“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.
Mainstream America does not emphasize food as a key to a quality life and source of longevity. Food is mostly used as a sensual sideshow and necessary evil. One the big challenges we face, especially in dire times, is to reconnect with the earth’s culinary heritage. Not only the exclusive diets of the privileged, but those of common people. These are diets that nourish body and soul, which utilize the senses instead of merely placating them. Such foods help define who we are and keep us in touch with the ever present organic cycles of the earth.
I first discovered the significance of food as a young child from my Greek grandmother, who tirelessly went out of her way to both nourish and nurture her family through the medium of lovingly prepared traditional dishes. Memories in my Yia Yia and Papou’s house invariably are associated the times when our family gathered around the dining table, situated just outside of Yia Yia’s kitchen. There I sampled exquisite hand made, tender dolamdakia, irresistible spanikopita, perfectly balanced moussaka and pastitsio to die for. The memories were augmented with intense and creamy skordalia, almost sinfully sweet baklava and the melt-in-the mouth amigdalota cookies made from almonds and orange blossom water. The food sparked conversation and familial bonding.
Eating this way, we knew what it was to be Greek. The food was historically intertwined with cultural identity. What, how and when it was (or is) consumed was a major portion of the Hellenic psyche. Greece is a land that has witnessed the ravages of changing civilizations, occupations and political turmoil. Often it was recognized as the center of the civilized world and the source of our modern political structures. The unique and flavorful cuisine has been a consistent reminder of the greatness that Greece was…and still is. Much of this glory was achieved over millennia at tables in homes and villages with foodstuffs foraged in the mountains, harvested from the land and caught in the sea. The plant based food was so significant that the famous Greek Key pattern, found over millennia as a theme on temples, homes, fabrics and ornaments, was derived from the field plowing pattern used by farmers. Ancient Greeks would also pour a small libation of wine on the earth before drinking, much in the way we toast today. The Greeks have learned to live with the earth in a respectful partnership, where harmonizing with the energies of the cosmos became a goal in life. Anyone who has spent time in Greece can still feel this incredible energy integrated into every aspect. Often this translates into the Greek spirit of life. Along with the Mediterranean sunshine, the sea breezes and the stark raw beauty of the land, it is unique and unlike any other place on earth. No wonder so many Greeks return to their mother land.
Each day, 30 to 40 minutes is usually spent cooking. Fast traditional cooking is wonderful, but the traditional slow and carefully prepared dishes add depth, perspective and an understanding of the true meaning of the food. I like to use traditionally prepared condiments, such as tamari, ume plum vinegar, unpasteurized miso, cured olives, salted capers and well aged balsamic vinegar to compliment my quickly prepared meals. Often these dishes are rooted in the climate and politics of the era they originated from, adding romanticized imagery of the times of yore. Many well crafted preparations depend on fermentation, something we are rarely exposed to since refrigeration came into the kitchen. These dishes often define flavors of a cuisine with the unique flavors of enzymatic growth. Often they were used in winter to add flavor and vital nutrients when the fresh harvest was not available. Along with preserving and salt curing, fermentation was used to keep perishable ingredients edible.
Sauerkraut is one of those dishes. In Michigan, every Autumn during the abundant cabbage harvest, housewives and farmers would grate large amounts of the cruciferous vegetable on everything from hand graters to handyman crafted grating boxes which could shred an entire giant head at a time. The freshly shredded cabbage was placed with salt in crocks, barrels or bin, then pressed and covered to encapsulate the fermentation process. After a couple of weeks or so, the cabbage turned into sauerkraut and continued to ferment until canning. Today, a good amount of Michigan’s bountiful cabbage crop is turned into nutritious sauerkraut and donated to food banks.
In India, nation culinary treasures such as Idli, Dosa, Jallebi and Dahi (yogurt) all depend on fermentation for unique flavors and health giving enzymes. Dosa has very ancient roots in South Indian Tamil culture that are at least 6,000 years old. This original “crepe” has maintained popularity and is one of the most recognized and cherished dishes in greater Indian cuisine. Thirty years ago, Indian dahi-walla shops were frequently a stove, a pot and a cook (sometimes with a couple of cows out back) who worked among clay vessels of all shapes and sizes made to hold yogurt as it cultured. Down the street, one would usually find a potter sitting on the ground with a throwing wheel, a pile of clay vessels and a pit for firing. For yogurt, the clay would insulate as well as remove whey from the yogurt as it turned to curd over a four to five hour period. Turning milk into yogurt, butter and sweets were a method of preservation before refrigeration and was practiced wherever cows, sheep, goats and buffalo were kept. I remember my Yia Yia (Greek grandmother) making her own yogurt, keeping a string of cultures from one batch to the next. She would culture the yogurt on top of her refrigerator wrapped in towels where it would stay warm enough to transform the milk into a very tangy yogurt.
India also has a long history of pickle making, using sea salt, mustard, fenugreek, chillies and oils. I learned the craft from a Gujarati family and, over the years would make salty, hot, sour and often sweet pickles during the growing season. Pickles from eggplant, green beans, green mangos, lemons, limes and chillies accompanied the regional Indian cuisine we were preparing daily at the time.
Garum, a fermented fish sauce, was used throughout the ancient Roman Empire, much the same way fish sauces are used in Korean, Thai, Cambodian, Fillipino and Vietnamese cuisines. Soy sauce, shoyu and tamari in Chinese and Japanese cuisines are rooted in similar traditions. Asian cuisines are full of fermented products, like Tempeh, Natto and Kimchee.
Commonly acknowledged, products with long traditions of fermentation are beer and wine. The ancients became masters of wine and beer making, not just for the pleasing effects, but also because water could not be trusted. The armies of Alexander the Great marched to India using beer and wine instead of water. Bread baking as we have come to know it also started from the process of making beer and wine. The white coatings we sometimes see on grapes are a yeast that is also used for sourdough bread. Brewers yeast, the by-product of beer making, is also an old source of traditional bread yeast. Beer making is perhaps one of the oldest known fermenting traditions with archeological evidence from 9,000 years ago. Since it is made with grains, beer has kept a close relationship with bread. Ancient Egyptians had massive bakeries at the base of the Great Pyramid, capable of providing up to 30,000 loaves of bread a day and were conveniently located next to breweries. Up until the last 60 years, many people kept crocks with yeast starters in their kitchens to make bread with. With the exception of Prohibition, yeast was readily available from breweries throughout America. Packaged, and especially, active dry yeast are relatively new in the world of food.
With the arrival of dependable refrigeration, many of these foodstuffs were relegated to the realm of cultural identity as they were no longer were necessary. Commercial manufacturers took over more difficult tasks such as bread baking, wine and beer making, yogurt and butter as well as anything else they could sell back to the public in order for to time to be saved in the kitchen. 19th and 20th century kitchens evolved so fast that many of the time honored culinary traditions have become very rare or even lost.
Growing up with my Greek Yia Yia’s cooking helped me to appreciate the deep connections between food, culture and environment. For this reason when the current culinary revolution recognized these same connections, I found a natural kinship with those who embraced it. Over the years, I have also discovered the remarkable role vegetarianism has played in human history. Often, it is associated with the visionary brilliance, notably such souls as Gandhi and Einstein. Every cuisine has some form of plant based food in it and I promote that every culture has vegetarian traditions. Commonly, fermented dishes and condiments are prominent in such repertoires.
Beyond obvious refrigeration issues, both ancient and modern medicinal wisdom recognize the potent nutrition and life giving value in fermented foods. Modern science has also recognized the hazards of improperly fermenting, requiring sterile environments and standardized cultures. While this has undoubtedly increased food safety, we have also lost many organic hand-crafted traditions. Often, much of the health benefit is diminished as well. I include as many of these dishes as possible in my culinary stable and even find that once a cultured product is made, it facilitates quick and easy meals while, at the same time, adding the depth of slowly developed flavors.
“Iconic cuisine” could describe the food of Bengal. Among their many influential dishes, sweets are perhaps the most famous. Yet, there are many preparations which have come to shape Indian cuisine as a whole. Charchari is not merely a single dish, but a cooking style unique to Bengal. Essentially, vegetables are cooked in a pan and covered without stirring until a close-to-burnt caramelized crust forms on the bottom of the pan, which is stirred in to finish the dish. Unlike many vegetable dishes in India, spicing is simple, often only turmeric, chillies, salt and hing (onion-like asafetida powder). The result is a deliciously rich tasting subji (vegetable) which can be used as an appetizer with crackers and bread, or as a show-stopping part of a bigger Indian meal.
One of my favorite cookbooks is The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Jamuna devi. She is to Indian vegetarian cuisine what Julia Child was to French home-cooked cuisine. Her book is an easy-to-understand look at Indian kitchens. It was written a number of years ago and is a timeless must-have resource for those who wish to cook and enjoy Indian food as it is supposed to be. Jamuna presents a number of charcharis in the book and her description and recipe is excerpted as follows:
“Charcharis are Bengali vegetable dishes that combine three cooking procedures: boiling, steaming and frying. Though other cuisines of the world use the same procedures, and in a similar sequence, to my knowledge only charcharis are brought to the point of charring. During the entire procedure, the vegetable is never stirred—not even once! They are succulent vegetables, often rich and served as side dishes, but take little attention while cooking and are really delicious.
The dividing line between the cooking procedures is blurry. In the first stage, large pieces of vegetable are gently boiled in a seasoned liquid. Sometimes sugar, tomatoes or lemon juice is added to provide a glaze, flavor or zest in the finished dish. In the second stage, the vegetables are steamed by the concentrated liquids barely boiling in the bottom of the pan. Srila Prabhupad described the final stages of cooking: ‘When the liquid is absorbed, there will be a little noise, a hhhzzzz sound, and then, just as the bottom crust browns, turn off the heat and it is done.’ The pan is covered and allowed to sit off the heat for a few minutes, until the crust softens and can be easily folded into the moist vegetables.
Since this final stage of cooking delicately borders on burning, it is important to convey that it should not come to that. No one wants to serve or eat burned vegetables. It is essential to use a very heavy, thick bottom pan such as enamel on steel, stainless steel or, better still, non-stick Silverstone on heavy aluminum. With good non-stick cookware and attention to heat control, perfect charcharis are possible even the first time around.”
Here is a recipe I adapted from Jamuna’s cookbook by mixing it with my own experiences of charchari. Many years ago I was able to sample some of her cooking and the exquisite flavors of her beautifully crafted dishes have inspired me ever since. I dedicate this recipe to her and the amazing foods that roll out of her kitchen.
Baigan Aloo Charchari
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
2 finger hot green chilies, minced
1/4 teaspoon hing (yellow asafoetida powder)
6-8 fresh neem leaves
5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
1 medium sized eggplant, cut into one inch cubes
1 2/3 cups water
1 cup spinach leaves, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh ground
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed 4 quart pan over moderate heat. When it is hot, but not smoking, add the black mustard seeds, ginger and chilies and fry until the mustard seeds sputter and turn gray. Sprinkle in the hing and neem leaves and within 5 seconds, stir in the potatoes, tossing with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook about 30 minutes. From time to time, check to see if the vegetables are drying up, and adjust the heat or liquid accordingly. When the vegetables are fork-tender, all of the liquid should be absorbed and the vegetables left sizzling.
Raise the heat to moderately high and fry, without stirring, until a slightly charred crust forms on the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. Stir the crust into the soft vegetables before serving.
Toward the end of the harvest season chiles, tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro can be found in abundance. Inspired by the vibrant colors and pungent flavors of Mexico, I particularly like grilling the salsa vegetables to give them a rustic and earthy taste and feel. Easy to prepare and full of flavor, this is a salsa that stands out in a crowd.
3 hatch or Anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded and halved lengthwise
2 torpeo or cipollini onions, peeled and trimmed
3 three inch diameter tomatoes, sliced in half
Cook the chiles, onions and tomatoes on a medium heat grill. When lightly blackened on one side, carefully turn the vegetables and use a flat spatula to turn the tomatoes. Blackened again and place in a bowl. Place ingredients on a cutting board and coarsley chop, then return them to the bowl.
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
Mix cilantro, lime, sea salt and garlic together in a bowl. Add grilled vegetables. Serve after 1/2 hour to give time for the flavors to integrate. Serve at room temperature or hot.
Across the country, top chefs have adopted serving a series of small bites to their discerning customers in order to present food at its purest and freshest state. In those culinary emporiums of the celebrity chef, the goal is to immerse the senses in the wonders of gastronomy. Through visual presentation, tactile sensation, aromatic teases and tasting stimulating flavors chefs are wowing their guests with magnificent plates and anticipatory service.
While the specific experience may be new, there is a long history for this kind of eating. While the great cuisines of Europe are directly rooted to the indulgence of monks in abbeys of the middle ages (and indirectly in Roman high-society excesses), there are also culinary traditions from areas of the world less exposed to the American palate, such as China, Thailand, Vietnam and India. One of these is the cuisine of Yogic India. Entwined with the ancient medical science of Ayurveda, as well as religious philosophies which espouse spiritual cooking and distribution of food, the yoga of cooking has been refined over fifty centuries of recorded history.
Many years ago, my personal culinary journey placed me in Vrindavan, one of the yoga epicenters of India. This was Krishna’s hometown and continues to thrive as a philosophical retreat with over 5000 temples and numerous spiritual schools, particularly inclined toward bhakti-yoga. I became enamored by the attention to detail placed on the food, not only in temples, but in households and street food as well. With a different approach than Western chefs, the food not only had to look good and taste perfect, but it had to be cooked “a-la-minute” and more significantly, also digest well.
The Ayurvedic philosophy of balance was present everywhere, but especially noticeable in the traditional main lunch meal, called a thali. This is where small bites came into play. Originally served on banana leaves with clay cups or stainless steel trays for the common man, it was also served pure silver trays for the aristocrats. Rice is placed in the center and small bowls of vegetables, savories, dahls, pickles, chutneys and raita surround it. In addition, freshly made pillow shaped chapatis are served with steam still spouting through a crack in the top.
The meal balances the five tastes and five mellows of Ayurveda to create an ideal healthy meal with abundant complete proteins, phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants. Like the fine dining cooking in America, it is a complete sensual immersion, but unlike the West, one feels nourished and vitalized in body, mind and spirit with both sensual stimulation and dietary engagement. The senses are wowed, but they are also brought on board as partners in health. All ingredients were local and, without refrigeration, we shopped the market daily. In my mind, this is the gold standard for us to strive for. There were no leftovers and extras were shared with local sadhus and animals.
While my explanations cannot do them justice, it can be said some of these meals were instances that created rare tears of joy as I ate. The food was that good! The cooks who prepared those meals are still my culinary heroes and inspire similar attention to detail in every meal I prepare.
We are in the midst of a great American food revolution. Farmers markets around the country are the front lines of this cultural awakening directly connecting urban dwellers with regional farm and food producers. Chefs have discovered farm-fresh produce as the secret to fine cuisine which has led to an increase in their patron’s culinary awareness and high expectations.
Community and markets go hand in hand. Farmers markets are places to learn about food, regions, farms and community events. One of the simple pleasures in my life is discussing local foods and agricultural trends with small farmers who have a direct connection to the earth.
The communities of the ancient world situated their markets in town squares and city centers since this was where people gathered–these markets tended to be the seat of government as well. Famously, democracy was created in the Agora (marketplace) of ancient Athens.
I shop two or three farmers markets weekly buying an exciting variety of seasonal produce. Nature provides the nutritive balance with different plants maturing each week during the growing season. Traditional cultures around the world synchronized their lives around the cycles of indigenous growth and harvests.
However, in today’s markets, farmers have a tendency to grow what sells. While this may make good business sense, the unfortunate result is that the educational aspects of the markets are lessened. So, when I see unusual offerings, such as green amaranth, bitter melon or, one of my favorite culinary treasures, purslane, my mind begins to conjure up different ways to prepare dishes with the fresh delicacies before me.
Purslane is a nutritional powerhouse savored by most of the great food cultures of the world. It is one of the highest plant sources in Omega 3 fatty acids and rich in vitamins A, C, Potassium and Alpha-Linoleic acid. It was well known to ancient cultures in the Mideast and Asia and used in traditional Chinese medicine for bee stings and snake bites. Pliny advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil.
Here in a America, purslane was relegated to the status of a weed. Crop rows and sidewalks across the country are sprayed with herbicides to eradicate this perceived nuisance. It thrives in harsh, dry climates and, as a companion plant, enables less hardy plants to survive by helping the root systems reach greater depths. It also helps create a beneficial microclimate and stabilize moisture levels–not to mention, it is delicious!
This recipe takes about 30 minutes. The sauteed purslane and lacinato kale rolls may be prepared individually, but I chose to combine them for complimentary flavor and drama of presentation.
Lacinato Kale Roll with Sautéed Purslane
Makes 8 rolls, serves 4 to 8
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 cup spring onions, sliced
2 bunches, or 6 cups, purslane, washed, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
In a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat, cook the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper for 5 to 10 seconds or until the garlic and chiles sizzle. Add the onion, purslane and sea salt. Cook for 30 seconds, cover and turn down to a simmer.
1/2 cup Vegenaise, vegan mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons roasted red pepper
2 teaspoons organic tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
In a separate bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients.
Filling and assembly
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
In another thoroughly fold together all filling ingredients.
8 large lacinato kale leaves, stemmed
Place 1 heaping tablespoon at the top of the kale leaf and, while folding the
side edges in, roll the leaf into a stuffed grape leaf shape. Steam for 12 minutes on medium high heat. Place 1 cup purslane on plate, place one roll on top and top with 1 ½ tablespoons sauce.
Serve while hot.
A Lifestyle of Romance
This is the time of year to shake off the dust of distraction, polish our manners and look for creative ways to express ourselves romantically. Often the centerpieces of these endeavors are built around sensual foods and, when wooing our loved ones on Valentines Day, chocolate rules supreme.
The roots of St Valentines Day lay in Rome with February marking the beginning of Spring on the Roman Calendar. At that time, every household was swept out and sprinkled with salt and spelt berries. The fertility festival, Lupercalia, began on the Ides of February (15th) and was celebrated throughout Rome by pairing unmarried youths until the following February, often resulted in marriages.
Roman culture had a great appreciation for earth’s beauty and those who inhabited it. They celebrated the gifts of the land and the power of attraction which is intimately intertwined like a grape vine in an arbor. One could reason this had something to do with the word romance being derived from Roman.
In 485 A.D., the Catholic church sought to Christianize the Lupercalia festival by celebrating Saint Valentine, thought to be a martyred priest from two centuries prior. As a result, the romantic aspect of the celebration does not appear again until the Middle Ages. It was the mid 19th century when it began to resemble the phenomena it is today.
On Valentine’s Day, when the meal is emotionally charged, there is one ingredient that is a “must” on the menu–chocolate. Chocolate has long been known as an all around sensual ingredient. The Aztecs called it “Nourishment of the Gods.” Not only does it enchant us with its dark seductive flavor, but it contains compounds which have an immediate sensual effect as well as long lasting health benefits.
This dessert, Hazelnut Love Bites, is a combination of three luscious flavors and textures–hazelnut, raspberry and chocolate–all making for a passionate dessert experience.
Makes 24 Love Bites
1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
2/3 cups plain almond milk
1/4 block (3 ounces) firm silken-style tofu
1/8 cup raw cashew nuts, ground to a meal
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350º F. Using a 24 cup mini cupcake pan, line each cup with unbleached baking cups. Put hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, evaporated cane juice and arrowroot into a large bowl and whisk together with a French whip. In a blender, puree soy milk, tofu and cashews to a smooth consistency. Transfer to another large bowl and stir in canola oil and vanilla. Combine the two mixtures and stir vigorously for one minute to develop the gluten in the flour. Fill each cup to just below the rim and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean(a little sticky is Ok). Allow to cool.
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add all ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Then strain by pushing through a fine wire strainer with a rubber spatula until only the seeds are left–really work it. Discard seeds. Return strained raspberries to pan and simmer for another 5 minutes. Reserve.
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/2 cup plain almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a double boiler on medium heat, add all chocolate ganache ingredients. Stir periodically and cook for about 30 minutes until chocolate is melted and smooth. Test a drop on a cold plate, it should set up to a frosting consistency. Allow to cool and reserve.
When the cupcakes are cool, use a small pointed-tip knife to create a crater in the center of each cake, then pour in a small amount of raspberry sauce. To frost, either use a flat knife to frost each cupcake or put frosting into a pastry bag and pipe.
Ready to serve.
I only use organic and unadulterated ingredients
Through personal example, my father inspired me to respect beauty and romance on a daily basis–one never knows when they will be encountered, often by chance. He often expressed his inspirations through poetry.
With the kindness of its weather,
San Diego has developed multiple forms of beauty.
(My words of enthusiasm are difficult to restrain.)
The soil harbors and embraces plants which give birth
to hundreds of varieties of flowers.
Their creative method of procreation is:
they make their flowers so fragrant and colorful
that the bees and other pertinent species
are attracted to visit,
To collect their nectar, and thereby leave tracks
from gathering visits to neighboring flowers.
The plants then “eat”, and become happily pregnant.
This is the intelligence of beauty!
Now the plants we call ‘trees’ reach high for the sky
and its sunshine.
Each family has its own leaf formation, and height,
their arms lissome to the winds,
as their hair of leaves is tousled.
And we humans too enjoy our views of them.
Happy Valentines Day!
It all happens so quickly–rain, sun and warmth spawning explosions of green in the garden. Finnochio begins to form tender bulbs as the deep green fronds of fennel weed thicken-up. Swiss chard leaves seem to double in size after one good rain and young leeks become perfectly tender. A Midwestern garden in June can be a treasure trove of delicacies–one of the late spring joys which makes winter seem long ago.
This recipe is inspired by Michigan and San Diego gardens–not to mention my Cretan grandmother (Yia Yia). Kypo (kee-poh) is the Greek word for garden. I have fond memories of Yia Yia picking fennel and other herbs, which she used liberally. She made several dishes using phyllo, often rolled by hand and devoid of the buttery residue, commonly found with most phyllo recipes. My Kypo-pita follows this tradition–there is no butter and the phyllo is lightly oiled–the secret to our delicious phyllo dishes at Inn Season Cafe.
Recently, I was asked to demonstrate a Greek-style dish at the Opa Fest in Troy, Michigan. It was exciting for me to share my language of food with my fellow Greeks and discuss its history and my Cretan roots. Particularly gratifying was to reminisce about my father, Spyros, and his passion for our Greek heritage.
When making this recipe, keep in mind that other leafy vegetables from the garden, such as spinach, beet greens, purslane and sorrel, can be incorporated or substituted.
Once you try this technique with phyllo, you will say, as the Greeks do, “Bravo!”
Garden Roulades (Kypo-Pita)
Serves 8 to 10
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup leeks, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups fennel root (finocchio), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup blanched almond flour
3/4 cup fresh fennel weed, stemmed and finely chopped
In a small saucepan on medium heat, cook the oil, leeks and garlic until the leeks begin to turn clear on the edges. Add the fennel root, lemon and water, cover and simmer until the fennel root is soft. Stir-in the sea salt, almond flour and fennel weed and turn off the heat. Reserve.
6 cups Swiss chard leaves, stemmed and chopped (2 cups cooked)
4 cups Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped (1 cup cooked)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, preferably Cretan
Steam Swiss chard and kale for 2 to 3 minutes until well wilted. In a medium size bowl, mix together all ingredients. Reserve.
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sweet onions (Vidalia-style), thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
Simmer all ingredients at low heat in a covered sauce pan until the onions caramelize in their own juices. Reserve.
1 cup organic expeller-pressed canola oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Cretan
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Mix together all ingredients, reserve.
1 package organic phyllo dough (preferably whole wheat)
1 cup roasted red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
Create a clear workspace for working with the phyllo dough. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set up a parchment lined baking sheet. Stir the oil mixture well and, using a pastry brush, lightly brush oil mixture on the parchment, add one sheet of phyllo and lightly brush the phyllo, continually stirring the oil mixture. Repeat until 6 layers have been laid out.
Place a string of red pepper strips along the edge of the long side of the phyllo. Place a ½ inch wide strip of caramelized onion next to the red peppers. Then, lay a 2 inch wide strip of the cooked greens evenly next to the caramelized onion. Lastly, spread a 3 inch wide strip of the fennel-almond mixture evenly next to the greens. Roll the phyllo roulade-style and, with a serrated knife, slice the top half of the roulade every inch or so. Repeat to make a second roulade. Arrange them both on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned on the edges. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes and slice into individual pieces. Serve warm. If refrigerated, they should be re-baked at 300 degrees for 15 minutes before serving to bring back the crispness of the phyllo.