Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

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Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

from Wendell Berry’s How To Be a Poet

 

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Somehow we’ve found ourselves in mid-summer and I’ve discovered that I can accomplish tasks in the online world while hanging in the backyard on a blanket next to the summer squash. The connection is a little slow and not altogether consistent but that opportunity leads to moments to turn and stare at the cloudless sky and listen for the gaps between the sound of the trees. Today there is more commotion with the street noise and I remember instead a more peaceful mid-summer day years ago, lying on my back in my parents’ yard out in the country, staring up through their ancient, looming trees, just listening.

 

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Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

This mid-summer recipe is a creation for The Recipe Redux, as we were challenged to use the season’s abundance in interesting shapes. I basically took a bunch of what’s growing in the backyard right now and made it into a quinoa salad of sorts, and then rolled it up in grilled zucchini. The same can be done with eggplant instead of zucchini and the vegetable fillings can be interchanged accordingly. I have a hunch that a tomato and sweet pepper version in the later season will taste even more amazing with the coconut basil sauce. As far as coconut milk goes, you can use what you prefer. The full-fat version will be a little more rich and substantial but the lighter cooking milk is also good. 

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

4 cloves garlic

2 cups packed basil leaves

1 can coconut milk

¼ cup capers, divided

1 tbsp lemon juice and zest

¼ tsp. sea salt and black pepper

coconut oil

2-3 large zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise

1 small broccoli, cut into small pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas

  • Place quinoa in a saucepan, add the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat immediately and simmer for about 15 minutes, before setting aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, puree the garlic, basil, coconut milk, about half the capers, lemon juice, zest, and salt and pepper.  Then set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Use a pastry brush or a rubber spatula and lightly brush each zucchini slice with a thin layer of oil on both sides. Depending on your grill situation, you can instead brush the grill with a little oil so the zucchini doesn’t stick. On either an indoor or outdoor grill, arrange the zucchini slices so they are not overlapping. Cook until lightly golden and then flip to do the same on the other side. Remove and cook the remaining slices in batches, as needed. This step can also be done in the preheated oven on a flat baking dish.
  • Spread the broccoli and mushroom pieces out on a baking dish lined with parchment, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes.
  • When the quinoa is slightly cooled and the vegetables are done, stir in about ¾ of the coconut basil sauce, the remaining capers, roasted broccoli, mushrooms, and the peas.
  • Roll the zucchini: Place the zucchini strips, one by one, in front of you. Add a large spoonful of the quinoa mixture at the bottom of it and roll up lengthwise away from you. Place the rolls back in the baking pan with parchment paper. There will be more filling than rolls (unless you make grill up some big zucchini), so inter-space some of the extra filling among the rolls as you go. Drizzle with the remaining basil sauce.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes at 400°F just to heat through.

 

 

Listen to Wendell Berry read the entire poem. It is beautiful.

Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice

Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice

 

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I was at my Food Action Team meeting the other day and the intro question was posed, what is your favorite way to cook tofu? Admittedly, I am a somewhat newbie when it comes to making tofu. I’ve only (mostly) mastered it in the last year or so and I still turn to cookbooks for ideas on the best way to get the texture down. I know I’ve done a somewhat good job when William, who like me had decided he did not like it, has really taken to it. A few hours before sharing at my food group about how I made this tasty baked tofu using a dry rub (a new method for me), I received a text from William about how tasty his tofu lunch leftovers were. He’ll only eat leftovers if they were particularly good the first time.

The whole idea that I’d be sharing a great way to cook tofu around a kitchen table with a few long-time vegetarians listening in is slightly humorous. I’ve been getting a lot of messages lately about not being afraid to be myself and I’ve been hearing them loud and clear. Eleven years ago, I was the girl who was proudly sporting a homemade PETA (People for the Eating of Tasty Animals) shirt around my high school. I wasn’t into eating a whole lot more meat then than I do now, but as president of my FFA chapter, having just sold the champion market steer at the county fair, and having been nicknamed the Queen of Agriculture by some of my teachers, I guess I thought I had an image to uphold. Or I really wasn’t in touch with myself.

The biggest lesson I am slowing learning is how to let go of the long-standing public face I put on that either does things to uphold a standard/appease my community or alternatively (and more often) closes down and reveals nothing. Instead, I’d like to put more effort into getting curious, saying yes to new experiences and people, trying new foods I’ve deemed off limits or don’t like, and maybe not be so guarded when others want to be let in. I might stumble and fail for a while but like my experience with tofu, there’s the strong possibility that eventually I’ll get it right.

 

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This whole tofu experience was inspired by Runnin SriLankan, a fellow Recipe Redux blogger. Since this happens to be The Recipe Redux’s birthday month, we’re celebrating by making or getting inspired by each other’s recipes.

Shashi shared her Curried Mango Pork Chops a while ago, and my creative juices were immediately flowing to remake the whole thing into a rice and tofu bowl with a curried fruit chutney when our local summer stone fruits come into season. I’ve been super anticipating the local apricots which are available here at the beginning of summer so the apricots are a key component. Made into a savory-sweet chutney, spiced up with notes of curry powder and smoked paprika, and served alongside rice, carrot curls, and dark leafy greens, this is a really lovely meal for either a weeknight or a slower weekend evening.

Enjoy!

 

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Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice, serves 4

Cooked Brown Basmati Rice

2-3 large carrots

1 large bunch kale or other greens

1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu

Dry Rub:

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Apricot Chutney:

3/4 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1-2 Tbs. honey

2 cups diced apricots (about 6)

Directions:

  1. In a small dish, combine the dry rub spices and set aside.
  2. Drain and press the tofu for at least 30 minutes. Then, slice it into cubes. Lay out in a single layer in a baking dish and then toss the dry rub to coat all sides.
  3. Bake the tofu in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, stirring/flipping the cubes halfway through.
  4. While the tofu is baking, make the chutney in a small saucepan by adding the diced apricots, curry powder, paprika, ginger, raisins, vinegar, salt, and honey together. Bring to a simmer and allow the ingredients to meld together and become thick. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. While the chutney is simmering and tofu is baking, use a vegetable peeler to make long curls with 2-3 carrots. Set aside and chop the kale or other greens.
  6. Remove the tofu from the oven when crisp-baked and then serve with rice, carrots, greens, and a spoonful (or several) of apricot chutney.

 

Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

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

 

As part of my nutrition program, I took a class last term which covered the basics of cooking whole foods including how to cook grains, beans and other legumes, and greens. One thing I hadn’t previously given much thought to was the reason for soaking grains, beans, nuts, and seeds prior to eating.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes contain antioxidants called phytic acids (or phytates) which are the plants’ primary form of stored phosphorus. Phytates tends to bind minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, making them more difficult for us to absorb. Soaking these foods overnight prior to cooking or eating initiates the sprouting process, which makes many of the minerals more digestible.

There is some debate as to whether we should worry about phytates or bother taking the time to soak our whole grains and nuts, as many experts suggest we simply eat a balanced diet and we’ll get enough of these minerals anyway. From my own personal experience however, I have been eating a diet of whole foods, comprised mostly of these phytate-rich plants, for going on 10 years or so, and I’ve continued to struggle with absorbing the vitamins and minerals my diet should contain–even after removing the two big culprits which were causing me the most damage, gluten and dairy. Gut health is an area I’m super interested in learning more about, but in the meantime, I’ve been trying to remember to soak more of my grains and now nuts, in addition to beans, more of the time.

 

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This porridge combination contains three ingredients to get the day off to a good start thanks to those soaked seeds and nuts including walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat. The California Walnut Commission generously sent me a 2-lb. bag of walnuts to play with and I’ve been having lots of fun using them in unconventional ways. Walnuts are a delicious and versatile ingredient and they perfectly complement other whole foods for nutritious, tasty meals. I’ve found that walnuts can be used a lot like cashews to make “creams,” although with a stronger walnut presence due to their nice wholesome flavor. They pair especially well with amaranth and buckwheat, as all those earthy flavors complement each other.

Walnuts are a nice addition to meals and snacks as an ounce of walnuts — the amount in one serving of this porridge — has 2.5 grams of the essential plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), in addition to 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.

 

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Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been streamlining my morning process and often make my breakfast the night before, or batch cook a few days of meals at once. I tend to opt for some form of porridge most days and this means I have the perfect opportunity to soak and prep my morning fixings. Since it’s been getting hot outside, I have considered returning to a more summery breakfast like raw buckwheat porridge, but find that I  still tend to wake up ready for something warm to start my day. I tend to run cool most of the time so I decided to make a porridge that is soaked overnight or for a few hours prior to blending, and then it can be quickly finished and heated on the stove top to eat. I usually do the whole process the night before, as long as I remember to soak those main components a few hours before that evening prep. Then I reheat individual portions in the morning.

 

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Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge, serves 4

1/3 cup buckwheat groats

1/3 cup amaranth

1 cup raw walnuts

1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 Tbs. raw honey or maple syrup

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

dash of sea salt

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2- 1 1/2 cups water, divided

Directions:
  1. Cover walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat with warm water and one tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Let soak overnight. The next morning, drain and rinse well.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries and honey until they become smooth. Spoon out about half the puree and set aside.
  3. Without removing the remaining puree, add in the drained and rinsed nuts and seeds along with the spices and about 1/2 cup water. Puree the mixture until smooth.
  4. To assemble and eat, spoon the pureed porridge into a small saucepan along with enough water to make it a thinnish consistency, if necessary. This will depend on your berries. Heat through until it forms a thick porridge. Then, swirl a few spoonfuls of the blueberry puree into each portion. Top with more blueberries and walnuts, if desired.

 

 

References:

Frølich, W. (n.d.) Phytate–a natural component in plant food. Whole Grains Council. Retrieved from:  http://wholegrainscouncil.org/files/backup_migrate/PhytateProsCons_0910_DK-WGC.pdf.

Sparvoli, F. and Cominelli, E. (2015). Seed biofortication and phytic acid reduction: A conflict of interest for the plant? Plants. 4 (4): 728-755. doi:  10.3390/plants4040728.

Weil, A. (2010). Are phytates bad or good? Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400758/Are-Phytates-Bad-or-Good.html.