Periodically I like to shake things up a little by inviting my Facebook community to challenge me. The rules are simple, “name your favorite fresh, seasonal – available – ingredient* and I will incorporate the first four ingredients posted into an original recipe on my food blog. (*vegetable, fruit, herb).”
This go round, the four ingredients I was challenged with were eggplant, taro root, mango, and basil. At first I thought, “Yikes! How am I ever going to pair eggplant with taro root?” I’m pleased to say that I rose to the challenge and was able to dream up several ideas, one of which follows. First, a little background on the ingredients.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a species of nightshade commonly known in British English as aubergine and also known as melongene, garden egg, or guinea squash. It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal. It bears a fruit of the same name (commonly either “eggplant” in American, Australian English and sometimes Canadian English, or “aubergine” in British English and Canadian English) that is widely used in cooking, most notably as an important ingredient in dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille. It is related to both the tomato and the potato. It was originally domesticated in India and Bangladesh from the wild nightshade, the thorn or bitter apple
Delicious, crunchy taro root is one of the nutrient-rich root vegetables that is eaten in many different cultures around the world. With a rich history and many possible recipes, this tuber is also known as the cocoyam, dasheen, colocasia, eddo, kalo, and elephant’s ear (plant and leaves). This root is most well-known as the ingredient of the Hawaiian dish poi, which is mashed taro root. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor and the leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.
The mango is a juicy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees, cultivated mostly for edible fruit. The majority of these species are found in nature as wild mangoes. They all belong to the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is native to South and Southeast Asia, from where it has been distributed worldwide to become one of the most cultivated fruits in the tropics. Mangoes are packed with antioxidant vitamins C and A, and folate. The fruit is also a good source of fiber, copper, and vitamin B6, along with 20 other nutrients.
Basil, Thai basil, or sweet basil, is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum of the family Lamiaceae (mints), sometimes known as Saint Joseph’s Wort in some English-speaking countries. Basil is native to India, China, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea.It was originally domesticated in India more than 5,000 years ago. The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning “king”. There are many varieties of basil. The type used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. X citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), which are used in Asia.
And now for the recipe, a colorful and tasty salad! I used the taro root two ways, shredded for a garnish, and sliced for taro chips.I used raw Thai eggplant, it tastes similar to cucumber, only crunchier. I used sweet basil and fresh mango. For a little contrast and color, I tossed in a few blueberries and some amaranth nano greens – which are actually magenta! I used fresh squeezed lime juice for the dressing, it was perfect and brought everything together nicely. Serves two.
2 Thai eggplant , washed and cut into thin wedges
4 small taro root, peeled (about the size of a red potato)
1/3 large mango, peeled and diced
3 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons with scissors
Half of a lime
2 romaine leafs (one per person)
A few leaves of fresh mint
Handful of fresh blueberries
Amaranth seed shoots
Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.
Peel and wash the taro root. Shred one of the taro roots with a grater and thinly slice the remaining corms with a mandolin, food processor or by hand.
To make the taro chips: place the taro root slices on a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and dust with salt. I used truffle salt. Toss by hand until well coated and then spread into a single layer. Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes. Turn slices over and cook another 4 minutes. If any slices are already looking fairly browned, remove them before returning pan to oven, so they don’t burn.
While the taro chips are baking, make the taro root garnish: heat up a tablespoon of olive oil (I used duck fat) in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shredded taro root to the skillet and toss gently to coat with oil. Cook for several minutes, only turning once they start to brown. Keep separating the shreds with a fork so you don’t end up with hash browns. As soon as they are nicely browned, transfer to a paper towel. Set aside until you’re ready to build the salad.
Wash the eggplant, cut away the stem. Slice each eggplant in half, then quarters, and then eighths. Basically, you are cutting each little eggplant into thin wedges. Place into a small mixing bowl.
Slice off several wedges of mango. Cut away the skin and discard. Slice and dice the mango into half inch cubes and add to the bowl containing the eggplant. Add the blueberries, ribbons of basil, mint, and amaranth shoots. Squeeze half of a lime over the contents and gently stir to coat everything.
Place a nice flat leaf of romaine on a salad plate, one leaf per plate. Spoon half of the eggplant-mango mixture over each of the lettuce leaves. Add some of the shredded taro root as garnish. Arrange some of the taro chips on the side and the salad is ready to serve.
Root vegetables are plant roots used as vegetables. In this case, “root” means any underground part of a plant. Root vegetables can be intimidating; most of them have thick, strange looking skin and long stems with leaves sprouting out of them. Hopefully, the following tips will entice you to give root veggies a proper chance. They are not only amazing for your health, but they are versatile in the kitchen and absolutely delicious when prepared properly.
Yams, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, yucca, kohlrabi, onions, garlic, celery root (or celeriac), horseradish, daikon, turmeric, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, and ginger are all considered roots. Most root vegetables are available year round, but their peak season is fall through spring, with the exception of beets, which are best summer through fall. Ready, let’s get cooking!
To download this guide for easy reference, right click and choose “save image”
Eleven Ways to Prepare Root Veggies by Kelly Lenihan
Flourless chocolate beet brownies – a dense, fudgy indulgence – are a great way to camouflage healthy veggies in a dessert that seems decadent, but isn’t. Beets not only add moisture and sweetness to the brownies, they are a nutritional powerhouse known help lower blood pressure, fight cancer, reduce inflammation, boost stamina, and support detoxification. Once you bake the brownies, the beets meld into chocolatey goodness and you really don’t taste them, but if you’re really not a fan, try using sweet potatoes instead. If you’re mixing by hand, be sure to soften the coconut butter ahead of time. A food processor will make mixing easier, but is not required. Makes a 9-inch pan of brownies.
1 cup beets, peeled and grated
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1/2 cup raw, local honey, coconut sugar, or chopped and pitted medjool dates
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup ripe banana or plantain, mashed
Optional coconut whipped cream:
1 can full-fat coconut milk, pre-chilled for 24 hours
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons homemade powdered confectioner’s sugar made from cane sugar*
The day before:
Chill a can of full-fat coconut milk into the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. The top layer of opaque “cream” is what you will be whipping.
*To prepare the powdered sugar, grind cane sugar in a blender for 3-4 minutes until there are no sugar crystals remaining. Set aside in an airtight container until ready to use.
The day of:
Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
In a food processor, pulse until blended smooth: beets, coconut oil, coconut milk, eggs, honey, and vanilla. Add the remaining ingredients into the beet mixture, mixing well.
Pour batter into a greased 9 x 9 glass baking pan, spreading evenly.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until brownies are pulling away from the edge of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool slightly before cutting. Serve with a dollop of whipped coconut cream.
To make the whipped coconut cream:
Open the can of chilled coconut milk without shaking it or turning upside down and carefully spoon out the top layer of opaque, thickened milk that has gathered at the top of the can into a mixing bowl. Leave the syrupy looking translucent liquid in the can (reserve for use in other recipes or your morning smoothie). Add 2-3 tablespoons of powdered confectioners sugar and vanilla extract to the thickened milk. Using a hand mixer, whip the coconut milk until creamy: start on low and then increase to a higher speed, moving the beater up and down and around to infuse the mixture with as much air as possible. Note: Coconut cream is best used right after it is whipped although it actually holds up fairly in the fridge.
Top each brownie with a generous dollop of coconut whipped cream. Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon or organic dark chocolate if desired.
If they don’t all get eaten right away, cover and store leftover brownies in the refrigerator.
At home, I pretty much eat grain-free, but sometimes I really want something “bread-y” so today I made grain-free pancakes using almond, flax and tapioca flours. With a little honey and vanilla, they weren’t too sweet and had a delightful nutty flavor. Tasty!
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, separated
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 eggs (or two eggs + 1 mashed banana)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Pour the almond milk into a medium bowl. Gently stir in the apple cider vinegar and set aside.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well with a fork.
In the bowl with the almond mill, combine all wet ingredients and blend with a whisk until well combined. Pour into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a fork until the mixture is smooth.
Heat a skillet over medium -low heat with a scant tablespoon of butter or oil in the pan.
Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet to make each pancake. Now would be the time to press a few blueberries into the pancakes, if you want. Once the top of the pancakes start to bubble slightly, about 2-3 minutes, it’s time to flip them. Let the other side to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes before removing from pan and placing on a plate.
Coat the pan with a little more butter or oil and cook the rest of the pancakes.
Serve with pure maple syrup, fresh sliced fruit, or a fruit sauce such as red currant sauce.
I’ve seen recipes for “no-mato” marinara sauce floating around the Internet, so after reviewing various tomato-free recipes, comparing and contrasting the differences between them, I came up with this version. I chose to use golden beets instead of red. Many of the recipes that I reviewed were pretty basic, often just beets and an onion, or sometimes with carrots too. I took it a step further, adding lemon juice to replace the acidity that you’d get from tomatoes, and the addition of kalamata olives for a little bit of umami (salty, sweet, tangy).
I have to say, this actually tastes like tomato sauce! Really fresh and delicious. I served today’s no-mato marinara sauce with zoodles (zucchini noodles) garnished with sautéed mushrooms. This is definitely a kid-friendly recipe and they won’t even know they’re eating vegetables. Plus, who doesn’t like saying “zoodles”?!
3 tablespoons fat of choice (I used duck fat, but bacon grease would also be good)
1 large onion, chopped
5 stalks of celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
7 small beets, chopped (or 3-4 medium to large)
4-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle (basil, oregano, garlic and thyme)
Celtic sea salt to taste
Cooking liquid: use bone broth, chicken or beef broth or a mixture of broth and filtered water
18 kalamata olives, drained
Prepare the Zoodles (recipe below) so they can sweat while you’re making the marinara sauce.
Chop all of the vegetables.
Heat fat of choice in a large pot over medium low heat for several minutes. Add celery and onion to the pot and cook, stirring a few times, until onions are translucent. Add beets and carrots and cook several minutes longer, stirring a few times.
Add broth and/or filtered water, using just enough to barely cover the ingredients (use less if you want a thicker sauce). Add dried herbs – you can use 1/2 teaspoon each of herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and marjoram if you don’t have Penzey’s. Add lemon juice and stir well to combine everything. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Let simmer about 30 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Stir halfway through cooking.
Carefully transfer ingredients into a blender. Add the kalamata olives and a generous teaspoon or more of salt. Pulse and then taste sauce and adjust seasonings if desired. Work in batches if necessary to thoroughly purée.
Use in any recipe that calls for a marinara-style sauce. Makes 6 cups of sauce, extra sauce can be frozen for other meals.
Update: I used some of the leftover no-mato sauce for a shrimp curry. I added some curry powder to the no-mato sauce, and topped zoodles with shrimp and the warmed sauce. It was delicious.
Zoodles (zucchini noodles)
Peel two zucchini and discard the outer skin. Still using the peeler, peel lengthwise strips until reaching the seedy cores. Toss the zoodles with about 3/4 tsp salt and put them in a colander to sweat. Place a small plate on top and put something heavy (like a can of soup) on top of the plate so it will press the water out. Let them sit for 30-60 minutes, give them a final squeeze by pressing down with the palm of your hand.
When your no-mato marinara sauce is done and you’re ready to eat, briefly sauté the zoodles with a splash of olive oil, just long enough to warm them up a bit. Then top them with your No-Mato sauce for a fresh, tasty meal.
I picked up a flat of red currants today – what a throwback to my childhood! Red currants grew wild in the woods across the street from where I grew up and my brothers and I would eat them right off the bushes when out exploring “The Woods”. They are so good, fresh, but obviously with a whole flat, I needed to do something with them, so I’ve come up with a basic recipe for red currant sauce. Once cooked, it can be parceled into freezer containers and then each one can be modified for how it’s to be used. Need a savory sauce? Add a minced shallot, a minced clove of garlic, a dash of salt and maybe even a few sprigs of fresh basil or thyme. Need it sweet for dessert? Add a bit more honey, or some vanilla, fresh, minced ginger, orange or lemon zest. You could even add in a few cherries, figs or any stone fruit.
4 cups red currants
Honey (3/4 cup for tart, or 1 cup for sweet)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
Combine desired ingredients in sauce pan and start cooking over medium heat. Reduce temperature as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until reduced and thickened, about 25 minutes. Once its cooked down and thickened, to get rid of the seeds, transfer to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and pulse until the sauce is a nice, smooth purée. It will thicken even more as it cools.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of red currant sauce, if you just want a single serving, cut the recipe in half or even in thirds. Treat it like a base and freeze it in small containers for later use. Feel free to add ingredients to make it more savory, such as shallot, fresh basil, and garlic. Serve over chicken, pork, or salmon.
If you plan on using the sauce for sweeter fare, it’s terrific over vanilla bean ice cream or Belgian waffles.
With four huge chive plants in my garden right now, I figured a great way to use up a lot of them in one fell swoop would be chive pesto. Pesto is so versatile, there are a myriad of ways to enjoy it.
For the freshest chives, wait until you’re ready to make the pesto and then head out to the garden with scissors and give your chives a hair-cut. If you don’t have a garden, you can obtain already-cut stems from your local farm-stand or supermarket. For this recipe, I sheared off an entire plant that was over a foot tall and nearly as wide. By the time I removed the less desirable stalks and woody ends, I ended up with a large bowl full of chives. It works best to break them into 2 inches pieces before placing into the food processor.
Makes 2+ cups of pesto
4 cups (or more) chopped fresh “common” chives (not garlic)
4 ounces almonds, chopped and toasted
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
To rough-chop the almonds: Fill a heavy-duty Ziploc bag with nuts. Place the Ziploc bag on a sturdy cutting board and pound with a rolling bin until nuts are coarsely chopped.
To toast the almonds: Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Use a heavy-bottomed pan for best results. Pour the almonds into the dry pan. When the pan is preheated, spread the almonds across the pan in an even layer. Stir or shake the pan very frequently (about once every 30 seconds) to prevent the nuts from burning.The almond slices will roast a little unevenly, so it’s important to keep the almonds moving. Remove the almonds from the pan when they are done toasting, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the almonds from the heat just before they begin to develop browned edges and a fragrant smell, otherwise they will start to burn. Immediately pour the toasted almond slices onto a plate to cool.
Rinse the chives and gently pat them dry with a tea towel or use a salad spinner. You’ll need at least 4 cups of chives for this recipe, I used even more than that. Roughly chop the herbs and then place them into the work bowl of your food processor. Add the shredded Parmesan cheese and the cooled almonds. Roughly chop two cloves of garlic, and add them to the food processor. Turn the machine one, and give these ingredients a quick pulse just to chop them finely.
With the machine running, add the lemon juice, and then the olive oil, starting with 1/4 cup oil for a thick, spread-able pesto. If you want a thin pesto that you can toss with pasta or cooked veggies, add up to a 1/2 cup of oil. I used slightly more than 1/2 cup, since I had so many chives.
The Parmesan should provide enough salt, but taste and adjust as needed, adding more cheese, almonds or lemon juice, to suit your taste.
Crackers and fresh raw veggies
Fish such as halibut or salmon
Grilled prawns or jumbo shrimp
Tossed with your favorite pasta
Thin slices of French baguette
Note: If you want to freeze the pesto, omit the cheese. Using plastic ice cube trays, fill each pocket with the pesto. Freeze and then remove frozen pesto cubes from the ice tray and store in a freezer bag. When you want to use, defrost and add in grated Parmesan.
My young gooseberry bush produced a scant cup’s worth of berries for the season, so I created a dessert where such a tiny quantity could still be the star. How does honey, vanilla bean and lavender panna cotta with a gooseberry syrup sound? I can tell you now, it tasted outstanding!
I love panna cotta, it’s light and lovely, and can be served with a myriad of toppings. Served in beautiful dishes, it’s the perfect dessert to wow friends or family. Plus, you can make it ahead of time, simply cover and refrigerate for up to two days. I’ve made today’s panna cotta with coconut milk rather than heavy cream. This recipe serves eight.
For the panna cotta
3-1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk (two 13.5 oz cans)
1/3 cup raw, local honey (use 1/2 cup if you prefer a sweeter dessert)
1-1/2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender powder
1 packets powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
For the gooseberry syrup
1-1/4 cups cane sugar
1-1/2 cups water
3/4 cup gooseberries (can use any fruit, figs, berries, etc)
Heat the coconut milk and honey in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the honey is dissolved, remove from heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk and add the bean pod. Whisk in the lavender. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture over medium-low heat before continuing. Do not let it come to a boil.
Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil. If you plan on using goblets or other serving dishes, skip this step.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 10 minutes.
Pour the very warm panna cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Divide the panna cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, at least four hours.
To unmold, dip each mold in very hot water for a few seconds (don’t let the mold get to hot), quickly run around the sides of the mold with a small knife, and set it upside down on a serving plate.
Alternatively, pour the panna cotta mixture into wine goblets or other pretty dessert dishes, so you can serve them without unmolding.
Serve chilled panna cotta with a drizzle of warm gooseberry syrup, recipe follows.
Combine sugar and water in a small pan over medium heat. Whisk and cook until the sugar fully dissolves. (If you are using a sweeter fruit, such as strawberries, reduce sugar to 1 cup).
Meanwhile pull off the little brown or green bits at either end of the gooseberries. Cut gooseberries in half.
Add gooseberries to the sugar/water mixture. Let cook over low heat for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Strain the seeds and pulp from the syrup, and pour into a small glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate syrup until ready to use, then warm for a few seconds in the microwave before serving. The syrup is also delicious over waffles, ice cream, yogurt, etc.
This light and creamy hummus-style dip is a raw, dairy-free option. It’s really tasty and provides a nice flexible base for seasoning options. Start by choosing your favorite fresh green herb, such as basil, cilantro or parsley. Depending on which herb you use, you can mix and match whatever other seasoning you want to complement the flavors. Anything from fresh garlic or half of a shallot, to a small piece of fresh ginger or turmeric. Are you getting the idea? You can pretty much add anything you like — in small increments — just keep tasting often until you are satisfied with the result!
1 cup organic raw cashews, soaked
Juice from 1 fresh lemon, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh green herb (basil, cilantro or parsley, etc)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp fine Celtic sea salt
4 tablespoons filtered water or olive oil
Rinse the cashews in a colander and place them in a glass bowl. Cover them with fresh filtered water. Cover the bowl with a clean paper towel and let them soak for at least four hours.
Drain the water from the cashews and transfer into a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients except the water (or olive oil) and blend until smooth and creamy.
Gradually add in the filtered water or olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, to achieve the desired consistency. A thick creamy dip requires only a little liquid. Pulse and open to scrape the mixture off of the sides until everything is mixed thoroughly.
Continually taste as you pulse, to get just the right blend of flavors. Add salt, lemon juice and other seasonings in small increments until it tastes just right.
Store dip in the fridge in a covered glass bowl. The flavors will meld and intensify as it chills, it will also thicken up a bit.
Serve the hummus with fresh, crisp veggies such as carrots and celery sticks, cucumber sticks, zucchini and yellow squash sticks, kohlrabi slices, etc.
July is National Blueberry Month and blueberries are not only touted as the having highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings, they are incredibly versatile and delicious! You’ve probably enjoyed them in green or fruit salads, smoothies, scones, muffins, pancakes and waffles, or in jams, juice, and sweet or savory sauces, perhaps even over vanilla bean ice cream. Hungry yet? I know I am!
Today I’m making a delicious savory blueberry-basil sauce to serve over Alaskan King salmon. This sauce would also be good with chicken or pork.
8 ounces of fresh blueberries
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1-2 tablespoons local raw honey (optional)
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two and then add the shallots. Continue to sauté for a few more minutes, until they have softened.
2. Add the balsamic vinegar, basil and salt. Heat everything over medium heat until the liquid begins to thicken and bubble.
3. Stir in the blueberries and continue to heat mixture over medium heat. The berries will pop and release their juice. If your berries are a bit tart, you can add honey to taste. Once the sauce begins to thicken again, it’s ready to go over your salmon.
Notes: Try adding tiny bit of chopped up candied ginger into the cooking preparation for a bit of spice. You could also use blackberries in lieu of the blueberries.
Update: I had about a 1/4-cup of leftover blueberry sauce so I added some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, stirred it all together and then pushed the fruit pulp through a sieve to strain. I used the strained liquid as a salad dressing, it was fantastic.