purée roasted cauliflower soup with dukkah

soup season! finally! i seem to never tire of soup during the cooler months. they are simple, nourishing, comforting and the best left-over meal imaginable. i roast whole chickens on a regular basis, just so that i can make batches of homemade chicken stock... and enjoy the tasty chicken too. but the stock! oh my word! i've been saving every scrap of vegetable - carrot tops, celery stems butts, onion skins (which are highly concentrated with bionutrients!!) - and storing them in the freezer until the next batch of stock. it's a wonderful way to use the whole of every plant, and adds depth to your homemade stock. oh and don't throw away the rinds to parmesan cheese. save them in the freezer until your next batch of vegetable or chicken stock! 

eating on the wild side ... and a bowl of homemade spiced lentil soup inspired by sprouted kitchen 

this past week, i was fending off a cold. which for the first time in my life, i think i actually successfully fended off a cold. usually there is a valiant effort of resistance against getting sick, and then one day it takes hold and you are inevitably sick. not this time! this time, i saw the signs, and fought back with vegetables. seriously. i've been reading this wonderful book 'eating on the wild side' all week. it is fascinating and packed with valuable information about how to choose/store/prepare vegetables to retain the most nutritional and medicinal benefits. you think you know something about nutrition, and then this book blows your mind. 

for example, i learned that if you crush or chop garlic and then let it rest for 10 minutes before exposing it to heat, you will retain more valuable antibacterial and antioxidant properties. the book explains why smaller yellow onions have higher concentrations of nutrients and antioxidants than larger or sweeter onions. i learned about all the sexy cancer-fighting benefits of cauliflower, and that even white cauliflower is packed with nutrients (although other colors still rank higher)... so i put this all into practice when i noticed a stuffy nose and ate a lot of alliums, mushrooms and miso soup, and this delightful soup, and magically did not fall sick. instead, i went and kicked some butt at my first real climbing competition. plant powered and strong. 

puréed roasted cauliflower & parsnip soup with dukkah ~ serves 10
2 heads white or yellow cauliflower (about 2 1/2 lbs)
2 lbs parsnips
1 lb small yellow onions
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons olive oil, split
6 cloves garlic
3 quarts homemade or store bought stock of choice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoons ground black pepper
dukkah (see recipe below) 
chopped parsley for garnish
parsley oil for garnish (optional) 

note: this made a rather large batch, but the soup freezes well for wonderful leftovers. you could easily halve this recipe if you prefer

preheat oven to 425. cut cauliflower into evenly sized florets, and chop stems into 1 inch cubes. toss cauliflower in a large mixing bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. toss to coat and then spread cauliflower out onto two large baking sheets. spread out so the cauliflower is not mounded and there is space for them to roast, not steam. roast for 20-30 minutes until bottoms are browned. let cool. 

in the mean time, crush garlic and let rest in a bowl for 10 minutes. chop onions and sauté in 3 tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot for about 5 minutes, until soft. clean but do not peel the parsnips (the skin has tons of nutrients!) chop parsnips into small cubes and add parsnips, garlic, salt and cumin to the pot and sauté for a few additional minutes. add just enough stock to completely submerge the parsnips. simmer covered, for about 15 minutes until parsnips are fork tender. add the roasted cauliflower (saving a few florets for garnishing soups) and add more broth to just submerge the cauliflower. return to a simmer, covered, and cook until cauliflower stars to fall apart - about 10 minutes. 

you could use a immersion blender, however i couldn't get quite the smooth consistency i was looking for with my immersion blender, so i processed the soup in smaller batches in my blender. return blended soup to pot and stir in additional broth if the consistency feels to thick for your liking. 

serve bowls of soup with a good tablespoon of dukkah sprinkled on top, the reserved roasted cauliflower florets, parsley and/or parsley oil. 

parsley oil ~ makes about 1 cup
1 bunch or 2 cups loosely packed parsley, stems removed
1 cup organic olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed

wash and dry parsley, then remove stems. place parsley into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped - alternatively you can hand chop parsley, it just takes longer than 5 seconds. place chopped parsley in a medium sauté pan with 1 clove crushed garlic and 1 cup olive oil. sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes until parsley is a rich, deep green color and not fried brown. remove from heat and let sit for at least one hour. up to 8. use a fine-mesh cheesecloth to strain the parsley from the oil. squeeze out all the oil and store in an air tight jar or chef squeeze bottle. store in cool dark place with other oils. drizzle parsley oil over soups, salad, eggs, or mix into vinaigrettes or simple marinades. it adds beautiful color to any artful plating. 

dukkah egyptian nut & spice blend ~ makes about 1 cup 
recipe adapted from 'my new roots

1 cup raw hazelnuts
½ cup raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt

in a dry skillet over medium heat, roast coriander and cumin seeds together until fragrant, stirring often (about 2 minutes). place seeds in mortar (or spice grinder) along with the black peppercorns. return skillet to medium heat and roast hazelnuts until fragrant, stirring often (about 10 minutes). let hazelnuts cool on a plate. finally, toast sesame seeds over medium heat until fragrant, stirring often (3-5 minutes) then let cool. 
grind spices finely and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. rub hazelnuts together or in a cloth to remove skins. hand-chop or pulse hazelnuts in food processor until they resemble coarse bread crumbs. transfer hazelnuts to bowl with spice mixture. add salt and toasted sesame seeds. stir to combine. let cool completely then store in airtight jar for up to one month. serve dukkah over soups, salads, roasted vegetables, sautéed greens, fried eggs, or traditionally as a dip with bread and olive oil.

fava bean fūl

there is something about fall that makes me crave simplicity. simple joys like walking down our street and looking up at the remaining colorful leaves in the trees or biting into a first-of-the-season washington apple. there are so many wonderful seasonal flavors to enjoy during the fall! lingering heirloom tomatoes and chili peppers from the farmers market. the arrival of fall squash and pumpkin. bountiful leafy greens... all things i love to enjoy simply prepared.

tomorrow i am teaching a private cooking lesson with a focus on mediterranean cuisine. i am quite excited! we'll be sampling flavors and dishes from morocco, egypt, cyprus and turkey... four countries i've spent collectively about half a year living/traveling in. i had quite a bit of fun designing this cooking lesson and day dreaming about past adventures. while putting together my menu and recipes, i realized how simple mediterranean food can be. when you have delicious seasonal ingredients, you don't need a lot of frill or flair. you just need a bit of intuition and a few basic cooking skills in order to craft a delicious and nourishing meal. i suppose the ability to artfully plate a pile of wilted greens and smushed beans only adds to the enjoyment of simple foods. 

a bit about this dish... fūl, or ful medames, is a traditional egyptian dish served often for breakfast or lunch. cooked fava beans are blended with simple spices, oil and lemon juice (almost like a warm hummus) topped with diced vegetables, herbs or boiled eggs. there are tons of different versions, this is just my favorite pairing. fava beans and chard! 

fava bean fūl serves 2-4

2 cups cooked fava beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup chopped tomatoes for garnish (optional)
¼ cup parsley for garnish (optional)

1 large bunch rainbow chard
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon aleppo pepper
salt to taste

gently mash fava beans with a fork. heat olive oil in a sauté pan over low heat. warm the fava beans and add the remaining ingredients. cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes and continue to mash until smooth.

sauté garlic in olive oil and add chard and water and sauté over medium heat until water is evaporated and greens are tender. season to taste. to plate, spread fava bean mixture onto a platter and top with sautéed chard. garnish with aleppo pepper, chopped tomatoes, chillies, parsley, hard boiled eggs or chopped red onion. 

'halva' energy balls with kasha

today i got a little taste of being a celebrity chef. well sort of. i had the opportunity to be interviewed on natural choice network's radio show! i was joined by carey thornton, an instructor from seattle tilth who teaches all sorts of interesting things and is an expert on all things pickled and preserved. together, we talked about different methods of preserving harvests, the difference between pickling and fermenting, where to buy bulk farm fresh produce, and about foods fit for hiking, camping or any outdoor adventure. you can listen to the full segment via the networks archive (listen here) and as promised, i wanted to share with all the listeners my favorite trail food recipe and share some links for a few of the things mentioned during the show! 

first, let's talk about a typical day hike or full day adventure. most likely, pack weight is not a huge issue in comparison to an overnight backpacking trip where every ounce counts... in those cases, dehydrated food is key. especially if you'll be replenishing your water mid trip. but when it's just a single day, you are going to need adequate hydration anyways - so whether that comes from food or water, you'll be carrying the same water weight no matter what. 

for a typically day hiking around and climbing outdoors, david and i typically hit the trail with: (1) smoothies - packed with frozen fruit so that it stays cold event after we take it out of the cooler in the car, (2) energy balls - recipe below - or some other kind of nut-based snack, like these pecan flour biscuits, (3) salmon jerky - we love loki fish's salmon jerky, an avocado in a tupperware or some hard cheese, and my favorite 'all rye' breaf from tall grass bakery and (4) nuun tablets, which david recently became obsessed with. 

photo/gif by james ransom

i'll also mention my other favorite product for packing snacks. bee's wrap! it's like reusable plastic wrap!!! it's durable, washable, and is perfect for tossing into your backpack! pack it in, pack it out. you can find it on provisions (which by the way, if you want to do me a solid, you can follow this referral link!!! you get a $20 credit and then i get a nice little credit to provisions for purchasing more food photography props for this blog... so please, help a gal clutter up her kitchen even more!) 

and finally. this recipe for my favorite day-hike snack. you can use any type of nut butter really, or any type of dried fruit in place of the goji berries. if using tahini, note that the 365 brand tahini is very runny in comparison to other brands. i'll have to test the recipe sometime with another brand tahini to see if proportions need to change. but the final texture should not be overly crumbly or too sticky. 

buckwheat groats & a snack pack

"halva" energy balls with kasha ~ makes about 15 balls
2/3 cup organic tahini (i used whole foods 365 brand) 
3/4 cup toasted kasha (aka buckwheat groats)
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup dried goji berries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt

in a food processor, combine chopped dates and dried fruit. pulse until finely chopped. add tahini (or another nut butter), honey and salt and pulse to combine. transfer mixture to a bowl and add kasha and chia seeds. use hands to evenly mix. wash your hands (clean hands make it easier to roll the balls), then scoop up about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and roll it into a ball, compressing them a bit with your palms so that the kasha does not crumble apart. set finished balls into a tupperware. store in airtight container in the fridge or freezer. they do not require refrigeration (they are fine for multi-day hikes), but they store longer in the fridge and even longer in the freezer. 

eggplant fesenjan

it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to turn off my brain. it keeps swirling with thoughts of all kinds. david left before the sun rose this morning for a short climbing trip to cananda. he asked me what my plans were for the weekend. my response was simply to "be active." because when i allow my body to stop moving, this is when the thoughts swirl aggressively. there's a sanskrit word for this state of mind in the yoga practice: "vrittis." yoga is one way to calm this whirlpool in the mind - it is a moving meditation. for me, cycling, climbing and even sometimes cooking are other ways to calm my mind … between all of my daily activities, i find myself almost constantly in a state of moving meditation.

so this morning i visited a friend's yoga class. (doing exactly what i told david i would do. be active.) her words challenged my perception of this constant state of movement. she questioned whether movement was sometimes used as a distraction from the bigger picture. it struck a cord with me. why am i stuck in this whirpool when my body finds stillness? i have much to reflect on and need to create more time to simply sit, reflect, journal or discuss. in stillness.

on an entirely different note, i have an incredible recipe to share. it's my vegetarian take on a dish my father often made for us when i was growing up. the recipe for fesenjan originally came from a iranian family friend. it is a rich & tangy persian stew made with chicken, walnuts and pomegranate. these flavors came to mind the other day, but i wanted to create a meal to feature beauitful eggplants i had picked up fresh from the farmers market. and here you have it. eggplant fesenjan. 

eggplant fesenjan ~ serves 4
for the sauce 
1 onion, finely chopped 
2 cups raw walnuts
2 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
1/4 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup or 1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon aleppo chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 pinch saffron

for the eggplant
6 small japanese or chinese eggplant
1 tablespoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon aleppo chili flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

saffron rice
2 cups jasmine rice
3 cups water
1 pinch saffron
chopped parsley for garnish

starting with the sauce, finely chop walnuts by hand or in a food processor until just a bit courser than a nut flour. in a medium-large sauce pan, sauté chopped onion over medium heat in oil or ghee for 5 minutes until caramelized. add tomato sauce and sauté for another 2 minutes. add remaining ingredients and simmer for 30-40 minutes. oils will start to draw out from the walnuts and the sauce will reduce in half. once the sauce starts to simmer, start cooking rice and then roast the eggplants. 

for the rice, i divided the rice into two pots and cooked one with saffron and the other without. this is how my dad used to cook the rice for a beautiful contrast in color and presentation. or sometimes he would just top white rice with a smaller scoop of deeply saffron-colored rice. alternatively, you can cook all rice together with a pinch of saffron for a lightly-colored rice. 

for the eggplant, preheat oven to 400 degrees. cut eggplants in half and use a sharp knife to score the flesh in an 'x' pattern. be careful not to cut through the skin of the eggplant, but cut fairly deep. mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and poor evenly over the fleshy part of each eggplant. use your hands to rub the spiced oil mixture into the flesh, and lightly on the skin of the eggplants. place onto a parchment lined baking sheet skin-side down. depending on the size of the eggplants, roast for 20-30 minutes until skin is lightly crisped and flesh is fork tender. i'd suggest waiting to roast the eggplants until you have the sauce simmering and rice steaming.

to serve, toss saffron rice with white rice and top with baked eggplant and a small cup of stew or douse it directly on top!

whole milk ricotta & fig balsamic reduction

a few weeks ago i made 4 gallons of 'fresh breeze' whole milk into a giant batch of homemade ricotta cheese for a very large tasting event. thank goodness for ginormous all-clad pot for my parents gifted to me years ago, because i needed every single ounce of ricotta from that single batch. it was a project that took over my whole kitchen for the good part of an afternoon, but i assure you that ricotta is a much simpler endeavor when you are making small batches and takes hardly any more effort then it does to make a pot of tea so long as you have the right tools. it's one of those things that afterwards, when you are spooning fresh warm ricotta straight from the cheesecloth you ask yourself "why don't i make this more often?" because it's not just a lasagna filling. you don't even have to make it into anything really! you can just pile some on top of fresh fruit and call it breakfast... or dessert... or a sweet mid-day snack... 

whole milk ricotta & fruit ~ serves 2 
6 fresh figs
1 ripe nectarine or peach 
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon fig balsamic reduction (see recipe below) 
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (see recipe below) 
mint leaves (optional) 

remove stems and slice figs into quarters. divide onto two plates. slice nectarine or beach into small bites and divide evenly onto the plates. top with 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta on each, and drizzle with equal amounts honey & balsamic reduction. top with torn mint leaves. 

for fig balsamic reduction
2 cup inexpensive aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons store bought fig preserves/jam

in a small sauce pan bring balsamic to a simmer, lower heat so that balsamic is hardly bubbling but steaming. simmer until volume reduces to a quarter. once reduced, add fig preserves (or 1 tablespoon honey) and stir to dissolve. remove from heat and let chill in a jar or squeeze bottle.

whole milk ricotta ~ makes about 20 oz 

1 gallon organic whole milk 
1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 

you will also need butter muslin or very fine-mesh cheese cloth. a nut milk bag would work as well! 

in large pot stir together milk with the citric acid & water solution. heat milk on stove top over medium heat to 185 degrees, keep covered to warm quicker, but stir often to prevent milk from scorching. keep the milk mixture simmering at 185-195 degrees until you start to see curds separate from the whey. the whey will become less milky and more clear - it will become distinctly curdy! at this point, remove pot from heat and let sit, undisturbed, for 10-15 minutes. 

line a colander with cheese cloth and carefully ladle the curds from the pot directly into the cheesecloth to strain. tie the ends of the cloth around the cheese and hang to drain for 20-30 minutes, or let rest suspended in a bowl in your strainer (as pictured above). mix with salt and serve immediately at room temperature or store in airtight container for 1-2 weeks.