Maple Carrot Halava

carrot-halava.jpg
Outside of carrot cake and muffins, carrots are rarely used for desserts here in North America. Traditional Indian carrot halava is prepared using two different methods. The first is to cook the carrots in clarified butter (ghee) and sugar until only the sweetness of the carrot remains and the sugar slightly caramelizes. The second is to reduce the carrots with milk to a light burfi or fudge consistency. Our method combined the two because maple syrup starts as a liquid and becomes solid with cooking, giving a similar texture to the candied sugar in the first variation. This recipe also retains the richness that ghee or milk would add without the fats and is a very satisfying dessert. Brightened with cardamom, it can be made 3 to 4 days ahead of time if kept refrigerated. It also freezes well.

Maple Carrot Halava
Serves: 8 Preparation Time: 30 minutes

6 cups carrots, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon decorticated or ground cardamom
1 cup whole cashew nuts (optional)
2 cups maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom garnish

In a large skillet on medium low, while stirring frequently, slowly cook the oil, carrots, cardamom and cashews until the carrots start to break down. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, turn the heat up to medium and cook until the maple syrup is absorbed and starts to caramelize. Serve warm or cool in a fruit compote dish with a dusting of cardamom.

Peak Harvest Agua Fresca

Market Flowers

If it’s Saturday morning, odds are I’m at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. Back in the days when I was chef and proprietor of Inn Season Cafe, the market was our main source of seasonal produce. Three days a week I rolled flatbed carts stacked with produce through the aisles and into my truck for the short journey to the restaurant. Sometimes at the end of the market day, farmer friends would pull up to our back door with their extra corn, squash, pumpkins and zucchini which we gave to customers and local soup kitchens.  Sharing this connection with the farmers who work the land was a foundation of what we did at Inn Season Cafe. The Cafe was farm to table from its inception in 1981. The current owners remain committed to this now-popular approach to food in restaurants and homes.

Market Flowers and people

Since its establishment in 1929, the Royal Oak Farmers Market has played a key role in the community. Like the venerable Eastern Market in Detroit, it supplies chefs, serious cooks and canners with a wide variety of local produce and agricultural products. Anchors such as Cinzori Farms, Hampshire Farms and Nature’s Pace Organics make it the best market for certified organic produce in Metro Detroit.

Cinzori booth with beans

Today, each visit to this bustling market continues to fuel my culinary passions as they did during those Inn Season Cafe years. Every Saturday exciting discoveries await me on the rows of tables that stretch from one end of the market to the other–fresh produce picked only hours before:  Jimmy Nardello peppers, okra, corn, beans and heirloom tomatoes–just to name a few.

Organic Yellow Watermelon

September is the final hurrah of the Michigan summer harvest and watermelons of all kinds are plentiful providing an opportunity to squeeze in refreshing beverages–ok, pun intended. Remembering the Agua Frescas I enjoyed so much last year in San Diego, I felt inspired to make a local Michigan version with a Cuban Mojito accent. This week, Don Cinzori helped me pick a beautiful yellow watermelon which I used along with the abundant mint growing in our kitchen garden to make my version of Agua Frescas for dinner guests that evening.

Agua Fresca with almonds

In hotter climates, tradition has long embraced a variety of fruits and spices for thirst-quenching drinks.  Like the limonatas of Italy and the Sharbats of India, the Agua Frescas help balance the intense flavors in the often fiery cuisine of Mexico, but this drink is so refreshing, it goes well with any food any time of the year.

Chin chin!

Yellow Watermelon Agua Fresca

Serves four to six

Watermelon

Cut rind off yellow seeded or seedless watermelon.  Cut into large chunks, place in blender and grind until smooth on slow speed without breaking seeds.  Strain into a bowl using a coarse wire strainer with holes large enough to stop seeds. A juicer will also work for this.  Yield depends on size of melon-10 inch diameter will yield 4 to 6 cups of strained juice.

Simple lime syrup

1 cup water

1 cup organic cane sugar

¼ cup fresh squeezed lime

In a 2 quart sauce pan, simmer sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Cool and then add lime juice.

Option: Substitute sugar syrup with organic light agave syrup.

Mixing

1 cup mint leaves

2 cups ice

Place 2 cups watermelon juice, 2 tablespoons fresh mint (8 large leaves), 2/3 cup ice and 2 tablespoons lime syrup in blender. Pulse until ice and mint leaves are crushed.  Pour into two 8 ounce glasses, garnish with a fresh mint leaf and serve. Repeat as desired.

 

 

Creamy Cashew Carrot Soup

There is much to be said and appreciated about a cookbook which is stained with use.  The adventures of the favorite recipes continue from one generation to the next with splotches and smears of ingredients. I have a collection of cookbooks from my family, as well as many others, which have charmed me over the years with their dog-eared pages.

With the computer revolution, things have changed.  A new generation stores many of their books and recipes on their hard-drives, not their shelves.  Tens of thousands of recipes can be found online with the click of a mouse.  I have a Twitter Feed which allows me to share vegan recipes from the world-wide-web with my followers on a daily basis.

Many individual online recipes stand alone, without connection to their cultural background or the inspirations which influenced the chefs who created them.  It is different with an ebook, which is the entire book presented the way the author intended it.  I now offer my cookbook, Vegetarian Traditions, in an Ebook edition allowing me to share the most popular dishes from Inn Season Cafe anywhere in the world.  Some of the available formats are below.

Vegetarian Traditions Kindle Edition

Barnes & Noble Nook Edition

iTunes iBook Edition

Adobe Digital Editions/Sony Reader

One of the timeless Inn Season Cafe recipes was Carrot Cashew Soup–still a favorite at the Royal Oak, Michigan cafe.  Warm root-vegetable soups in the winter can be a transcending experience, lifting us into a place of healing comfort.

My earliest memories of carrots are of my father helping me to grasp scraggly green tops jutting out of the ground and pulling them to discover the bright orange tuber.  As a toddler, my father’s assistance was necessary, but I soon perfected the technique and all the carrots were harvested whether ready or not. This didn’t bother him at all; perhaps he sensed the budding of my life-long relationship to vegetables.

Carrots are quite versatile, but often under-rated. They can be eaten raw or juiced for a vitalizing drink. They can be used in salads, soups and desserts, in addition to adding sweetness and substance to a multitude of vegetable dishes. I even use pureed carrots as a base for salad dressings, sauces and in a number of dessert dishes, not the least of which is carrot cake.

Carrot Cashew Soup reveals the venerable carrot as an excellent base for a soup. When mixed with cashews and blended, it becomes a melt-in-your-mouth cream soup. Best of all–it is so easy to prepare!

Carrot Cashew Soup

Serves 6

3 cups carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup red onions,chopped

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon dill weed, chopped

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

1 tablespoon tamari

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup red bell peppers, chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup raw cashews

5 cups water

1/2 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix all ingredients, except water and parsley. Transfer to a large casserole or roasting dish. Cover and bake for one hour. Allow to cool, add 1 cup water and puree in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a soup pot, add remaining 4 cups of water, stir, reheat and simmer for 10 minutes uncovered. Serve hot and top with a sprinkle of chopped parsley in each bowl.

Recipe from the cookbook: Vegetarian Traditions: Favorite Recipes From My Years At The Legendary Inn Season Cafe

By George Vutetakis

Inn Season Cafe 30th Anniversary

On Monday, October 17, Inn Season Cafe owners, Nick Raftis and Thomas Lasher, will host an open house to celebrate  30 years of providing the Detroit area with fresh, unadulterated, farm to table, fine vegetarian cuisine.

I will join founding owners, Maggie O’Meara and John Armstrong, at the cafe between 6pm and 10pm for this free, festive event with food, wine and song.

As part of the month-long anniversary celebration, the cafe will give away cupcakes and other goodies.

For more information check out www.theinnseasoncafe.com.

You will also be able to purchase my cookbook Vegetarian Traditions: Favorite Recipes From My Years At The Legendary Inn Season Cafe

…and I will be there to sign your book!

Read The Inn Season Cafe Story

Click Here!

30 Years Of Inn Season Cafe In Pictures

Click Here!

Photo gallery from the 30th Anniversary open house

October 17, 2011

The Great Plains Heartland

State of the Veg Union Part 4


Traveling east, through amber waves of grain, to Lincoln, Nebraska, on our San Diego to Detroit restaurant tour, my wife Sara and I marveled as the Rocky Mountains disappeared into the ground and flattened into the Great Plains of the mid-west.

We pulled into the historic Haymarket District of Lincoln, where the old rail and distribution system has been largely bypassed by 21st century modernization.

Over a century ago, way stations for the railroad system, which distributed grains, produce and farm products, were set up from coast to coast. These stations became distribution centers and agricultural hubs, standing out like sparkling jewels in corn and wheat fields when there was little else around.  Eventually, these became the urban centers, which were integral components for the westward expansion of America’s commodity food system. Thanks to local efforts, many of the magnificent edifices from the late 19th and early 20th century are preserved and now function as cultural centers of the community.

In one of those old warehouse structures stands Maggie’s Vegetarian Cafe–an all-natural, from-scratch cafe using local and organic ingredients whenever possible.   It is very casual and charming with down-to-earth sensibility.

Owner Maggie Pleskac was in the kitchen and made our Spicy Hummus Wrap and Unfried Falafel Wrap, which we found to be filling and delicious with noticeably fresh ingredients.

On the walls were pictures of the local farmers who supply the cafe–Maggie told us which one provided each part of the sandwiches.  We left with renewed energy from a simple, yet satiating, meal and felt good about supporting a business that reveres the local farmers, who I view as the true heroes of the modern food revolution.

Omaha was our next stop.  This city still has many of the mansions and magnificent structures from the early 20th century.  Reminiscent of the elegant neighborhoods populated by the auto-barons of Detroit, these were the homes of cattle barons.  Omaha was one of the capitals of the early factory farming industry in America.

Ironically, McFosters Natural Kind Cafe is at the edge of this neighborhood.  The building looks like an old Tudor-style home, but was originally Skip’s Skelly Gas Station, one of the original service stations on the old Lincoln Highway.  Now re-incarnated as a natural foods restaurant, it fuels visitors with freshly-prepared food.  Although they serve seafood and free-range chicken, it reminded me of the old-school vegetarian cafes–down to earth, funky and colorful, with an expansive, but uncomplicated, menu.  Unfortunately, we had filled ourselves in Lincoln, so a salad and carrot juice were all we could manage–both were fresh and flavorful.  We hope to travel through Omaha again–this time with empty stomachs.

Our appetites returned that evening as we pulled into Iowa City, Iowa, a college town with a number of veg choices.  We chose The Red Avocado, an upscale, yet cozy, vegan restaurant in the lower level of a house near the university.  We began with a Cilantro-White Bean Dip garnished with toasted pepitas and fresh baked flatbread (check out my version of the recipe below).

This was followed by a Corn-Mushroom Soup which was creamy and savory.  Our first entree was Corn Cakes with Shiitake Mushrooms and Tofu, a beautifully prepared dish with excellent flavors and textures.

Second was Gnocchi, properly light and fluffy–unfortunately, it was swimming in tomato sauce. Dessert was a chocolate truffle which we took to go because the restaurant was closing. Later, we discovered this to be the weak-link in the meal; however, the rest of the experience, including the great service, overcame any disappointment.  This was one of our favorite meals of the entire trip.

Click Here For Video!

The heartlands of Nebraska and Iowa were a pleasant surprise.  We were heartened  to see the passion and commitment for local and organic foods as well as a relative abundance of plant-based options.

Next, in our quest to discover the state of the veg union, we visit a raw, culinary treasure in Downer’s Grove, Illinois.

Inspired by the Cilantro-White Bean appetizer at The Red Avocado in Iowa City, I created my own version to celebrate the heartlands of America and those good people who are making a difference.

 

White Bean Cilantro Dip

Click here for the recipe!

If you have questions or suggestions, please email or write me on Facebook or comment here.

 

 

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy–in Michigan!

In May, 2010, I released my cookbook, Vegetarian Traditions. The following 10 months, I traveled from San Diego to Michigan a number of times for events, book signings and cooking demonstrations–short trips which barely gave me time to catch my breath.  My wife, Sara, and I decided to spend the summer of 2011 in the Detroit area, allowing us to do events every week, catch up with old friends and take part in community activities.  What I discovered was exciting!

Michigan, as a whole, is in a heavy state–consistently near the top of the charts for the most overweight, even though it is one of the top agriculture producers with farming being the second largest industry.  I was always troubled by the obesity since there is so much fresh produce available in the numerous farmers markets, road side stands, grocery and produce stores, all carrying the amazing Michigan bounty.  However, this summer, I felt change in the air.

We kicked off our Michigan summer with a cooking class on Mackinac Island during their Lilac Festival.  Although the natural beauty of Mackinac Island is dazzling, the tourists always seemed to be disconnected with what they ate. Food on the island is solely for entertainment purposes–fudge, candy and restaurant cuisine prepared for taste and presentation.  This trip was different.  Not only did they invite me, a vegan, health-oriented chef, to do a demonstration in the community center, but the local chefs and residents seemed to be yearning for change towards a better and healthier cuisine.  This was evident, not only through what I was told, but also on the restaurant menus.  Mackinac Island has not lost its status of being the fudge capital of Michigan, continuing to use more sugar than anywhere else in the state—but, Rome was not built in a day.

My next surprise was when I was invited to teach a class in Wyandotte.  This is in the “down-river” area of Michigan’s very industrial community with hard working, blue collar folks.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the class was sold out.  In a charming health food store, Total Health Foods in Wyandotte’s historic downtown area, the impressive crowd was eager to learn and discover as much as they could about healthy food and cooking. The down-river experience didn’t stop there.  I was invited to pass out Inn Season Cafe’s Brown Rice Salad and sell my book in three areas which are not synonymous with vegetarian lifestyles:  Allen Park, Shelby Township and Warren.  All of these events were organized and run by the optimistic and high energy Mary Ann Demo.

Allen Park, a down-river community where the Detroit Lions practice in the summer months, is a wholesome, unassuming town and, much like Wyandotte, many of the residents worked for the auto industry or one of the other numerous plants in the area.  The farmers market was set up in a parking lot close to the downtown area.  It was quiet and may take a while to catch on, but at least Mary Ann and the Allen Park residents are making the effort and it is a good place to spend a Friday afternnoon.

The relatively new Warren Farmers Market is housed in the Warren Town Center, a wonderful facility with pavilions, a wading pool and an interactive fountain located near the GM Tech Center.  This busy market had farmers selling Indian lauki (calabash) squash, purslane and amaranth in addition to a robust presentation of the usual Michigan bounty.

The Shelby Township Farmers Market is located on the historic Packard Automotive Proving Grounds, a beautiful property with buildings designed by famed architect Albert Kahn.

Although the day I participated was unusually hot, many local residents braved the heat to purchase fresh, local produce.  One of the farmers was selling a succulent and very sweet watermelon in addition to an impressive selection of Michigan produce–the perfect antidote for the heat.


I was really excited to see several Detroit urban farmers at the historic Eastern Market, the nurturing core of Detroit’s urban expansion since 1841. Brother Nature and Grown in Detroit, just to name a couple, feature an impressive variety of fresh-picked produce from local gardens. In addition, Randy Hampshire of Hampshire Farms, is still the certified organic anchor here, selling grains, beans and breads–not to mention his fresh ground cornmeal.

The Royal Oak Farmers Market and the Birmingham Farmers Market, the two I frequent the most, were busier than I ever remember.  The Royal Oak Market is located within blocks of my former restaurant, Inn Season Cafe, where we sponsored the first organic farmers back in 1990.  Today, certified organic farms, such as Cinzori Farms, Hampshire Farms and Maple Creek Farm, anchor the organic presence, providing some of the best produce in the area and often feature unique heirloom varieties.

 

Cousin Don Hobson has worked tirelessly to make the Birmingham Market a success.  A wonderful addition to a beautiful city, it has become a must-do on Sunday for many of the local residents.  In addition to a wonderful organic presence, including Nature’s Pace Organics and Blue Water Organics, the market highlights numerous vendors with local hand-crafted products.  These two markets are great for finding vegetable treasures to make everyday meals an event!

So, as my summer trip comes to a close, I leave feeling that Michiganders are now riding the crest of the modern food revolution–actively incorporating healthy changes into their lives.  I am pleased that my book is now in the kitchens of so many on that path to change.  Sara and I feel an even stronger connection to our home state as we have come to appreciate how rich Michigan is with the incredible farmers markets, wonderful restaurants like Inn Season Cafe and The Cacao Tree and the best corn, cherries, blueberries, peaches, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, kale–just to mention a few!

Our last Summer hurrah will be the Food Is Medicine event at the Wellness Training Institute with Dr. Michael Dangovian, an integrative cardiologist who combines modern cardiology with a Yoga-based stress-reducing program.  Late September is the peak of the Michigan harvest and I will showcase foods from local farmers while demonstrating how easy it is to add these gastronomical treasures to any home repertoire.

Book update:  Vegetarian Traditions is now available to purchase at the Birmingham Wellness Institute in their new location in the Birmingham Triangle District  and Essence On Main in Clarkston.

A Market Inspired Recipe:

Big smiles and bright faces greeted me as I approached the Green Tops booth at the Birmingham Farmers Market.  This is what the high school students participating in the farmers market program at the Baldwin Center in Pontiac call their self-grown produce business.  I was pleasantly surprised to find Asian long beans on their table and bought all of them.  My first experience with this type of bean was in India, but soon discovered this is a favorite type of green bean throughout Asia.  They have a nutty flavor, are tender when cooked and only need trimming every foot or so–a real prep bonus!

Asian Long Beans in Tahini Sauce

Serves 4
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon garlic, minced

1 cup sweet onions, thinly sliced

3 cups Asian long beans, trimmed into 4 inch long sections and steamed

1 ½ cups cooked garbanzo beans¼ cup tahini (sesame butter)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 ½ cups water

½ teaspoon sea salt
In a skillet on medium heat, cook olive oil, garlic and onions until clear.  Add long beans, garbanzos, tahini, lemon juice, water and sea salt. Turn down to low heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve hot.
Note:  Green beans may be substituted if long beans are not available.

The Cacao Tree Cafe

Amber Poupore was one the most exceptional employees I had at Inn Season Cafe, wanting to learn everything about the restaurant business.  She started as a dishwasher and viewed it as the beginning of a learning process.  She was a natural and soon had mastered every possible job in the restaurant, never shying away from the tough ones like washing dishes, scrubbing odd surfaces and taking care of customers.  Even after I sold the restaurant, she assisted me with classes I taught at Whole Foods while she continued to work part time at the cafe.  Eventually she became a certified Rudolph Steiner Waldorf teacher at the Detroit Waldorf School.

Since then, in addition to managing the dining room of Inn Season Cafe, she also studied the benefits of raw foods with David Wolfe, Regeneration Raw with Andrea McNinch and numerous other raw food related programs.  When I received the call that she had purchased the former Tasi Juice Bar in Royal Oak, I sensed the same confidence and spirit of working with the community she always had.

Within a few short weeks, the Cacao Tree Cafe took shape and blossomed under her direction.  Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the beautiful, delicious and healing food has become the talk of the town.   The Cacao Tree, with their offerings of vegan, raw and living food, complements the nearby Inn Season Cafe’s cuisine.

Chefs Hitoko and Zack create beautiful and delicious confections, savory snacks and life-enhancing entrees.  The raw falafels, burritos, tacos and stir fries are full of flavor, vital nutritional energy and also very fulfilling.

This is the beginning of something special.  A New Year is here and the place to celebrate is the Cacao Tree Cafe!

The Cacao Tree Cafe Video







Holiday Spirit is Alive in Michigan

The first week of December was another whirlwind trip to Michigan for events, book signings and talks.  It has been three years since my feet felt the cold pavement of a Detroit winter.  I bit my lip and braced for the cold as I dashed into the Cacao Tree Cafe where I found warmth, refuge and good energy.

Former employee and friend, Amber Poupore, has recently begun her adventure as a restaurateur.  Her emphasis is raw and vegan; the food was delicious and energizing.

My initial book-signing appearance was at the Birmingham Winter Markt, their first annual German-style holiday festival.

Cousin Don Hobson, farmer and market-master for the Birmingham Farmers Market, invited me to share a booth with him.  His homemade jams and kettle corn were on one side and my books on the other.

When I suggested space heaters, he said he was country and wouldn’t need them.  The morning following an evening of selling in the 19 degree cold, Cousin Don arrived with two space heaters under his arms.  The Markt turned out to be a charming event in spite of the colder than usual weather.  Stalwart and hardy Michiganders, inspired with Holiday spirit, flocked to the outdoor Markt.  As twilight approached, the park became magical with the beautiful lights, music and good cheer.

The next day I left signed books with my son, Spyros, and headed to a book-signing at the warm and cozy Borders Bookstore, just a few blocks away.  At both events, I saw many old friends and met new ones.

Monday morning started with an interview on the Craig Fahle show on the local NPR station, WDET.  As I drove to the studio in Detroit, I marveled at the renewed energy in the area.  I had a strong sense that people were not lying down and accepting their fate in these tough economic times.  Nowhere was this more visible (and audible) than when I entered the studio of WDET.  The positive energy they all seemed to have about Detroit was contagious–it felt as if I was participating in a grand experiment of urban renewal.

My next stop was Whole Foods Market in Troy.  They sponsored my events, providing me with the food I needed to teach my classes and gave me brochures for the inspiring healthy-food program created by Dr. Joel Furhman.

Tuesday was lunch with Halim and Lamia of Oasis Mart in Royal Oak.  We have been business associates and friends since Inn Season Cafe opened in 1981.  Lamia is a fantastic cook–a real neighborhood treasure.  She served a delicious crushed lentil soup, biryani rice, majdara, hummus, babaghanoush, lentil salad and baklava.  They invited friends and customers to come by for a meet and greet.  It was a joyous affair with great food and company.

In the evening, at the Wayne County Community College (WCCC), 76 people showed up for my cooking demonstration and talk about vegetarian food for the holidays.

I taught the enthusiastic crowd how to make Quinoa-Corn Arepas and Cranberry Chocolate Salsa with Toasted Pepita and Fire-Roasted Poblano Chile Pesto.

Inn Season Cafe provided Cashew Vegetable Chili and their house bread.  The food and book were big hits and we discussed a repeat in the Spring.

The next afternoon  was spent in Grosse Pointe at the TV5 studio in the War Memorial, a grand old estate built by Russell Alger Jr.  Robert Taylor and his wife, Pamela Hill Taylor, hosted me on their show Out of the Ordinary and into the Extraordinary.  It gave me a chance to talk about the hard-working farmers and bountiful farmers markets in Michigan, as well as the impact they have on the community.  We discussed how to enjoy the holidays while making healthy food choices and where to start with those New Years resolutions.  The fun and informative show is now available in eight Michigan counties in the public access area of ATT and Comcast cable services.

Wednesday evening was the sold-out event Food is Medicine at the Wellness Training Institute with cardiologist Dr. Michael Dangovian.

We took turns discussing how food is not only the key to nourishing the body, but also one of the key factors for reducing stress in life.

In addition to demonstrating the same dishes from WCCC, I also prepared the Shiitake Mushroom Saute recipe from my book.  Inn Season Cafe provided Budapest Mushroom Soup and their house bread as well as a delicious Bengali Rice Salad.

We’re already planning our next event for March 30, 2011.  If you are interested, please contact the Wellness Training Institute.

Overall, my Michigan visit was personally very satisfying as I saw progress in the food/health ideals that I worked for during my restaurant years.

Inn Season Cafe is thriving, The Cacao Tree is just simply amazing and the Wellness Training Institute represents the future of medicine.  I’m gratified to be part of this movement in Detroit.

Vegetarian Traditions Cookbook

Special direct-from-the-author

Holiday Price this week!

Only $24.99


All books purchased here are signed by the author!

Expedited shipping available

–up until December 23rd.


Japanese Imo Yams


Yams and sweet potatoes are favorite Thanksgiving vegetables, especially in the south.   Sweet potatoes have white flesh and light skin, while the yams we often see in super markets have orange flesh and skin.  In any case, no matter the name used, the healthy properties of this vegetable have been gaining much attention, especially the Japanese Imo yam variety which has white flesh and red skin.

In his book Healthy at 100, John Robbins discusses how the Imo yam is a key contributing factor to the well known longevity in the Okinawan culture.  On his television show, Dr. Mehmet Oz has noted this yam as a super food.

In Japan, the Imo yam is often steamed, used in miso soups or fried as a tempura; it is even used in some sweet dishes.  With the arrival of an Autumn crop from Sage Mountain Farms in San Diego, I have been using it in a variety of ways.  One of my favorite preparations is a combination of the yam with Asian long beans and coconut curry.  Other dishes I prepare are: Imo yam salad, candied Imo yam with caramelized ponzu and Imo yam & coconut cakes.  A favorite with my family is the featured recipe, Japanese Imo Yams with Miso Sauce.

While different from the yam typically used for a holiday dinner, the tender sweetness of Imo yam adds appropriate diversity to the traditional cuisine.  Delicious when simply prepared and, at the same time, worthy of the holiday table.  A perfect super food to enhance both health and tradition.

Japanese Imo Yams with Lemon Miso Sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 cup sweet onions, sliced thin

1 medium Japanese Imo yam, sliced into 3/8 inch thick slices,

steamed until soft

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

2 tablespoons mirin

1 1/2 tablespoons tamari

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups water from steamer

1 1/4 cups unpasteurized red miso

2 bunches red Russian kale

In a 10 inch skillet on medium heat, cook the oil and onions until the edges become clear.  Add the steamed yams, then brown rice vinegar, mirin, tamari and lemon juice. Cover and cook until onions are clear.  In a separate container, mix the water and miso until it it is smooth then add to the yams.  Turn down to a low simmer and cook until the miso thickens to a gravy-like consistency.  Wash and stem the kale, slice into strips and steam for 2 minutes.  To serve, place a little kale on the plate, center a yam disc on top.  Repeat.  Top with miso and onion gravy.  Serve hot.


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