by Amy Chaplin
Martha's Circle
Zucchini noodles and pesto

Zucchini noodles and pesto

The combination of juicy, sun ripened tomatoes, fragrant basil and a splash of red wine vinegar will always taste like summer to me. Those welcome and uniquely warm weather flavors come together in my latest go-to dinner that everyone seems to love. Once the pesto is made and the zucchini noodles are shaved, it comes together in about 2 minutes. When the weather’s hot an all-vegetable dinner is just the thing to end the day, especially when it’s this tasty, refreshing and light.

When I was growing up, we ate a lot of pesto. My mother grew crops of basil purely for making large batches of pesto, which she then stored in jars in the fridge. We used it for quick weeknight dinners, for impromptu gatherings during the school holidays and anytime my family visited friends, we would gift them jars of the fragrant herb sauce.  My mother ordered bulk amounts of fresh fusilli pasta (it was the 80’s don’t forget!) from an Italian restaurant in town called Martha and Mario’s. We loved their fresh pasta but were not fans of their sauces, so eating it with our own homemade pesto was a great solution. Our family also enjoyed pesto with soba noodles, which sounds odd but actually tastes good, especially with a ladle of simmered cherry tomatoes. At some point we started making pesto with a dab of miso in place of the Parmesan. It was one of the first recipes I remember making “vegan” as a teenager. Miso, like Parmesan cheese has a salty, umami flavor which results in a richly flavored pesto.

Zucchini noodles are nothing new but this is the first year that I have embraced them as a part of my own cooking routine. I’m sure you’ve seen them on raw food restaurant menus and beyond—gallons of them were made when I worked at Angelica kitchen. I actually don’t like the flavor of raw zucchini; I think they benefit by being lightly cooked (steamed in this case) to bring out their sweetness and naturally buttery texture. Having a good julienne peeler will give you perfectly sized long noodles, just like spaghetti.

making noodles

making noodles

Photos by Stephen Johnson

Zucchini noodles with pesto and fresh tomatoes

The straighter the zucchini, the easier it is to create noodles. I also recommend leaving the centers of the zucchinis for another use, like for soup or in sautés, as the seeds create a soggy noodle when steamed. For two portions I usually make about 4 cups of noodles.

Serves 2

4 medium zucchini, trimmed

2 heaping spoons pesto, or more to taste, recipe below

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Red wine vinegar

Large flakes sea salt

Torn basil leaves

Cut zucchini into thin strips using a julienne peeler. Steam the noodles for 30 seconds or until just tender. Remove from heat and place in a medium bowl. Add pesto and stir until combined. You may need a dash of olive oil to help this happen. Divide between bowls, top with cherry tomatoes, a splash of red wine vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and a few basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Basil walnut pesto with miso

Basil walnut pesto with miso

 

Basil walnut pesto with miso

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup walnuts

4 cups basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon white miso

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to store

Sea salt to taste

Fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add walnuts.  Toast for 6 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Add basil, garlic, miso, oil, a pinch salt and walnuts to a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt and a dash of lemon juice. Blend again and transfer what you won’t use immediately to a jar. Smooth out surface, clean sides and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge for up to a week or longer.

 


Flavored nut milks: vanilla spice, blueberry, goji, matcha, raw cacao and tuermic

Flavored nut milks: vanilla spice, blueberry, goji, matcha, raw cacao and tuermic

Lately, when I forget to soak almonds I make nut milk with a combination of hemp and macadamia nuts. Since neither has a skin, you won’t need to soak them to remove phytic acid (a nutrient blocker in the skin that protects the seed from sprouting—there is plenty more info about this my book up coming cook book). Not only is it simple to make, but it’s also deliciously rich and flavorful. I usually don’t strain the milk when pouring it over my regular oat and chia seed breakfast but for these flavored milks, I recommend getting out your nut milk bag. The silky consistency of the strained milk allows their more delicate flavors to shine and gives a perfect clean and refreshing finish.

The flavored nut milk recipes below came about when I was craving a thirst-quenching snack on a hot summer afternoon. Needing a quick and easy pick me up, I poured cold nut milk into a jar, added raw cacao and a dash of vanilla and shook it up. Sipping it satisfied my thirst and although unsweetened, oddly it curbed my sweet cravings too. Unlike a smoothie these milks won’t fill you up, making them a perfect between meals treat.

The addition of coconut butter gives a nice hint of sweetness and adds a little richness too. They’re best served cold and keep well in the fridge for a few days. I can’t decide which one I like most, as they’re all unique and tasty.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear what your favorites are!

Photos by Stephen Johnson

 

Flavored Nut milks

This hemp macadamia nut milk is my latest favorite nut milk with or without the added flavors. Rich in protein and omega fatty acids, hemp seeds taste fresh and slightly grassy when made into milk. The macadamias add a mellow sweet flavor and luscious creamy texture.

 

Hemp macadamia nut milk base

Don’t worry if you forget to soak the macadamia nuts, they blend pretty well in an upright blender.

Makes about 4 cups.

 

½ cup macadamia nuts, soaked in a cup of water for 2 to 4 hours

½ cup hemp seeds

4 cups filtered water

2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla

Tiny pinch sea salt

Drain and rinse macadamia nuts. Place in an upright blender along with remaining ingredients. Blend on high speed until smooth and foaming.

Use as is or strain milk through a nut milk bag, several layers of cheesecloth or a thin kitchen towel. Pour into a jar and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

hemp macadamia milk

hemp macadamia milk

 

Matcha

Matcha is great for promoting mental clarity and alertness. Although I’m not a fan of adding milk to my matcha tea, I do love the way the green powder flavors nut milk with its delicate, grassy notes. When served chilled it will refresh your body and mind but be careful if you’re sensitive to caffeine!

 

1 cup strained nut milk

1 teaspoon matcha tea

1 teaspoon coconut butter

Blend all ingredients until smooth and serve chilled.

 

Turmeric

Famous for its anti-inflammatory properties, fresh turmeric (if you can find it) also has an intriguing tropical flavor and beautiful golden color. It’s slight astringent and bitter flavors are mellowed out by a touch of honey but you can drink it strait up if you’re used to the unusual flavor. Dried turmeric can be used instead of fresh, start with ¼ teaspoon and add more to taste.

 

1 cup strained nut milk

½ inch piece peeled and chopped fresh turmeric root, or more to taste

½ to 1 teaspoon honey or other liquid sweetener

1 teaspoon coconut butter

Blend all ingredients until completely smooth and serve chilled.

 

Raw cacao

Raw cacao is high in magnesium and contains more antioxidant flavonoids than green tea, blueberries or red wine. It also has a deeply satisfying chocolate flavor without the sugar or dairy.

 

1 cup strained nut milk

2 to 3 teaspoons raw cacao powder

2 teaspoons coconut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend all ingredients until completely smooth and serve chilled.

 

Goji

When blended with nut milk the strong and slightly astringent flavors of goji berries are mellowed out and you’re left with a pretty colored sweet drink that’s loaded with antioxidants. If you don’t have goji berry powder soak 2 to 3 tablespoons goji berries in a little water until soft, drain and blend with the ingredients below.

 

1 cup strained nut milk

3 to 4 teaspoons goji berry powder

1 teaspoon coconut butter

Blend all ingredients until completely smooth. Serve chilled.

 

Blueberry

This milk is great with any fresh berries; since there are no other strong flavors in the mix, the fragrance of blueberries really shines.

 

½ cup strained nut milk

½ cup fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon coconut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients until completely smooth. Serve chilled

 

Vanilla spice

This milk makes the perfect light dessert. The medjool dates add a sweet caramel flavor while thickening the texture slightly and vanilla beans, cardamom and nutmeg add an irresistible exotic flavor.

 

1 cup strained nut milk

½ a vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch ground cardamom

Pinch freshly ground nutmeg

2 pitted Medjool dates

Blend all ingredients until completely smooth and serve chilled.

 


tartlets

tartlets

Although I make all my desserts with healthier sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, dates and coconut sugar, I do like the challenge of making a treat with just brown rice and yakon syrups.

Yakon syrup is a low glycemic sweetener (GI is the rate at which food raises blood sugar) made from a sweet tasting South American root vegetable. Yakon has half the calories of sugar and looks dark like molasses but tastes light and sweet. It contains inulin, which promotes healthy probiotics. Yakon also contains iron, calcium and 20 amino acids. And, several studies that have shown that yakon syrup helps improve digestion and weight loss rate. Since it’s classified as a super food, I feel good using it in desserts and sweet treats.

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Summer squash salad

A few weeks ago I came home to find a package containing the new book by Gabrielle Langholtz called The New Green Market Cookbook: Recipes and Tips From Today’s Finest Chefs & The Stories Behind The Farms That Inspire Them (Da Capo Press). Flicking through the pages was similar to leafing through a photo album of familiar faces. Inside I found pictures and stories of many of the farmers I buy from weekly and also chefs I see in the early hours as the farm stands are set up. There are recipes from lots of well-known restaurants in New York using ingredients found at the markets year round. What I love most about the book is the fascinating history of how the markets began and the stories that are shared by cooks, who, like me rely on the Greenmarket not only for the best tasting vegetables but also for inspiration and the vital connection to nature we all need to stay sane living in New York City.

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summer salad

summer salad

Summer is in full swing and my meals like the farmers market are bursting with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and greens galore. The buttery little Asian eggplants have arrived finally and this year, I pounced on them immediately. I have been envisaging them golden and roasted until melting inside, then generously drizzled with a bright and tangy miso dressing. Sticking with that plan, I turned the idea into a meal by cooking some lentils and adding lots of herbs and cherry tomatoes. The end result was a lovely, refreshing and light dish – perfect for sultry evenings.

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salad for dinner

salad for dinner

In this sultry summery heat, I crave salad for dinner. Although it needs to be refreshing, a leafy affair or an all-raw dish does not satisfy, the salad has to be substantial without being heavy. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to put to use the produce that’s in season here right now—sugar snap peas, wax beans, radishes, summer squash, zucchini, herbs and spring onions. Yes, these vegetables can be eaten raw but when lightly steamed and cooled, they absorb dressings beautifully and can be tossed with fresh herbs and toasted seeds to become a satisfying dinner. When it comes to dinner I often go with an all-vegetable meal as it digests easily and won’t weigh you down before bed. When eating this kind of meal for lunch, I’ll add in a generous amount of cooked chickpeas or other beans for protein and sustenance. Try it topped with avocado or a crumble of goat cheese. If you have kale on hand, finely chop it and stir it through too.

fresh from the market

fresh from the market

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Salad with nasturtiums

Salad with nasturtiums

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tea + cake

tea + cake

Lately, Matcha tea has become part of my daily routine. I’m loving the creamy texture and rich grassy flavor—and find its perfect for a mid-morning boost. I should also add that I enjoy the extra caffeine—more than sencha but less than black tea. Matcha is known to promote a clear, calm and focused mind and unlike coffee or black tea, it provides an energy boost that doesn’t result in anxiety and nervousness.  To increase chlorophyll and create a deeper green color, the Tencha tea bushes used to make matcha are covered toward the end of their growth period. This process also enhances the levels of amino acids in the tea. Once dried matcha is stone ground to a fine, bright green powder, which is known for its high levels of antioxidants. Since the powder dissolves when whisked with hot water, you are drinking the whole leaf and receive more than triple the amount of health benefits you might from a cup of tea made from stepping tea leaves.

The process of making good quality matcha is long and labor intensive; and since you need a teaspoon to make about a 2 to 3 ounces you’ll find that it’s also expensive.

Rishi Tea came out with this Teahouse matcha green tea powder that I currently love. It’s slowly stone ground, foams well (with a bamboo whisk) and has a fresh, smooth flavor.

Now onto the cake—which I think may be the best gluten-free cake I have ever made! Flavorful, moist and velvety, this cake also holds together perfectly when sliced and enjoys a hint of texture from plenty of ground coconut. The success of this cake did not come from careful planning or recipe researching but from a tin of matcha that I purchased at the Rainbow co-op in San Francisco.  Unfortunately, it didn’t taste great so I casually tossed a very generous amount into the cake batter. I then gasped at the dark green color, doubting that it would be edible I threw it in the oven with my fingers crossed. It was late by the time it had baked, so I left it on a cooling rack and went to bed. In the morning I sliced and wrapped it to take on a car trip. Later that day (somewhere in Rhode Island), I took my first bite and was really shocked at how perfect it had turned out. Unlike many green tea desserts, the flavor of matcha really shines here and the generous amount of the powder together with the coconut milk creates a delectable, rich textured cake that I hope you’ll love as much as I do.

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matcha tea cake

Matcha tea cake

Makes 1 8-inch loaf

2 tablespoons chia seeds

½ cup unsweetened full fat coconut milk

Filtered water

2 tablespoons matcha tea

1 cup unsweetened dried coconut

¼ cup coconut flour

¼ cup gluten-free oat flour

¼ cup brown rice flour

2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder

½ cup almond meal

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons melted extra virgin coconut oil, plus more to oil pan

¼ cup mashed banana, from about ½ a banana

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and oil any exposed parts of the pan.

In a medium bowl combine chia seeds with coconut milk and a ¼ cup of water, whisk until combined and set aside for 15 minutes or until thickened.

Sift matcha tea into a cup or small bowl and add 5 tablespoons water. Stir until smooth and set aside.

Place coconut in a food processor and blend until fine. Add oat flour, brown rice flour, baking powder and almond meal, and blend to combine. Set aside.

Add the dissolved matcha tea to the chia mixture along with maple syrup, coconut oil, banana, vanilla and salt and whisk to combine. Add the ground coconut mixture and stir until combine. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for about 15 minutes then turn out all allow to cool completely. Store any left over in the fridge for up to 4 days.

cake

cake

These gorgeous photos were taken by Stephen Johnson.

Print recipe here.

granola with almond milk

granola with almond milk

 

I made this granola in honor of spring and the strawberries to come. Since it’ll be quite a while until we see the sweet red gems at the green market (on the East coast), I decided to make a granola using dried strawberries. I had forgotten how totally delicious dried strawberries are until recently, when I spotted some in a little raw food shop close to home. Organic dried strawberries without added sugar or other additives are hard to find. The chewy, sweet delicacies are truly nature’s candy or gummy bears, if you prefer.  And if you’re hooked on candy, these make a perfect substitute.  When seeking out dried strawberries look for unsweetened or apple juice infused (it keeps them moist).  Also, make sure they are organic as strawberries are usually grown with fungicides to prevent mold. You can order the ones I used here.

dried strawberries

dried strawberries

 

I made this granola using soaked buckwheat –soaking reduces the phytic acid content, increases nutrients and digestibility. Once soaked, buckwheat is quite wet and sticky, which is why I drained it well; then spread it on a tray to dry out before tossing with the other ingredients and baking the granola. I’m sure you could skip this step and just bake it, but I wasn’t sure how the extra moisture would affect the final texture. Another alternative would be to add sprouted buckwheat after baking.

granola

granola

Photos by Stephen Johnson.

Strawberry buckwheat granola with coconut and cardamom

This granola is gluten free, if you are allergic to any trace of gluten be sure to purchase certified gluten free oats. The large flakes of dried coconut I used in this recipe are made by Go Hunza and are called “dried coconut smiles”. They are dried with the skin on and are much thicker than regular flaked coconut. Find this brand in health food stores and at Wholefood markets. If you want a less pronounced coconut flavor, you can use rice syrup or maple syrup in place of the coconut syrup and use olive oil in place of the coconut oil.

Makes about 6 cups

 

1 cup raw buckwheat, soaked overnight in 2 cups water

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2 cups dried unsweetened flaked coconut

2 tablespoons whole golden flax seeds, optional

½ cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped

1/3 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup dried  unsulphured strawberries, thinly sliced

¼ cup unsulphured golden raisins

 

Drain and rinse buckwheat and spread out over a tray to dry for at east 4 hours, or all day.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the oats, coconut, flax, pistachios, salt, cardamom and dried buckwheat; toss to combine. Combine melted coconut oil with coconut syrup and vanilla, pour into dry mixture and stir to evenly combined. Spread over trays and bake for 10 minutes, stir and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Add granola to a bowl and stir in strawberries and raisins. Store granola in gars for up to 6 weeks. Serve with home made almond milk.

Print recipe here.

beet soup + lime coconut cream

beet soup + lime coconut cream

Although it’s spring and the sun has been shining here in New York, it still hasn’t gotten warm enough for me to stop making soup.  And, after eating a bowl of this soup, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before now. Pairing beets with ginger seems so obvious but unlike carrot and ginger soup I hadn’t seen it anywhere before. This soup does benefit from a good amount of carrots to temper the assertive qualities of the beets and the cool coconut cream helps mellow out the chili and ginger. Topped with beet micro greens, this soup looks fancy but it really is just a simple pureed soup—not unlike the 3 simple recipes I posted here last week.

Beets, coconut and lime are also a great combination; the first time I them together was in a little café nestled on the border of the Daintree Rainforest in Northern Queensland (Australia), many years ago. The Daintree grows right up to the beach and I remember sitting outside against a backdrop of huge, ancient trees.  The café had a veggie burger with a shredded beet and coconut salad on the menu and I ordered it. Beets (marinated or shredded) are a common addition to burgers and sandwiches in Australia. Since we were in tropical Queensland there was fresh coconut added along with lime juice and plenty of avocado. The only other thing I can remember about the burger is that it was really good!

If you have never scooped the coconut cream off the top of a can of chilled coconut milk you’ll love making this lime coconut cream. There are plenty of recipes online for using it in vegan frostings and fillings but here it’s used in a savory way instead.  I now always keep a can in the fridge in case inspiration strikes.

micro beet greens

micro beet greens

Beet ginger soup with chili and lime coconut cream

I didn’t peel the beets for this recipe, but it might be a good idea if the beets aren’t perfectly fresh. You want the carrot cut at least double the size of the beets since they will cook much faster. If your carrots are not large, consider adding them after the beets have cooked for 10 minutes.

Makes about 7 cups soup/serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil

1 onion, diced

Sea salt

4 garlic cloves

2-inch piece peeled ginger

1 jalapeno or other fresh chili, seeded and chopped

3 medium red beets, cut in ½ inch dice

6 large carrots, cut in 1 inch rounds

Filtered water

Tamari to taste.

Optional beet micro greens to serve

Warm coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until golden. Stir in a large pinch of sea salt, garlic, ginger and chili and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Add beets and carrots and enough water to cover the vegetables by about half an inch (you will need to add more water when you blend the soup). Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little before blending in an upright blender until completely smooth and velvety, adding more water to get desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and tamari. Serve warm topped with lime coconut cream.

Lime coconut cream

Lime coconut cream

Photos by Stephen Johnson.

Lime coconut cream

For best results don’t shake the can before placing in the fridge as you want to scoop off the thick coconut cream that rises to the surface.

Makes about ½ a cup

 

1 13.5 fl. oz can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk, chilled in refrigerator for 24 hours

Zest of one lime

Juice of one lime

Sea salt to taste

Pinch cayenne pepper, optional

Open can of coconut milk and scoop off the thick cream at the top. Save remaining milk for use in smoothies or desserts. Place in a bowl and add lime zest and juice, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until completely smooth and season to taste. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like.

Print recipe here.

 

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