Veggies on the counter

Citrus Salad with Basil-Coconut Sauce

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on January 30, 2015

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I always do my food shopping on Saturdays. I go to the farmers market in the early afternoon and buy fresh fruit and vegetables for the week. Unless I have friends coming over for dinner, I almost never plan what I’m going to bring home – I just buy seasonal and fresh produce. Last Saturday, the market stalls were filled with tons of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and lemons. Being a citrus lover, I couldn’t help but buying some, and on the way back home I even manage to peel and eat a giant orange while at the same time carrying all the bags packed full of fresh produce.

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Back at home, I fantasized about baking an old fashioned orange cake with a beautiful orange glaze, but then I just thought that the fruit was so delicious and fresh that throwing it into a cake wasn’t the best way to make it justice.

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I remembered years ago seeing Jamie Oliver on a show making a savoury basil sauce to go with a raw tomato salad, and that idea kind of got stuck in my head and ended up being the inspiration for this dish. The combination of flavours might seem unusual but it works incredibly well. I ate the salad as an afternoon snack but it could easily be served as a light dessert. Needless to say, there’s room for adaptations here: you can omit the grapefruit if you want to (subbing it for more orange and tangerine), or you can take a different route, by using pineapple instead of all the citrus (I bet it’s equally delicious).

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Citrus Salad with Basil-Coconut Sauce

Serves 2

Note: all the fruit was weighted after being peeled.

For the salad:

185 g / 1 large grape fruit

166 g / 1 large orange

75 g / 2 small tangerines

2 Tablespoons dried coconut

a small handful of goji berries

for the basil-coconut sauce:

18 g / 1 medium bunch basil leaves

4 Tablespoons coconut milk

2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the coconut until it’s fragrant and just beginning to brown.

Cut the orange and grapefruit into 0,5 cm round slices. Split the tangerines into segments and remove the pits (if they have any).

In a blender, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and process until smooth. If it’s too thick, add an extra tablespoon of coconut milk.

Put the sliced fruit in a serving plate and sprinkle with the toasted coconut and goji berries. Drizzle with the sauce and serve immediately.

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White Bean & Mushroom Stew with Thyme

Posted in appetizers, side dishes by veggies on the counter on January 22, 2015

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People often ask me how long it takes me to make a blog post. The short answer is: it depends. Some dishes take longer to prepare than others. Some foods look naturally good (like fruits and vegetables), while others need a little help (and time) to look appetizing (such as beans or tempeh, for instance). Sometimes, I know straight away what I want to do when it comes to photograph the dishes I prepare – I kind of have the pictures I want to take in mind –; other times, I have no clue of what I’m going to do.

Having said all this, I think stews such as the one I’m sharing with you today are the hardest meals to photograph. I love this kind of food, but stews in general look like an indiscernible (but incredibly tasty) mess of ingredients and are usually brown-ish in colour. This particular one demanded a lot of work. I cooked and shoot the recipe in the morning, but then, in the early afternoon, I looked at the images and wasn’t pleased. I ended up starting all over again, only to get images that I’m just relatively happy with.

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But when it comes to how the dish tastes though, that’s a whole different story. I actually make this kind of mushroom and bean stew very often because of how easy, quick and tasty it is. The addition of brewer’s yeast (you could use nutritional yeast instead) gives it complexity and complements the mushrooms’ earthy flavour beautifully. You don’t have to stick to the varieties I used here – shiitakes or the regular white button mushrooms work well too.

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White Bean & Mushroom Stew with Thyme

serves 3, as a main

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 large / 180 g onion, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

300 g baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced

285 g pleurothus mushrooms, roughly chopped

6 thyme sprigs

255 g / 1 ½ cups cooked white beans

310 ml / 1 ¼ cups water

2 Tablespoons brewer’s yeast

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons tomato puree

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cassava starch (or corn starch)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft (about 5 minutes). Add the mushrooms and thyme sprigs and cook, stirring often, for additional 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms shrink considerably.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the water, brewer’s yeast, lemon juice and tomato puree. In another bowl, gradually mix the cassava starch with ¼ cup of the brewer’s yeast and tomato sauce. Add the cassava mixture back to the bowl with the sauce and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Add the beans and the sauce to the skillet with the mushrooms and let it boil for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and reduces a bit. Remove the thyme sprigs and serve immediately with crusty bread on the side.

Little Energy Bites, Three Ways

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on January 12, 2015

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The other day I was going to dinner at my brother’s and was asked to bring dessert. My first plan was to bake a cake – a carrot one – but I didn’t have much time and ended up improvising these raw truffles with the ingredients I already had at home. By now you already know that I’m the kind of cook who likes to “freestyle” in the kitchen, combining ingredients, adjusting here and there, and tasting as I go. The truffles I bring you today were made just like that, with the sort of approach I usually use when cooking savoury dishes.01_collage02_final_resized

Turns out, everyone at the table loved the truffles. The cashew, currant and turmeric version is inspired in one of my all-time favourite protein bars, while the one with sunflower seeds and maca powder in it is my brother’s personal favourite (he likes warmer, toasty flavours). I’m particularly happy with the hemp seed, coconut and lime combo though, because it’s fresh and exotic at the same time.

Needless to say, you don’t have to stick with the ingredients I used and should feel free to make your own combinations too. Instead of sunflower seeds, you could use toasted hazelnuts, and if you’re not a fan of maca, you could probably substitute it for a combination of spices such as ginger and/or nutmeg (although not in the same proportion). The possibilities are endless here, just have some fun mix and matching and I’m sure you’ll come up with something delicious.

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Little Energy Bites, Three Ways

makes 24 truffles, 8 of each flavour

Sunflower Seed, Figs & Maca

55 g / 1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds, lightly toasted

95 g / about 12 small dried figs, chopped

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon Maca powder

1 Tablespoon Water

pinch of salt

cocoa powder for coating

Add the sunflower seeds to the bowl of a food processor and run the machine until they’re finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients and process once again until a paste comes together. Form 8 truffles with your hands. Roll the truffles in cocoa powder and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Cashew, Currants & Turmeric

78 g / ½ cup cashews

40 g / 1/3 cup currants

1 ½ Tablespoons brown rice syrup

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

zest of one orange

pinch of salt

Pulverize the cashews in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and run the machine until a paste comes together. Shape the mixture into 8 balls.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Hemp Seeds, Coconut & Lime

60 g / 1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon raw shelled hemp seeds

2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup

5 Tablespoons dried shredded coconut, plus extra for coating

zest of one lime

pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and run the machine until you get a paste-like mixture. Shape the mixture into 8 truffles – this mixture will be a softer than the other two, but the truffles will harden in the fridge. Roll the truffles into shredded coconut (I like to mix some extra lime zest with coconut). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Green Monster Soup with Za’atar Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Posted in soups by veggies on the counter on January 6, 2015

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I love a good bowl of soup anytime of the year, but I tend to eat a lot more soup during the cold winter months. Usually people tend to think of soup as the kind of dish where they can throw in as many vegetables as they have lying around in the fridge. I tend to think the opposite actually, and like to take a “less is more” approach when it comes to soup making.

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This soup in particular is made with three different greens (spinach, cabbage and turnip tops) and has sweet potatoes and a little amount of rolled oats in it to make it creamier and balance the greens’ natural bitterness. There’s also ginger for some heat, and a crunchy seed topping to keep things exciting. I usually make this soup using solely cabbage and chard, but I couldn’t find the latter this week on the market, so I just replaced it with spinach and turnip greens.

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Turnip greens are very easy to find in Portugal, but my (little) travel experience tells me it’s not an ingredient that’s easily available in other parts of Europe. If you can’t find them, use chard instead. I’d just advise you against making this an all spinach soup – maybe it’s just me, but I find spinach a little bitter (specially the new Zealand variety, which is the one I’ve used here) and that’s why I like to pair it with another green partner. I want to thank all of you who visit this blog regularly and wish you a wonderful new year. I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, eat your soup! :)

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Green Monster Soup with Za’atar Toasted Sunflower Seeds

serves 4

For the soup:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

230 g / 1 large thinly sliced onion

5 garlic cloves, minced

23 g fresh ginger, peeled and grated

240 g / 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced

225 g / half a medium sized cabbage, thinly sliced

25 g / ¼ cup rolled oats

5 cups water

225 grams spinach leaves

180 g turnip greens

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

For the za’atar toasted sunflower seeds

55 g /1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon za’atar

extra olive oil, lemon juice and za’atar for serving

For the za’atar toasted sunflower seeds: In a small bowl, combine the sunflower seeds with the oil and za’atar. Transfer the seeds to a skillet over medium-high heat and toast until they’re golden and fragrant (about 5 minutes). Reserve.

For the soup: In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 10 minutes, or until the onion has softened. If the vegetables dry out during this time, add a few tablespoons of water to loosen things up.

Next add the diced sweet potatoes, cabbage, rolled oats and 5 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil and, once boiling, decrease the heat to medium. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

Finally add the spinach and turnip greens as well as the salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Cook for additional 5 minutes, or until the spinach and turnip greens have shrunk considerably.

Transfer the soup to the bowl of a food processor. Working in batches, puree the soup until it’s creamy and smooth. Serve with plenty of za’atar sunflower seeds on top, an extra dizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.