Friday, May 15, 2015

Oil-free Swiss Chard Saag and Roti bread

Saag, which is typically a well-cooked blend of spinach and other greens, has always been one of my favorite Indian dishes. My good friend Abby Bean will attest that I had trouble sharing the dish when we ordered it together last year after the Ivy-League Vegan Conference. It was also a must-get dish when I went to a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Dubai.

Until recently, I always had trouble recreating it without oil. That said, I’m pretty sure this recipe not only significantly increases the nutrition profile of the classic dish, but it also has an out-of-this world taste!

A few nights ago, after my daily four hour-long Spanish class, while M was working a 24-hour shift, I decided to surprise her with this as it is one of her favorite recipes of mine.

The following night we had a classic Indian sampling. I made the Saag, along with my lentil dal, and a simple cauliflower and potato aloo gobi.

Because I was making a few dishes, I left the rice out of the dal recipe, making it a more classic red dal. Instead, I cooked a large bowl of brown rice with cumin seeds, two bayleafs, a pinch of salt, and a well-chopped carrot.

M and I also decided to try a simple, whole-wheat roti bread, which brought the entire dish together and gave it a more authentic Indian feel.

This dish uses Swiss chard instead of the more classic spinach, but I’ve also used kale prior to moving Buenos Aires. Swiss chard is not only high in nitrates, but it may also help prevent your skin from wrinkling, as a paper published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition observed that those with the highest green leafy vegetable consumption tended to have the fewest wrinkles... So eat away!

The dish can also stand alone and is a delicious and nutrition-packed dinner when served with bread or on top of rice. 

Swiss Chard Saag
Serves 4

½ bunch swiss chard – stemmed and roughly chopped
1 large onion – chopped
1” chunk of fresh ginger - chopped
3-4 cloves garlic - chopped
1 cup plant-based milk
½ cup broth or water
¼ cup cooked chickpeas or 1 handful cashews
2 tablepsoons tomato paste
3-4 taplespoons nutrition yeast
1 teaspoon cumin (seeds or powder) - toasted
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garma masla
A pinch of chili seeds or cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
½ cup cooked split green peas (optional)

To begin, dry sauté the chopped onion. After a few minutes, add the garlic, ginger and cumin. Cook for a few more minutes on medium heat before adding the swiss chard. Slowly add a few tablespoons of water or broth as needed to keep the cumin from sticking. After 5 minutes, the swiss chard should begin to soften and become bright green. Remove from heat and let cool.

Once the sautéed greens are cool enough, combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor. A hand-held blender also works well. Blend well.

This is a dish that you will want to test the spices as you cook and adjust accordingly. If you are serving this dish on it’s own, consider adding a half cup of cooked green peas to the dish.

Whole Wheat Roti Bread (Chapatis)
Roughly makes 10 pieces

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup of warm water
½ teaspoon salt

While this bread is very simple to make it does take a little time for it to set so plan accordingly and try and start the bread at least one hour before you plan on eating.

Most roti recipes call for a tablespoon of oil, but as you’ll see, it’s completely unnecessary for the recipe.

Simply put the flour into a large bowl with the salt. Then slowly pour the warm water onto the flour. Knead the flour until it becomes a sticky dough.

Form the dough into a ball and cover the dough and let it sit for at least 1 hour although 2 hours is preferable.

Using your hands, pull about the amount of a walnut (in the shell) from the dough and flatten it until very thin.

Place the flattened dough onto a hot pan and cook until the side starts to crisp and puff up. Flip over and repeat.

Hope you enjoy these dishes.

M.B. Purba, et. al. “Skin Wrinking: Can food make a Difference?” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Feb. 2001 71-80.

Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Contaminants in Food. Nitrate in Vegetables. The EFSA Journal 2008 1-79.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mi Nueva Vida & Bok Choy Margherita Pizza

As most of you know, I recently relocated from New York, New York to Buenos Aires, Argentina. After a very bumpy flight, we arrived safely in the afternoon of April 21.

Since then it has been a whirlwind. We spent the previous week prior to my move, packing, cleaning, and clearing out, and then we spent the better part of our first week in Buenos Aires doing the same in our new apartment - cleaning, unpacking, organising, and what seemed like an unlimited amount of laundry! It’s been exhausting.

But things are finally starting to settle down (We literally fueled ourselves for the first few days with lots of mate.) 

Life here is fantastic. Argentina is entering fall, but from what I hear it’s been far more pleasant and warm here than it has been back in New York. I start my immersion Spanish courses later this week (5 days a week – 4 hours each day!) If I can’t learn Spanish under these conditions, well… then I guess I'm hopeless! Next month I'll be starting a new online program from Cornell University, and I plan on teaching English part-time as well. I am also continuing to see clients for BYOL Nutrition & Wellness counseling.

But with all the changes, I haven’t forgotten about dinner! I made this Bok choy and Basil Margherita Pizza on one of our first nights here. It’s pretty simple especially if you use a pre-made pizza crust or make a slightly altered version of my protein packed, gluten-free lentil bread ahead of time.

Bok Choy & Basil Margherita Pizza (Gluten-Free)
Serves 2

Gluten-Free Crust:
½ cup green lentils
½ cup brown rice
¼ cup amaranth
2 tablespoons flaxseed (optional)
salt to taste
Two generous pinches of dried Italian seasoning (basil, rosemary, thyme, tarragon) 

I recommend making the crust ahead of time so it can fully set and dry out, making for a crispier pizza crust. If you make the crust ahead of time, this pizza only takes about 25 minutes.

To keep the crust from becoming fluffy, don't add the yeast or baking soda found in the original recipe. Start by soaking the lentils, rice, and amaranth together in a large bowl with warm water. I like to let this soak for around five hours, but one hour at least (tip, if you are soaking for a shorter time, add either a vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to the water to breakdown the acids found in these cereals more quickly. Personally, I like to soak these cereals before heading to bed or off to work, they’ll be ready when you wake up or come back home). 

After soaking, rinse the ingredients well, and transfer to a blender or food processor – a hand-held immersion blender works well too. Blend with just enough water so the cereals are nearly but not completely immersed in water. Blend until smooth.

Now bake the “dough” at 350 for 25 minutes or until completely browned and firm. Now let the crust cool.

1-2 large tomatoes - sliced
1 small bunch bok choy – chopped, greens only
Small head of garlic - oven-roasted and diced
1 handful fresh basil
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce (or make your own*)
Red and Black pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 300. While you are preparing everything else, peel and crush 5 to 6 cloves of garlic and wrap them in tinfoil and place them in the oven for about 10 – 15 minutes.

*Because a Margherita pizza is all about the sauce, I like to make my own whenever I have the time. Using a jarred or canned sauce is fine too, but making your own only takes a few extra minutes and really increases the flavor! If you have the time and inclination, try this sauce and let me know what you think!

1 large can of chopped tomatoes (I like to get salt-free)
4-5 sundried tomatoes (if they are hard, try soaking them in warm water for a few minutes)  
2 heaping tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 large handful of fresh basil
1 small handful of cashews (roughly 8-12 cashews)
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
cayenne pepper to taste
a pinch of date sugar or your favorite sweetener
salt and black pepper to taste

Blend all of the sauce ingredients together until smooth. 

Now spread the sauce onto the crust and begin to add your remaining toppings. Start by placing the sliced tomatoes around the pizza. Get the roasted garlic out of the oven, dice it, and scatter it on top. Then add the washed and chopped bok choy greens. Place the pizza in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Take the pizza out and add the handful of basil on top of the other ingredients. Return the pizza to the oven for a final 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve hot with a fresh salad and roasted veggies. Enjoy!

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.