Garlic Scape Basil Pesto

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto | Pumpkin Honey

How wonderful is seasonal produce? It’s fresh, vibrant, and you can find it locally. The basil in this pesto came from the farmer’s market this morning. And the garlic scapes came in an organic box from Washington Green Grocer. WGG is like an interesting spin on the CSA (community supported agriculture). While not all of their produce is organic or local (or even national), a large portion is and you can order a local or organic box. And they deliver it to your door. Plus they’re very flexible about swaps and they offer a lot of add-ons. It’s really an excellent service that provides excellent products. For most, I definitely advocate using a traditional CSA that comes from an organic farm nearby and buying from local, producers-only farmer’s markets. However, if this is not an option (i.e. if it’s the middle of the season, no farms nearby, no sustainably grown produce, etc.) a group like Washington Green Grocer is a great alternative. They also have an excellent web design that’s easy to use and have a blog with recipe suggestions! I also hear Hometown Harvest is a good organization in the MD area with a similar model.

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto | Pumpkin Honey

This pesto is everything you want in your pesto.

There’s the traditional basil, the fun of garlic scapes, and the flavor enhancers: red pepper flakes for a kick & red wine vinegar for a tiny little punch.

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto | Pumpkin Honey

 Key is high quality produce. You could smell this basil across the kitchen. And the scapes were nice and firm.

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto | Pumpkin Honey

YUM.

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto | Pumpkin Honey

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto | Pumpkin Honey

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto

1 Large Bunch Basil (About 2 Cups Loosely Packed)
5 Large Garlic Scapes
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
1/4 Cup Walnuts
1/4 – 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 Tsp Red Wine Vinegar
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 Tsp Salt (To Taste)

Chop the thick end and the seed head off of the garlic scapes and throw in the food processor. Puree until coarsely ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and purée until smooth. Adjust to taste, adding more olive oil/salt/vinegar/cheese if you desire.

Spread on sandwiches or pizza, stir into pasta, or nosh with a spoon. However you eat it, you’ll love it.

And you’ll see what I do with it soon!

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto | Pumpkin Honey

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Tabbouleh & Hummus

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Okay, snickerdoodles not what you wanted to start your 2013 resolutions off properly?

Well, don’t worry! I’ve got healthy stuff too!! Delicious, healthy stuff.

I grew up eating Lebanese food on special occasions. Mostly family gatherings, especially Easter. Grandma prepared most of it when I was younger. My cousins and I would sneak into the fridge at night during family reunions to steal the fatayers! We’d sneak a few, thinking we’d be satisfied, and then go back for secret seconds. I loved almost everything grandma made, but tabbouleh was never my favorite. Probably because it’s chock full of parsley and I’m not really a huge fan. But it’s been growing on me in the last few years and now I love it. Well curly leaf more than flat. Especially drenched in lemon juice. Probably thanks to Stephen… who adores Middle Eastern & Mediterranean cuisines. He loves when we make tabbouleh, hummus, pita, grape leaves, or fatayer. And any chance we get to eat it somewhere else. He once “confessed” he loved me because I could make such good Lebanese food. I was flattered!

Tabbouleh & Hummus are an especially great combination. They’re both quick & simple and require no cooking (if using canned beans). They’re also an extremely healthy combo. Chickpeas are full of protein, fiber, Manganese and Iron. While parsley is an excellent source of antioxidants as well as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Calcium, Folate, Potassium and even Iron. Most importantly, they’re delicious together – the flavors and textures are perfectly complementary.

So go ahead, indulge. In fresh, wonderful food that you can feel good about.

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Tabbouleh

2 bunches curly leaf parsley
1/2 cup bulgur
1 large cucumber
1/2 small red onion
juice of 2 lemons
several tablespoons olive oil
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt, to taste
chopped mint, optional

Chop parsley finely. Chop mint finely if using (between a couple tablespoons & 1/4 cup).
You can use the food processor if you want, but that’s one more thing to clean!
Peel cucumber, seed & dice. Finely dice red onion.
Add the bulgur wheat to a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stir & remove from heat. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.
Combine the parsley, bulgur, cucumber, and onion.
Pour olive oil & lemon juice on top & stir thoroughly.
Refrigerate & nom!

Hummus

1 can chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon (or more)
1/4 tsp salt

This one is easy. Add all ingredients to food processor & blend until completely smooth!
Top with paprika, sumac, or zaatar, and olive oil. Or nothing. However you like it.
Many of my family members prefer it drenched in olive oil.
Refrigerate & nom!

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Smoky Poblano & Black Bean Pupusas

Stephen has been trying very very hard to avoid purchasing plastic in general but especially while grocery shopping. (We saw a guy put ONE apple in a plastic produce bag and tie it off!) This means a lot of things to be made from scratch… including tortillas & bread & powdered sugar. But especially tortillas. I don’t do well without, at the very least, one Mexican meal a week. If I had my way, I’d probably eat Latin American cuisine just about every single day. What is a world without salsa??? Not a world I want to live in. And black beans? Nope, I don’t want to live there either.

So we picked up a 5 pound bag of Maseca and Stephen put me to work. Okay, we worked together… 😉 I made the tortillas & he cooked them. Hint: the recipe is on the back of the bag. We don’t have a tortillas press so we used to pieces of parchment paper & one of the 8×8 pyrex pans to smush the living daylights out of a ball of a masa harina, water & salt. And it worked like a damn charm. And then I discovered the best news EVER. I could make more than just tortillas. I could make tamales, pupusas, sopes.

One of my pet names for Stephen is Pupusa… I don’t know how it came to be but it was one of the first things I called him. I thought it was only fitting I make him Pupusas for his birthday (okay, the day before).  The recipe is really simple & they are incredibly delicious. I must warn you though – you must have the patience of a freaking saint to form them. Okay, they’re not that bad… unless you’re a perfectionist.

Stephen was gracious enough to let me take these pictures of his food before I let him eat it.

Smoky Poblano & Black Bean Pupusas

Dough:

  • 2 Cups Masa Harina
  • 1 3/4 Cups Warm Water
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl. The dough should be very moist but not sticky – much moister than for tortillas. You want the dough to be moist enough that it doesn’t crack when you’re forming the pupusas. If the dough dries out a bit as it sits, just add a couple more teaspoons of water. I actually made mine as the filling was cooking. Form into about 8 balls, somewhere between the size of a golf ball & tennis ball.

Filling:

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Med/Large Poblano Pepper, diced
  • 1 Jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1/2 Medium Onion, finely diced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Can Black Beans, rinsed
  • 1 Tsp Chipotle Powder (this makes the filling smoky AND spicy, you can sub smoked paprika for smokiness without the heat)
  • 1/2 Tsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • Juice of Half a Lime
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 Cup Water

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium/large saute pan. Add poblano, jalapeno & onion. Saute until vegetables are tender and slightly browned. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add black beans & salt & seasonings. Stir to combine. Add water and simmer gently over medium/low heat until much of the water has cooked down. Smash the black beans to a “refried bean” consistency. Squeeze lime juice into mix & stir to combine. You want the mixture to be thick for stuffing the pupusas.

To form: the pupusas, start with one of the masa balls. Form a small bowl by sinking your thumb in the middle & pinching the sides of the dough… much like when you were little and would make little clay bowls. The dough should be less than a centimeter thick. Fill the “bowl” with a couple of spoonfuls of filling. Fold together edges to close. Then flatten into a disk. The edges may crack a little, just muster all your patience to pinch the masa back together. If the filling comes out a bit, don’t worry! It happens. We had leftover filling that I served next to the pupusas. I wish I had some right now.

To cook: the pupusas, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Cook pupusas for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown on each side.

To serve: the pupusas, top with pico de gallo (as pictured), sour cream, guacamole, lime juice, hot sauce or any of your favorite accompaniments.

These babys were sooo good. They were a bit of a challenge to form but I think with practice I could one day become a professional pupusa maker. They’re certainly worth it. Hot out of the pan with some fresh pico de gallo, they’re a bit crunchy on the outside from the pan fry and gooey with a huge punch of flavor on the inside.

Two sites that I consulted with pictures on how to form the Pupusas:

Dandy Sugar

Better With Butter

Stuffed Grape Leaves

I love food so much it’s ridiculous. Especially eating it. But making it can be pretty fun too. Especially when I’m not just a full-time veggie chopper. Especially, when you get to cook with family or friends, for special occasions, or particularly exciting dishes.

Every year, as per tradition, our family makes the same Middle Eastern dishes for Easter (and family reunions). My great grandfather, Sam Bitar, and my great grandmother came from the Middle East in the early 1900s. Technically he was Syrian and she was Lebanese… they came over just before the post -WWI French League of Nations Mandate that divided the Ottoman Empire (Contemporary Middle Eastern History with Dr. Saffran filled my brain with far too much knowledge). Thus we consider ourselves Lebanese & Syrian. We make grape leaves, fatayers, hummus, tabbouleh, and kibbe. Kibbe nayyi (raw) for particularly special occasions. And for dessert mahmoul & ka’ak cookies. Hummus & tabbouleh are the only two vegan dishes. So I’ve been developing vegan recipes based off of the traditional ones.

But back to the grape leaves, if you’ve had grape leaves you’ve probably had the lenten version… vegetarian (and maybe you called them Dolmas… which are technically Turkish – it gets complicated). But traditionally, my family stuffed their grape leaves with beef & rice. I think lamb is actually the most traditional (at least according to the cookbooks) but probably becomes rather expensive when you’re churning out huge batches for the entiiiiire family.

The gist is, I grew up watching my mom makes these for significant family gatherings. And I tried to help make them… sometimes. And I definitely helped eat them. Straight our of the pot… when no one was looking. Grape Leaves are absolutely a unique flavor but they’re a bit gooey and very tangy (from the lemons & leaves) and definitely delicious. They’re especially wonderful vegan & dipped in hummus or baba ghanoush.

A Lebanese cookbook my grandmother gave me (she had 2 copies!) has “lenten” variations for many of the usually meat-laden recipes. In other words, during the 40 days before Easter, people eat vegetarian cuisine. Needless to say, the “Lenten” chapter of my cookbook is my favorite.

I checked out the listed recipe for lenten grape leaves before deciding to make up my own. The measurements below are a rough estimate. Because honestly, I kept just throwing more of one ingredient into the 4 cup measurer when I thought it looked like it needed more red or green.

The only tedious part of making Grape Leaves is the stuffing part. It’s actually pretty simple though.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

  • 1 Cup White Rice
  • 1/2 Cup Sliced Grape Tomatoes
  • 1/4 Large Onion, finely diced
  • 3 Tbsp Dried Currants
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp Mint, Chopped
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • 1 Jar Grape Leaves (You’ll only use about 20 – 30 Leaves)
  • 2 – 3 Lemons, sliced thin

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir thoroughly to combine and coat rice.

Remove a hunk of grape leaves from the jar. They usually come in portions… they roll up about 20 – 40 leaves and shove them in the brine. Rinse the hunk of grape leaves under cold water, just to get a bit of brine off.

You want to use the larger grape leaves. About 6 inches in diameter or so. If you want to be a pro and happen to find a bunch of smaller leaves tucked in there, you can overlap them to make “one” larger grape leaf.

On a cutting board, spread grape leaf with the veins of the leaf facing up. Fill center with about 2 Tbsp of rice filling. Mom always makes hers longer & thinner but I’ve always liked mine shorter & fatter so you can spread the filling to your liking. I do about 2.5 – 3 inches long.

Next, you must rolllllll the grape leaf. Which is just like making a burrito. Which, anyone who’s worked at a Chipotle has mastered… unless you’ve worked in State College – your grape leaves may fall apart, much like your burritos. (Okay, some of their staff are definitely professionals, I’m only teasing).

1. Fold the end closest to you up over the rice.

2. Fold in the left & right sides over the top.

3. Roll the filling up the leaf until the top is sealed. You want to make sure they’re rolled well, snug but not “tight.” You don’t want them to fall apart in the simmering water but you want a bit of room for the rice to expand when it cooks.

If my directions make absolutely no sense because I am completely incompetent at explaining kitchen techniques… I’m more of a teach by show kinda gal…. there is a wonderful series of pictures at SouSou Kitchen that show the steps to rolling a grape leaf…. I suggest you visit the site since I don’t even think I understand what I’m explaining. Maybe it’s because it’s really quite simple  – I swear!

Line a large-ish pot with the grape leaves to make a single bottom layer. Squeeze them in snug. Layer the slices of lemon on top of your bottom layer of grape leaves. Now, make a second layer of grape leaves in your pot. Mine didn’t quite fill a second layer, which proved to be slightly detrimental to the whole… grape leaves staying together thing. Or maybe I just didn’t make them “snug” enough. Doh! Top with more sliced lemon. Then fill pot with water until grape leaves are JUST covered. My mom says it’s as simple as cooking rice… which is essentially what you are doing. But I wasn’t that calm. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is thoroughly cooked (aka act like you’re cooking rice, because you are). Some liquid will remain. I like to call this the “juice.” It’s lemony and helps the grape leaves stay moist & flavorful so don’t throw it away… unless you’re going to eat them all immediately. Which is fine by me!

 

Pico De Gallo Slaw

Just over a week ago I received very exciting news!!! The exclamation points let you know how exciting 🙂

I received an acceptance letter from American University’s School of International Service. Starting in the fall I will be a graduate student working toward an M.A. in Global Environmental Policy!

I finally have some direction and that feels incredible. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books sums it up, “But absolute freedom can be as paralyzing as confinement when you don’t know what you want” (Around the Bloc by Stephanie Elizondo Griest). I finally know what I want!

Interestingly, American was the only school to which I applied (Penn State was the only school to which I applied for undergrad). Thank the universe I was accepted (to both).

I visited campus the day I was accepted (I didn’t get my acceptance email until that evening) and have already started looking at apartments, short-term study abroad opportunities, thinking about part-time jobs (Whole Foods?), and internships in the city. Each class is only once a week, and the average graduate student course load is 9 credits (3 classes) so I may only be on campus 2 days a week.

Anyway, onto the food! I eat tacos at least once a week, if not more. I love them. Usually they’re filled with black beans, some combination of veggies, and some kind of salsa, and/or guacamole. Last night, Stephen made some amazing tofu tacos and the tofu actually turned out perfect! Almost restaurant style!! Oh dear, they were so good I’m drooling just thinking about them.

And I learned a new trick after some internet searching… thank you, Vegan Yum Yum. The tofu should be DRY FRIED. It leeches out more moisture so the tofu becomes more spongy & chewy while simultaneously giving it a crisper outer texture. After dry frying the tofu, he added Olive Oil, Jalapeño, Onion, and Bell Pepper & sautéed it all together with some Chili Powder, Cumin & Salt. I fried the tortillas a bit to make them warm & pliable. Then we added the slaw I had made around lunch & topped it off with some green leaf lettuce. Oh, and we never forget the Tapatío. They were seriously delicious. I will probably never get around to posting a taco recipe because not only are tacos easy to make, I am FAR more interested in eating them IMMEDIATELY than I am in setting up a picture of my favorite food while it begs to be consumed. Maybe, one day.

Pico De Gallo Slaw

  • 1 Cup Green Cabbage, Shredded
  • 2 Medium Sized Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1/4 of a Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 Large Clove of Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Jalapeño, Minced
  • Juice of One Lime (or to taste)
  • 1/2 Tsp Cumin (or to taste)
  • Dash of Chipotle Powder, for smokiness
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 Tsp Brown Sugar, Agave, or Honey
  • Cilantro (optional)

The addition of the cabbage actually came about because I didn’t have cilantro and diced tomato, onion & garlic just wasn’t going to cut it. The Mexican restaurant in Kutztown, La Cocina Mexicana, always serves their salsa with shredded cabbage and it’s dynamite. Thus, this slaw was born. Both the jalapeño & chipotle add a bit of spice to adjust to your preference.

In a medium/large bowl combine cabbage, tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and garlic. Toss together. Squeeze in lime juice. Add cumin & chipotle. Toss & taste. You may decide not to add sweetener or salt. I liked a little of both. Definitely be careful with the sweetener though. I accidentally added a touch too much the first time I made it.

If you have cilantro, absolutely add it. Let the slaw marinade in the refrigerator while you make the rest of your tacos. The flavor will enhance as it sits.

The slaw is fresh, bright, and adds a bit of crunch to your taco. It’s really wonderful and you could dress it up however you like.

Mini Zaatar Pizzas

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but my ancestry is part Middle Eastern. My grandfather’s parents came from Syria & Lebanon. And that side of my family is HUGE. We have family reunions at the beach where 100 of us are trying to have dinner in 2 apartments. We have big feasts of stuffed grape leaves, hummus, baba ganoush, kibbe, kibbe nay, meat fatayers, spinach fatayers, pita, tabbouleh, baklava, mjadra, and more.

When we were growing up my cousins & I coveted the meat fatayers my grandmother made. Fatayers are little triangle shaped pies… sort of like the British pasty, except the fatayer dough is softer. We’d sneak into the kitchen at night and steal them out of the refrigerator. Clearly, I don’t eat them anymore, but there are so many great “beef crumble” substitutes that they’re practically the same when I make them today.

Though my grandmother is not of Middle Eastern descent (English all the way) she learned how to make all of the family recipes. She also raised 7 children while granddad honed his entrepreneurial skills to support his family. Last year she gave me one of her Lebanese cookbooks (she had 2 copies!) and I looked through it cover to cover over and over again. Since then, I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons to make more middle eastern dishes. I’ve also figured out how to make the perfect (in my opinion) Tabbouleh, which I shall post next time I make it.

Zaatar is a traditional Middle Eastern blend that usually contains a combination of the following: thyme, cumin, anise, coriander, fennel, salt, sesame seeds, lemon, pomegranate molasses, and sumac. I love sumac. It has a tart kick about it that is just so tasty. The first time I had Zaatar it was spread over pita bread with olive oil. I toasted it and ate it by itself. I ate all of it. It was so good – definitely comfort food.

Mini Zaatar Pizzas

For the Dough: (Makes 4)

  • 3/4 Cup plus 2 Tbsp Warm Water
  • 1 Pkg or 1 Tbsp Yeast
  • 1 Tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Honey
  • 1 Cup Bread Flour
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Sumac

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 Cup Zaatar (the more, the better!!!)
  • Black Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Medium Onion, finely sliced

Preheat your oven to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit.

I made the dough a little bit sweet since the Zaatar is salty & a little bit tart. I just really like the contrast but you can change the dough recipe how you like in terms of saltiness or sweetness.

Combine warm water & yeast. Add sugar & honey. Let sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast are activated and the water begins to look foamy. Add the salt & sumac. Add the flour one cup at a time. If using a dough hook, keep on low speed. Otherwise, stir with wooden spoon to combine. My dough was a little bit tough. Make sure not to over mix. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a smooth ball. Separate into 4 evenly sized balls, cover, and let rise in a warm spot for about an hour. I always microwave something (like water for tea) and then stick my dough in the microwave afterwards. My dough was ready in about 30 minutes and it looked much prettier after rising. It should double in size. With extra flour (dough will become sticky after rising) shape the balls into discs for your pizzas. The thinner, the crunchier.

Combine the Zaatar, oil, and black pepper to make a paste. Spread on top of the dough and top with onion slivers. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown and the onions start to brown.

Let cool before eating so you don’t burn your tongue!