Dairy-free Cashew Cheesecake Recipe

dairy-free cashew cheesecake! | pamela salzman

I taught this luscious dessert in my classes two years ago, but I had seen cashew “cheesecakes” all over the place for many years. But of course I didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand how blended cashews could be turned into something that resembled cheesecake, a cheesecake that I would actually want to eat.  So I put off trying all these recipes that I saw on Pinterest and Foodily.  I caught glimpses of vegan cheesecakes made with chocolate, key limes, pumpkin, lemon and lavender, blueberries and so on.  I just wasn’t convinced.

making the crust

crust mixture ready to be pressed

My mother-in-law and I have an arrangement for Passover — I make all the desserts for both seders and she does everything else.  I clearly got the easier, more fun job.  However baking for Passover, a holiday which revolves around NOT eating anything with grains or flour made from grains, isn’t as straightforward as baking for any other holiday.  But I still have lots of fun coming up with delicious treats that don’t involve a box of Manischewitz cake mix.  Every year I make the very traditional coconut macaroons, as well as a lemon ice torte that I have been making since I graduated from college.  And no holiday would be complete without something chocolate, so I bake a few mini-flourless chocolate cakes.  So delicious.

soak cashews

drain the soaked cashews

But I can never leave well enough alone, so one year I decided to give this cashew cheesecake thing a go. OMG.  Get out of here. I was blown away!  And then super bummed I had let so many opportunities to go by when I could have been enjoying this deliciousness.  The texture is so much like cheesecake.  Very rich and creamy, and slightly sweet.  I really couldn’t get over it.  Of course the crust is raw and vegan, consistent with the rest of the cake.  But I think you could go with a graham cracker crust and fool everyone into thinking this is cheesecake.

scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean

spread the first mixture onto the crust

then the strawberry mixture

What amazed me about this cake is how digestible it is and how clean the ingredients are.  We use soaked raw cashews (read my post about why soaking nuts and seeds is beneficial to your health,) coconut oil (such a good, healthful fat), honey or maple syrup (not going to save your life, but less acid-forming than refined sugar), lemon juice and vanilla.  Amazing.  Although, I did a little rough math and this isn’t the kind of dessert you can eat very often because it’s really high in (good) fat and calories.  Just saying, in case you were tempted to eat half a cake.  Not a good idea.  In fact, I put on a few pounds in the months I was testing this recipe.  True story.  But this is a fantastic idea for Passover or Easter and no one will ever in a million years guess what’s in it.  Another fun Passover dessert coming soon!

vegan cashew cheesecake | pamela salzman raw vegan cashew cheesecake | pamela salzman raw vegan cashew cheesecake | pamela salzman cashew cheesecake | pamela salzman cashew cheesecake | pamela salzman

cashew cheesecake | pamela salzman

 

Dairy-free Cashew Cheesecake
Author: 
Serves: 10-12 (because it's rich, you want to cut small slices)
 
Ingredients
  • Crust:
  • 1 cup raw almonds (or pecans or walnuts)
  • 1 cup soft Medjool dates, pitted (about 10)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Filling:
  • 3 cups (1 pound) raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours or overnight, and drained
  • ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ⅔ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted (if you have a Vitamix, no need to melt)
  • ⅔ cup raw honey (not vegan) or Grade A maple syrup (vegan, but not raw)
  • Seeds from 2 whole vanilla beans (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries (my preference) or raspberries (thaw completely if frozen)
Instructions
  1. Place almonds, dates, coconut and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture holds together (it should be sticky). Transfer the mixture onto the bottom of a 9” spring-form pan and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.
  2. In a Vita-Mix or food processor, place all filling ingredients (except strawberries) and process on high until very smooth. This may take a minute or two.
  3. Pour about 3 cups of the mixture onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the strawberries to the Vita-Mix/food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the strawberry mixture onto the first layer of filling. Place in the freezer until solid. Cover with foil to protect from freezer burn.
  4. To serve, remove from the freezer at least 60 minutes prior to eating. After it has defrosted, store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Run a thin knife between the cake and the pan and then release the springform ring. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the refrigerator if you plan to eat within a few days. Otherwise, store leftovers in the freezer.
Notes
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for the cashews which become very creamy when blended, nor the coconut oil, which solidifies when refrigerated and gives the cake its firmness, otherwise it would be a gloopy mess.

Couscous with dried apricots and herbs

couscous with dried apricots and herbs | pamela salzman

We had such a lovely getaway in Palm Springs with the kids this weekend.  My husband, who designs and builds houses, likes to go to a few days of Modernism Week every year and we decided to make a little family trip of it this time.  My kids are exposed to a lot of talk about food because of what I do, but my husband also discusses his business with them, too.  I wouldn’t say they could go out and build a house tomorrow, but they have an understanding of architecture and design.

dry couscous with salt and olive oil with dried apricots and hot liquid

So it was kind of funny to me when my kids would walk into a home on a tour this weekend or a show, and people would be shocked to see them.  “Oh my word!  We have children here!”  The first time I heard this, I figured the kids weren’t welcome.  But I was very wrong.  “How nice to see children appreciate design!”  I was proud of the kids because they were well-behaved and seemingly interested.  And it made me think about how the experience was a little analogous to food and eating.  I always tell my students that part of the process of creating a healthful eater is simply exposing the kids to a wide variety of nutritious food.  Another critical part of the process is modeling good eating habits.  One day it will all click with them and they’ll end up surprising you!

Cover and after 10 minutes it's done

I am flexible with Mr. Picky though.   Sometimes I will make something like this couscous with dried apricots and herbs for dinner, but leave a little plain couscous and apricots for him on the side.  I usually encourage, but often insist, that he at least try the dish with all the herbs and such.  Sometimes he will and sometimes he won’t, but this strategy works well for me since I can accommodate him a little without my having to make a second meal.  And the message that I am sending is that eventually he will eat like the rest of us.

fresh herbs

Mr. Picky happens to like couscous and dried apricots and if he’s really hungry, he’ll eat the herbs and all.  He won’t eat it mixed with the Moroccan chicken I posted on Friday.  He will eat them separately though.  No problem here, although I personally like couscous as an accompaniment to soak up something juicy and saucy.  Other than that, my girls will take leftovers in their lunch boxes with some feta and maybe a little extra lemon juice and olive oil.  Yum!

dry toast almonds couscous with dried apricots and herbs | pamela salzman

Couscous is like a busy person’s dream come true.  You pour really hot water or stock on it with a little salt and perhaps some olive oil and presto!  Ten minutes later you have a nice fluffy side dish.  I know that couscous is processed durum wheat flour and not a whole grain, but there’s still a decent amount of fiber in it and you can also find whole wheat couscous if that’s important to you.  Of course you can also make this recipe with quinoa if you want a gluten-free version which I have done many times.  In fact, I’ve often said to people who haven’t tried quinoa that you can take your favorite couscous dish and sub quinoa.  Only you cook them differently.  But you knew that.   And there are other ways to mix this recipe up — dried cherries or raisins instead of the apricots, pistachios or chopped almonds instead of the sliced almonds, parsley instead of the cilantro or just use all of one herb.  This is an easy recipe to let your personal taste be your guide!

couscous with dried apricots and herbs

Couscous with Dried Apricots and Herbs
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 10-ounce box of couscous (1 ½ cups couscous)
  • ½ cup dried unsulphured apricots, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons unrefined extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups HOT (even boiling) chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 2 scallions, green parts only, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the couscous, dried apricots, salt and olive oil in a medium bowl and cover with HOT stock. Stir with a fork to combine. Cover and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.
  2. Pour lemon juice on top and toss to combine.
  3. Add the almonds, scallions, mint and cilantro to the couscous and toss gently to combine.
Notes
Pomegranates are a delicious addition when they are in season (December-February)

Spicy honey-lemon green beans recipe

spicy honey lemon green beans | pamela salzman

If you follow me on either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably figured out that I am back on Long Island at my parents’ house.  We picked up Daughter #1 on Saturday from her summer program in upstate NY.  I was so beyond excited to see her after 6 weeks, I was afraid I was going to suffocate her when I saw her.  It was great for the five of us to be together again and I couldn’t resist another visit to Stony Brook.  Love that place in the summer.

blanched green beans

We’ve had an amazing few days here — peaceful, not in a rush to do anything, no stress, beautiful.  My father’s garden is bursting.  I lost count of how many basil plants he has this year, perhaps around 40.  I have made pesto every day so far!  But the big fun has come from the new outdoor pizza oven my father had built.  It was a major project when I was here in June, with each of my parents saying to me without the other hearing, “I don’t know what we were thinking.”  But once the dust settled, literally, we have enjoyed the most fantastic pizzas — you know the thin kind with a little char on the crust?  So darn good.  Not fitting in my skinny jeans today, but so. darn. good.

prepping shallots

Sorry this isn’t a post about making your own pizza in a wood-burning oven, but I personally don’t have one nor will I in my current house since my “yard” is a patio!  Figuring most of my readers don’t own one either.  Instead I wanted to share my favorite new green bean recipe.  No yawning!  These are great!  But I know where you’re coming from.  Green beans come into season in the summer and I try really hard to get excited about them, but they have to compete with tomatoes and corn.  Kind of hard to do.  I honestly don’t have too many exciting green bean recipes that I think to myself, “I am soooo craving those such-and-such green beans.”  Until now.

soaking shallots

I taught these honey-lemon green beans last month and I couldn’t wait to eat them after each class and any leftovers for dinner the same night!  The dressing has a bit of mustard too, and a little kick from the cayenne which is always something I love paired with sweet (honey.)  They are seriously addictive.  One of the only cooked vegetables Mr. Picky likes is green beans, but he doesn’t care for vinaigrettes yet.  Except he did love these!  He’s starting to develop a taste for spicy food.  Very exciting!

spicy honey lemon green beans

mix it together

The recipe for the green beans and the dressing is completely straightforward and quick to make.  If you are in a time crunch, just make that and forget about the shallots.  Blanching and quick-pickling the shallots is definitely another step that won’t make or break the recipe, although they are scrumptious.  You can certainly take care of that while the beans are cooking and while you’re setting the table or grilling some fish.  But sometimes when I try and multitask too much, that’s when I forget things -like shallots pickling in apple cider vinegar that I remember when I start washing dishes.

spicy honey-lemon green beans | pamela salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Honey-Lemon Green Beans
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • For the Green Beans and Shallots:
  • 3 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ pounds string beans, trimmed
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, preferably raw
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • For The Vinaigrette:
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small glove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon mild honey, preferably raw
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Spread a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add kosher salt.
  3. Place the sliced shallots in a bowl and cover with 2 cups of the boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Drop the beans in to the remaining boiling water and cook, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain the beans and spread them on the cloth-lined pan.
  5. Drain the shallots and toss them with the vinegar, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  6. To make the vinaigrette, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, honey, salt and cayenne in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the oil until creamy.
  7. Drain the shallots once again and squeeze dry. Add the shallots and the string beans to the vinaigrette and toss well. Sprinkle with another pinch of sea salt or to taste.
  8. If you have time, let it marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature before serving just to allow the flavors to permeate the beans. If you don't have time, they'll still be great.
Notes
These really aren't that spicy, perhaps a 3 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the hottest.  But you can certainly adjust the level of heat to your liking by increasing or decreasing the cayenne.

 

Blueberry sauce recipe (refined sugar-free)

fresh blueberry sauce | pamela salzman

I know what you’re thinking.   “We waited five whole days for a new recipe and it’s blueberry sauce?  That’s the best she could come up with?”  You know what, friends?  I have been busy!  Daughter #1 is still far, far away playing college student and Mr. Picky is at sleep away camp for two weeks.  I sure do miss those brats.  But Daughter #2 is an only child right now and is acting like it.  She wants all of our attention, especially since it was her birthday the other day.  She wore a tiara for three straight days.  If you’re new here and you’re envisioning a toddler, Daughter #2 is 15.  Just to paint an accurate picture.

fresh blueberries!

Besides doting on my newly crowned princess, I have been taking advantage of a little more freedom and I am trying to tackle my list of ambitious projects and must-dos.  Why does it seems as though two weeks is plenty of time to reorganize the garage, Mr. Picky’s room and the pantry AND watch the entire season of “The Americans” AND test new recipes AND exercise, get a manicure and visit a museum?  Well, I am 10 days into those two weeks and I think I moved a box of finger paints from one corner of the garage to another and took Mr. Picky’s room apart, but haven’t put it back together.  No so productive.  The hubby and I did go to the Hammer Museum in Westwood Saturday afternoon before meeting our friends for dinner who also have kids away at sleepaway camp.  Lovely.  We also obsessively watched the entire season of “The Americans” in three nights.  “It’s only 11:45.  One more episode!”  So testing new recipes has sort of fallen by the wayside, sorry! dissolve arrowroot in lemon juice

But before you think this blueberry sauce is something you can live without, I will tell you to think again!  We have been eating this on everything, it’s so amazing.  My husband keeps asking me, “Is there anymore of that blueberry sauce left?”  “Where did you hide the blueberry sauce?”  Maybe you’re hiding it, dude.  In your stomach!  I’m so not funny.  The point is, we have found so many ways to enjoy this, albeit not such original ways — swirled into yogurt with or without granola, on pancakes, on top of hot oatmeal or porridge, over vanilla ice cream.  And it takes a whole 1 minute of prep, about 5 minutes to cook and makes everything seem extra-special.  See, I had time for something.

Can we chat for a second about some of the other blueberry sauce recipes out there?  I’m not pointing links or anything, but what’s up with the 1 cup of sugar for a pint of blueberries?  Fruit is already sweet, for goodness sake.  I don’t get it.  If you don’t want to taste blueberries, don’t make blueberry sauce!

thicken it up | pamela salzman

I absolutely love blueberries and I can argue that they are one of the most beneficial foods out there.  How excited are you right now?  Delicious and insanely good for you!  Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant profiles, as well as lots of fiber and Vitamin C, and they’re lower in fructose than most other fruits.  High antioxidant + low glycemic = beauty food.  Botox or blueberries?  You don’t have to answer that.  In all seriousness, blueberries contain compounds that support the health of the cardiovascular system, as well as eye health, cognitive function, and blood sugar stability.  Have I convinced you to give this a try?  Good.  Gotta run.  Hubby wants to watch the entire season of “House of Cards” and Mr. Picky is back on Saturday!

over ice cream | pamela salzman

over yogurt with granola | pamela salzman

fresh blueberry sauce on pancakes | pamela salzman

5.0 from 2 reviews
Blueberry Sauce
Author: 
Serves: makes 1¼ cups of sauce
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 3 Tablespoons Grade A maple syrup (Grade A is light in flavor than Grade B) or cane sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons water
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the arrowroot in the lemon juice until dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Place the blueberries, maple syrup and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes.
  3. Add the arrowroot and lemon juice mixture and stir to combine. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes until blueberries are very soft and sauce has thickened.
  4. Serve warm over pancakes or ice cream or refrigerate up to 5 days for later use.  Sauce will thicken as it sits and cools.

Supersmooth, Light-as-Air Hummus

Supersmooth, Light-as-Air Hummus by Pamela Salzman

Why is the best hummus always in restaurants, especially Middle Eastern ones?  I think I make a delicious, flavorful hummus that has a great consistency and is better than the ones you find in the supermarket.  But, it doesn’t compare to the silky, light and creamy hummus that I’ve had in restaurants.  I want that kind.  The kind that will drip, not plop, off your pita if you’re not careful.  The kind you can suck up with a straw.  You know what I mean.

cook the soaked, drained chickpeas with a little baking soda before boiling

skim off the skins

I got into bed with a book the other night, because reading helps me wind down and relax from my typically crazy day.  But of course, I read cookbooks in bed before I go to sleep which is an absolutely terrible idea because that does nothing to quiet my overactive brain which doesn’t stop thinking, thinking, thinking!  Regardless, I was reading Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s not-so-new, but gorgeous book , “Jerusalem.”  So many recipes, so little time, people.  I turned to their recipe for “Basic Hummus” and I swear I almost flipped the page without so much as a glance, because like I said, I already have a perfectly great hummus recipe which I have actually turned into four different flavors.  But then I thought “have some respect, you never know.”

drain the chickpeas and process to a chunky paste

love this raw tahini

The word “supersmooth” caught my attention immediately and then I knew I found it — the hummus of my dreams.  Let me jump to the chase.  The Ottolenghi hummus is the kind I love at restaurants and they tell me all their secrets.  Most importantly, the chickpea skins are removed after cooking and before pureeing.  I know!!!  Why didn’t I think of that?  But before you think I have the kind of time to sit around peeling chickpea skins, think again.  After soaking and draining the chickpeas, they are cooked with a little baking soda and then water is added to boil the beans.  Most of the skins float to the top of the pot and you just skim them away.  I know!!!  Brilliant.  They also add a lot more tahini (sesame paste) than I do which makes the hummus so creamy.  And water.  I would never have thought to add water, but it really makes the hummus lighter and cleaner than adding the chickpea liquid which is how I do it.  “Better late than never,” is what I was thinking.

Supersmooth, Light-as-Air Hummus by Pamela Salzman

Supersmooth, Light-as-Air Hummus by Pamela Salzman

I wouldn’t say that my first attempt came out quite as smooth as Ottolenghi’s primarily because not all the chickpeas lost their skins and I was not about to go peeling them, but it was really, really good and very smooth.  You can see the image of that below.  I also tasted the hummus after adding 2/3 cup of tahini instead of the recommended 1 cup + 2 Tbs. and I thought it was divine.  I made it a second time and did take the time to pull off any skins that didn’t come off during the boiling process and the hummus was a tad bit creamier, but I’m not sure it was worth the extra 12 minutes it took me to do that.  You should do whatever makes sense to you and if you have the time, feel free to pick out every last skin.  For that matter, you can buy canned cooked chickpeas and pull off the skins and proceed from there.

This is the one I made first where I did not remove every single last chickpea skin.
This is the one I made first where I did not remove every single last chickpea skin.

I served this to friends the other night, friends who have had my hummus a million times and they all said “where did you get this?  This is so good.”  I know, a tad insulting since the implication was that I could not have made it, but I was totally fine with that.  Since then, we’ve enjoyed this immensely with pita bread and raw veggies (wow, I could actually hear you yawn through the computer), slathered on a baguette with grilled veggies and slow roasted tomatoes (my recommendation), and dolloped on a Greek salad with chicken souvlaki (we had this for dinner the other night — major hit!).  There is an insanely beautiful picture in the book of the hummus topped with whole cooked chickpeas, pine nuts, chopped parsley, cooked lamb and the whole thing drizzled with olive oil.  A-mazing.

Grilled veggies, slow roasted tomatoes and hummus on baguette | pamela salzman

No matter how you make it, hummus is rather nutritious and especially high in protein and fiber.  It’s one of the more healthful spreads and dips, provided you don’t go to crazy on the pita bread or chips.  I have even used it in place of mayonnaise in chicken salad.  I have even eaten it with a spoon.  I have even dreamt about it.  You will too, until you make it!

Supersmooth, Light-as-Air Hummus by Pamela Salzman

jacked up hummus | pamela salzman

4.7 from 10 reviews
Supersmooth, Light-as-Air Hummus
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup light tahini paste (Ottolenghi recommends 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons, but I thought anywhere between ⅔ and 1 cup was great)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 6 ½ Tablespoons ice cold water
  • Unrefined olive oil and sweet paprika for finishing, if desired
Instructions
  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with at least 4 inches of cold water. Allow to soak 6-8 hours.
  2. Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add the drained chickpeas and the baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Make sure the water covers the chickpeas by at least 2 inches. Reduce heat and simmer, skimming off and foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas cook faster this way and may only need from 20-40 minutes to become tender, but possibly longer. You know they’re done if you can squish a chickpea in between your thumb and forefinger.
  3. Drain the chickpeas. You will have about 3⅔ cups. Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until you get a stiff paste. With the machine running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Lastly, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes until you get a really smooth and creamy paste. I actually set my timer for 5 minutes and washed the dishes in the meantime.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl and allow the hummus to rest for at least 30 minutes. If not serving right away, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to remove it from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. If desired, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
Notes
*Or you can use 2 15-ounce cans of cooked chickpeas, drained, and peel the skins manually. Place the peeled chickpeas in the food processor and proceed with Step 3.

Moroccan carrot and beet salad recipe

London has been amazing!  Freezing, but amazing!  At least we were prepared with our winter outerwear for the unseasonably cold temperatures.  We have seen so much and the kids have really enjoyed it all.  After our month in Europe this summer, we learned a bit about how to keep the kids engaged and not wanting to kill each other.  We also learned that Mr. Picky, who is 9, has a 1 1/2 hour time limit in any museum (2 hours if he just ate breakfast.)  Whatever we didn’t get to see will just have to wait until our next visit.

This week we have also booked a private guide each day, which has taken the pressure off my husband from whatever palace or neighborhood we are checking out.  Besides going to many of the major sites, we also had a tour of London’s East End and its many outdoor markets, a rock tour (think The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, not One Direction), and a Shakespeare tour.  All worth it and much more interesting for the kids!  We are leaving London today for Chewton Glen in Hampshire.  My husband visited when he was a child and loved it. I’m hoping it’s still as wonderful 30 years later and I’m hoping we make it in one piece since my husband will be driving us there.  On the other side of the road.  You know I’ll give you all the details either way!

Now I hope you didn’t think I was going to scamper about England this week and forget about you cooks.  Rubbish!  Although I’ve been tweeting what I’ve been up to and posting a few things on Facebook, I didn’t want the week to go by without something for you to try in the kitchen.  Believe me, after a week of scones and mash (not at the same time, of course), I’ll be ready for a few salads like this when I return home.

First of all, if you think you hate beets, you may not hate them raw so stay with me here.  This salad converted everyone who thought s/he didn’t like beets.  I am fairly obsessed with chopped and grated salads.  One of my favorites is my grated carrot salad with avocados and sunflower seeds.  I love vegetables cut into small bits so that you get a lot of different flavors in one bite.  And grated vegetables can actually be a totally different experience from their whole counterparts.  This is completely true with respect to carrots.  If you haven’t tried the carrot salad I just mentioned, you absolutely must!

The one thing you do need to do for this salad is go into your garage behind the piece of exercise equipment, pull out the Cuisinart box and find the medium grating disc which I’m hoping you didn’t throw out thinking you would never use it!  If you did, go to the manufacturer’s website or thegourmetdepotco.com where you can buy missing or broken parts to almost any appliance.  The grating disc is amazing, one of my favorite kitchen tools especially since I broke up with my mandoline.  No love lost there.  I use my grating disc to make very quick work of shredding cheese, onions, potatoes, zucchini, apples, cabbage, and of course carrots and beets.  One tip I can give you is that many food processors give you the option of feeding your food through the wide part or the much narrower feed tube.  In the case of carrots, I like to process them horizontally the wide way for longer shreds for a salad and through the feed tube for short shreds which are better for carrot cake or carrot muffins.

I was doing a Moroccan-inspired menu last month and I desperately wanted to include a carrot salad.  Many Moroccan salads are too sweet for me and include dried fruit plus lots of honey in the dressing.  In my opinion, carrots and beets are already rather sweet, so this salad is dressed with a cumin-orange-lemon dressing, a little tart and just a little sweet.  You can leave this as grated veggies and dressing for a fab 5-minute salad or make a little extra effort and add the delightful fresh herbs which turn this into something really awesome.  I eat this without feta since I’ve gone dairy-free (moment of silence), but if you can handle a little goat or sheep cheese, add it and you won’t be sorry!  Either way, this is a juicy, crunchy, thirst-quenching, gorgeous salad which happens to be super nutritious and alkalizing.

I have served this salad with all sorts of fish dishes, simple roast chicken, frittatas and vegetable stew.  I’m sure it would be great with lamb or grilled beef kabobs.  My point is that you don’t have to be eating a Moroccan meal to enjoy this.  A little heads-up about eating red beets, though. If you’ve never tried them, just be aware that when you eliminate, there will be a tinge of hot pink/red.  I can’t tell you how many stories I heard of people calling their doctors or googling “hot pink poop.”  On the other hand, eating beets can be a good indication of how efficient your digestive system is.  If you see beets later that day or the next, things are moving nice and quickly.  But if it takes 4 days for those beets to appear again,  you probably need a little more fiber and water in your diet.  Just a thought.

Ok, that’s all I have for today, friends.  I’m leaving the hustle and bustle of London for the English countryside and hoping to make it in time for Afternoon Tea which has become my favorite way to wind down after a busy day.  I know some people like a glass of wine at 5, but I’m not sure they’ve tried sitting down to tea with a warm homemade scone.  Brilliant!

Moroccan Carrot and Beet Salad
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled
  • ¾ pound fresh beets (about 2 medium beets), trimmed and peeled (with a vegetable peeler), greens saved for another use
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (measured after it has been chopped)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • 6 Tablespoons unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I like goat feta)(optional)
Instructions
  1. Using the shredding disc of your food processor, shred the carrots and beets. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl.
  2. Add herbs to serving bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl or in a screw-top jar, combine lemon juice, orange juice, sea salt, cumin, paprika and olive oil.
  4. Pour enough dressing on top of carrot mixture to coat lightly and toss to combine. Add more if desired.
  5. Add feta on top of salad and taste for seasoning. If you dress the salad early, the dressing will pull water from the vegetables and make a pool at the bottom of your serving bowl. You can just serve from the top or pour off some of the liquid no problem.
Notes
Salad can be dressed the day before and herbs and feta added just before serving.

For a delicious, spicy note, add about ¾ teaspoon harissa to the dressing.

Harvest chopped salad

Halloween is tomorrow, but to tell you the truth, I don’t make much of an effort to show my “spirit” with cupcakes that look like spiders or swamp slime green Jell-o.     Do my kids really need marshmallow ghosts on top of the candy  I have not forbidden them to inhale as they trick-or-treat?  Silly question!  Actually, my only food strategy on Halloween is to make a very hearty , filling dinner, like vegetable chili with brown rice, so the kids aren’t starving while they carry around a sack o’chocolate.  Works for me!

If you checked out my post last Thursday, you probably guessed I have bypassed Halloween and gone straight into Thanksgiving mode.   Not only have I already taught two Thanksgiving classes, but I am starting to check tasks off my list.   Invites — out.  Menu — planned.  Turkeys — ordered.  So if you’re like me and you’re daydreaming about maple-glazed root vegetables instead of witch cakes,  let’s get down to business!

The vegetables are really the only part of the menu that I get to have any fun at all.  My family and guests would have a rebellion if I didn’t make roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potato casserole.  So every year I try some new salads and vegetables just to mix it up a bit.   This salad is one of my absolute favorites and not just for Thanksgiving.  I have made this for other holiday dinners and for friends, and I always save a little extra for me for the next day’s lunch.  This salad is the perfect complement to a Thanksgiving meal consisting of lots of cooked food,  much of it soft and beige.  Not only will all of these colors brighten up your holiday buffet table like little jewels, but you’ll be happy to have something juicy, crunchy and (is this a crime?) healthful to eat.  Even though there are apples, pomegranates and dates in the salad, it doesn’t feel too sweet.  It’s more like a tart-sweet, a perfect complement to roast turkey.

This salad is also ideal for Thanksgiving since you can prep almost all of it the day before.  Oh yeah!   No need to squeeze anything into your already monopolized oven or dirty any measuring spoons the day of.  You can blanche the beans the day before, roast the beets two days before, chop fennel the day before and cover with a damp paper towel, seed the pomegranate several days before, chop walnuts whenever you want, and make the salad dressing several days in advance.  The only last minute item is the apples which you can dice a few hours in advance and keep in ice water in the refrigerator.  Just drain and pat dry before adding to the salad.  How’s that for a plan!

Harvest Chopped Salad
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 3 stalks celery or 1 bulb fennel, diced (I prefer fennel.)
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (about 1 medium pomegranate)
  • 1 large crisp apple (e.g. Fuji or Granny Smith), diced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 dates, pitted and diced (easier to cut when they’re cold)
  • 1 cup diced roasted golden beets (can be done the day before)*
  • Vinaigrette: (can be prepared several days in advance)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons walnut oil (or use all olive oil)
Instructions
  1. Prepare a large bowl with ice water. Blanche green beans for 2 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain and submerge into ice water. Drain, pat dry and slice on the diagonal into bite sized pieces. (Can be done the day before.)
  2. In a large bowl combine beans, chopped celery, pomegranate, apple, walnuts, dates and beets.
  3. Prepare the vinaigrette: whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour enough vinaigrette over vegetables to coat lightly. Taste for salt and pepper.
Notes
*To roast 1-2 beets, wrap each one in parchment and then foil. Or follow the photos above to roast a pan of several beets. Roast in a 400 degree oven until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Large ones can take about 60 minutes. Allow to cool and then peel off the skins.

Grain-Free Cauliflower Tabbouleh Recipe

We have had some interesting discussions in my classes lately about the latest findings concerning the presence of arsenic in rice.  Arsenic is a chemical element which occurs naturally in water, air, food, and soil.  This natural form is referred to as organic arsenic.  Arsenic is also the product of contamination from manmade fetilizers and pesticides, as well as burning coal and oil.  This inorganic arsenic is what is linked to certain cancers and has many people concerned.  Inorganic arsenic has found its way into may different foods through soil, as well as into our drinking water, but for some reason rice absorbs it much more than other foods.

Although I don’t take such reports lightly, the jury is still out on just how much arsenic is actually in rice since it varies from region to region (California-grown rice seems to contain less than rice grown in Arkansas, for example) and how much we should limit or not limit our rice consumption.  I’m generally not an alarmist in these situations, so I will be mindful of this information and continue to eat rice in moderation.  But it’s a good reminder of why it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet of a wide variety of whole foods (90% of the time, of course!).  I’m sure one can do research and find whatever it is we want to hear.  I like Dr. David Katz’s interesting point that cancer rates are generally low where rice consumption is highest.

But if you are concerned about your rice intake or you’re just looking to expand your horizons a little, have I got the recipe for you!  Cauliflower Tabbouleh uses barely steamed and grated cauliflower in place of the typical bulgur wheat, making this a grain-free,  gluten-free salad.  When the cauliflower is grated, it completely resembles rice in appearance and even texture a little.  It’s fun serving this tabbouleh to guests who usually have no idea what they’re eating and naturally assume it’s rice.  Cauliflower has a fairly subtle flavor, so you really pick up everything else that’s going on here with fresh herbs, juicy pomegranates and a sweet-earthy dressing.

Tabbouleh is traditionally a parsley salad with bits of bulgur wheat, onion, tomato and cucumber.  It’s such an awesome, healthful, fresh salad which I really enjoy when the weather is warm.  I make a really yummy version with quinoa that is one of my summer staples.  But this recipe with cauliflower is like an autumnal tabbouleh with some pomegranates for a sweet and juicy crunch.  Many “cauliflower rice” recipes call for the cauliflower to be raw, which I don’t enjoy as much as giving it a quick steam or blanche.  Raw cruciferous vegetables are also a tad harder to digest than lightly cooked.  Cauliflower is is very rich in fiber, phosphorus and potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, and Manganese.  Plus the entire cruciferous family contains powerful anti-cancer compounds.

I just made this for Rosh Hashana lunch last week and served it with roast chicken and a few other salads.  The girls got it in their lunchboxes the next day mixed with a few spoonfuls of quinoa and one of them had some feta mixed in as well.  By the way, I am posting photos of the kids’ school lunches once a week on Facebook and Twitter in case you’re in a lunchbox rut.  I also love this cauliflower with Spice-Rubbed Salmon, grilled chicken kabobs, and even turkey burgers. More importantly, there are so many ways to have fun with this preparation of cauliflower.  I’m thinking about using it in place of rice for a vegetable fried rice, just for fun of course.    No one here is giving up rice that fast!

Grain-Free Cauliflower Tabbouleh
Author: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Kosher salt for cooking cauliflower
  • 2 cups diced celery, about 5 stalks
  • Seeds from 1 large pomegranate, about 1⅓ cups
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion or shallot (you can soak in ice water for 15 minutes to take the raw edge off)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Instructions
  1. Prepare a large bowl with ice water. Place cauliflower in a large pot with an inch of water and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and steam cauliflower for 3-4 minutes until crisp tender. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge cauliflower in ice water.
  2. Drain cauliflower and transfer to a clean kitchen towel to dry off a little.
  3. Fit the grater attachment in a food processor and gently grate/shred the cauliflower. It will look like barley or rice. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  4. Stir in remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Taste for seasonings, especially if you allow this to sit. You may need an extra pinch of salt.