Farm to table cooking is a seasonal affair. Spring brings crops like asparagus; summer is fruit season, featuring locally grown blueberries and strawberries, and myriad vegetables; with the fall comes apples and squash; cold weather brings turnips, potatoes and other root veggies.
Cooking in this way, with what’s available, requires flexibility and knowledge of ingredients, according to Leslie Cerier, a Shutesbury chef, cookbook author, cooking teacher and owner of The Organic Gourmet, an international food blog. She held a cooking class titled “Festive and Healthy Dishes for Hanukkah” at her Shutesbury home-kitchen last month that featured her flexible cooking methods.
“Whenever I’m cooking — whether it’s as a personal chef — I’m always working with the local harvest. I’m always mixing and matching what’s available to come up with a delicious recipe,” said Cerier, who has written numerous cookbooks specializing in making vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and gluten-free meals for health and pleasure. Her first book, “The Quick and Easy Organic Gourmet,” was published in 1996.
At the class, which was sponsored by a grant from the Grinspoon Foundation, Cerier led a group of a 17 students through a series of whole protein recipes that included amaranth corn croquettes, falafel made with garbanzo bean flour and ginger arame egg rolls (with no eggs and an Asian coleslaw that featured goji berries and some sea vegetables).
“I know these ingredients are so tasty — I’ve cooked with them and written about them for 30 years or more,” she said, noting that she structured the cooking class around Hanukkah.
They lit the menorahs and watched them burn as they ate. Jewish holidays are traditionally based on local agriculture, she noted. Thus, celebrating Hanukkah with local cuisine was appropriate.
“I’m not a traditionalist — I’m someone who’s creative — Hanukkah, traditionally, (features) frying with olive oil. I used an extra virgin organic oil in a dressing we made,” Cerier said. More abstractly, she expanded on the holiday’s prominent theme of “inner light” and “created a community in a cooking class. … Thinking of all the hands of love that have touched our food — adding that element so people slow down, breathe, don’t worry as much.”
Nutritionally, Cerier says she cooks with nutritious organic whole real foods, introducing students to ingredients they might not encounter otherwise and adapting recipes to the local, seasonal, harvest.
To that end, Cerier changed a few of her recipes they used in the class. For example, she substituted in-season celery root for celery stalks (which required an extra step of peeling before cooking).
“I love expanding people’s repertoire — turning them on to ingredients,” she said. “I think of myself as someone who creates a master recipe for a springboard for experimentation.”
Ginger Arame Egg Rolls with Goji Berries
Here’s a versatile recipe that is fun to eat as a salad, stuffed into pita or deep-fried in egg roll wrappers. Eating 4-6 of these delicious egg rolls makes a great lunch or dinner.
Vitamin C provides a natural filter against UV rays. Cabbage and collards, and other cruciferous vegetables are good sources of Vitamin C. Goji berries are red and are high in antioxidants, a group of compounds that act as free radical scavengers, donating electrons and neutralizing free radicals thus preventing their destruction to other cells, eliminating them from the body before they can do damage. Serves four to six people. Makes 20 egg rolls; also delicious as a side salad, too.
1/3 cup arame
¼ cup organic dried goji berries
1 –14 ounce extra firm tofu, diced
1 quart green cabbage or collard greens, sliced thin
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped cilantro
1 cup coarsely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons tamari
1 ½ tablespoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon maple sugar or maple syrup
20 egg roll wrappers (6-inch squares)
¼ cup extra virgin coconut oil for frying
1. Put the arame and goji berries in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Layer the tofu on top followed by cabbage, cilantro, and scallions.Add sesame oil, tamari, ginger and maple sugar. Let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to allow the water from the tofu to hydrate the arame and goji berries. Stir mixture together and taste and adjust seasonings, if desired.
2. Place an egg roll wrapper diagonally on a large cutting board or plate, so it appears diamond-shaped. Place 2 tablespoons of arame mixture in the center. Fold the right and left sides of the wrapper over the filling, then fold up the bottom corner, and roll up tightly.
3. Melt coconut oil in a large fry pan. Add as many egg rolls as will fit leaving spaces between them to allow enough room to flip over. Fry over medium heat for a few minutes until golden on one side and then flip over and fry for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown on all sides or at least 2. Remove from fry pan and drain on a paper bags or paper towels. Fry remaining egg rolls and add more coconut oil if pan becomes dry.
4. Arrange the egg rolls on a platter and enjoy or serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
Recipe originally excerpted from “Visionary Cooking, Food for the Eyes” by Cerier and Dr. Marc Grossman. Recipe by Leslie Cerier, copyright 2013, Reserved to Leslie Cerier, lesliecerier.com
Here’s a delicious, easy to make, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipe of this traditional Middle Eastern dish. Serve on a bed of salad or stuffed into pita pockets with a tahini dressing for a great lunch or dinner. Makes a great appetizer, too. Enjoy. Makes one dozen falafel patties; Serves four.
2 cups garbanzo bean flour
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped or minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons ghee or extra virgin coconut oil
Place all the ingredients, except the ghee or oil in a mixing bowl, and mix well. Shape the batter into walnut sized balls.
Heat a 9 inch skillet. Add ghee or oil. Add falafel balls when oil is hot and flatten with a spatula. Fry on both sizes until golden brown.
Serve on top of salad or stuffed into pita.
Did you know that you can swap 1 teaspoon coriander for 1 cup fresh cilantro.
Copyright © 2013 Leslie Cerier, All Rights Reserved to Leslie Cerier, lesliecerier.com
Amaranth Corn Croquettes
This croquette (aka flat bread) is easy to make, and it’s a great accompaniment for just about any soup or stew. Because it’s so festive and colorful, it also makes a great appetizer. Serves three or four.
1 cup organic amaranth flour
½ cup organic corn flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup minced organic onion
½ cup minced organic red or green bell pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons organic ghee, virgin coconut oil, or sesame oil
½ cup (about 2 ounces) grated cheddar cheese (optional)
Coat a work surface with ¼ cup amaranth flour or corn flour.
Combine the amaranth flour, corn flour, salt, and water in a bowl. Mix until the dough comes together, then add the onion and bell pepper and mix them in. Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead for a few minutes, until slightly sticky. Use your hands to shape dough into flat rounds 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
In a small skillet, heat the ghee medium-high heat. Once it melts, swirl it around to coat the pan. Fry the flat breads until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes on each side. If using cheese, sprinkle a bit on top of each flat bread and let it melt. Serve warm.
Copyright © 2010. Originally appeared in “Gluten Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook” by Cerier (New Harbinger, Inc). All rights reserved and have reverted back to Leslie Cerier. More at lesliecerier.com.
Andy Castillo is the features editor at the Greenfield Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.