they fit perfectly here. The hominy is puffy and round and the meatballs just a little larger.

A word about hominy, or pozole as some call it. It is a very cool, ancient way of treating corn kernels to 1) make more nutrients available to the body, 2) make the corn shelf stable, 3) make the corn able to turn into a dough.

Corn is treated with something alkaline, like ash or lyme, which breaks down the cellulose walls of the kernel, changes some of the oils, and links the proteins. Called nixtimalization, it basically transforms into a way healthier form of itself. Ground cornmeal and water does not form a dough on its own, but ground hominy corn and water will form a dough, called masa, used to make white corn tortillas for example.  Hominy grits are also made from this treated corn.

Dont quote me, but I have heard that you could survive healthily for a good while on just hominy corn, because of how the proteins changed. But if you tried to survive on plain old yellow corn, you would quickly become malnourished. Cool, right. This is hominy corn, bright white, fluffy and soft.

For the Meatballs (about 6 pounds of 1" chicken meatballs, shot in black and white)

Red Pozole with Chicken Meatballs

For the meatballs:
2 slices stale bread, no crusts (gluten free works!)
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
1 teaspoon garlic powder
teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
teaspoon salt

For the Pozole:
5 dried New Mexico chilies. no seeds/stems (see: Tip)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil, or canola oil
1 entire head of garlic, cloves peeled
2 yellow onions 
4 cups hominy corn, 2 cans
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water, or more

For soup toppings:
lime wedges
sliced radish 
shredded green cabbage  

Break stems off of dried chilies and dump out as many seeds as possible. Place chilies in a bowl, cover with warm water, use a plate or a cup to keep them submerged. Soak for 30 min to rehydrate. Use caution when handling the chilies to wash your hands with soap and cold water after touching them.

Soak the crustless bread in tap water. Place in a second mixing bowl and allow it to break down. To the same bowl, add ground chicken, garlic powder, oregano, and salt. Knead well, until nearly uniform.

Form 1-inch small balls of the chicken mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot, saute chicken balls on high heat, in batches if necessary, until golden brown on most sides. About 5 minutes, they will not yet be cooked through. Remove to a plate.

Add onion and garlic to the oil. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom, for about 2 minutes. When the onion releases its juices, add the chicken broth and water and scrape any garlic and onion off the bottom. Stir in the hominy. Bring the soup just to a boil, before lowering it to a simmer.

While waiting for the soup to boil, puree the chili skins and the soaking water in a blender or food processor. Puree throughly. Strain the thick red liquid through a sieve into the soup. Straining is essential, this removes all the tough bits of chili, and seeds. All the chili flavor is extracted into the liquid, but not too much of the heat. It makes a velvety broth.

 Add all the meatballs into the simmering soup. Add more water to cover everything, if necessary. Simmer 1 hour for the best flavor. While the soup simmers, slice the radish, lime, and cabbage. When serving the soup, allow everyone to add their own toppings. 

Note: This soup comes together easily, and is impressive to serve to a crowd or party. It can be made ahead, and is even better the next day. 

Chilie Tip: Don't be put off by the large amount of dried chilies in this soup. The sweet flavor of the chili is in the soup, but the heat is mild. Ancho or Guajilo chilies can be substituted for New Mexico. A blend of all or any is good too.

Slow Cookers: Follow the recipe up to where the meatballs are added into the soup, instead of 1 hour on the stove, several hours in the slow cooker works! if that is your style.) 

For more meatball recipes, check out Global Meatballs!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Red Lentil and Bulgur Kufteh in Lettuce Leaves

Last night I was lucky to be at the super creative PEM/PM Artopia event doing a demonstration on my meatball cookbook. The theme matches so well with the museum's focus on global cross-clutural exchange that it was a fun fit. They let us pass out samples and make a mess but we couldn't actually "cook" with any flame. Besides that technical issue, it all was fun! I am so glad that so many people came out to see us!  

These Kufteh are a traditional and popular appetizer in many middle eastern homes. They are like a vegetarian meatball, the texture of a chunky hummus made from red lentils and cracked wheat. The lettuce leaf provides an enjoyable crunch and an edible wrapping. They are eaten chilled or at room temperature, and made a delicious lunch or afternoon snack. A sprinkle of finishing salt and lemon juice is usually squeezed over the top. Last night we added a sliver of spicy cucumber pickles as well. 

If the appetizer presentation doesn't suit you, try the kufteh on top a large salad. They are naturally vegan. to make a gluten free version try replacing the bulgur with quinoa (but it would have to be simmered along with the lentils.) 

Red Lentil and Bulgur Kufteh in Lettuce Leaves

makes 20 veggie balls

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1/2 cup bulgur wheat (fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper

20+ little gem lettuce leaves
1 handful parsley, chopped fine
lemon juice
spicy pickles (optional)

Toast the cumin seed in a dry pan on high heat. When the cumin becomes fragrant and the seeds darken a little in color.

Combine the lentils and water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, skim off any foam, reduce the heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Not all of the water will be absorbed. 

Add the bulgur and salt, into the pot with the lentils. Stir together, cover and let sit for 30 minutes, until the bulgur is tender and all the liquid absorbed.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes, until transparent and tender. Stir often. Add the ground cumin and stir together for about 30 seconds, then stir into the lentils and bulgur.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, beat the lentil mixture in the bowl for a few minutes. This makes the mixture creamy. If it seems dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of water at a time. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and Aleppo pepper if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Using two soup spoons form the lentil mixture into quenelles, (football shapes). Or, moisten your hands and shape the mixture into small lime-size balls. Moisten your hands again whenever the mixture begins to stick. 

Place on lettuce leaves arranged on a platter. Garnish with parsley and sprinkle with lemon juice and a dash of salt. A small slice of pickle is an untraditional but delicious addition. Serve cold or at room temperature. 

You love it? Its in my book, along with a bunch of other veggie balls and more!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Enter to Win Global Meatballs

12 hours left to enter your name in a drawing for a signed copy of my book, Global Meatballs. Just enter here, super easy!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Chermoula Chicken Boulettes AKA Paleo Chicken Balls on Sticks with Magic Sauce

Chermoula sauce is like fairy dust of the kitchen, it turns all it touches into magic food. Chermoula is a North African blend of warm spices, citrus and herbs in oil which is drizzled on everything from fish to meat and veggies. It can be used as a marinade, or a dressing. And I always wish I made a double batch, so I can drizzle its magical powers on everything. 

The chicken meatballs are so simple it is almost primitive cooking, two ingredients. Without the chermoula sauce they are almost unremarkable. Organic turkey or chicken is a good choice for all the reasons we know, environmental, health,  antibiotics, nutrition and animal rights. But also know that the flavors of the poultry are highlighted here, and it is a good time to choose the most happy organic chicken. 

This is a great dish if you are feeding friends who may or may not be gluten free, egg free or dairy free, or paleo! Obviously not a dish for vegetarians, but if you were doing a big party, I would stick some mushrooms or tofu on other skewers and let the vegetarians get some chermoula loving too.

Ground turkey is easy to find where I live, ground chicken less so. Both work. A butcher will often grind it for you, or in a pinch use a food processor to mince larger pieces of meat.

Anyway, now you have your ground or minced chicken. Mix it with the salt and form compact 1.5 inch balls of the chicken mixture. Thread them on metal or soaked wooden skewers. Place them to rest on a foil lined baking tray to rest while the chermoula sauce is made.

Place garlic, cilantro or parsley, lemon zest, paprika, chili powder, cumin, and olive oil into a blender. A blender really does a better job here than a food processor. If you live an electronics free life, do it old school with a mortar and pestle, adding oil in bit by bit as the herbs get bashed up. The sauce is not an emulsion, spices and herbs will settle out to the bottom giving it a chunky look. The flavors will blossom over time.

Drizzle just a bit of the chermoula on the uncooked meatballs. 

If your outdoor grill is covered in a snowy glacier, cook them under the broiler in your stove. With the broiler on high, line up the chicken skewers. Turning as they brown, keep a close eye on them. If your wooden skewers begin to char, cover them with some foil. 

The balls take about 10 to 12 minutes to cook through. Baste them occasionally with more sauce, or scoop up the pan drippings and use that. A thermometer at the interior should read 170° when the balls are throughly cooked.  

Remove to a plate and drizzle that chermoula sauce over them like crazy. 

Note: For individual appetizers, these can be cooked under a broiler in the same manner without the skewers. After the balls are cooked, plate up with some toothpicks. 

Chermoula Chicken Boulettes
16 medium meatballs, 4-5 servings

For the chermoula sauce:
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro or parsley
zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
pinch of salt

For the chicken balls:
1 pound ground or minced chicken
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 skewers (soak if wooden)

Find this and 101 other meatball recipes in my new book Global Meatballs! I know, that is seriously a lot of meatballs. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf with Sundried Tomatoes and Pesto

I am still cooking out of the pantry and the freezer. I think this is the last bit of quinoa in my house. So far the pantry challenge is going fine. If you missed it, look at my cupboard and freezer here. 

When I make quinoa pilaf all the veggies tend to rise to the surface during cooking. This one was different than my usual, with the addition of pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. The concentrated tomatoes gave it a wildly deep complex flavor. It is full of summer sunshine. Try it in your own kitchen. Made with frozen vegetables it a matter of dumping it all together and setting it to cook. Even the mushrooms and pesto were from the freezer.

Obviously it is easy as pie. Switch up the veggies, add in carrots or kale, you really can't go wrong.

I have a bowl as a meal by itself. It would make a luscious side to grilled fish. 

Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Pesto

2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
1/2 cup frozen or fresh leeks (sliced)
1/2 cup frozen green peas 
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1/2 cup mushrooms cooked in olive oil (frozen or fresh)
1/4 cup basil pesto
generous pinch of salt

If using fresh mushrooms, slice and saute in olive oil with a pinch of salt. Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into bite sized pieces.  Put tomatoes and green peas, leeks, mushrooms and pesto into a pan with a tight fitting lid. 

This is a quick pilaf, the kind your whip up when you want to eat soon. The sun-dried tomato richness means we can skip a sauté step and still have complex flavors.

Add the water and quinoa to the same pot. Bring it to a boil. Give it a stir, cover, and cook for 20 minutes on low heat.