Moroccan Kamut Salad

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I was recently perusing the grains at the grocery store and came across one that I had never seen before: KAMUT®. It looked like wheat berries, which I love, and it came in pretty packaging, an attribute for which I will eternally be a sucker, so I tossed it in my basket to try at home after a little Internet research. The brand I bought was Bob’s Red Mill Grains of Discovery series.

Ancient grains are supposedly hot this year (who decides these things?), so I have completely bought into whatever marketing scheme placed the attractive bag of wheat on the shelf and subsequently into my cart. . . then into my kitchen, onto my dinner table, and. . . within this blog post. Should I have named this post “Meta Kamut® Salad?”

I can guarantee you I am not being paid by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Grains to write this post, so let’s learn something, shall we? First, KAMUT® is the trademarked name for a certain type of Khorasan wheat (turanicum variety Q-77). The exact origin of Khorasan wheat is unknown, but it is believed to have been originally cultivated in the Fertile Crescent. According to one legend, Khorasan wheat was once near extinction until an American airman mailed some seeds found in Egypt back home to his family in Montana in the late 1940’s to cultivate, thus reintroducing the grain to modern cuisine. It’s a nice story that I don’t think I believe, but it does make for good dinner conversation. If you are blessed with a table full of dinner guests who believe in dining without smart phones, you could really embellish this tale into a great story, without fear of someone fact-checking you halfway through the main course.

Khorasan wheat grains are roughly twice the size of the common wheat kernel which makes them very attractive in salads. They have a nutty flavor with a pleasant chew when cooked properly. They can also be milled into flour for use in baked goods. One clear advantage of Khorasan wheat over common modern wheat is that it has a much higher protein content; at seven grams per serving, it has up to 40% more protein than common wheat. Khorasan wheat also contains a higher percentage of selenium, zinc, magnesium, and amino acids. Full nutritional information is available on the Bob’s Red Mill website.

Would all of these spices marry up with this ancient grain, feta cheese, kale, carrots, and pomegranate arils anywhere in the world besides my kitchen? Who knows, but the combo tastes pretty awesome. This salad is tasty served warm or cold. Plus the salad is a nutritional powerhouse that would make for great make-ahead lunches that would leave you satisfied all afternoon.

I enjoyed the flavor and texture of the Khorasan wheat so I think I will use it again. However, this ingredient does require a little planning, as the wheat berries have to soak in water overnight. Not a quick go-to pantry ingredient, but one that is worth the wait if you plan meals better than I do most nights.

Moroccan Khorasan Wheat Salad (serves 4)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup KAMUT® brand Khorasan wheat berries
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 4 threads saffron
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided (2 + 1)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Cover wheat berries in water and soak overnight, or at least six hours.
  2. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add saffron and wheat berries and simmer, covered, for 50-60 minutes or until tender.
  3. In a large pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and saute until onion is translucent. Add spices (ginger through cayenne) and saute for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add garlic and kale and saute until wilted. Add lemon juice and turn heat to low.
  5. Add carrot-onion mixture and wheat berries to large pot with kale and cook until warmed throughout.
  6. To serve cold: remove from heat to refrigerator, chill this mixture for at least one hour, then add feta, pomegranate, and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. To serve warm: remove from heat, add feta, pomegranate, and salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.
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How Melissa’s Produce Got Chile Peppers Into My Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I recently received an email from Melissa’s Produce, proclaiming that Hatch Chile Season is upon us! I had no idea what a hatch chile was, but already I was excited to find out. Within a few days, I had a box full of hatch chiles and a cookbook sitting on my desk, along with some information about this short-lived seasonal pepper. Because I had so much fun learning about and experimenting with these versatile peppers, I want to share my hatch chile experience with you.*

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Hatch chiles are grown in New Mexico and harvested for just a few weeks each year, in late August and early September. They range from mild to hot, and they taste best roasted, with their thick skins peeled off. I learned all of this while flipping through the cookbook in my office, when my coworkers asked me why I had a box of peppers sitting on my desk. I had the samples shipped to work, and consequently I left the office that day with just half the peppers in my possession. The other half went on to other experiments in five of my coworkers’ homes. I can only imagine that by now they have been grilled, roasted, stuffed, and chopped into a variety of dishes.

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A few local Kroger grocery stores partnered with Melissa’s Produce to host hatch chile roastings over the last two weeks, and I visited one last weekend to see the pepper roasting in action. There were samples of three heat levels to help shoppers decide which peppers to buy: mild, hot, and extra hot. The hot ones were my favorite, but a lot of people preferred the extra hots. While there, I saw several people buy whole cases of peppers and then have them roasted on-site for free. I opted to roast mine myself, in two batches. The first batch of mild peppers that were delivered for free, I roasted under the broiler in my oven. The second batch of hot peppers that I purchased at Kroger (for $1.40 per pound!), I roasted on a charcoal grill.

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After roasting, it is best to peel the peppers (with gloves!) to remove the skin and seeds, slice them, and freeze them for use over the next few months. Another way to experience hatch chiles in the off-season is to stock up on the hatch chile powder now, and then toss it in soups, stews, chili, and enchiladas into the fall and winter months. I froze six peppers after roasting and peeling, and I cooked with the rest, using the Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook.

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I could not believe how many great recipes were in this book, all using hatch chiles, and I was very glad to see that most of the recipes were vegetarian. The book covers all types of dishes, including breakfast, snacks, soups, stews, sides, entrees, desserts, and even beverages! I am looking forward to trying that hatch chile margarita!

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So far I have used the hatch chiles in black bean tacos and in chocolate chip cookies. I used the mild peppers in the cookies and couldn’t even taste them. The cookie recipe is seriously good – great flavor and consistency, not too soft, not too crunchy. However, next time I think I will use the hot chiles to balance the sweetness of the cookie because I was a little bummed that the cookies did not taste as weird as they sounded. The cookbook really opened my eyes to how versatile these peppers are, and I am glad that I stocked up when I did because I am looking forward to continuing to test recipes from the book and create more of my own.

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* I did receive a free box of hatch chiles and a cookbook when I expressed interest in learning more about the chiles and testing the recipes for my blog. As always, my opinions are all my own, and I never recommend a product without testing it first.

Spicy Cauliflower Tacos with Sunchoke Hash

I recently discovered sunchokes in the produce section of Ellwood Thompson’s on Manager’s Special, which meant they were half off. I have wanted to experiment with sunchokes for awhile, but they are a little expensive to risk screwing up. But at 50% the normal price, you would have bought them too, right?

Their name sounds like artichokes, they look like ginger, but they taste like potatoes. Except they taste better than potatoes, nutty and a little sweet, like Yukon Golds with personality. Not sweet like sweet potatoes, just a little sweet. This may sound a little confusing, but try to stay with me. It gets better but only after it gets a little worse.

Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, are native to North America, not Jerusalem. Also confusing, I know. They are related to the sunflower plant, and the edible part of the sunchoke is the knobby little tuber that grows below the flowering plant. So that clears up the name a little. But why the misleading alias “Jerusalem Artichoke?”. I suppose aliases, by nature, are misleading. . . but that is neither here nor there. There are a few different theories out there, but this one is my favorite. In Spanish, the word for sunflower is girasol. In Italian, girasole. See where this is going yet? Presumably, Italian settlers in North American called the plant “girasole,” a name which, like a lot of words with confusing etymologies, was butchered over time and ended up “Jerusalem.”

Who knows how? Not me. I was more interested in the taste anyhow.

I found a lot of recipes for sunchokes in soups and purees online, and several people recommended that you simply roast the sunchokes. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare any new vegetable, as roasting has never failed me in the past. However I had a new cast iron skillet that I was obsessed with so I wanted desperately to saute them. In others’ recipes they were paired with cauliflower a lot, for some unknown reason, so I decided to go with it. And that is how I came up with spicy cauliflower tacos with sunchoke hash.

Did you hear me?

A new vegan taco “meat”!

And nutty, earthy, spicy-sweet sunchoke hash!

The tacos worked. So much that I will probably pay full price for the sunchokes next time. And so much that I want to share the recipe with you. If you don’t eat meat (or even if you do), I think you should have this cauliflower taco “meat” in your repertoire.

I simply diced the sunchokes and threw them in the skillet with some oil and diced peppers and onions over medium heat. I stirred occasionally and the skillet did the rest. Then into tortillas they go, with cauliflower taco “meat,” shredded cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. For vegan tacos, use vegan cheese and tofutti sour cream, or top with tomato salsa and mashed avocado with lime.

Spicy Vegan Cauliflower Taco “Meat”

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 pinches ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Break the cauliflower into pieces and either grate into a large bowl or crumble with your fingers for a more rustic feel. Break or grate into small crumbles.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add cauliflower crumbles to skillet and, while stirring constantly, saute until golden brown.
  4. Add chili powder to the skillet and stir to combine. Cook for one minute then add remaining spices and tomato paste. Stir to combine, turn heat to low-medium and cover. Cook for a few more minutes, until cauliflower is tender and heated throughout.

Vegetable Dumplings Part II

In my last post I discussed my first experience making vegetable dumplings.

Here’s the post.

Here’s the recipe.

We’ll call that the trial run. Now, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event.

Hot and Sour Vegetable Won Ton Soup!

To make things even more interesting, I created this dish as the prelude to a meal that featured all dishes I had never made before, and I made them without recipes. Crazy! That’s right, despite being a meticulous planner in general, I pulled this one off on the fly. I must have been drunk or something. Whatever it was that got me into this Top Chef elimination challenge mood, it was delicious.

I have to be honest, I am kind of proud of myself. I experiment and create recipes all the time, but to turn a few random ideas into a three-part meal with no cookbooks, internet, or backup plan, it felt like I was doing a trapeze routine without a safety net. And I didn’t fall!

How'd that paw get there? Izzie must have been checking out the fare.

Unfortunately I did not write down any recipes, but I think I can tell you how to make the soup. You might just have to figure out the measurements on the fly until I can recreate this dish with a pen and paper nearby. Now without further ado, the meal. We started with the hot and sour vegetable won ton soup and then we enjoyed spicy baked tempeh over a bed of sesame ginger slaw.

So you want to know how to make the soup, huh? Well here’s a story about the soup but you really can’t call it a recipe. Here’s how it all went down.

First, start with a bag of broccoli slaw, like this one. This is going to be the filling for your dumplings. Heat a little oil in a pan and when it’s hot, add the broccoli slaw (not the whole bag, just enough to make as many dumplings as you need) and cook over medium heat until tender. Meanwhile, whisk a little cornstarch (1 teaspoons?) into some soy sauce (1/8 cup?). Add to the veggies and cook until sauce thickens, a few minutes. Ta-da! Filling.

When the veggies have cooked and cooled a bit, open a package of won ton wrappers like these. Follow the package instructions to fill and fold the won tons. I used about a teaspoon of filling per wrapper and then folded each in half into a triangle, sealing all of the edges, and then folded the two longer ends together so that the side of the triangle with the original fold was bent in half. This method keeps the won tons together better. Make as many dumplings as you think you will need in your soup.

Now for the soup part. Heat vegetable broth in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add black pepper and spices as you see fit. When the broth starts to boil, add the dumplings to the soup. They will cook in less than 5 minutes. While the dumplings cook, add the following ingredients to taste: soy sauce, sriracha chili sauce, rice wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper if needed. That’s it!

The best part about this soup is when you cut into the dumplings with your spoon, the filling spills out into the soup. You can’t help but to fill the broth with tasty shredded vegetables, which enhances the flavor and texture of the soup. It is seriously fun to eat!

Because of this meal, I have decided to “wing it” a lot more often. But next time I promise I’ll write down the recipe, so you won’t have to “wing it” too.