Sauerkraut Hummus

Sauerkraut hummus! If you know people who claim not to like raw sauerkraut, give them this to try. There’s a good chance they’ll change their mind, at least for this recipe. This hummus, like a hummus, is versatile. Good as a dip, as a spread on sandwiches, over cooked grains, pasta, as a side sauce with cooked meats and/or roasted veggies, or just on its own. I think that you could use other beans here, though then it would be called Sauerkraut/Bean Dip rather than hummus. Still good!

2 c cooked chickpeas, drained
3/4 c raw sauerkraut, plus 2 T sauerkraut juice (or 2 T chickpea cooking liquid)
2 T tahini
2 T chopped, fresh herb or 1 t dried herb; plus extra fresh herb for garnish
1 – 2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T prepared mustard
1/2 – 1 t ground black pepper, or to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and whiz to a smooth, hummus consistency–or not, depending on your preference. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with some fresh chopped herb if you have some. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Basque Potato Pie

I’m not quite sure what it is about this savory pie that makes it a Basque speciality. Perhaps the use of potatoes and olives differentiate it from similar recipes in that part of the world. Or the Basque region developed the dish first. In any case, it’s quite delicious. It’s like a inverse shepherd’s pie, the potato topping for shepherd’s pie becomes the crust here. The filling can be almost anything: besides a tomato beef filling, try chili, bean stew, vegetable stew–as long as it’s not too wet. The potato crust is soft; by baking the crust alone for 15 minutes or so you will get a more firm crust.

3 – 4 medium potatoes
4 T melted butter or oil, or a combination, divided
1/4 t salt
1 c chopped onion
1 lb ground beef, or other ground meat
1 c tomato sauce
1 c shredded cheese
1/3 c pitted, sliced black olives
ground black pepper, to taste
sour cream, for serving, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Peel potatoes if you like and slice as thinly as possible. A mandolin or vegetable slicer comes in handy here. Toss the potato slices with 3 T of the melted butter or oil along with the salt. Line the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie plate with the slices, overlapping so there are no bare spots. If the slices are really thin, you can do a double layer, which may mean using more potatoes. Save 8 or so slices to top the pie, if you have enough. Don’t worry if you don’t. If you like, bake the potato crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

2. In a skillet, heat the remaining butter or oil and sauté the onions until soft. Add beef and cook until browned, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. If there’s a lot of fat in the skillet, and you don’t want that, you can remove the beef/onion mixture with a slotted spoon and drain the fat from the pan. Return the beef/onion mixture to the skillet and add tomato sauce, cheese, olives, and black pepper. Stir to combine and heat through.

3. Transfer to potato-crusted pie plate. Smooth top and place the reserved potato slices, if using, over the mixture. This is more of a garnish or decorative element–you’re not trying to make a second crust.

4. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked and the edges are browned and the filling is bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving, with a dollop of sour cream, if you like.

Marinated Root Vegetables

The element that drew me to this recipe was that the vegetables are briefly cooked in the marinade. The hot marinade infuses the vegetables with its essence, intensifying the flavor considerably. Don’t overcook the vegetables, you want some crispness or crunch. For me, 8 minutes was the right amount of time. While the vegetables are excellent eaten after a short marinade, they’re even better the next and following days. Refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.

1/2 c water
1/2 c white wine or rice vinegar
1/2 c white wine, vermouth, sake, white grape juice, or apple juice
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 T fresh, coarsely chopped parsley or other fresh herb
1 t fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 t dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
3 – 4 c sliced root vegetables, in batons or rounds
1 t prepared mustard

1. Combine all ingredients except root vegetables and mustard in a saucepan that can hold the vegetables. Bring to a gentle boil. Carefully add prepared vegetables. Cook, uncovered, until just barely tender, or to your own preference. Drain vegetables, reserving cooking liquid.

2. Put cooked vegetables in a serving bowl or other suitable container. Add mustard to cooking liquid, whisking to combine. Pour over vegetables, stirring to coat the vegetables. Allow to marinate for at least an hour before serving. Or cool completely, refrigerate, covered, overnight. Bring out about an hour before serving (though they’re good cold, too).

Carrot Squares

Easy to make and easy to eat! Warming spices and dried fruit complement the sweetness of the carrots. While the recipe make “squares”, you can bake the recipe in different pans for different results. A smaller pan will be more cakey, a bread pan will make it more of a quick bread, while muffin tins will turn out, well, muffins. You can vary the dried fruit to what you have on hand. Also, try this with grated squash or parsnips, or even celeriac. If you use whole grain flour, you will need to use the larger amount of yogurt. Try different spices, too.

1 c all purpose flour, white, whole grain, or a combination
2/3 c sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t grated nutmeg
1/2 t ground ginger
6 T melted butter or oil, or a combination
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c – 3/4 c yogurt, buttermilk, milk, or alternate dairy product
1 t vanilla extract
1 c shredded carrots
1/2 c dried fruit, finely chopped if large (chop about the size of raisins)

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease a 9″ x 13″ x 2″ baking vessel.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices. Blend thoroughly. Add melted butter and stir to combine. Stir in beaten egg, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Add carrots and dried fruit. Stir to combine everything.

3. Transfer to prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out “clean”, with just a crumb or two on it. If using different baking pans, the baking time will be different. Muffins, about 18 minutes, bread about 40 – 45 minutes, etc. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Soy Sauce-Pickled Root Vegetables

This has become my favorite pickle. Contrary to its title, the vegetables are not overly salty. There is a distinct soy sauce flavor, but as the vegetables remain in the soy sauce for a short time, they are not overly saturated with saltiness. At least not to my palate. Instead of soy sauce you can use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, which will cut down on the sodium level. Or you can combine half water and half soy sauce. The vegetables undergo a brief salt/sugar brine which draws out liquid. You can drain this liquid or keep it and add the soy sauce to it. The drained soy sauce can be reused for more pickles or in cooking. The vegetables will keep for months in the refrigerator, if they last that long!

2 c root vegetables, sliced into strips or rounds
1/2 t salt
2 t sugar
soy sauce, to cover

1. Put vegetables in a jar. Add salt and sugar. Put a lid on the jar and gently shake so that the salt and sugar coat the vegetables. Let sit at room temperature anywhere from an hour to 8 hours, shaking the jar now and then to keep the vegetables coated with the brine.

2. Drain off the liquid if you like. Pour in enough soy sauce to cover the vegetables. Crumple some wax paper or freezer paper and lay on top of the vegetables, to keep them submerged. Allow to pickle at room temperature for 24 hours. If some of the vegetables pieces break the surface of the soy sauce, press them down.

3. Drain off the soy sauce. Store the pickles in the jar in or another, covered container. Keep refrigerated when not eating.

Apple Meringue Cookies

These meringue-type cookies are based on a 19th century Russian confection known as pastila. The original is quite a labor-intensive process; one recipe called for beating the mixture by hand for half an hour! These cookies bake, or rather, dry, long and slow, anywhere from 6 – 8 hours in the oven, a bit less in a dehydrator. They’re simple to make, yet still a bit tricky, or at least I found them to be so, and I’m not sure I’ve mastered them, even after making several batches. Worth the effort though, as they’re quite sweet and tasty. One is usually enough for me. If you have unsweetened applesauce on hand you can of course forgo the cooking of the apples part.

3 large apples, or 2 c applesauce
1 t lemon juice
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t almond or vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
2 egg whites

1. Peel apples. Halve, core, and slice or chunk. Steam or bake until tender. Purée, either with a masher or in a food processor. Transfer to a large, preferably high-sided bowl (trust me on this). Stir in lemon juice, sugar, extract, and cinnamon.

2. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry or shiny. Fold into applesauce mixture. Beat at high speed for at least 5 minutes, and up to 10 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 150ºF or your oven’s lowest setting. (Mine is 170ºF. You can leave the oven door slightly ajar if you like, but I usually don’t.) Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper. Alternatively, if you are using a dehydrator, either line trays with parchment or use a fruit roll screen. Lightly grease.

4. Drop large teaspoon amounts or scant tablespoon amounts onto prepared trays. Don’t let them touch. Bake or dehydrate (at 150ºF) for 6 – 8 hours, until the cookies are dry to the touch. I found that the dehydrator cookies took 6 hours, while the oven cookies took almost 8 hours. Allow to cool on the trays for 5 – 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to dry.

5. The cookies will be chewy at first, but will become crispy as they age. Keep in a tightly closed container.