Stuffed Globe Zucchini Squash

The story of zucchini is a tale of empires, beginning with Columbus’ voyages to and from the New World.  He took the first zucchino (meaning small squash) seeds back to his native Italy where the vegetable zucchini became ensconced into Italian cuisine.  It is a prolific plant with with a number of varieties and  culinary options; they can be grated, fried, stuffed, steamed, boiled, shaved or baked. Even the flowers are stuffed, sauteed, fried, or used in salads.   Italian immigrants brought the seeds back to the Americas at the beginning of the 20th century.
This recipe came about when I needed a colorful side dish to present for a demonstration.  It is simple, easy to make and highlights the beautiful traits of the baby globe zucchini.

Stuffed Globe Zucchini

Serves 4

Globe Squash

4 globe zucchini squash, yellow or green
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup ripe tomato, diced
Preheat oven to 400º F. Slice off the top of each squash and discard.  Carefully scoop out the insides with a small melon-baller or a teaspoon and reserve. Put 1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt in each squash.  In a large bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients and transfer to a glass baking dish.  Nestle the squash in, cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and reserve.

Lemon Almond Pesto

3/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup almond flour or meal
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until cohesive.  Fill each squash until rounded at the top.  Cover again and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Assembly

1 tablespoon organic balsamic cream
1 large tomato, sliced
8 fresh mint leaves
4 Kalamata olives
For setting up individual plates, drizzle balsamic cream on a 4 to 6 inch plate.  Place a slice of tomato on the center of each plate, then 2 mint leaves on the top edge of the tomato and a stuffed globe zucchini on top.  Place an olive in the top center of each globe.  Serve warm or cold.

Notes:

Save the remaining baking dish ingredients to serve as an antipasti relish with bread or crackers.
Balsamic cream is a balsamic reduction.  There is a recipe for it in Vegetarian Traditions


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In Food We Trust

“Trust,” as it pertains to the food system, has become an increasing concern for all of us.  As part of the ongoing research and planning for the James Beard Foundation’s annual conference over the last few years, a series of regional salons were conducted around the country on the subject of Trust.  A small group of diverse stakeholders in the local food system—including chefs, farmers, food producers, distributors, policy makers, urban planners, academics, and others—attended a salon at Color’s Restaurant in Detroit.  It was exciting for me to be a part of this and inspired me to revisit some principles I hold near and dear.

-Healthy food is the primary source of nourishment and a primary nurturer–the ultimate in holistic health and the key to longevity and quality of life.

-Creating and presenting food is an art form which can inspire us and awaken all our senses in the creative process.

-Food is a language.  Our personal tastes defining which dialect we speak.  It is  an important method of expression and reciprocal exchange between people.

-We feel better about ourselves when we’re cognizant of what we eat.  Whenever possible, eat plant based whole foods which are organic, unadulterated and unprocessed.

-Food connects us with others and cultivates natural satisfaction.

-Know where your food comes from and support local farmers.

-Discover local sources and how the food we eat is a direct connection to the earth we walk on.

-Be honest with your food

Trust is an expansive subject and individually intimate at the same time.  As a plant-based chef, every aspect of the ingredients I use are as important as the final dish.  Each one is chosen for its culinary contribution as well as healthful properties. The following recipe is one you can trust!

For this recipe, I used fresh cranberry beans at Food Field Farm’s stall in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Similar to pintos, they cook to a tender creamy texture.  This recipe is a simple medley of vegetables and beans.  If you can’t find fresh beans, cooked from dry or canned may be substituted.

Cranberry Bean Ragout

 

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 cup red onions, diced

1/2 cup Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers, diced (or red bell peppers)

1 cup yellow squash, large dice

1 1/2 cups cooked fresh podded cranberry beans* (dry beans**)

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon mild chile powder

In a twelve inch skillet on medium-high heat, cook oil, garlic and crushed red pepper until it begins to sizzle.  Add onions, sweet peppers and yellow squash.  Cook until the edges of the vegetables are seared.  Add cranberry beans and all remaining ingredients.  Turn down, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve hot.

Serve with rice or quinoa.

*To cook 1 ½ cups fresh cranberry beans, simmer for 30 minutes in 4 cups of water in a covered saucepan.

**With dry beans, soak in 4 cups water for 4 to 6 hours. Rinse well.  Simmer for 30 minutes in 4 cups of water in a covered saucepan.

Sweet Tomato Chutney

tomatoes.jpg

The art of making chutney is a passion in India.  Cooks developed local reputations for their intense combinations of sweet, salty and hot.  Over the years I have heard a number of people mention the East Indian saying “too sweet to resist and too hot to eat.”  This recipe follows that model and is ideal for the end-of-summer plethora of ripe tomatoes.  Not only is it an excellent condiment for an Indian meal, but it can work as a ketchup, as a dip for crudites or a base for sweet and sour dishes.  

Serves 4

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2 tablespoons finger hot green chiles, minced

1/4 cup sweet onion, minced

1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ginger root, minced

1 1/2 cups tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon molasses

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup water

In a medium saucepan in medium-high heat, cook canola oil, mustard seeds and green chiles.  When the mustard seeds pop, add onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, molasses, cane juice, sea salt and water.  Turn down to a simmer and cook 10 minutes or until tomatoes are well cooked and thickened.  Serve room temperature or hot.  

 

Sourdough Griddle Cakes

For those of us who love sourdough, the starter lives and  breathes as a fixture on our kitchen counters. Each day, it is fed and then expands and bubbles with lively energy.  Like all naturally fermented foods, it becomes part of the household–like a guest to be cared for and appreciated.  

Fermented foods are a common thread in all the great cuisines of the world.  In addition to its nutritional attributes, fermentation was a form of food preservation and extended shelf-life long before refrigeration. 

My first experiences with fermentation began as a child watching my Yia Yia (grandmother) make yogurt.  She boiled milk in a stock pot, allowing it to cool to the point she could stick her finger into the milk for the count of ten (approximately 104 degrees). Then, a remnant of culture from the previous batch was folded in. She wrapped the entire pot in a blanket and placed it on top of her 1950’s refrigerator, which ran hot enough to keep the yogurt warm for four to five hours.  I remember my lips puckering over the distinctly sour flavor of the fresh yogurt.

At the time, I didn’t realize this was one of the secrets of Yia Yia’s delicious food.  In addition to Greek staples like strained yogurt with honey and garlicky cucumber tzatziki, tangy yogurt found its way into soups, stews, pies and sauces as a flavor enhancer.  It was one of the nutritious superfood ingredients in her Cretan cuisine.  

During my early years in India, I discovered that yogurt is used often in both savory and sweet applications.  At a 100 year-old stall in the old Delhi market of Chandni Chowk, the Old Famous Jalebi Walla would craft eight inch wide translucent sweet pretzels (jalebis).  These were made from yogurt and saffron sourdough batter, fried in ghee and dipped in a sugar syrup.  The pretzels were warm, sticky and sweetly-sour.  This is one of the many ways I learned to incorporate live cultures into foods during my time in India. 

In my kitchen, the sourdough starter on the counter has a respected presence.  This living food inspires many hours of hands-on preparation with excellent results.  I use it to prepare the traditional European loaves of bread, savory and sweet Persian and Indian flat breads, pizza crusts, crepes and turnovers.  They are fried on a skillet, baked on a baking stone in the oven or cooked outdoors in my birch-fired oven.

Sourdough batter with herbs

The following recipe, blini-style Sourdough Griddle Cakes, should be prepared on a griddle or skillet.  When making this recipe, I’ll often add cooked whole grains to the batter for texture and flavor, such as: quinoa, fonio, finger millet, sorghum or farro.  Below the Griddle Cakes recipe is an Easy Balkan Ajvar recipe to use as a condiment. 

Sourdough Griddle Cakes with Ajvar

Makes sixteen 2 1/2 inch cakes

Griddle cakes

1 1/2 cups Einkorn wheat sourdough starter

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley leaves

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients and let rest for 15 minutes.  Preheat a cast iron griddle at medium heat, lightly coat with oil. (use extra virgin olive oil, or organic sunflower oil).  Dollop small spoonfuls of batter onto the griddle, spread out to size if needed.  Brown on one side, then add 1 teaspoon ajvar and turn cake over, searing ajvar into the cake.

Serve hot with 1 teaspoon ajvar relish, a teaspoon of Vayo Mayo garnish and a sprig of cilantro.  

First side cooking

Easy Balkan Ajvar

2 red bell peppers halved, stemmed and seeded

2 bulb spring onions, peeled, cut in quarters lengthwise and sliced

1 Fresno red pepper halved, stemmed and seeded (optional)

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place all ingredients in a baking dish or a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until edges of onions and peppers start to brown. 

Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes and process all  ingredients in a food processor to a coarse relish.  Serve warm or cold.

Ajvar searing into the cake
Finished product with garnishes

Whole Grain Goodness

Featured in the Warrior Monk Conversations Podcast

Wheat and Grasses

Farro from Italy

Kamut

Einkorn, Spelt, Emmer

Freekeh- green wheat

Other Whole Grass Grains

Buckwheat groats

Barley- Staple grain of the ancient world and a precursor to wheat and rice. 

Rye

Oats

Seed Grains

Fonio- African grain native to Senegal with superfood characteristics

Sorghum/Millets-

Sorghum, proso millet, finger millet, little millet, blue millet

Little millet and finger millets

Amaranth- seeds and greens-Vleeta in Greece or Batwa in  India

Quinoa-high protein

Kaneewa

Sesame

Flax

Teff

Hemp hearts

Chia

Rices

Whole short grain brown rice

Black, red, basmati, jade, jasmine

Koda Farms – Traditional Japanese style growing- low in  arsenic

Treasures

Heirloom red corn- does not cross-pollinate with GMO corn

Job’s Tears- Hato Mugi

Resources from the Warrior Monk Conversations Podcast

Glenn Roberts https://ansonmills.com/products

Goldmine http://shop.goldminenaturalfoods.com

Eden Foods https://www.edenfoods.com/store/whole-grains/best-whole.html

Freekehlicious http://www.freekehlicious.com/products

Organic grains https://organicgrains.com/collections

Farafena Foods  https://www.farafena.com

Grains and flours https://centralmilling.com/store/

Heritage Grain Weekend Paul Spence  and Chef Greg Wade https://cktable.ca

Regenerative Grains

Detroit Bread Camp happened! 2019 James Beard Award Winner Chef Greg Wade conducted a bread immersion locally grown organic grains and natural yeasts using a wood-fired oven.

The event is geared toward chefs, food influencers and anyone who is passionate about what they eat. The event is geared to all skill levels, ranging from beginners to professional baker.

Attendees saw our amazing Michigan grains, met the farmers who grow them, interact with fellow chefs, participated in one of the largest Detroit urban farms and experienced the delicious flavors, textures and aromas of whole grain, naturally leavened and wood-fire baked bread!

Detroit Regenerative Grain Weekend was made up of four events, two of them were to gear up in the weeks ahead and two were held Sunday thru Tuesday.

Hampshire Farms Earth Day Open House that is held every year at the farm in Kingston, Michigan every spring. It was a chance for the team to get together, look at Shirley’s wood fired baking operation and to see the milling operation for the regenerative grain grown right there.

Bread Camp Parlor Event was held in a private home in order to introduce the Hazon community to edible applications of Regeneratively grown ingredients and the people behind them.

Breaking Bread Together community day at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm was a Sunday open house-style event held the day before Bread Camp to introduce wholesome, regenerative and a delicious pancake brunch to the local residents around the farm.

Detroit Bread Camp was a two day event held, on a Monday and Tuesday, presented as an extension to the London Bread Camp and Regenerate Heritage Grain Weekend held every autumn by Paul Spence and Chef Greg at Growing Chefs in London, Ontario.

The event was limited to 20 people to ensure Chef Greg has one on one time with each participant.

Oakland Avenue Urban Farm hosted the event. Hampshire Farms helped to construct a new wood-fired oven on site with reclaimed bricks. Regenerative Bread Camp and Community Day are all part of Heritage Grain weekend when area restaurant chefs and caterers bake with, 2019 James Beard Outstanding Baker Award recipient, Greg Wade. The community weekend kicked off with Breaking Bread Together on Sunday, June 23rd 12:30pm-3:00pm with Chef Phil Jones, Chef George Vutetakis [thevegetarianguy.com] , Hampshire Farms of Kingston, Michigan, Spence Farm from Ontario, CA and Hirzel Farms of Luckey, Ohio at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm. This day was part of a partnership with Hazon Detroit [hazon.org] . The public enjoyed the taste of heritage grains, fresh bread from the brick oven and pancakes hot of the griddle all from Michigan flours.

For chefs, bakers, and those with interest in baking who want to gain more knowledge in the versatility of using grains, join us next year to bake with Chef Wade.

Bread camp is educating and connecting growers, millers, bakers, chefs and consumers who are creating a rise in demand for local grains. This program increases a baker’s capacity to procure and utilize regionally grown whole grains to help build and develop the regional food-shed.

Workshop topics:

How a region is building its specialty grain food-shed from farmer to baker to consumer.

Compare commodity grains and specialty grains in baking and pastry applications.

Utilizing whole and processed specialty grains in baking and pastry applications.

Utilizing honey in baking and pastry applications.

How a farmer and baker collaboration is created.

Work with a wood burning oven.

Define heritage grains and fermentation.

Discuss nutrition of whole grains and fermentation

For information on upcoming Regenerate and Bread Camp events, click here.

Videos of past Bread Camps:

Skordalia with a history

Anthe’s Skordalia

During the peak of summer in August, when the hot Sahara-born Sirocco winds blanketed the countryside, Aloni-sites were where families gathering for the cool breezes coming off the sea from Kalathas. Men would sip on cafes, while women would sometimes bring a bowl of fresh-picked almonds to crack and catch up on the seemingly endless tasks of the day. 

During the extended late summers in Crete, often lasting into November, skordalia was a favorite afternoon condiment spread over crusty bread which was baked in the wood fired oven in the courtyard, or cistern-collected water-dipped crunchy barley rusk paximadia dipped in super green olive oil from the latest harvest.  Skordalia was often served with a horiatiki salata of fresh-picked sweet cucumbers, tomatoes, pungent red onions, tiny salt-cured Cretan olives and local sheep’s milk cheese, when it was available. 

Anthe adapted the recipe for her life in America, using a bit of cider vinegar to offset the different flavors of the local ingredients. Unlike Crete, the almonds in Canton, Ohio were not fresh from the trees, bread was not kissed by the lightly salted air and lemons were not from the trees in the fertile valley gardens (Kypo). Nevertheless, Anthe’s interpretation was a beautiful, delicious and an irresistible condiment designed for her American life. She would make the recipe as a special treat for my father, which he would not stop eating until the mason jar was wiped clean with bread.

My article from KPHTH magazine with the Skordalia recipe and family history from November 2018 is below

Anthe with the author


Prince George 1903
Cretan revolutionary committee 1897, Plakoures. Venizelos in center, Manolis Stratigakis second from right
http://www.venizelos-foundation.gr/en/1864-1909-cretan-period-venizelos

Inspiration from Anthe

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Baklava

Baklava is one of the hallmark dishes of Cretan heritage.

Originating in Ionian kitchens, it was adopted in every region of Ottoman rule and incorporated into each culture’s national cuisine because of its heavenly flavors and flaky, yet juicy, textures.  

I cannot recall any family gathering without Yia Yia’s, Anthe (Stratigakis) Vutetakis, deliciously sweet and delectable baklava. She crafted her recipe while growing up in the village of Plakoures in western Crete and passed it onto her children and grandchildren. My aunt Irene Laggeris inherited her mother’s culinary aptitude and, as most talented cooks will do, added her own memorable touches to the original recipe. 

My recipe takes inspiration from the original while using local ingredients and seasonal tastes. The authenticity is rooted in Greek tradition while paying homage to how so much in America is built upon, or influenced by, Greek foundations. 

This dessert was first introduced to the public in 1997 when I was chef and owner of Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak, Michigan. It quickly became a favorite, especially in the Autumn when Michiganders share a collective passion for all desserts crafted with pumpkin, sweet spices and maple syrup. 

Recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Baklava takes inspiration from the original while using local ingredients and seasonal tastes.
KPHTH magazine, October 2018

Pepita and Fire Roasted Poblano Pesto

My first experience with a pesto-style dish was in my Greek grandmother’s house.  Yia Yia prepared every family member’s favorite dish and my father’s was skordalia, the traditional Greek garlic sauce.  As a child in Crete, where almonds are plentiful and full of flavor, her mother taught her the art of the dish; she learned to prepare the skordalia by pounding garlic, almonds and olive oil with a mortar and pestle.  We always knew when we walked into her home that she had prepared the skordalia because of the heavy garlic smell in the air. It seemed to stay in our mouths for days and even crept out of our pores as garlic-tinged sweat.  Over the years, my dad was the only one adventurous enough to indulge, which he would do on a Friday so he could return to work on Monday with minimal effect.

The Italian word pesto is often used to describe a combination of ground garlic, basil and pine nuts, although the preparation method of grinding ingredients into a paste is universal and cross-cultural.  Ever since man discovered how to grind and pound food products with stone and wood, this method has been employed in traditional cuisines around the world to create sauces, condiments, bases and pastes which enhance flavor profiles. Every culture put their stamp on the method with the common denominator being a mortar and pestle or grinding stone and it is a superb way to add a savory and flavorful edge to a dish without frying or grilling.

A Sicilian version is pesto rosso which substitutes almonds for pine nuts and adds tomatoes with less basil.  In Mediterranean France, a cold sauce made from garlic, basil and olive oil is the base for the much-acclaimed pistou soup in Provence.

In India, I watched cooks deftly handle a flat grindstone with a rectangular pestle to create intensely flavored mint chutneys, robust masala pastes and pesto-like fillings for a variety of breads and savories.  The grinding stones would absorb the right amount of moisture and unique flavors would be developed by the grinding action.  I was so enamored by the amazing quality of these preparations that I carried two of these heavy stones home on a flight.

Central and South American cuisines have a long history of grinding spices, pastes and mole bases using a metate or mealing stone. Chimichurri sauce is one of the well known sauces to use this method.  One can imagine my pesto recipe being made on a metate grindstone in an adobe kitchen a hundred years ago.  Nutty toasted pepitas with crushed garlic, freshly squeezed lime juice, brightly flavored cilantro and smokey fire-roasted poblano chiles provocatively meld together to create an explosion of flavor in any dish that it is served with.  I particularly like it as a foil to corn dishes and often pair it with Quinoa-Corn Arepas and Chocolate Cherry Salsa from my cookbook Vegetarian Traditions.  The bright flavor of the pesto is the perfect companion to the natural sweetness of the corn and deep, dark anti-oxidant-rich salsa.

Today, I often make pesto with a food processor, which is a compromise for the sake of modern efficiency.  However, if you have a metate, or mortar & pestle and a little extra time, I encourage you to use it–not just for the earthly connection and romance of hand-working one’s food, but also for the flavor.

This easy-to-prepare recipe works well in sandwiches, as a mezzes-style dip, a quesadilla filling or a layer in a tortilla casserole.

Pepita & Fire Roasted Poblano Pesto

1/2 cup pepitas, toasted
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 poblano chile, fire roasted, stemmed and seeded

In a food processor, grind pepitas to a meal, add all pesto ingredients and pulse to a coarse consistency.  Store in an air-tight container and keep refrigerated.