Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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Hummus is a classic Middle Eastern dish and is excellent served as an appetizer or sandwich spread. Sweet roasted red peppers add a wonderful flavor to this variation.

Process in a high-powered blender until very smooth:
• 1 can (16 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed well and drained
• ½ cup chopped roasted red peppers
• ¼ cup sesame tahini
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 to 2 cloves fresh garlic (optional)
• 2 T fresh lemon juice
• ¾ tsp sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
• ½ tsp ground cumin
• ¼ tsp ground white pepper
• 2 T to ¼ cup water to assist processing
• garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped roasted red peppers.

The hummus may seem a bit thin after processing, but keep in mind that because it contains olive oil (which hardens when chilled) it will thicken upon refrigeration; if it becomes too thick after refrigeration, simply incorporate a little water.

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Jicama Slaw

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Jicama (pronounced hik-uh-mah) is a large, bulbous root vegetable, weighing one to two pounds. Jicama has a rough brown skin which needs to be peeled before eating. The flesh is white, wet and crunchy, similar to a raw potato but with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. This refreshing slaw is ideal for cooling the heat of spicy Mexican, Indian or Thai cuisine or simply as a side dish on a hot Summer day.

Ingredients
• 1 large jicama, peeled and shredded
• ½ red onion, shaved thin
• 2 carrots, shredded
• ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

Dressing ingredients:
• ½ cup light-tasting vegetable oil, your choice
• ⅓ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
• 2 T organic sugar or brown rice syrup
• 2 T fresh squeezed lime juice
• 1 tsp ancho chili powder (or other mild chili powder)
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper

Technique:
In a bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients; set aside. Place the shredded jicama, red onion and shredded carrots in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the jicama mixture and toss to coat well (you may not need all of the dressing; just add enough to thoroughly coat the mixture). Fold in the cilantro. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, allowing the flavors to merge together.

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Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous

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This light and fluffy couscous contains no grain. It is comprised entirely of cauliflower with a Mediterranean blend of herbs and spices. The dish can also be served raw; simply omit roasting. You will need a food processor to achieve the proper couscous texture from the cauliflower.

Ingredients:
• 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
• 2 T olive oil
• 2 T fresh lemon juice
• 4 T chopped fresh parsley (¼ cup) or 4 tsp dried parsley
• 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• ½ tsp sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper, or more to taste

Technique:
Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place about ¼ of the cauliflower florets into the food processor. Pulse until the florets are reduced to a grainy texture. Transfer the cauliflower “grain” to a large oven-proof skillet or a roasting pan. Repeat with the additional florets.

Add the remaining ingredients to the cauliflower and mix well to combine. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Place the skillet or roasting pan in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooking time, remove the skillet or pan and stir the mixture. Place back in the oven and continue to roast. Repeat stirring at the 20 minute mark.

After roasting, fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.

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Giardiniera – Gentle Chef House Recipe

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Giardiniera (pronounced jar-dih-nair-ah) is an Italian-Amercian condiment of pickled vegetables. Commercial giardiniera is a bit too “vinegary” for my taste, so I created my own blend which is nicely pickled and seasoned but not over-powering. The vegetables are wonderful served “as is” or they can be drizzled with olive oil just before serving. Allow a minimum of 1 week for sufficient pickling.

For the brine, you will need:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped and divided in half
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, divided in half
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, divided in half
  • 3 cups filtered or spring water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 3 T sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 T organic sugar

For the vegetables, you will need:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 2 large ribs celery, thickly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced lengthwise into spears
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 12 whole pickled Greek pepperoncini (from a jar)
  • optional: pimento stuffed green olives

You will also need 2 large mason jars (home canning jars) with lids and lid rings (or other suitable glass containers with lids).

Technique:

Place 1 bay leaf, 3 cloves chopped garlic, ½ teaspoon dried oregano and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes in the bottom of each jar. Set aside.

Prepare the brine by mixing the water, vinegar, salt and sugar in a non-metal container. Stir with a plastic or wooden spoon until the salt and sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a pot and blanch the carrots and cauliflower for 1 minute. Drain in a colander.

Divide the vegetables in half (approximately) and begin layering and gently packing them into the 2 jars. Pour in the brine to the top of each jar and seal with the lids. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 week (the longer, the better), turning the jars over occasionally to distribute the seasonings. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and coarse ground black pepper, if desired.

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Roman Artichokes

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A very simple yet elegant way to serve artichoke hearts as an appetizer.

Ingredients:
• 1 can (14 oz. before draining) artichoke hearts, rinsed well, drained and halved
• 2 T Better Butter (from my cookbook) or commercial vegan margarine
• 2 T olive oil
• 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• ½ tsp cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot powder
• ½ cup dry white wine (e.g., Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc)
• ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste
• pinch sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Technique:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the butter or margarine and stir until melted. Add the garlic and oregano and sauté for 1 minute.

Whisk in the starch until smooth and then whisk in the wine. Add the red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, and then remove from the heat.

In a small heatproof chafing dish or skillet, arrange the halved artichoke hearts. Pour the sauce over and place under the broiler to heat through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional red pepper flakes if desired.

Serve with a crusty Italian bread to soak up the extra sauce.

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Potato and Onion Latkes

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Latkes, or potato pancakes, are commonly associated with traditional cuisines of Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe. The term “latkes” is Yiddish in origin. Most traditional recipes call for freshly grated potatoes and are mixed with egg and flour to bind them. I experimented with the freshly grated potatoes and found the pancakes to be very gummy, even after rinsing away and squeezing out the excess starch. So, I opted for canned new potatoes, which are already cooked until tender. They seem to work amazingly well for creating a light and crispy pancake. Of course you can always peel and boil a pound of fresh new potatoes just until tender, if you prefer. This recipe is gluten free and yields about 8 to 10 latkes.

Ingredients:
• 1 can (14.5 oz.) new potatoes
• ½ medium-size onion, thinly sliced and then finely chopped (about ⅔ cup)
• ⅓ cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour
• 2 T non-dairy milk
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
• vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet
• garnish of your choice, such as applesauce, sour cream, chopped herbs, etc.

Technique:
Preheat oven to 250°F.

Drain the water from the potatoes. Blot them on a paper towel and then coarsely grate them on a standard cheese/vegetable grater. Place the shreds in a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Form the potato mixture into golf size balls and set on a work surface.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer.

In the palm of your hand, flatten a potato ball with your other hand and shape into a patty. Gently place the patty in the hot oil and repeat with the other potato balls. Don’t crowd the skillet; fry them in 2 batches of 4 at a time until golden brown and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Handle them carefully – remember, there is no egg to bind them, so they are a bit more delicate.

Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Lightly salt the patties. Place in the oven to keep warm while you finish frying the remaining patties. Serve with your favorite condiment.

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