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Indian Spiced Chick Peas on Quinoa with Holy Basil, Brussels Sprouts in Ghee with Maple Syrup and Toasted Walnuts, Creamed Red Swiss Chard, Jicama, Fennel and Apple Salad
[List of Ingredients Below]
Sometimes I just love to cook! I find it relaxes me and helps me connect to the moment, especially if I am eating and cooking local fresh food from my cooking garden and the farmer's market! Sometimes food from the pantry will be perfect too. This was not a meal made with Thanksgiving in mind, but after eating it, we decided it was a meal for which to give thanks.
We honor all those hard working people from around the world who made these foods available to us. And our Mother Earth for her Bounty, may we receive the Grace and Intelligence to live in Harmony with one another and our only home, Planet Earth.
I made this amazing feast for us by accident just by trying to fix a meal based upon things left in the fridge after the initial rush of eating that week's greens from market had passed. I found I still had a head of fennel and jicama in the fridge and there were gorgeous local brussels along with a beautiful few stems left of red chard and local organic walnuts in the pantry too.
Having a love of food since I am very young, an abundance of fresh food available in California, where we lived at the time, and also having a Hindu spiritual practice with many nearby fantastic Indian cooks, I've found it hard some days to choose one type of cuisine for our meal.
This day, I grabbed a can of organic chick peas from the 'emergency' canned rations in the pantry, some half and half, some swiss chard as well as brussel sprouts all on hand. I cooked up some quinoa in the morning.
Fennel Jicama Salad
Chopped up my fennel using the cutting blade in a cuisinart, same for the jicama after peeling*. I did a flash saute of the fennel in olive oil with a bit of salt added to the pan & just cooked a few minutes at most, just to tenderize the fennel. I am someone who prefers fennel a bit cooked as opposed to eating it raw.
Then I threw the whole mess of chopped fennel and jicama into a bowl, added a big healthy splash of extra virgin olive oil, some Meyer Lemon, some salt and pepper, a dash of agave syrup and a healthy dash toasted anise seed** ground up in the mortar and pestle.
If you are a family who eats things like mayonnaise, you can use this to dress this quick and simple salad instead of a vinaigrette dressing. Feel free to use any kind of vinaigrette or even creamy dressing: ginger, tamari, curry powder, Add chopped parsley, cilantro, tarragon, Mexican Marigold mint, Holy Basil, just about anything you can think of for crunch, color and vitamins. I highly recommend adding chopped apples, red or green to add color or celery, celery root or parsley root. If you add either of the latter, I recommend shredding them or discing them along with the jicama in the food processor.
Rebecca Wood, my favorite nutritionist notes that Jicama is a low calorie, fiber filled root vegetable sweetened by its high inulin content, so it is a wonderful food to stablilize blood sugar. Inulin is a soluble dietary fiber which assists our bodies in stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Curtis who is not overly fond of fennel like I am has found himself a HUGE fan of this easy to make salad. I also find on days when I've had a good workout that my body really appreciates the high water content of both of these beloved vegetables.
Creamed Swiss Chard
I also found a gorgeous head of red stemmed swiss chard, a food we had to stop eating for a couple of years after we grew TOO much of it one summer on Roxbury Road in Claverack, NY. I was trimming leaves each time I collected food for the day from our garden and then about one and a half months after we started harvesting it, I realized that the chard was re-growing leaves! So what had started out as a simple small row of chard became the endless row of rainbow chard all summer long into the Autumn! I literally could not look at chard again for about two years!
So a few years ago when we lived in the East Bay area of California, many years after that chard summer, a lovely bright grouping of swiss chard called my name at the market and I remembered some delicious creamed kale we'd eaten one night at Local 111 a fun restaurant in our old neighborhood and decided to 'cream' the chard in honor of our lovely gardens back east. I was in it for comfort food that day!
Chop your chard stems into 1/2 inch pieces, after first washing the leaves and stems carefully. Then chop the leaves into ribbons. Layer the stems on the bottom of a saucepan followed by the leaves on top. Add a bit of water (about 1/4 volume of the chard), cover and bring to a boil, turn down & cook until almost just tender, maybe 3 minutes or less, more or less depending on the thickness and freshness of the chard. You can also steam it all for a few minutes until just crisp tender. Then strain into a bowl, separate from cooking liquid. You can use this cooking liquid in your sauce.
Because I had some 1/2 and 1/2 in the fridge, I just made a quick roux with spelt flour and ghee, salt and pepper, then added some of the 1/2 and 1/2 and some of the chard liquid until I had enough cream sauce, then folded in the greens (and reds) and put it aside. I seasoned it with a bit more salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. When the cream sauce is nice and thick, cook until flavors blend, about 2 minutes, then add your greens and cook through another 2 minutes or so with the cover off of the pan.
Note: yes, it's true, that cream sauce is a bit pink! :-) If pink cream sauce is not your thing, try using plain green chard for this dish!
Sauteed Brussel Sprouts Maple Syrup and Toasted Nuts
Brussels Sprouts are a food which many people don't like. As I enjoy doing with beets and those who claim to detest them, I love to cook brussels for folks who go yuk.
First of all, if you were to meet a brussels sprout plant you'd fall in love with them. They are spirited architectures of functional frivolity growing in winding spirals up a stout green stalk. Look at the leaf stems spiraling around the enter stalk in the photo to the right. Kind of green giant-ish, jack in the beanstalk kind of vegetable!
If you treat a brussels sprout like a miniature cabbage and understand it has a sulfur content like cabbage, then you can adjust the way you cook them and what you serve them with to make them delectable infusions of health!
Loaded with anti-oxidants, vitamins C and B, Brussels Sprouts like other Brassicas in its plant family, are high in sufurous compounds believed to contain cancer fighting compounds. These plants are good storage crops in cold climates and bring lots of healing compounds to the fall and winter season when they are available.
To prepare: Take your sprouts, trim the base and pull or cut off any speckled, yellowed or yukky leaves. Then turn the little cabbage sideways and start slicing rounds off the little bud, so that the stem side is in the center of the sprout. Slice each little cabbage.
Turn on the heat to a medium flame in a large frying or sauce pan. Add ghee or butter when the pan is warmed and then add your large pile of sliced brussels sprouts. You don't want to drown the leaves in butter, but do coat them all lightly.
Cook over a medium high heat adding a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir continuously so that they don't burn. If the heat is too high, the sulfur smell and taste will come out so cook over a moderate flame.
After about 2-3 minutes your sprouts should be wilting. You can speed up the cooking process by adding a tablespoon of water and stirring around quickly so the leaves absorb the water.
Then at the last moment, add a dash of maple syrup in the pan and coat the leaves with the syrup. You can also add a dash of azuki bean tamari (my favorite from South River Miso) at the very end, so you don't destroy the wonderful live enzymes in this artisanal tamari sauce. Garnish with slow roasted or toasted pecans or walnuts. Yum!
Indian Style Chick Peas over Quinoa
Then onto our 'main course' of chick peas. I am not big on instant foods, but sometimes they can be a big help and still very nutritious. Canned legumes work at those times for me. I like to keep things like canned black beans and chick peas (garbanzo beans) in our pantry for moments like this one, where I had a feast in the works, but wanted a protein main course for our vegetarian feast.
For this dish, I made an Indian style seasoned chick pea savory sauce to go over the quinoa, thereby insuring we have lots of vegetarian protein in this meal.
First I toasted some spices in ghee over a low medium flame: black mustard seed until it turned grey and popped, a bit of 'hing' or asofoetida --we are allergic to garlic, and asofoetida is a prized seasoning used in Indian cooking which tastes a bit like garlic and is the root or rhizome, Ferula assafoetida, which literally translates as 'devil's dung'.
[Love that! Anyway, if you try this magical seasoning, much prized by Ayurveda medicine for its digestive prowess, anti-microbial action and many more numerous virtues, please use it sparingly, a little goes a long way! I would say 'half a dash' would be the right amount for a family of four in a single dish.]
Back to your toasting of black mustard seed and 'hing' in some ghee. As soon as your mustard seeds turn grey, add all your other spices such as ajowain (Indian seed used in cooking to combat flatulence in bean dishes, you can substitute lovage seed or thyme or cumin seed) freshly ground ginger, a tablespoon or so, a teaspoon of ground cumin or a 1/2 tsp of toasted cumin seeds, you could use a small cinnamon stick if you liked, or star anise or a prepared curry powder. If you only have curry powder on hand, use that toasted for a half a minute in some high heat oil, coconut oil or ghee if you have it.
Ghee is worth looking for in your local health food store, or to make some on your own. It adds a totally non replicatable flavor in foods. Ghee has its own alchemy and changes not only the taste and texture of foods, but also enhances the healing properties of the foods themselves, especially the spices lightly cooked in the ghee as your first step.
Then before you burn the herbs and spices, quickly toss in some chopped tomatoes if you have some or want them and then your can of chick peas. I prefer just to use a small bit of the liquid in the can with the beans. Bring your heat up higher and stir until it is cooking happily over medium heat, covered until your flavors mingle. Make sure not to burn this dish. You can add a bit of half and half or cream at the end if you'd like this a bit heartier and richer.
I highly recommend a chiffonade of Holy Basil on top, or failing finding that locally or in your garden, try Thai basil, or cilantro, tarragon, parsley or any herb you love.
Serve atop the quinoa which you cooked earlier in the day. See the picture above left of quinoa we grew in our gardens in Pleasantville, New York in the early part of the millenium.
*To peel a jicama root
Scrub the jicama very well and make sure it's solid and not light and airy. Then with a sharp knife, cut the jicama in half or several pieces making your cuts down the axis of the tuber. Then using your paring knife, start to cut the peel, lift it a bit, then pull it off. You'll find it easier to 'pull' off the skin than to peel it with a peeler. Then if it will be more than about five minutes before using, place the large pieces into acidulated water (water in which lemon or vinegar has been added) so that the jicama will not turn brown.
Toasted Anise Seed or other spice seeds
Take a small frying pan or saute pan and add a teaspoon or more anise seeds. Toast lightly on a low flame, shaking the pan or moving the seeds around so that they don't stick to the bottom and burn. When you begin to smell the aroma of the anise, it's time to transfer the seeds to a plate. Let them cool as much in a single layer as possible so they don't steam while cooling.
List of Ingredients
Apple Red or Green
Walnuts or Pecans
Milk, Cream or Half and Half
Butter and/or Ghee and/or Coconut Oil and/or Grapeseed Oil
Can of Chick Peas or Cooked Chick Peas
1-3 Tomatoes to taste
Fresh Ginger Root
Choose Your Herbs: Parsley, Cilantro, Holy Basil, Thai Basil or whatever fresh herbs you can find
Choose Your Spices: Black Mustard Seed, Cumin Seed, Asofoetida, Ajowain, Anise Seed, Curry Powder, Star Anise Seed, Cinnamon Stick, whole Nutmeg or a Curry Powder mix