Green eats: Lite bites

Quick and easy is the order of the day

Green eats (photo credit: Courtesy)
Green eats
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use a break from heavy cooking – the planning, shopping lists, schlepping, peeling, cutting, washing the dishes, pots, et al., and putting them away. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy preparing a Seder for my nine guests, including one who had to leave early because her hand swelled-up from (her own) cat bite; my oldest sister; my daughter and ex-husband; an old Israeli friend and her Irish husband; and a new immigrant and an anesthesiologist visiting Israel, both of whom called my synagogue looking for a Seder. It was delightful, but I can use a vacation!
So this week, I’ve decided to offer you a few suggestions for things you can prepare quickly and easily without pulling out the heavy equipment. Take the cashew hummus, for example, an amazingly delicious dip that can be served with vegetable sticks, or made a little thicker, and spread on anything. You can even make it extra thick and sweeten it as a substitute for whipped cream on fruit desserts. It does require you to soak the cashews for two hours, but after that the dip itself takes five minutes to make.
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By the way, cashews are full of nutrients, including antioxidants.
And, did you know that each cashew grows on the outside of its own little fruit? I’m including a picture I took last year at this time in Brazil, to show you.
I personally am particularly fond of the pistachios and basil-stuffed mushrooms, stuffed with a mixture of ground-blanched almonds (you can buy it in health-food stores, or make your own in the blender), chopped mushroom stems (economical), nuts and fresh herbs. They can be served as hors d’oeuvres using medium-sized champignon mushrooms, or as a vegetarian main course using portabellos (just buy an extra one or two to chop to replace the stems).
Both are gluten-free. Enjoy!
Serves about 6 (depending on how you use it)
✔ 1 cup cashew nuts (about 70 grams)✔ 6 Tbsp. water✔ 1 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt, preferably coarse natural sea salt✔ 1-2 Tbsp. chopped red onion ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. paprika, ground coriander seed, cumin or curry (optional)✔ 2 tsp. olive oil✔ 2-3 Tbsp. fresh coriander or basil, or a mix, chopped✔ water for soaking the cashew
Pour the cashews into a bowl and cover with water. Soak for 2 hours and drain.
Grind the cashews in a strong blender, using pulses.
Add the 6 Tbsp. water and process to mash. Add the rest of the ingredients and process to the desired consistency, stopping, stirring and wiping down the sides occasionally with a spatula.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve immediately or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator till serving time.
Makes 12
✔ 12 medium-large champignon mushrooms✔ 1⁄2 cup chopped mushroom stems✔ 2 garlic cloves, crushed or pressed✔ 1⁄4 cup shallots or red onion, finely chopped✔ 1⁄4 cup almond flour (ground blanched almonds)✔ 3 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped✔ 3 Tbsp. chopped pistachios (or other nuts)✔ Salt and pepper to taste ✔ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180ºC, and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Brush with olive oil.
Cup one mushroom at a time in the palm of your hand, and gently remove the stem by rocking it back and forth. If any of the stem sticks in the bottom, remove it carefully with a knife. Chop just enough of them to make a half cup. (Use the rest for soup or omelets.) Place in a bowl and mix with the garlic, shallots, basil and pistachios.
Season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper.
Stuff the mushrooms, and pat the filling down using your thumb or an upside-down spoon.
Place in the baking pan and drizzle the olive oil equally over the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the filling is golden-brown.
Serve warm.
Mushrooms and filling may be prepared the night before and kept separately, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.
The next day, you can stuff them, cover and chill 2-3 hours before baking. If they are chilled, extend baking time by 5 minutes.
A frying issue
Recently, I was given a demonstration of the relatively new Airfryer by Philips (or what they call here “Airfry,” probably because of the negative connotations of the Hebrew slang freier – a patsy). Designed to “fry” food with minimal oil, using a combination of a rapid-air fan and an electric grill element, it can be used for burgers, schnitzel, chips, and even pastries.
I tasted chips, roasted vegetables and several other items made with it, and some (but not all) results are just as good as those roasted with far more fat. That’s the good news.
On the other hand, you do have to remember to grease the bottom of the removable basket in which you’ll do the cooking, spray the food occasionally with oil-spray to prevent drying out and add a better crust, plan to make foods in batches if you’re serving more than four people, and keep finished batches warm (in the oven). Do you need it? Depends on your budget, where you’ll put it, and whether you enjoy using new-fangled appliances, rather than old-fashioned frying pans and the oven, and are cutting back on the fat.
– P.G.
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