Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Raw Cashew Ricotta

Raw Cashew "Ricotta"
Soaked cashews and a sliced lemon, soon to be delicious raw cheese. 
Cashew cheese kind of changed my life. I can't pinpoint the exact moment it happened, but all you need to know is this: one day I discovered that raw cashews could be made into vegan cheese and things were never quite the same. As a long time vegan, the one (and really ONLY) thing I'd truly missed was creamy foods. Not really cheese per-se, but the richness of a creamy pasta dish like lasagna or baked macaroni and cheese. This recipe will satisfy all of those cravings and, brace yourself,
is actually GOOD FOR YOU.
Also completely raw and uncomplicated to make.
Enough said. 
Use it as you would ricotta in a raw or baked vegan lasagna, to fill vegan ravioli or to make your vegan mac and cheese extra creamy, throw some onto a veggie pizza or use it to top off soups and stews. The possibilities are really almost endless. Both the nutritional yeast and red pepper are optional and, while they add a bit of extra
flavor and color, won't be missed if left out.   

Raw Cashew "Ricotta"
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 1/4c raw cashews
(whole or pieces)
1 lemon, juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1tsp sea salt
1/2c water

1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1tbsp nutritional yeast

Place cashews in a bowl, cover with water and soak for at least 4 or up to 8 hours.
Drain water from soaked cashews.
Place them in a blender or the bowl of a food processor.
Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth.
Store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to a week.

The finished product. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dehydrated Meyer Lemons

Alas, citrus season is brief. Preserve, preserve, preserve!
Dehydrated Meyer Lemons
Dehydrated Meyer lemon slices, ready for all sorts of culinary goodness.
Being well stocked with Meyer lemons during the winter months makes me a bit giddy; they have such a brief season and, especially for us here in the northeast, getting your hands on some is like unearthing culinary gold. But how to preserve that gorgeous flavor for the off-season? Many methods have been tried here in the Slow Club kitchen, preserved Meyer lemons (recipe here), frozen juice, candied peels, dried zest, but until last weekend I'd never tried the dehydrator.

Dehydrator tray lined with freshly sliced Meyer lemons. 
As it often does, inspiration struck during the imbibing of spirits. In my hand was a lemon garnished cocktail and I thought "Argh! Why can't I have Meyer lemons in my drinks all damn year round??" or something to that effect... The answer? Break out the trusty dehydrator! Imagine these beautiful little slices jazzing up your favorite cocktail, zesting (yes, pun intended) up your morning tea or a seasonal fruit dish, flavoring summer fruit preserves or even ground into powder and added to baked goods.

Oh the possibilities! Plus they look beautiful in a jar in your pantry shelf, always a nice bonus. Three lemons filled 2 trays of my dehydrator nicely. You can obviously dehydrate more/ less to your preference. Lemons or other citrus fruits can also be oven dried, though they will not have as long of a shelf life.
Some helpful tips on oven drying via Saving The Season can be found here.

Jarred up and ready for use or pantry storage.
Meyer Lemons
Meyer lemons, scrubbed 
and sliced 1/4" thick

Slice lemons and place in a single layer directly on dehydrator trays.
Dehydrate at 135 degrees for about 16 hours.
 Once lemons are dry, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Make sure lemons have completely dried before storing.
If any moisture remains, they could mold or spoil. 

Quick tip: save moisture absorbing silica packets leftover from other dried packaged foods (they often come in things like seaweed snacks and rice crackers) and pop them into the jar before sealing. This will keep your lemons and other homemade dehydrated foods crisp and fresh infinitely longer. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homemade Curry Powder

a well stocked spice rack is a magical thing.
DIY Spice Mixes: Homemade Curry Powder
Coriander in the mortar and pestle, turmeric and whole cardamom pods. 

So... store bought curry blends are ok, if you splurge for the fancy-pants kind they can even be pretty tasty. But having a well stocked spice rack and the ability to throw together a complex, from scratch, homemade curry at the drop of a hat?That's something special. As a bonus, every individual spice required for this curry powder has endless other applications. Why limit yourself to a pre-blended curry powder when you can stock up on gorgeous fresh spices that can be used in a million other recipes? Turmeric, for example, has an indescribably earthy flavor and is a know anti-inflamatory, a flavorful addition to soups, stews, rice dishes and can even be made into tea. Cumin is a heavily used spice in Latin American dishes. Cardamom can be used in a variety of Indian dishes, is a key ingredient in Chai and is also wonderful paired with many different fruits. With the exception of the turmeric and chili powder, which are infinitely easier to find ground, I highly recommend splurging for whole spices. While a bit more expensive than ground, they stay fresh significantly longer and absolutely nothing compares to the taste/aroma of freshly ground spices. Bulk whole spices are sometimes available at food co-ops and are a great value. Indian/Asian markets are also a reliable spot to seek out less expensive spices. Whole spices can be easily ground by hand with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder, blender or even electric coffee grinder. When using fresh cardamom, pinch the pod until it splits and peel away the exterior green shell, using only the interior seeds. The shell can be reserved and used to make cardamom sugar. Simply bundle the shells in a bit of cheesecloth, tie closed and toss into a small jar of sugar.
 Let sit for a week or so and you'll have fragrant cardamom scented sugar,
a lovely addition to baked goods, tea, coffee or even mixed drinks.

Homemade Curry Powder

4 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom, exterior pods removed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Place all spices in a mortar and pestle
or spice grinder.
Grind into a fine powder.
Store in an airtight container.
Keep in a cool dry place.