Archive for Condiments

Za’atar Seasoning

I only recently discovered Za’atar, but it’s one of those tastes that will stay in my culinary repertoire for the duration.  From what I can gather, the name refers either to a specific herb native to North Africa or a spice blend common in that same region.  I have never come across the herb called za’atar, so I am referring to the blend of spices I call Za’atar seasoning.  Like many native spice mixtures, it varies from region to region and even from household to household.  It can include a variety of spices such as oregano, marjaram, thyme, fennel, caraway, and savory, as well as sumac and sesame seeds. It can be sprinkled in olive oil and used as a dipping sauce for breads or filling for breads, or as a rub for meats or tofu, or poured generously on hummus.  For a while, I was buying the spice blend from a local spice shop, but then I discovered that it was even more heavenly made with fresh thyme from my garden, so I started making it myself.  As is the case with most spices, Za’atar seasoning is high in antioxidants and it also microbial, so a good addition to your holiday diet!

You can add and replace spices as needed, but here is my favorite simple Za’atar seasoning…you may not find sumac at your grocery store, but you should be able to find it at most specialty spice shops.

  • 1 Tablespoon sumac
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a small blender.  You want to break open the sesame seeds so that they are digestible.  If you don’t have either of those tools, you could try crushing them on a cutting board using a flat-bottomed glass or something similar, along with a little elbow grease.  Optimally, you’ll open up the sesame seeds a bit to break up the hull; your body will have a hard time digesting them if they are intact.  Sprinkle the crushed mixture on hummus and other dips, or use it as a seasoned salt on tofu, beans, roasted vegetables, etc.  If you want to use it as a rub, stir it into about 1/4 cup olive oil.  This is also a yummy sandwich spread!  It’s a great way to bring flavor to dishes without adding excessive salt.  It’s such a simple thing, but adds incredible flavor.  I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!

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Gingered Carrot-tomato Sauce

I love, love, love this sauce.  I love it on vegetable pancakes, I love it on quinoa, I love it with chickpeas or lentils or vegetables, and sometimes I just eat it with a spoon right out of the jar.  It’s just another example of how easy it is to make something divine from a few simple ingredients.  And, I can’t think of a place right now where one couldn’t just run down to the Farmers’ Market and buy all of the vegetables.  You’ll have to get your ginger from the store, most likely, but that’s a darn good ratio of local to non-local.

Of course, you could add all types of spices to this sauce – berbere, my current obsession, curry spices, chili peppers, basil, oregano…

  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6-8 good-sized carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped, optional
  • 4-5 fresh tomatoes, or about a cup and a half of jarred strained tomatoes
  • grated fresh ginger, to taste
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee, optional
  • salt, to taste

Heat a large skillet to medium, add the sliced onions and sprinkle with salt.  Drizzle with olive oil and give it a stir so the onions are coated.  Reduce the heat a bit and leave the onions for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally if you get the chance, until they are very soft and caramelized.  Push the onions to the side, add the carrots and celery to the pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then turn the heat back up to medium and saute until they soften.  Remove from heat.  Put the tomatoes and the cooked vegetables into a blender or food processor and process.  I like to leave this sauce a little chunky, so I am careful not to over-process, but if you are going for a smooth sauce, process away!  Pour the sauce back into the pan and grate in the ginger, then add the cinnamon, ghee, and salt.  Simmer on low for about 10 minutes or so (at least), then taste and adjust seasonings.  If you are paying attention, you’ll know when you have the right amount of salt.  Enjoy!

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Carrot-Ginger Dressing

I am doing a Spring cleanse and, even though I eat well normally, I’m having to come up with some new ideas and change some habits.  Normally, I saute or roast my veggies in olive oil and, with a little salt, that makes me really happy.  This cleanse requires that only olive oil or flax oils are used, which is fine, but they have to be raw.  Makes perfect sense, as oils are much healthier uncooked and, in fact, flax oil should not be cooked under any circumstances.  But, it’s going to require a change in my vegetable-cooking routine.  Fortunately, great things come from changes in routine, even if they are hard.  If we hadn’t taken gluten out of Ethan’s diet (and, by extension, mine), we may not have discovered yummy things like popped amaranth, teff, and sprouted buckwheat and we probably wouldn’t have been as creative with quinoa and millet either.  In fact, I probably wouldn’t have ever started my business and I am so glad that I did.

So, anyway, I worried that I would get a little bored with plain steamed vegetables for seven days.  Don’t get me wrong, steamed vegetables are delicious, but, just the same, I worried about it.  The perfect solution – sauces.  This one is quite simple and is delicious served over quinoa, steamed cauliflower, and chard with some chopped almonds on top.  It would also make a nice salad dressing.  You can add herbs or spices if you wish, or just enjoy it as it is.  This recipe makes 1/2-1 cup, depending on the amount of water used.

  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons grated ginger, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped shallot, optional
  • 1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • water, as needed
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth, adding water as needed to process and to get the consistency you want.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Drizzle over cooked grains and steamed vegetables, over a green salad, or whatever you wish.  Enjoy!

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Tomato Curry

Tomatoes are almost back!  Even though it’s early, there is at least one local farm with a greenhouse that typically has tomatoes available at the first market, which is in just three short weeks…Until then, I personally do not buy fresh tomatoes, so this recipe is actually based on jarred tomatoes, both diced and strained.  Since the only brand of canned tomatoes that is BPA-free is Eden and I can’t find those anywhere, I stick with tomatoes in glass jars.  The two organic brands I know of are Lucini (for diced and whole tomatoes), and Bionaturae (for strained tomatoes, more like tomato sauce).  They are both low in sodium and quite tasty for a Winter soup or other tomato-based dish like this one.  If you use a different brand, check the sodium content, then give it a taste before adding salt.

I served this over quinoa as a side dish, but adding browned tofu (you can brown it with the onions), roasted chickpeas, or your protein of choice, could easily turn it into an entree.  It also made a great dipping sauce for veggie pancakes.  I got the original recipe from Moosewood Cookbook, but tweaked it a bit to Winterize…I keep roasted chili peppers in my freezer so I have them available through the Winter.  If you don’t have any, you can use some dried chili flakes or cayenne, but it much smaller amounts!

  • 2 large shallots (or one onion), minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoon minced roasted chili, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes (Lucini – from a glass jar)
  • 1 cup strained tomato (Bionaturae – from a glass jar)
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • salt, to taste (assuming you are using jarred tomatoes with minimal salt, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon should do it)

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the ghee or oil.  Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, then add the roasted chili and cumin and keep it going for a few more minutes.  Make a space in the middle of the pan, add a little more ghee/oil, and then the garlic and ginger.  Sauté until garlic is fragrant, then add the diced and strained tomatoes, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve over cooked grains alongside a protein and a big pile of vegetables.  Enjoy!

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Curried Winter Squash Cubes

These flavorful little squash cubes are one of my new favorites.  When I make them, I have to work hard to make sure I don’t scarf them all down before I have a chance to use them as a colorful addition to whatever soup, salad, or grain dish I’m making.  I generally choose delicata or buttercup squash for roasting, but, those don’t keep as long into the winter as some other varieties like butternut and acorn squash, so I’ve been using butternut squash with great results and I’m sure they would work with any variety.  As I said, they are a delicious snack on their own, but I’ve also been adding them, along with sauteed greens and quinoa to a yummy stew I’ve been making, and they make a wonderful addition to a roasted vegetable salad.  They do take a while to cook, so maybe get some other veggies for roasting, or stick them in the oven while you are baking something else.  It’s kind of a non-recipe, since I’m not providing amounts, but I wanted to post it just in case you wouldn’t otherwise think of it and would therefore miss out on this delicious and nutritious snack/accompaniment!

  • 1 large butternut (or other) squash, seeded and cubed
  • olive oil
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  (If you are putting these in with something else, they are fine anywhere from 350-400 degrees).  Place the squash cubes in one layer (or close) on a large ovenproof skillet or tray with sides.  Pour enough olive oil to coat the cubes generously, then sprinkle with turmeric and curry powder.  Amounts are totally up to your taste, but don’t be too skimpy.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and give them a stir to evenly coat with oil and seasonings.  Put the cubes in the oven and bake them undisturbed until they are very soft and beginning to brown.  You can take them out at this point, or if you are turning the oven off, leave them in with the door open if you like them a little chewier.  Enjoy!

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Vegetable Salsa, raw or roasted

There is such a beautiful array of vegetables available at the Farmers’ Market right now, I literally cannot stop myself from buying them, even though I know that my fridge is stuffed full!  This salsa is a wonderful way to use overripe tomatoes and all that other produce that  does not fit in the vegetable drawer, and it can pack a lot of nutrients. I also love that  it is different every time and, though some of us might associate salsa with Mexican food, you can change the flavor using herbs and different vegetables to complement any cuisine.
Today happens to be a beautiful and warm Fall day, so raw vegetables are perfect.  However, the weather is forecast to be cold and rainy just a couple days from now, and I might prefer to roast all of the veggies for a delicious and warming roasted vegetable salsa when the cold comes in.  See the changes below the recipe for the roasted version…

  • 2-3 medium tomatoes,roughly chopped, or equivalent in cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 small carrot, diced
  • 1/2 sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2-2 small anaheim or other chili peppers*, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small red or white onion, finely  minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of lime, or lemon, juice
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • optional – a handful of other fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, oregano, etc.

*a note on the chili peppers – I used anaheim, which are rather mild and I only used a part of one pepper, because I am pretty sensitive to the heat.  This is totally a matter of taste, so use your favorite type and keep tasting until it’s as spicy as you like it.  Just be careful if you are using really spicy peppers to remove the seeds and wear gloves while prepping!

You can go one of two ways, depending on the texture you are looking for.  I like to pulse the vegetables in a food processor until chunky, then add the citrus juice and herbs and season to taste.  You can also process until smooth, or go the other direction and stir them together for more of a pico de gallo.  Think about how you are going to eat it and proceed accordingly.  Whatever you choose, enjoy it!

For Roasted Vegetable Salsa:

I recommend at least doubling the recipe, since you are turning on the oven anyway and you’ll find lots of yummy uses for this salsa.  Either way, use twice the garlic called for in the raw recipe, as it mellows when it is roasted.  You’ll prep the vegetables slighly differently for this roasted version, quartering the tomatoes, roasting the garlic cloves whole, and cutting the rest of the vegetables into large chunks.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Quarter the tomatoes place them in an oven proof dish, season with olive oil and a little salt.  Rather than peeling and mincing the garlic, remove the papery outer peel and toss the unpeeled cloves in olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, then place them in a small covered dish or wrap them in aluminum foil.   The rest of the vegetables (but not the parsley and herbs) can just be roughly chopped and placed on a tray with a rim then coated with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Put the tomatoes, garlic, and vegetables in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until they are very soft and partially browned.  Peel the roasted garlic and add to the tomatoes along with the rest of the vegetables.  Using a hand blender, roughly puree the salsa.  Stir in the parsley, herbs, and citrus juice (or balsamic vinegar), then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

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Pickled Red Onions

I used to dislike onions intensely, especially crunchy onions.  My family waited many times outside the, ahem, MacDonald’s drive through, for my burger with no onions until finally they started making me get it with onions and pick them off – ick on many counts!  Somehow, it’s all turned around and I can only attribute that to this recipe.  For some reason, I am obsessed with these.  I literally eat them out of the jar and my husband looks at me like I am crazy.  I also eat them on green salads, bean salads, veggie burgers, bean dips, and sandwiches.  Although the recipe just calls for onions, I often add radishes, cucumbers, kohlrabi, etc.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! 

  • 4 medium-sized red onions
  • a big pot or kettle of boiling water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (preferably raw and unfiltered)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons coconut sugar (use less if replacing with another sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns, in a tea ball or tied in cheesecloth*
*I put the pepper in a tea ball so I can easily remove it once its flavor is infused into the pickles.  Cheesecloth or something like it would work too – there is nothing worse that biting into a whole peppercorn, blech. 

In a medium-large bowl, mix the vinegar, water, coconut sugar, and salt until the sugar is dissolved.  Plop in the pepper.  Peel the onions and slice them as thinly as you can.  Put them into a large colander and give them a few shakes to break up the layers.  Pour the boiling water over them slowly, so they begin to wilt a bit.  Put the onions into the bowl and immerse in the vinegar mixture.  If you want to add other raw vegetables, throw them in too; no need to wilt them.  If they aren’t immersed, weigh them down with a plate so they can soak up the flavor.  Leave them on the counter for a few hours, then transfer to a mason jar or other sealed container and store in the fridge.  Enjoy!

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