Just nuts can be a little boring. Spice up the next batch with these seasonings for an extra-special treat! San-J has a new line of organic tamari sauces made from 100% soybeans, meaning gluten-free.
1 1/2 lb. walnuts, pecans and cashews
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
spice mix:
1/2 tsp. each: salt, ground ginger, ground chili powder
1/4 tsp. each: ground black pepper, ground coriander, ground cloves
1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. San-J Organic Tamari
1 lime, juiced
Preheat oven to 325°F. Place the nuts in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the nuts to cover. Blanch for one minute and drain well in a large strainer. Place the hot nuts in a large mixing bowl and combine with the sugar and vegetable oil. Mix well and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour the nuts in a single layer onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until the nuts are uniformly brown and crispy. Remove the nuts to a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet to cool. When completely cool, store in an airtight container.


Cook Zen Pot / Fast Forward

I had a ball trying this gadget out and if you are into instant gratification, you will instantly be hooked. Machiko Chiba, who is well known in Japan, invented this pot that works in the microwave. This device allows you to use less oil, cook meat in its own juices and maintain vitamins that would normally be washed away with boiling. It’s companion cookbook, Cook Zen, features 80 Asian-style recipes that can be a springboard for creativity. There is a slight learning curve—I played with the amount of liquids and sweeteners, reducing the amounts in most cases, and had to adjust the timing to my microwave. Then I got creative. I cooked a mini-roast beef in 4 minutes, sliced it thinly, topped some garlic toasts, and added a a tiny dollop of a mixture of horseradish, dijon, and sour cream. Eggplant with miso sauce was a delightfully sweet side dish, the eggplant was cooked to perfection in merely three minutes. After soaking for one hour, I completed a batch of sushi rice in 18 minutes—no fanning. The possibilities are endless as to what you can roll up with the rice, and if you are fearful of serving raw fish, then do what I did—incorporate the recipe for ground chicken with wasabi soy sauce and lengths of cucumber. Here’s a super-healthy selection from the cookbook.
SORAMAME (Fava Beans)
1/4 lb fresh fava beans (in the pod)
Pinch of salt
Shell and lightly wash the beans, and place in the Cook Zen. Cover and heat on medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes with the steam holes closed. Transfer the beans to a sieve and run under cool water. Peel the outer skin of the beans (which will be practically falling off) and lightly salt.


PARTY RECIPE / Mid-East-Mex Hummus

For an unforgettable twist to traditional hummus, try this recipe from Chef Ignacio Granda del Gallego. He is the executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya in Mexico. This delicious dish arrived as the amuse bouche at the resort’s spa cafe. My bouche was tantalizingly amused! The addition of the chipotle paste adds a serious kick and the shaved Reggiano Parmesan supplies a dry, salty surpise. If you are pressed for time, start with store-bought hummus.
1 lb. cooked garbanzo beans
1 tbsp. tahini
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. of chipotle paste
1 tsp. lemon juice
Sliced baguette
Cilantro-infused olive oil
Blend the first five ingredients until you have a smooth puree. Salt to taste. Before serving, place in a bowl and top with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. To each baguette slice, add a line of the cilantro-infused olive oil.


Pestos with Panache / Pesto Presto

Consider this a mandatory item for your freezer: Pestos with Panache. Owner Lauren Stewart has created an inspired line of revolutionary flavor combinations, including Proscuitto and Smoked Almond, Succulent Strawberry, and is putting the final touches on two exotic new flavors. One taste will cast all doubts aside! See the website for recipes, including this wonderful tug-of-war of sweet and savory. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
1 container of Pumpkin Chilpotle Pesto
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup assorted dried fruit, chopped
1 cup crushed Amaretti (or macaroon) cookies
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
dash pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
15 fresh sage leaves
2 packages wonton wrappers (100 wrappers)
1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Filling: Combine filling ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup cookie crumbs for topping.
Sauce: In a sauté pan, heat butter on high heat until foam subsides. Remove from heat and add sage leaves. Set aside and keep warm.
To assemble ravioli: Moisten a wonton skin with water. Place another skin on top and press to seal. Put a spoonful of filling on dough, moisten edges, and fold over to make a triangle, sealing edges. Cook in a large pot of rapidly boiling water for about 3 and1/2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to warm sage butter. Top with grated asiago and crushed cookies.

RECIPE / luscious LAMB

I adapted this recipe from Healthy Food, Healthy You, which is one of my go-to cookbooks, and jam-packed with unusual and intriguing combinations. Almost every recipe is accompanied by a photo, which is mandatory for my favorite cookbooks, which I end up using more as a visual stimulus than anything else. (Amazon, and Alibris have some used copies, get one!)
I tweaked the spiced lamb burger recipe, and loved the results. Into ground lamb I added:
small cubes of roasted butternut squash, mashed (make sure you have a sharp knife—it is a royal pain to cut because the squash is so hard, but totally worth the effort in the end.)
chile powder
minced onion
and lots of cilantro.
Fried the burgers up in a pan, with some olive oil.
Two serving versions: Place on top of mashed sweet potatoes with a green salad. Or, mix with whole wheat pasta and top with fresh fennel tops from baby fennel bulbs.



click image to enlarge
"unexpected taste combinations"


RECIPE / leafy chicken bites

EXPERIMENT: This dish is healthy, pretty, and substantial at the same time, which is the combination I am always looking for when serving guests, as the alcohol is flowing and we all want to stay beautiful. It starts out with breaded chicken cutlets, which are then cut into bite-sized pieces and wrapped in fresh spinach leaves. Adding a tiny spoonful of chutney before wrapping adds a densely-sweet spark. (click on photo to enlarge)
First, I marinated the cutlets in: sour cream, lots of cumin, fresh squeezed garlic, lots of lemon juice, salt, pepper, cayenne and a little Piri Piri condiment from Vervacious. Normally, I would have used yogurt in the marinade, but I had the sour cream and did not feel like leaving the apartment. So, the sour cream went in for the test. If you have ever marinated chicken in yogurt, you know that it changes the texture--meaning, it sort of pulverizes it, making it very soft and blown up. I am sure Harold McGee has a perfect scientific explanation for this...
To make the bread crumbs, I used a frozen leftover baguette, and grated it using a box grater (which is a mini workout). To the crumbs I added: grated Locatelli romano cheese, freshly crushed coriander seeds (more arm exercise, remember to switch arms), lots of oregano, amd Simply Organic garlic pepper.
After about 3 hours of marinating time I dipped the chicken with its creamy coating right into the breadcrumbs, seeing if I really needed to add egg. (Next time I will add the egg, because some of the crumbs began to fall off while frying.) Fried them in olive oil, and set on a paper towel to blot and get firm.
When they cooled off a bit, I took the spinach leaves and made the rolls. It tasted pretty good just like that, but my taste buds were craving a little surprise, which is when I decided to add the chutney. I had Stonewall Kitchen's Old Farmhouse Chutney, but also recommend The Virginia Chutney Co, which I wrote up in my Organic Spa Magazine column's March/April '09 issue.
Oh, and I think the sour cream worked just as well as yogurt, as far as softening...