Sweet Surrender Grape Preserves

Sweet Surrender Grape Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

I haven’t had a classic PB&J in years because, honestly, I’m not into grape jelly.  Any jelly, really.  Preserves, which contain the whole fruit, are much better.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find grape preserves anywhere.

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Small fruits like grapes, figs, and berries are my favorite, since I prefer to graze on fruit a bit at a time and can never eat a whole apple, pear, or citrus in one sitting.

When I tasted Sweet Surrender grapes after purchasing them for the first time, I was blown away by their flavor and sweetness.  To be honest, it was a bit much for me, as I’m pretty sensitive to sweet.  There was no way that I could get through the whole bag before they spoiled and I will never waste anything if I can help it.  So, with all that natural sweetness in the flesh and pectin in their super thick skins, I figured they’d be perfect for preserves!  No added sugar needed, with just an apple to provide extra pectin for natural gelling power.

The grapes’ robust flavor is further intensified when reducing it to a preserve, which makes it stand up really well to complementary flavors.  I chose to use clove, star anise, and bay leaf.  If you don’t have such spices on hand, I’m sure classic cinnamon and clove would be delicious as well :).

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I don’t know if this recipe is appropriate for canning, as there is no added sugar.  That said, in regards to flavor, the variety of grapes has so much sweetness that you don’t need any added sugar, and the pectin from the apple provides all the thickening you need.

Makes about 1 cup preserves

Ingredients:

2 pounds (1 bag) Sweet Surrender grapes, or other dark, thick skinned sweet grape varietal, such as Concord (see note if using grapes with seeds)

1 small apple, small dice (do not peel)

2 tablespoons lemon juice, from 1/2 medium lemon

1/4″ piece bay leaf

2 whole cloves

1/2 star anise

Procedure:

Bring all ingredients to a simmer over medium heat.  Once simmering, reduce heat to low, preferably over a flame tamer, and simmer, uncovered, 45-60 minutes.  Stir occasionally and poke the grapes with a fork to help them break down.  When ready, the grapes will be broken down and the liquid syrupy.

Remove bay leaf, cloves, and star anise (unless using a food mill).  Blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor until uniform, but not completely smooth (unless you like that, in which case you should use a blender).  If you are using Concords or other grape varietal with seeds, pass the stewed grapes through a food mill.  You won’t need to remove the spices prior to using a food mill.

Pour into sterilized glass jars, seal, and refrigerate.  I do not know if this recipe is appropriate for shelf stable canning.  Just keep refrigerated for up to one month, or portion and freeze in airtight plastic containers for later use.

 


Creamy Vegan Red Pepper and Tomato Summer Sauce

Creamy Vegan Red Pepper and Tomato Summer Sauce - The Clean Gourmet

If you have tons of tomatoes, this is a great way to preserve them.  I make this sauce every August/September when I’m drowning in tomatoes and peppers, picked ripe from local vines.  None may go to waste!
Creamy Vegan Red Pepper and Tomato Summer Sauce - The Clean Gourmet

Simmering tomatoes with olive oil makes the naturally occurring lycopene and carotenoids much more available for absorption by the body.  The longer, the better!

Creamy Vegan Red Pepper and Tomato Summer Sauce - The Clean Gourmet

Use this as a dipping sauce, pasta sauce or eat is alone as a soup.

Creamy Vegan Red Pepper and Tomato Summer Sauce - The Clean Gourmet

Creamy Vegan Red Pepper and Tomato Summer Sauce:

Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.

1 red bell pepper

1 tablespoon high quality olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

2 large heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped (include skins and guts)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 turns black pepper

1/2 cup creamy homemade almond milk or walnut milk (whole milk if you’re okay with dairy)

1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

Start by roasting your pepper:  Place pepper on a parchment lined sheet pan and place in your broiler.  Once you see dark browning/blackening, turn the pepper and repeat once or twice until blackened all over (should take about 10 minutes per side).  Remove pepper from oven and place in closed paper bag or covered bowl for 15 minutes to steam.  Remove blackened skins.

Sauté garlic in olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan until golden.  Add roasted pepper, tomatoes and salt.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, uncovered.

Blend simmered ingredients on high in blender until smooth.  Add nut milk and black pepper.  Continue to purée until silky smooth.  Transfer to a container or bowl and stir in basil.

Creamy Vegan Red Pepper and Tomato Summer Sauce - The Clean Gourmet


Radish Top and Parsley Stem Pesto (Pesto di Cime di Ravanelli e Gambi di Prezzemolo)

No waste!  It’s satisfying to make a meal out of what is so often thrown away, especially one that tastes really good:).  All those green leaves attached to organic radishes and flavorful parsley stems should not be bound for the garbage!  I am all for “whole foods” cooking*, which means eating entire entities for optimal nutrition, and this recipe is no exception.

I use less oil than most people use when making pestos, as the oil can dilute flavor, make the pesto too runny and, not to mention, it’s expensive!.  Also, I prefer to get a greater proportion of fats from whole sources.  That means olives instead of olive oil, walnuts instead of walnut oil, etc.  This is because eating foods in their naturally occurring state promotes balanced nutrition.  When you eat a whole walnut, for example, you have a balance of fiber, oil and vitamins/minerals.  Eating walnut oil, on the other hand, just gives you the fat, which has been treated by manufacturing with heat, fissure, etc.  With theses processes, the oil’s delicate healthy chemical compounds (a.k.a. “phytonutrients”) have likely been destroyed or altered.

To clarify, I understand the need to use oils and other slightly processed items in cooking to make food taste good, but it’s best to use these in moderation and try to use their whole alternatives where possible.

This pesto is vegan, but you wouldn’t know it!  Miso and walnuts offer a “cheesy” umami flavor and the umeboshi vinegar and lemon give some salty tang.  It’s kind of addictive, actually.

*If you’re interested in the theory behind “whole foods” nutrition, I suggest reading “Food and Healing” by Annemarie Colbin.

What you need:

90 grams (about 2 bunches, picked over) radish tops, well rinsed

12 grams (about 3 cloves) garlic, minced

60 grams (one bunch) parsley stems, rinsed and torn

10 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) yellow or chickpea miso

70 grams (3/4 cup) walnuts

1 1/2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) black pepper

23 grams (2 teaspoons) lemon juice

15-20 grams (3-4 teaspoons) umeboshi vinegar

45 grams (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

What to do:

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and run until smooth.  Store in fridge or serve immediately with pasta or other grain, spread on a sandwich or add a dollop to soup.

Radish Top and Parsley Stem Pesto (L) - The Clean Gourmet

Pesto di Cime di Ravanelli e Gambi di Prezzemolo:

Cosa serve:

90 grammi (circa 2 grappoli) di cime di ravanelli, ben sciacquate

12 grammi (circa 3 spicchi) d’aglio, tritato

60 grammi (un grappolo) di gambi di prezzemolo, sciacquati e strappati a grandi pezzi

10 grammi (1 1/2 cucchiaini) di miso giallo

70 grammi di noci

1 1/2 grammi (1/2 cucchiaino) di pepe nero

23 grammi (2 cucchiaini) di succo di limone

15-20 grammi (3-4 cucchiaini) di aceto d’umeboshi

45 grammi (60 millilitri) di olio extra vergine d’oliva

Cosa fare:

Mettete tutti gli ingredienti nel frullatore o nel robot da cucina e fate frullare finché non abbia una consistenza cremosa.  Conservate in frigo o servite subito con della pasta o altri cereali, su un panino o mettete un goccio nella zuppa.


Cherry and Orange-Sweetened Cranberry Sauce with Apple and Spices

Three weeks until Thanksgiving!  For some reason, every year after Thanksgiving I continue to make cranberry sauce for several weeks, as I’m reminded how versatile it is.  It’s a great balancer for savory dishes, a flavorful topper for oatmeal and yogurt, as well as a satisfying dessert on its own.

Cranberries are very tart and are often sweetened with TONS of sugar.  I decided instead to sweeten them naturally (while upping the antioxidants even more) with pure cherry juice, freshly squeezed orange and chopped apple (which also serves as a thickener, thanks to the pectin in the peel).  Not only do these additions result in more complex flavor, but they also yield a diabetic-friendly and anti-inflammatory version of traditional cranberry sauce :).

If you really like sweeter cranberry sauce, you can always add maple syrup or coconut sugar to adjust to your taste preferences.

Ingredients:

12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries

2 cups of pure organic cherry juice

juice from 1 orange (include the zest if your orange is organic)

1 large apple, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 whole cloves or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 star anise or 1/4 teaspoon star anise extract

2 cardamom pods, smashed or 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder

What to do:

Assemble all ingredients in a 2-quart pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until the cranberries and apples are broken down and the liquid is reduced to a sauce consistency.

Remove any whole spices and chill before serving.


Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves (Conserva di Prugne alla Vaniglia con Kuzu)

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Plums are in season and we’ve been getting a lot of them through our CSA.  These Damsons have that quintessential “prune” taste, so they become very rich when reduced to a preserve and do not need much sweetener.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

Instead of the usual 2:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, I added a little blueberry juice (that’s whole organic blueberry juice, with no added sugar or preservatives) to get the plums going and to lend bit more depth of flavor, along with a touch of maple syrup.

Since I use very little sweetener and the fruit is quite juicy, I use kuzu to help set up the preserves, especially since plums are not particularly high in natural pectin.  If you are not familiar with kuzu, it’s a starch that’s also known as Japanese arrowroot and it looks like a white clumpy powder.  Kuzu is commonly used in macrobiotics for therapeutic purposes, including (but not limited to) the treatment of expansion headaches, upset stomach, blood circulation, skin disorders and fever.  (Perhaps a post on kuzu remedies is in order…) It’s good stuff.

If you’re not suffering from any of these ailments, it’s still not a bad idea to put some kuzu in your homemade preserves, if nothing else for culinary purposes.  Just be sure to make a slurry with the kuzu by dissolving it in a little water and then bring whatever fruit you’ve added it to to a boil, or else the kuzu won’t be able to work its magic.

If you can’t find kuzu or don’t want to wait to get it, reduce the preserve for a longer period of time over the heat.  Regular arrowroot powder is an option as well, but the consistency will get stringy-gummy, which I don’t find appetizing at all.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

I kept mine simple this time by leaving out any spices in order to let the vanilla stand out.  In the past, however, I’ve made it warm and spicy by adding cinnamon, star anise and clove.  See what suits you and feel free to play around with it.  I imagine fresh ginger would be a nice addition as well.

Makes about 16 ounces

Ingredients:

1 quart Damson plums, pitted and roughly chopped

1/3 cup good quality blueberry juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract or half a vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon vodka, lemon juice or red wine vinegar

Optional Spices: 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 4 cloves

2 teaspoons kuzu + 2 teaspoons water

What to do:

Place all ingredients, except for kuzu, in a medium pot (heavy-bottomed is best) over medium-low heat.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

 

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to very low and simmer for 1 hour, until the plums have broken down and the liquid has reduced.  Stir every 15 minutes or so to make sure there is no sticking to the pot.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

Make a slurry with the kuzu by dissolving it in the 2 teaspoons of water.   Add to simmering plums and mix thoroughly.  Bring plums to a low boil and let continue for about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until the liquid is thickened and reduced enough.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

Remove from heat and let cool 10-15 minutes.  Remove cinnamon stick and/or star anise, if using, and pour cooked plums into blender and run until smooth.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

Pour into a sterilized jar (or several small jars), seal and refrigerate.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

Spread on toast, grain-free biscuits (as pictured) or dollop onto local grass-fed yogurt.  Keeps for 2-3 weeks in refrigerator.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet

Rende circa 450ml

Ingredienti:

800 grammi di prugne Damson, snocciolate e tagliate a cubetti

90 ml di succo di mirtillo

1 cucchiaino di estratto di vaniglia o metà d’un baccello di vaniglia, dimezzato

1-2 cucchiai di sciroppo d’acero

1 cucchiaio di vodka, succo di limone fresco o aceto di vino rosso

Spezie Facoltative: 1 bastoncino di canella, 1 anice stellato, 4 chiodi di garofano

2 cucchiaini di kuzu (oppure di amido di mais) + 2 cucchiaini d’acqua

What to do:

Mettete tutti gli ingredienti (tranne il kuzu) in una pentola media (meglio una pesante) sul fuoco medio-basso.

Fate bollire la miscela e abbassate la fiamma quanto possibile e lasciate sobbollire per circa un’ora, finché le prugne non siano molle e il liquido sia abbasstanza ridotto.  Girate circa ogni 15 minuti, stando attenti che le prugne non s’appiccichino al fondo della pentola.

Fate una malta fluida col kuzu ed i 2 cucchiaini d’acqua.  Aggiungete alle prugne cotte e mescolate bene.  Fate bollire lentamente per 5 minuti.  Riducete la fiamma un’altro pò e lasciate sobbollire per altri 20-30 minuti, giusto per far addensare e ridurre abbastanza il liquido.

Togliete dal fornello caldo la pentola e lasciate raffreddare 10-15 minuti.  Togliete il bastoncino di canella e l’anice stellato, se usando, e versate le prugne cotte in un frullatore e fate andare finché la consistenza non sia liscia.

Versate la conserva in un vasetto sterilizzato (o alcuni piccoli), chiudete e mettete in frigo.

Dura circa 2-3 settimane in frigo.

Vanilla Plum Kuzu Preserves - The Clean Gourmet


Avocado and Roasted Tomatillo Dip

My CSA this week included five beautiful tomatillos.  I’d never cooked them myself before and had only eaten them in the form of green enchiladas and salsa verde in various Mexican restaurants in California.  But here I was in New York City with five locally grown tomatillos.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly excited when I saw that it would be included in the week’s CSA share,  and my first thought was “OK, what am I gonna do with these.”

Well I was inspired by a recent Bon Appetit Instagram post and luckily had most of the ingredients I’d need already on hand.  Tomatillos have a bright and slightly acidic flavor that brightens up this quacamole-ish dip.  I didn’t even add any lime.  Also, roasted garlic adds aroma and depth of flavor, sans the bite and bad breath of raw onion.

No need for special equipment, as I don’t have much myself, but if you have a food processor I suppose that could be a convenient way to incorporate the ingredients.  I just used my knife and cutting board.

Serves 2-4

What you need:

2 avocados, cubed

5 tomatillos

3 cloves garlic (do not peel or crush)

3 red chili peppers (a.k.a. fresh cayenne peppers)

handful cilantro, finely chopped

salt, to taste

What to do:

Put whole tomatillos, garlic cloves and chilies on a pan and place in oven set to broil.  Roast for about 15 minutes, turning once as it begins to blacken.  (The tomatillos may pop a bit- that’s okay.)

Meanwhile, place avocado and cilantro in medium bowl.

When ready, remove roasted vegetables from oven and let cool slightly.  Remove garlic from the peel and toss in bowl with avocado and cilantro.  Squeeze chilies from their skins and remove most of the seeds, without obsessing too much.  Chop as much as you can- a little smooshing action is okay.  Add to bowl as well and, finally, chop up the tomatillos and begin mashing that with the rest of the ingredients.  Season with salt and serve with chips, on top of fish, salad or whatever else you feel like!

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