Pistachio Rhubarb + Candied Ginger Loaf

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If you search google for pistachio and rhubarb, just about a gazillion delicious recipes pop up. The two ingredients are a classic pairing. But so are strawberries and rhubarb, orange and rhubarb, honey and rhubarb, rhubarb and rose, and of course, ginger and rhubarb. Personally I love them all as well as rhubarb just on its own.

When we moved into our house in early 2016, the first plant to go in the ground was rhubarb. And as a two-person household with four healthy plants, we get to enjoy a lot of it. And by we I mean one of us absolutely loves it in ever-y-thing, and one of us thinks he doesn’t.

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The Recipe Redux asked us to make a healthy-ish recipe to celebrate spring celebrations–something like baby or bridal showers, graduations, and the like. As I’m writing this, it is commencement day for my master of science degree in clinical nutrition, and since I decided not to make the trip back across the country to actually partake in it, celebrating at home with my longest run since Boston and this rhubarb loaf will do quite nicely.

Before we get there, let me tell you a little interesting nutritional tidbit about rhubarb and its oxalic acid content.

Many people know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous and can cause harm if ingested. It’s why they’re never sold with the leaves on. What most don’t know is that they are toxic because they contain a lot of oxalic acid which the stalks also contain, though not as much. Spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard are also high in oxalic acid, which is why for some they can have that puckery-weird mouthfeel that also presents in unsweetened rhubarb. Interestingly, rhubarb is high in calcium, which spinach and Sweet chard has a bit of as well but the oxalate content interferes with absorption, so much so that when I worked for the Linus Pauling Institute, the researchers there said not to expect to get any calcium from a meal with lots of rhubarb, spinach, or Swiss chard. Other sources are a little more lenient on this topic (1, 2). Though there is nutritional debate on the idea, oxalic acid may also interfere with absorption of the iron content from spinach–which for this or other reasons is not at all a ‘good source’ of iron because of its absorption rate despite myths that it is in the plant-based community and beyond.

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Now, out of the nutritional weeds and into reality. So what is wrong with eating lots and lots of high oxalate-containing foods? Other than needing to get your calcium elsewhere, certain people can develop kidney stones if they consume too much. Otherwise, those leafy greens and rhubarb are packed with lots of other nutrients we need. And this is a good time to remind us all that eating a diverse variety of whole as-close-to-nature-made foods is best for health.

With all that new knowledge circulating in our brains, let’s have a slice of tea cake / loaf and celebrate. Because I’m no longer a grad student, it’s rhubarb season, is May the best month, and the sun rises early and sets late these days making more time for play.

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Whatever your cause for celebration, this is a nice little loaf for an occasion. It’s not overly sweet, not too rich, but has just enough punches of sweetness from the candied ginger and roundness of flavor to make it all come together well. Combined with the pinks and greens in the loaf from the pistachios and rhubarb (more so if you have pinker rhubarb stalks than mine), it’s delicious and in my opinion, a good way to celebrate this classic pairing of rhubarb, pistachios, ginger, and because I couldn’t resist, a bit of orange!

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Pistachio Rhubarb + Candied Ginger Loaf, makes one large loaf of about 10 slices

1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
1/2 cup (110 g) coconut oil
1 cup (110 g) non-dairy yogurt
2 Tbs. ground flax + 6 Tbs. water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs. orange juice and zest from 1 orange
2 cups (230 g) chopped rhubarb
1 cup (120 g) chickpea flour
2/3 cup (70 g) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (30 g) arrowroot starch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (50 g) pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup (30 g) candied ginger pieces, diced small

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a large 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • In a small dish combine the flax seeds and water to form a slurry. Allow to sit and thicken up for about 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, flax slurry, yogurt, vanilla, orange juice and zest, and rhubarb. In another bowl, combine the flours, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in the chopped pistachios and ginger pieces.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean once its done.
  • Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan. Cool completely before serving, and as usual with this type of loaf recipe, the flavors generally combine and improve on the day after baking.

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  1. Weil, A. (2008). Avoid Vegetables with Oxalic Acid?
  2. WH Foods. (n.d.). Can you tell me about oxalates, including the foods that contain them and how are they related to nutrition and health?
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pistachio + flower dukkah for midsummer meals

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I recently taught a class to adults about shopping and cooking simple, healthy meals, and at one point we brainstormed “go-to” meals when time, ingredients, and/or funds might be short. And then we upgraded them. Surprising to me, sandwiches made the list and when I asked for clarification, simple sandwiches like PB&J and grilled cheese qualify as a complete dinner meal for some.

I rarely eat sandwiches for dinner anymore but I definitely did in college. Nowadays, sandwiches, whether true to their type or open-faced, frequently make their way into my lunch options when I’m nearly out of leftovers, or need to re-imagine what’s available and quick to eat. Since The Recipe Redux asked for sandwich upgrades this month, I got to reflecting on the myriad ways I make sandwiches interesting by adding simple, flavorful spreads or sprinkles to take a ho-hum quick meal into something spectacular.

 

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Like my last post which was more a meal-component, today’s idea is to make pistachio and flower dukkah and then keep a jar in the fridge to spoon atop sandwiches, toast, pasta, grain salads, or the like. Dukkah is an Egyptian seed/spice blend that packs a lot of flavor, so doing so can really upgrade a meal. Since it’s summer and I’m all about adding edible flowers to just about everything lately, I also amped up the mix even more with dried lavender and golden calendula flowers (which are soo good for glowing, healthy skin.)

In the interest of helping keep your summer sandwiching interesting, I’ve also got a brief list below of other options to pile between your two favorite slices of bread.

 

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a quick lunch with leftovers reimagined: pureed cooked lentils, a drizzle of tahini garlic sauce, roasted vegetables, and pistachio and flower dukkah to top it off.

Spreads:
Muhammara
Spiced Tomato Chutney
All-the-Greens Interchangeable Pesto
Harissa Yogurt
Tahini Garlic Sauce
Beet Hummus
Baba Ghanoush
DIY Whole-Grain Mustard

Specialty Toppings:
Honey-Roasted Rhubarb
Quick-Pickled Onions or Radishes
Apple, Nectarine or Apricot Slices
Roasted Vegetables

 

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Pistachio + Flower Dukkah
, makes about 1 1/4 cups

1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup coriander seeds
2 Tbs. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1-2 Tbs. various dried flowers, such as lavender, calendula, rose petals, etc.
several pinches each of dried thyme, marjoram, and oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • In a saute pan, toast the pistachios and seeds until fragrant and lightly colored, about five to eight minutes. Then pour onto a plate to cool. Alternatively, if the pistachios are already lightly roasted, add them in at the end of the this step.
  • Once sufficiently cooled, transfer the nuts and seeds to a food processor. Add the herbs, dried flowers, 1/4 tsp. salt to start, and pulse until the mixture is roughly ground but not yet paste-like. The goal is a fine but still crunchy textured mixture. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary, as well as a few pinches of black pepper.

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savory pistachio granola

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I received free samples of Wonderful Pistachios mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Wonderful Pistachios and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

For the past month or so, I’ve really been craving all sorts of really green or otherwise vibrantly colored puréed soups, even more than usual. I’ve been dumping bunches of greens and herbs mixed with broth and a gently cooked base into the blender and enjoying watching it all come together in no time.

On the other hand,  I’ve been adding all sorts of texture and flavor pops over the top of the silky soup, like garbanzos or lentils, spiced seeds, and this genius savory pistachio granola, which kicks up just about anything it’s added to to the best degree.

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The granola is a base of pistachios, oats, rosemary, thyme, and fennel, but then I got the idea to make it extra clumpy by adding a little chickpea flour. It adds to the savoriness and makes for extra clump.

Other than the flavor, which has really been enhancing my winter meals, what I really like is that I’ve made a granola colorful without adding any dried fruit! It has lots of little hints of green from the herbs and pistachios. For the past few years, I’ve repeatedly heard the terms phytonutrients and antioxidants thrown out and I’ve even used them myself when teaching about nutrition. I’ve generally stuck to the basics and encouraged simply making meals colorful and diverse. One of the reasons we hear the advice to eat the rainbow is because plant foods that are really vibrant and colorful really do have more nutrients. They’re the kind that in the nutrition world we call phytonutrients, and we tend to think they’re really healthy for us. These plant nutrients are nature’s way of toughening up plants to survive harsh conditions, and it just so happens that when we eat them, those benefits are passed on to us. There are many different types of phytonutrients but many have lots of antioxidant ability, meaning they fight inflammation and free-radical damage from normal cellular processes, as well as a modern lifestyle that’s often less than ideal.

The more colorful, whole foods we fit into our everyday meals, the better for our short and long-term health. And all those lovely green pistachios? They are actually known as The Colorful Nut™.  They help you snack colorfully–because pistachios’ green and red-purple hues come from a type of phytochemical that is rich in antioxidants.

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In addition to toppings for soup, I’ve been adding this granola to basic power bowl type meals and to winter salads that need a little spark. How are you making your winter meals that extra bit colorful?

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Savory Pistachio Granola
, makes 5-6 cups
Add as much or as little as desired to top meals, or even serve a hefty handful or so with some plain coconut yogurt for a nice savory sweet snack.

1 cup Wonderful Pistachios, roughly chopped
2 cups old-fashioned oats, gluten free as necessary
1/2 cup puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 Tbs. fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water, as needed
1 Tbs. honey

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pistachios, oats, puffed rice, chickpea flour, fennel seeds, herbs, and salt. In a smaller bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, honey, and about 2 tablespoons water until combined. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, and mix well. Add about 2 additional tablespoons of water as needed.
  3. Transfer the granola to the prepared baking sheet and use the back of a big spoon or spatula to spread it out into an even layer.
  4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until golden and fragrant. Let the granola cool completely in the pan to keep the clumps intact.
  5. Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

 

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RESOURCES:
Difference Between. (2015). Difference Between Antioxidants and Phytochemicals.
Higdon, J. (2005). Flavonoids.
The Institute for Functional Medicine (2015). Phytonutrient Spectrum Comprehensive Guide