Veggies on the counter

Carrot Fritter with Sunflower, Pumpkin Seed & Harissa Sauce

Posted in appetizers, breakfast & brunch, main courses by veggies on the counter on August 31, 2015

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One of my grandmother’s signature dishes is carrot fritters. They’re all small and irregular in shape, and are pan-fried until golden brown, sometimes on the verge of burnt around the edges. She usually serves them with broccoli rice on the side, which is actually just rice cooked with broccoli florets on top, but tastes delicious nonetheless. The simple meals I have at her place are some of the best I’ve ever had (her lentil rissoles are insane, as it’s her sautéed cabbage with peas and mint), proving that vegan food doesn’t have to be complicated to be tasty or rely heavily on expensive, hard to find ingredients.

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The other day I had a sudden urge to eat the carrot fritters and made my own version of her classic, only slightly changing the shape and making one big fritter instead of various small ones. I also added chickpea flour instead of wheat flour to bump up the protein content of my fritter. This one isn’t a particularly inventive recipe, but I’m amazed at how good it tastes, especially when served with the sunflower and pumpkin sauce. I don’t generally like to brag about recipes, but this is one really is a hell of a sauce. It’s very easy to put together and doubles as a pasta and salad sauce too. Plus, it’s full of healthy fatty acids, which is good for you and your skin.

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Now, into more specifics: the fritter’s “dough” might seem like it doesn’t hold together very well, but I can assure you it won’t fall apart while cooking. Using a non-stick frying pan (look for non-teflon options, like these), or seasoning your regular pan with a generous glug of olive oil is key here, since you don’t want all that crispy bits to get stuck.

Hope you like the fritter as much as I do. I’m already thinking about how I’ll style and shoot the next recipe (which happens to be today’s dinner), so see you soon!

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Carrot Fritter with Sunflower, Pumpkin Seed and Harissa Sauce

Serves 2, as a main

For the Carrot Fritter

2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil or olive oil, divided

3 large carrots, grated

½ teaspoon sea salt

freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 heaped Tablespoons chickpea flour

For the Sunflower, Pumpkin Seed & Harissa Sauce

2 ½ Tablespoons Sunflower seeds

2 ½ Tablespoons Pumpkin seeds

juice of one lime

7 Tablespoons water

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 /2 teaspoons harissa

¼ teaspoon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Combine the sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a medium sized bowl. Pour one cup of boiling water over them, cover with a lid and let the seeds soak for at least 1 hour. After that time, drain and add them, along with the other ingredients for the sauce, to a blender. Blitz until you get a creamy, smooth mixture. If it seems too thick, add a little more water (1 or 2 Tablespoons should do). Adjust the seasoning before serving.

Combine all the ingredients for the fritter in a large bowl. Add 1 Tablespoon of coconut or olive oil to a small, 18 cm in diameter non stick frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the carrot mixture. Using a spatula, spread the carrot mixture over the pan, smoothing the surface by gently pressing it down. Cook for 4-5 minutes. After that time, place a plate over the top of the frying pan and gently flip the fritter over. Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut or olive oil to the pan, return it to the heat and, once hot, add the fritter back in, golden side up. Fry for additional 5 minutes. Serve with the sauce.

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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.

Coconut, Roasted Banana and Passion Fruit Tart

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on August 27, 2014

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I live in an apartment and therefore do not have any available outdoor space to grow vegetables and fruit (the balcony doesn’t count). However, though, I’m lucky enough to have friends who, knowing my obsession with food and natural produce, occasionally bring me goodies from their gardens. This time around, my dear friend Filipa has brought me tons of thyme, an extra large zucchini (they’re everywhere around this time of the year, aren’t they?) and a bag full of passion fruit.

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I knew straight way what to do with the first two ingredients (a huge batch of za’atar with the thyme, and a simple zucchini and apple soup), but I struggled with the latter. I’ve never been a huge fan of passion fruit, but knowing how outstanding it looks on desserts, specially cheesecakes and the like, I decided to make a tart with it. I approached it the way I usually do with vegan cheesecake-y desserts – I’m not a fan of using tofu, so the filling was coconut and banana based, firmed up with the help of Mr. Agar. I was very happy with how it turned out, specially because the filling had just the right texture – not too firm, but not too jiggly either. Eaten cold, I dare say it was probably the best dessert I’ve made this year.

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Coconut, Roasted Banana and Passion Fruit Tart

(serves 8)

for the crust:

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 1/2 cups oat flour (gluten free or not)

2 Tbs. flaxseed meal + 1/4 cup water

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

for the filling:

400 ml /2 cans full fat coconut milk

2 tsp. agar agar flakes

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, and seeds scraped

2 Tbs. tapioca starch

5 Tbs. water

for the passion fruit sauce:

6 medium sized passion fruit

3 Tbs. brown rice syrup

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350F. Line two small trays with parchment paper. Add the banana, unpeeled, to one of the trays, and the sunflower seeds to the other. Put the trays in the oven and roast the seeds for 10-15 minutes (redistribute them halfway through, so they’re evenly toasted), and the banana for 5 minutes longer. Take the trays out of the oven and let the seeds and banana cool down.

2. When the toasted seeds are cool enough to handle, add them to a food processor and process until finely ground. In a large bowl, add the seeds, oat flour and salt. In another bowl, add the flaxseed meal along with 1/4 cup of water. Mix well and add the coconut oil and brown rice syrup, stirring everything together until thoroughly combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry one and mix until a firm dough comes together. If the dough seems wet, add a little more flour. Basically, it’s perfect as long as it doesn’t stick to your hands or the bowl.

3. Lightly oil a 33 x 9 cm non stick pie pan and, with your fingers, press the dough into it. Cover it with parchment paper, add some beans or pie weights and blind bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are golden brown.

4. While the crust is baking, make the filling. In a small bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch and 5 Tbs. of water until well combined. In a small pot over low-medium heat, add the coconut milk, agar agar flakes, vanilla seeds and brown rice syrup. Whisk the mixture constantly for about 8 minutes. Now, add the tapioca mixture to the pot and whisk for additional 2 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened.

5. Unpeel the banana and add it to a blender or food processor. Add the coconut milk mixture and blend until smooth. Add the filling to the previously baked crust. Let it cool to room temperature and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

6. Right before serving, cut the passion fruit in half and extract their pulp with a spoon to a bowl. Add the brown rice syrup and stir to incorporate. Drizzle the sauce over the tart and serve.

Grilled Asparagus with Sunflower Seed Sauce and Gram Crêpes

Posted in side dishes by veggies on the counter on May 6, 2013

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I frequently spot asparagus in supermarkets and groceries stores, but they’re so expensive around here that I tend not to buy them. Plus, they usually come from very far away, which means long airplane travels and refrigeration time. I often wonder how long they have been harvested, and as much as I like eating them, that thought keeps me away from bringing them home. However, the other day I spotted locally sourced fresh asparagus and, knowing they’re in season, I prepared a simple and practical dish with this spring treat. The thing with asparagus is that you don’t want to overcook them as well as masking their flavour by combining them with a hundred different ingredients. With that in mind, this recipe came to live. The sunflower sauce is creamy and delicate in flavour making  a perfect match for the grilled asparagus. I have a recipe for gram crêpes deep in the archives but, as I’m too lazy to check it out and because it’s a simple one to write down, I’m reposting it here again. Hope you enjoy this one, I’ll be coming back soon. (;

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Grilled Asparagus with Sunflower Seed Sauce and Gram Crêpes

(serves 2)

1 bunch / 300g asparagus, trimmed

olive oil

salt

for the sunflower seed sauce:

¼ c. / 35 g sunflower seeds

¼ c. / 65 ml hot water

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon sal

freshly ground black pepper

for the gram crêpes:

¼ c. / 35 g gram flour

½ c. /125 ml warm water

¼ teaspoon salt

olive oil

For the sauce, add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Process on high speed for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce gets a fairly smooth consistency. Add more hot water if you want to thin it out a bit and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

To grill the asparagus, start by brushing a griddle pan with olive oil. Turn the heat to medium-high and when the pan is hot, but no smoking, add the asparagus. Sprinkle them with sea salt and grill for 3-5 minutes on each side or until they get visible grilling marks. Set aside.

For the gram crêpes, mix all the ingredients (except the olive oil) in a bowl. Whisk until you get a thin batter with no visible lumps. In the meantime, and using a pastry brush, grease non-stick frying pan and heat it to medium heat. When the pan is hot, but not smoking, add 1/3 cup of the gram batter to it, making sure it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, being careful not to break the crêpe when turning it over. Add the remaining 1/3 cup of batter to the pan and repeat the proceeding.

To assemble, arrange the asparagus on a plate, spoon the sauce over them and serve the gram crêpes on the side.