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Za’atar Hummus Pizza

I can’t stop thinking of new menu items for my cafe. I was having a conversation with my lovely baker about the possibility of doing kids’ lunches and we were brainstorming foods that might work particularly well for school lunches. You know, easy to eat, healthy, familiar enough for most kids…She mentioned that a restaurant she once worked in served a hummus pizza and I have been obsessing all of the hummus pizza possibilities since then. As you know, I’m also obsessed with Za’atar. On top of all of that, I have gotten over my longstanding aversion to olives. I think we just might have it on the menu at the cafe sometime soon…this may or may not be the version that goes into kids’ lunches, but it sure is yummy!

I make lots of varieties of focaccia, so I use leftovers for the pizza crust. You can use your favorite pizza crust, tortillas, or even pieces of bread for little personal hummus pizzas. And, of course, topping are your choice, but here’s a suggestion…

  • Pizza crust (unbaked or pre-baked will work), tortillas, or bread
  • Hummus, about 1/4 cup per serving
  • Lightly steamed broccoli
  • caramelized onions
  • pitted and halved olives (optional)
  • Sumac, fresh thyme, sesame seeds, and sea salt
  • Aleppo peppers, optional

If you are using a pre-baked crust, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If your crust still needs to be cooked, bump it up to 400 degrees. Place your crust on a pan and spread with hummus. Arrange the broccoli, onions, and olives (if using) evenly over the hummus. Sprinkle with sumac, fresh thyme, sesame seeds, and sea salt. Add a pinch of aleppo pepper, if you wish. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until your crust is lightly browned and the hummus is heated through. Enjoy!

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Injera

For some reason, injera has come up a lot lately and it seems that people either really, really want to know how to make it, or they don’t know what it is.  The latter seems like a good place to start…injera is a traditional Ethiopian flatbread that is made from teff flour and is used as a utensil to scoop up thick stews and porridges.  Most recipes call for three days of fermentation, so it has a pleasantly sour taste.

Teff is the smallest grain in the world and it packs a powerful punch.  Because of its small size, it mainly consists of bran and germ, the healthy components of grain that provide fiber and protein.  Teff has a high calcium content and is relatively high in the amino lysine compared to other grains.  You can feel the strong, vital energy in this grain when you eat it.  Teff ranges in color, but is relatively to very dark and it has a strong, rich flavor.  It is my understanding that Ethiopian restaurants here in the US typically make injera from teff and wheat flours, rather than solely from teff, which is the authentic way to make it.  So as not to shock our American palettes, I suppose.

While I cannot make any claims as to the authenticity of my injera, since I’ve never been to Ethiopia, my method is traditional with the exception of the fact that I use whole grain teff rather than teff flour.  I like to keep things simple and fresh, so I avoid pre-ground flours and this is an easy way for you to do the same, assuming that you have a blender.  It’s made like a crepe and turns out to be a deliciously sour, spongy flatbread perfect with Wat – an Ethiopian stew seasoned with berberé spice – a recipe we’ll revisit at another time.

This is a simple recipe, though it does call for some planning ahead.  The only tricky part is finding a strainer that is fine enough to let water out, but keep teff in.  I have a cone-shaped strainer that is works well for small amounts as in this recipe.

  • 1 cup whole teff
  • water for soaking
  • 3/4 -1 cup spring water, or as needed for blending (must be spring water)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Soak your teff in a bowl overnight in enough water to cover.  In a very fine mesh strainer, or one lined with cheesecloth, drain your teff and rinse well, then drain again thoroughly.  Place drained teff in a blender with 1/2 cup spring water and the salt and blend, adding more water until you can make a smooth batter that is thin, but not watery.  Pour it into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.  Set aside for 1 1/2 to 2 days, or even as long as 3 days, giving it a stir and a smell periodically to see if it has begun to sour.  A darker liquid will rise to the top – this is good, just stir in back in.  The batter is done when it smells pleasantly sour; the smell is a little stronger than typical sourdough, but has elements of that same piquant smell.  You’ll want to make your injera as soon as it gets to that place, because if it goes to far, it starts to smell a little smoky and that’s not what you are going for.

When you are ready to make your injera, heat a flat skillet, preferably cast iron, to medium.  When a drop of water sizzles wildly, it’s hot enough.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the middle of the pan and tilt the pan so the batter moves toward the rim of the skillet to form something resembling a circle.  Allow it to cook a couple minutes, until the edges start to pull away from the pan and it’s cooked through to the top.  Place on a plate and continue until the batter is gone, stacking the injera one on top of the other and inverting another place on top so they stay flexible.  Use the injera to scoop up a thick soup or stew – maybe a berberé-spiced lentil or split pea soup, maybe a dahl or curry, whatever you want, really.  Enjoy!

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Savory Crisp Mung Bean Pancakes

I love a dish that provides protein and veggies in one place, is portable, and can be easily eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. Fritters and vegetable pancakes are one such dish and the options for filling, seasoning, and serving them are endless, making this one of the more flexible recipes out there. This recipe is for a thinner batter baked in a cast iron skillet into a slightly crunchy flatbread-type pancake. By varying the liquid in the batter, you can change the texture to a thicker, softer griddle cake. Either way, they are delicious, so experiment and enjoy!

Mung beans are easy to digest and a good source of protein; soaking and rinsing them improves their digestibility and softens them for blending. If you would prefer to use sprouted beans, use whole mung beans and leave them in the strainer to sprout after soaking. This will take about 18 hours or so.

You can decide how you want to add the vegetables and whether you want to cook them first. You can just stir in quicker-cooking vegetables like chopped greens, tomatoes, and peas; I prefer to cool onions and broccoli and other pungent or hard vegetables first.

The batter keeps in the fridge for at least a couple days, so feel free to make a double batch and cook the pancakes as needed. If you only have one oven-proof skillet, you’ll need to make these in batches or make additional pancakes on the stove top.

  • 1 cup split mung beans
  • water for soaking
  • 1/2 – 1 cup water
  • juice from 1/2 lemon or lime (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
  • ghee or olive oil
  • 1 baby walla walla onion or 4-5 scallions, sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, flowerettes chopped, stem peeled and sliced
  • 4 inches or so garlic scape, sliced (or chop a clove of garlic)
  • 2 handfuls of parsley, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
  • optional – sliced or chopped hot peppers, diced tomatoes, fresh or frozen peas, parboiled sliced potatoes, thinly-sliced bell peppers

Soak the mung beans overnight. Drain and rinse. To make the batter, put the rinsed mung beans, 1/2 cup water, citrus juice, cumin, cayenne, salt, and a few grinds of pepper into a blender. Blend until very smooth, adding water as necessary. The batter should blend easily and should be pourable (like a crepe batter). At this point, you can either refrigerate the batter in a tightly covered container to finish later, or proceed with the recipe.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the ghee or olive oil and saute the onions until they begin to brown. Add the broccoli and garlic scapes, sprinkle with salt, and cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender. Mix the cooked veggies into the batter with the rest of the ingredients. Pour olive oil into the skillet to coat the pan and pour batter into the skillet, tilting if necessary to help it spread to the edges. Bake for about 7-10 minutes, or until brown on the bottom, then flip and cook another 5-7 minutes until the second side is speckled with brown. Serve plain, with a slaw or chutney for dipping. Enjoy!

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Crepes with Cinnamon Apple Streusal Filling

This is our go-to special family breakfast; it’s a treat, but the kind you can still feel good after eating.  The eggs in the crepes provide some protein and the cooked apples are balanced with crushed walnuts for a good dose of healthy fats.  The cinnamon provides an additional boost to keep your blood sugar in check.  If you are going to have a sweet breakfast, this is a great choice.  If you can’t or don’t eat eggs, try making the scallion pancake recipe that goes with the Asian Fajitas, replacing the olive oil with ghee or macadamia nut oil and eliminating the toasted sesame oil and scallions.   

I make the crepe batter the night before and leave it in the fridge, then cook the crepes in the morning and keep them warm until we are ready to eat.  You can also make the crepes ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, then soften them in the oven when you are ready to eat.  It’s fun to put out a variety of fillings; we also like apple butter mixed with crushed walnuts and berries with nut cream.  If you are a dairy eater, plain yogurt lightly sweetened with agave or coconut sugar would be delicious drizzled over the top of berry-filled crepes. 

Crepes seem very fancy, but they actually take very little work.  There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to cooking them, but after the first few crepes, you will have it down.  The tricks are keeping the pan at the right temperature and making sure the batter is the proper consistency.  I use a cast iron crepe pan, but any cast iron or stainless skillet will do.   

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup amaranth (or other flour of choice)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups hempmilk (or other milk of choice), more or less as needed
  • 2-3 Tablespoons ghee or macadamia nut oil (or any heat-stable oil)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons agave, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
  • 4 apples, cored and sliced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, pulverized to a thick paste

Put the eggs in a blender and blend for a minute or so, until they begin to look frothy.  Add the flour and 1 cup of milk and continue to blend on high until very smooth, adding more milk as necessary to get a thin batter about the consistency of melted ice cream.  Add ghee or oil, salt, and agave, and continue to blend a minute or two more.  Pour into a class container that will allow for easy pouring later.  Cover and let stand at room temp at least 30 minutes or, preferably, in the refrigerator overnight.  You will want to bring the batter back to room temperature and give it a gentle stir before cooking.  Once it’s at room temperature, add more milk if necessary to get the melted ice cream consistency.  Stir it in thoroughly, but gently, as you do not want to create too many air bubbles. 

When ready to make the crepes, heat a 9-inch crepe pan or skillet over medium heat.  If your skillet isn’t seasoned, coat with a very thin layer of oil or ghee.  Wrap a towel or hot pad around the handle of your pan and pour in a few tablespoons of batter (adjust for pan size if necessary).  Immediately lift the pan and tilt in a circular motion until the batter forms a thin, even circle, or something resembling a circle.  Leave for about 15-30  seconds, then use a spatula to loosen the sides.  When it’s cooked on one side, it will release quite easily.  Flip and cook on the other side, again about 30 seconds.  You should have a thin, flexible crepe that is uniformly browned on the first side and spotted on the second.  Place the cooked crepe on a plate, then cover with another inverted plate.  Adjust the heat, if necessary, before continuing to cook the remaining crepes.  If the batter splattered a lot when you put it in the hot pan, turn it down a bit.  If the crepe is taking longer than 30-60 seconds on each side or is sticking or falling apart, you may need to turn the heat up a bit.  Continue to pile the crepes on top on each other and cover with the inverted plate.  They will stay warm and flexible until you are ready to eat them. 

While you are cooking the crepes, you can also prepare the apples.  Heat a separate 8-10 inch skillet to medium and melt the coconut oil or ghee.  Add the sliced apples in a single layer, or as close as you can get, and sprinkle with the cinnamon and salt.  Cook until lightly browned and tender, but not mushy.  Stir in the walnuts to coat the apples. 

Bring the crepes, cooked apples, and any other fillings to the table.  Each person can place a layer of  the filling of their choice the middle of their crepe (or spread over entire crepe if using a thinner filling), roll the crepe around the filling, and enjoy!

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Roasted Vegetable Pancakes (with chickpea flour)

These pancakes can easily be whipped up as an accompaniment to a vegetable soup or saute, as a healthy snack, or even breakfast.  I like to let the batter rest overnight, but 30 minutes will do it.  I often make them when I have leftover roasted cauliflower and broccoli, but sauteed or steamed greens or other veggies would work too.  This is the basic recipe, but feel free to add ground or whole spices or use a different type of oil to compliment the rest of your meal. 

  • 1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • herbs or spices, optional (ground or whole cumin, basil or pesto, or caraway seeds are a few ideas)
  • 1 cup chopped roasted (or otherwise cooked) vegetables, or more

Whisk the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and spices (if using), to make a medium-thin batter.  Let set at room temperature for 30 minutes to 12 hours.  Refrigerate if you need to leave it longer.  When you are ready to make the pancakes, heat a cast-iron skillet (or whatever you have) to medium heat and add olive oil to coat.  While the pan is heating, whisk the batter a few times and stir the vegetables in.  Put spoonfuls of the batter into the pan, allowing room for it to spread.  Cook a minute or two until the top is covered with bubbles, then flip and cook until browned on both sides.  It won’t brown evenly on the second side, you just want to be sure it is well-cooked throughout.  Taste a part of one pancake to be sure the seasoning is how you want it and adjust the seasonings in the remaining batter, if necessary.  Place the cooked pancakes on a tray in a 300 degree oven and continue until the batter is gone.  If you have leftovers, just reheat them in the oven or toaster oven until crisp.  Enjoy!     

*alternatively, you can heat the oven to 450 degrees and pour a thin layer of the batter into a well-oiled skillet and cook 10-15 minutes, flipping when browned on the first side and cooking until crisp on both sides.

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Socca

I have given this recipe to several people, but I am not sure that I’ve ever heard anyone say they actually made it.  It’s worth offering again, though, because it is simple, quick, versatile, and I think it’s really tasty.  Some version of this crispy flatbread is available as a street food in many different countries, so you can imagine that you could spice it up in any way that you like.  Beyond that, you can make it into a pizza, eat it along with soup or salad, or fill it with chopped greens and enjoy it as a snack.   It’s good for a quick breakfast too!  

One of my favorite ways to eat socca right now is alongside a hearty salad of lettuce, roasted beets, diced roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes, steam-sauteed broccoli, and tahini-balsalmic dressing.  It’s especially good with tamari-pumpkin seeds and a few roasted chickpeas thrown on top…

Note:  I like to make the socca batter the night before and allow it to sit overnight.  I think this makes it a little more digestible.  In general, it’s good to let it sit for at least 30 minutes if you have the time to let the flavors come together.  However, if you think of it and want it right away, that’s ok too.  FYI – if you make it and let it sit overnight, but still aren’t ready to use it, just keep it tightly covered in the fridge.  It will last at least 3 days.  You will probably need to thin it out a bit with some warmed water when you are ready to use it.  

The size of skillet you use will depend on what you have and also how thin you like it.  I like it thin and crispy and my husband likes it a little thicker and soft on the inside.  I have used a 14-inch cast iron pizza pan, but I actually prefer to use my smaller cast iron skillets – I have a small, medium, and large sized 5-inch, 7-inch, and 10-inch.  This way, we can all have it how we like it best.  I often have a little batter leftover, which I happily use in the next day or two.         

Socca

  • 1 cup chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour)
  • 1 cup water (or more if needed)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus more for oiling the pans
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Optional Embellishments:

  • chopped spinach, or other leafy greens
  • herbs
  • reconstituted sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • chopped olives
  • grated or shredded cheese
  • pizza toppings, added after the socca is partially cooked

Sift the flour into a medium-sized bowl, or whisk any lumps out while it’s in the bowl.  Add the water and whisk until smooth.  Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.  The batter should be about the consistency of a crepe batter; thin, but not watery.  Add more water, a little at a time, if necessary.  Fold in any optional ingredients.  Pour olive oil into skillet (see discussion above recipe regarding skillet sizes).  Be generous with the oil, it should easily cover the bottom of the skillet with some to spare.   Pour batter into the skillet and let it spread to fill the bottom of the pan, adding more if necessary.  Bake at 450 degrees until the socca is lightly browned around the edges and will slide easily when you give the skillet a shake.  Flip it, sprinkle some salt and/or pepper on, and brown the other side.  Depending on the size of the pan and how crispy you like it, it takes 5-10 minutes on each side.  Flipping is optional, you can also leave it as is on the top.  Or, if you are making pizzas, flip it, add the pizza toppings and continue to cook until toppings are done.

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Sprouted Lemon Poppyseed Bread

I’ve been having lots of fun experimenting with sprouting.  I had a few requests last Summer at the Farmers’ Market for sprouted/soaked products.  Since I like to accommodate each and every one of the food preferences that come my way, I wanted to oblige.  In my experiments this Winter, I have been pretty excited to find out that I can convert several of my recipes to soaked, whole grain, rather than flour-based, recipes.  Since I also promised a recipe for that lemon zest you put aside after making the miso-mustard sauce recipe, here you go…and, by the way, if you would like to see a video version, you can watch it here: http://www.minimalistmenu.com/node/51

Before I start the recipe, though, don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of sprouting quinoa, please.  I am a total sprouting novice and it’s super simple.  Directions are included in the recipe.  Seriously, it’s really simple.  You do have to plan a day in advance if you don’t already have sprouted quinoa, but once you realize how easy it is, you’ll just have it ready all the time:)

You can adjust the amount or type of sweetener to your taste.  You can also fold in berries or other fruit.  I’m sure you could go up, as well, but I have never tried…

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup water, or more as necessary
  • 1 Tablespoon flax seeds or chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons grated lemon rind (don’t leave this out – it’s not optional!!  Turn it into a different flavor if you don’t have lemon rind!!!)
  • 1/3 cup sweetener, coconut nectar, maple syrup, honey, agave, etc. (add 2 additional Tablespoons for a slightly sweeter bread)
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup applesauce

Rinse the quinoa in a strainer until the water no longer looks soapy (that’s the saponin; you want to remove that anytime you make quinoa), then put in a small bowl and cover with filtered water for 2-4 hours.  Pour back into the strainer, rinse, and leave (over a bowl to catch the dripping water) for 12 hours.   Depending on the room temperature, it may be sprouted already!  If it hasn’t sprouted yet, or you like the sprouts longer, rinse with filtered water, drain, and leave for another 12 hours.  When the sprouts have grown to the desired length, rinse again and either use right away or leave to dry out, then store in a covered jar in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease two loaf pans.  I prefer stainless for this; if you are using glass, you’ll need to turn the temp down to 350 degrees midway through baking.  Place the sprouted quinoa, water, flaxseeds, oil, and sweetener in a blender and process on high until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients, except poppy seeds and applesauce, and mix on low until thoroughly incorporated.  Fold in poppy seeds and applesauce.  Pour into loaf pans.  Optionally, you can cover them with foil and this will create more of a soft, steamed bread.  My kids don’t notice the difference, but I do.   Note: the bread won’t reach the foil and you can reuse it many times.  Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until center is firm and springy and the edges are browned and pulling away from the sides of the pan.  Enjoy!!

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