Creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup

img_9321

I really love the taste of these scrumptious little tubers. Sweet, fragrant, nutty in flavor, and delicate in texture. They were first cultivated by the Native Americans (way before this new vegetable was introduced to Europeans). Italians call it girasole – sunflower. And indeed, it is a type of sunflower. It is believed that the name Jerusalem artichoke came from the way of southern Italian pronunciation – [ʤiraː’zul]. There is no real connection to the ancient city of Jerusalem (but who knows!).

Jerusalem artichoke plant. Image: Annette van der Swaluw
Sunchokes (another name for Jerusalem artichokes) have a lot of health benefits. The phyto-nutrient profile is comprised of fiber (non-starchy carbohydrates), antioxidants,  minerals (potassium, copper and iron), and vitamins C, A, E and B-group. It is a very healthy and tasty vegetable to eat!

Now let’s make the soup.

Serving: 3-4

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs sunchokes (pealed and cut)

1 medium onion (chopped) – save a small amount of finely chopped onion for serving

2 garlic cloves (chopped)

4 c veggie broth (+ extra if needed)

2 tbsp vegan butter (or oil of choice)

1/4 c raw hazelnuts

1/4 tsp dry oregano

sea salt, crushed black pepper to taste

balsamic vinegar & fine olive oil for garnish

In a soup pot sauté onion and garlic in vegan butter (oil) for couple of minutes without browning. Add veggie broth and sunchokes and let simmer on medium-low heat for about 25-30 min or until sunchokes are soft.

In a mean time we are going to roast hazelnuts. Heat up a pan on a med-high heat. Without adding any oil roast the nuts until skins start coming off. Always shake the pan so no hazelnuts would get burnt. This should take a few minutes. Turn off the heat and let them cool off. When nuts are cool to touch chop them and set aside.

Once soup is ready move it to a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Add salt if needed. Add more warm broth if the texture is too thick.

For serving, place on the bottom of a bowl little pinch of raw onion, and a generous spoonful of hazelnuts. Pour soup on top. Sprinkle with black pepper, oregano, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

IMG_9492.JPG

 

 

 

 

Raw vegan stuffed zucchini flowers.

IMG_7470

Zucchini flowers. Cilantro cashew cheese. Shiitake anchovies. Shiso. Mint oil.

 

Hi guys,

I want to share with you this delicious raw recipe – stuffed zucchini flowers. Every summer I make sure I eat zucchini flowers, they are super special, so tender, fragrant and delicate.

Did you know that zucchini flowers that we harvest and eat are male flowers? Yup. Only female flowers produce zucchini fruits. Male flowers are those that we can pick and consume. They have a single, long stamen that is covered in pollen. Female flowers have a stigma with multiple stems inside. You can find these beauties at most of farmers markets during mid summer – which is NOW 🙂

IMG_7504

 

Before I learned about raw food I use to pan fry zucchini flowers, following traditional Italian recipes. This year I decided to prepare them raw to retain that sweet fragrant essence that otherwise gets destroyed by high heat.

I was truly delighted with the results! Fragrant aromatic herbs compliment so well sweetness of the flowers. And the chewy shiitake anchovy gives it a nice salty kick to balance the flavors.

Serving: about 8-10 stuffed flowers.

Ingredients:

Mushroom marinade:

1⁄2 tablespoon tamari

1 tablespoon ume vinegar

1⁄2 teaspoon olive oil

Pinch of salt.

Cheese:

3/4 c of soaked cashews (2-3 hours min)

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp water (add more if too thick)


Chopped cilantro 2 tbsp (adjust to taste)


8-10 zucchini flowers


Mint oil:

1/2 c olive oil

1/4 c mint leaves

few large spinach leaves


8-10 shiso leaves

 

First, Shiitake anchovies. *Prepare them a day before (could be then stored for couple of weeks in air tight container in the fridge). I’ve learned this recipe when I was in Maine this June with Matthew Kenney Culinary.

Clean (using a brush, no water) and slice mushrooms. I use shiitake because their texture works best here. Mix marinade ingredients together and set mushrooms in it for 15-20 min, they should absorb all the liquid. Dehydrate at 115F overnight. Texture can vary based on your preference. I like them slightly chewy not super crispy.

 

Now flowers. Do not wash them. Rather use a vegetable brush and brush off little speck of dirt etc. Using a knife cut into the flowers (long side), shake off any bugs that might have crawled inside, then gently tear off the stamen. Process all the flowers and set them aside.

Let’s prepare Cilantro cashew cheese. This is a non-fermented cheese. We will use acid and nutritional yeast to achieve that cheesy flavor. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl, and fold in chopped cilantro. Set aside.

Next Mint oil. Blend ingredients together. Strain through a fine mesh. Transfer into a squeeze bottle and store in the fridge.

Assembly:

Gently open zucchini flower, using a small spoon stuff it with cheese and a couple slivers of shiitake anchovy. Set each flower on top of a shiso leaf. Sprinkle with herb oil. Finish with mint leaves and cilantro flowers.

IMG_7503

Bon appétit!

 

 

 

Matthew Kenney Culinary

IMG_6058
Tree nut cheese plate.

OK so I have not wrote a post in a few weeks now… because I’ve been super busy! With Matthew Kenney Culinary School! I’m currently enrolled in Level 1: Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine course. It is a 4 week intensive and innovative program where students learn all the amazing secrets and gain the necessarily practical skills to prepare gourmet raw dishes. It is mind blowing, fascinating and super inspiring course. Here is a little pre-story.

I’ve always been a creative spirit. I went through an art school when I was a teenager. After that I completed a 4 year Interior design program, and then I went to NYC and earned my degree in Architecture. During the last several years of living in the big city I became aware of healthy eating, yoga and meditation. I gave up eating meat about 3 years ago. But once I went 100% plant-based different things started falling into place. Suddenly, my life began to rearrange itself. Opportunities started to present themselves and I knew that I’m moving in the right direction. I discovered such a sense of joy in preparing food and sharing it with others. I started doing research to learn more about benefits of plant-based diet. Fast forward, I got a scholarship to go to Matthew Kenney Culinary school in Belfast, Maine. And here I am, so grateful to be a part of such an amazing learning experience. This school encourages growth and individuality yet gives strong guidance and framework. I had an honor to spend time with Matthew Kenney and Scott Winegard who are a big inspiration for me. I feel very supported and cherished by my colleagues and our instructor Sean Murray. He is extremely knowledgeable and has an amazing sense of humor. My class is an incredible bunch, we made friends and have so much fun here together, working on recipes, exploring Belfast, dining at local restaurants, going for hikes and more. Maine has great produce, and we are very lucky to work with local organic farms that supply all our produce needs. Visiting Ararat farm was such a great experience! It is a bio-dynamic farm. People that run it really love with they do, they treat the land with such respect. Kale tastes better when grown with love! The air is so clean there, and that plays a significant role in growing high quality organic vegetables. 

IMG_4450

Having an all organic COOP just steps away from the school is another great benefit that students have available. Belfast COOP supports local farmers and local businesses, and sells produce of highness quality.

IMG_4874

Raw vegan lasagna that I made on the 2nd day of the program.

Jenya lasagna

More details to come after I complete the program. Check out my Instagram for daily updates @PlantsAndMagic. Xo

 

NYC Veg Food Festival 2016

Crowd

This weekend there is a pretty big vegan event happening in town – NYC Veg Food Fest. This was my first time at the festival and I volunteered as a photographer. The amount of people that showed up was very impressive – thousands of curios minds. I was happy to see people supporting the cause – vegans and non-vegans alike. There were so many vendors, and many amazing speakers that were sharing the message about the beauty and benefits of living a vegan lifestyle. It was incredible! There were so many amazing products, from cosmetics and shoes to kombuchas and macaroons. Vegan awareness grows pretty fast in large cities like New York. Our goal is to expand beyond big cities and inspire people around the world! We can unite people through compassion. It may sound Utopian right now but I’m sure soon the time will come when it becomes reality!

At the festival I had a chance to talk to random people and answer some questions about food and vegan lifestyle. It felt so empowering to share my perspective and knowledge!

My lovely Catskill Animal Sanctuary representatives were there, and I was so happy to see them! Guys, if you have not visited this farm animals sanctuary – do it. The weather is finally getting warm and, I promise you, this trip will change your life! With every dollar of a donation or membership we save lives. The rewards are incredible.

CAS

The superstar of medical world that promotes vegan lifestyle – Dr. Michael Greger was there too with a presentation. I absolutely adore his work and his tremendous efforts in educating people about what they eat and how does it affect their bodies. Lifestyle diseases can be reversed with a plant-based diet. I highly recommend to you his new book “How not to die” (here is a link to buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/How-Not-Die-Discover-Scientifically). It is a New York Times bestseller, and is ranking #1 seller on Amazon. The knowledge that Dr. Greger shares is priceless. Do yourself a favor and pick the book.

Dr_Greger

My absolute favorite local vegan cheese shop Riverdel was at the festival. Their cheeses are beyond delicious. I bought a new truffle flavor, and it is so good!!! Best snack ever!! There was a huge line at their stand.

riverdel

Upton Naturals seitan people were there with cooking samples. I love Upton. I think it is the best seitan on the market as of now. The texture is incredible, and the spiced versions are out of this world. My favorite is Chorizo flavor.

Upton

Follow Your Heart is another company I love. I tried their smoked Gouda and Pepper Jack cheeses and they were amazing. Would be great on pizza or tacos. Still have not tried their vegan egg.

follow your heart

There were many new vendors that I has so much fin discovering. Sweet Maresa’s was one of them. Vegan macaroons?! Yes please!!! There were the sweetest girls at their stand too. The company’s name speaks for itself. 🙂

Sweet_Maresas

Innovative kombucha flavors are so fun to try. There were a few brands at the festival selling this delicious fermented drink. Pilot was one of my favorites with such creative flavors and fun packaging colors. I really like Juniper berry and Turmeric aloe flavors.

Pilot_kombucha

Yeah Dawg rocked this year with a line for these tasty home-made gluten-free, soy-free vegan hot dogs out of the door. Marina Benedetto, the founder, was serving people herself. I had a Viva Dawg and it was fantastic. I especially loved the toppings: coconut “bacon”, chipotle mayo and pickled pineapple. Photo below is of Cali Kush Dawg.

yeah_dawg

This shining lady was selling a healing tea – Tea of Life made out of chenopodium ambrosioides, also known as Mexican tea, American wormseed, Jerusalem oak. The taste was interesting and the health benefits are huge. Would definitely give it a try!

Tea_of life_2

This drink by Sapp was very special. It is birch tree water which is very popular on Russia, and, I believe, all Eastern Europe. Just like we tap maple trees here in United States, birch trees could be tapped too. The water is very rich in minerals and has a lot of health benefits. They had 3 flavors: regular, and two infusions – nettle leaf and rosehip. I highly recommend!

Sapp

For me, the most inspiring thing at the festival was the warm thought of how many people are vegan in New York, and how many are curious about going vegan. People were kind and talkative. People smiled a lot. People were open to learn new things. That it a blessing! And it is all it takes to start a new life.

 

 

Vegan spinach and zucchini lasagna

IMG_2227

I am so excited to share this recipe with you!! When I was creating it I deeply felt a sense of being an artist (I do work in many different mediums). This time lasagna noodles were my canvas. A truly magical experience!

I love lasagna. It is one of my favorite dishes in Italian cuisine. It is so flavorful, juicy in the middle, and crunchy on the top. My recipe is very light, yet it has all those qualities that we like in lasagna. The noodles are soft, the sauce is flavorful, and zucchini and spinach create this wonderful play of textures. This is where we get to put to use the amazing Vegan bechamel sauce that I’ve shared with you in the previous post. This recipe also uses freshly made cashew cheese. It does take time and a little extra effort. Trust me, it will be worth it!

Here is how to make this delicious lasagna.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium zucchinis
  • 2 lbs spinach
  • 1 sweet Italian onion
  • 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Cheese:

  • 1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight or at least for 6 hours)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup filtered water

Bechamel sauce recipe could be found here.

1.In a large pot on a medium heat saute chopped onion with olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add washed spinach, salt and then cover the pot with a lid. Spinach will start wilting, mix it up, saute for another minute or 2 then turn the heat off. Set cooked spinach in a colander to get rid of excess liquid.

IMG_2220
Fresh spinach from farmers market.

2. Cut zucchinis in 1/4 inch thick slabs, use mandolin or just a sharp knife. Cook on a medium heat in a large pan with olive oil. About 3 min on each side. Zucchinis should get a golden brown crisp, and become softer, but not too soft. Do not over cook! Set them aside when done.

IMG_2222

3. In a large food processor blend together all the cheese ingredients. Do nut put all the water in at once. Put a half, blend, then see if you need to add more. It should be a consistency of a light whipped cream cheese.

IMG_2221

4. Prepare your bechamel sauce.

5. Preheat oven to 350F.

6. Now we are ready to do the assembly! Get your lasagna pan (any square baking dish would do with high sides), oil the bottom of the pan. Place noodles on the bottom, overlapping them a little. Then create a layer of zucchinis, bechamel sauce on top.

IMG_2224

Then noodles again, bechamel sauce, layer of spinach, cashew cheese.

IMG_2225IMG_2226

Continue repeating layers until you run out of ingredients. Make sure each layer has bechamel sauce. You want your noodles to be moist with the sauce. The last, top, layer would be the noodles and the sauce.

7. Now here is a trick that I’ve learned: let the assembled lasagna sit for at least an hour. This would make the noodles soak up some liquids.

*You can also do all of these steps the day before you will be serving lasagna. Even better! It will have a whole night to stay in the fridge and soak up all the flavors for a little longer.

8. Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil. And then another 15-20 minutes uncovered. Test lasagna with a knife to ensure that the noodles are soft.

9. Voila! Enjoy your delicious spinach and zucchini lasagna! 🙂

 

Vegan Brazil nut cheese spread

IMG_1489
Brazil nut cheese spread.

Have you tried these very special nuts before? They come from a tree that grows in Amazon, Brazil included. They are very buttery in taste and contain a handful of vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients. Did you know that just a single serving of Brazil nuts (which is only 4 nuts) taken once a month instantly lowers the bad cholesterol in our blood and boosts the good cholesterol?* It would take about 4 days for prescription drugs to achieve the same result. Pretty cool, right? 🙂 Brazil nuts are also loaded with Magnesium, and have good amounts of Calcium, Iron and Vitamin B-6. And, of course, Brazil nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats and fiber.

IMG_1054
Raw Brazil nuts.

I absolutely adore nut butters and spreads. What a wonderful and pleasant way to eat nuts! It is a perfect morning spread to get your day started with a good kick of vitamins and minerals!

Since I got my lovely Cuisinart food processor I began experimenting more with nut butters, spreads and sauces. It is a very fun process! I love watching textures transform, from a solid nut to a buttery and silky spread. Magic!

Let’s get down to business and make a bad-ass Brazil nut spread! This recipe is by Rich Roll & Julie Piatt. The only difference is I put less salt 🙂

Yields: 1/2 cup (more or less)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw Brazil nuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp soy lecithin
  • 2 tbsp filtered water
  • 1 tbsp of any vegetable oil that has no strong taste (grape seed, sunflower)
  • 1/2 tsp of Celtic sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

First and foremost, soak nuts over night in filtered water. Next day, when you are ready to make the spread, drain the water. Place all the ingredients in your food processor or a powerful blender. Blend, blend, blend until it all comes together and forms a creamy consistency. Chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge before serving. Enjoy!

It goes so well with fresh baguette. Oh my!!

IMG_1490

 

*Data resources: http://nutritionfacts.orghttps://www.researchgate.net.

Vegan turmeric carrot ginger soup

IMG_1006

We are almost at the time of Spring Equinox. The time of change when spring claims its power over the winter. Lately I particularly enjoy cleansing uplifting foods. Vibrant colors makes my heart sings. I went to my local farmers market yesterday morning and picked up some really nice hearty carrots, onions, micro greens mix, and a whole bunch of other veggies, and apples, of course. I’m so happy to see anything  green being sold at this time of the year. Micro greens are great, they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – exactly what we need more of right now!

Here is how to make this cleansing soup:

Serves: 6 people

Time: 45 min

Ingredients:

  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4-5 cups of veggie broth
  • 2-3 tbsp of fresh grated ginger
  • olive oil or coconut oil
  • 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  • Celtic sea salt to taste (if the broth is not salty enough)
  • 1/3 cup of plant milk if desired
  • 2 tbsp of vegan butter (optional)
  • black pepper to taste
  • High quality olive oil for garnish
  • micro greens for garnish

Peal carrots and chop them into 1/2 inch chunks. Peal onion and cut it chunky too. Heat up a saucepan on medium heat, add your oil of choice, put onions in, sauté for couple of minutes until fragrant, now add turmeric powder. Sauté for another few minutes until golden. Add carrots and saute together for 10-15 minutes. Then add your veggie broth, and extra salt if needed, and cook for another 10-15 minutes until carrots become softer. Don’t over cook them! You want your carrots still little hard not mushy.

IMG_1007

The next step is to blend it all together with fresh grated ginger. After blending return your soup to the saucepan on a low heat, add butter and plant milk for extra creaminess. Turn off the heat before the soup start boiling. Voila! Serve with a sprinkle of micro greens, few drops of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy!!

IMG_1005