Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Fantastic Sprouts

sprouts

Sprouts are wealthy in nutrients so these past few days I continued my sprouting adventure with adzuki beans, French green lentils and sunflower seeds.


Any seed that is capable with the potential for the next generation of plant life is sproutable and that includes most legumes, grains and seeds.


sprouts 2


For this weeks' sprouts, I used the jar method as they don't consume a lot of space. But sometimes I still prefer using the large sieve for particular legumes as they expand greatly. The method is almost the same, it's just the jar and the draining process that are different.


sprouts_jar


For this method, you will need a large jar with a wide opening, a bowl to prop up the jar, some screen or netting such as nylon tulle from a fabric shop or a gray fiberglass from a hardware store, rubber band, fresh water and organic seeds, legumes or grains.

  • Place 1 to 4 tablespoons of seeds, legumes or grains in a wide mouth jar. This will also depend on how large your jar is. Cover with mesh and secure with a rubber band. Add water to cover and let soak in a dark place. (I soaked the adzuki and lentil for 10 hours, while I soaked the sunflower seeds for about 8 hours).
  • Rinse them well twice a day, (morning and evening). Invert jar and prop at an angle in a bowl. For the sunflower seeds, you need to remove most of the skins after rinsing to maintain their freshness during the sprouting process.
  • After 3-4 days, place them on a sunny windowsill for a few hours to get an energy boost. You don't need to remove the skin from the adzuki and lentils sprouts. They are different from the mung bean sprouts where the skins fall off automatically.

Adzuki Bean Sprouts

adzuki bean sprouts

Just like mung beans, adzuki beans are easy to sprout and handle. Although they would probably sprout well using a large sieve. They are really great with stir-fries and a classic pair for pumpkin. Adzuki bean sprouts are neutral in flavor with a touch of creaminess. They lend a little bit of sweetness and a hint of bitterness at the end. They are chewy in texture with a touch of crunch. I sprouted them until day four but they are ready by day three.


Lentil Sprouts

l_sprouts

They are ready to use by day three if you want to avoid the root ends with their brown spots which makes them look dirty. Lentil sprouts are also neutral in flavor but with a trace of saltiness at the end. They add crunchiness to salads, stir-fries, wraps, sandwiches and soups.


Sunflower Sprouts

sunflower sprouts

This is an odd looking sprout. I would probably use a different method for sprouting sunflower seeds as they are a little bit messy to work with and they also impart a slightly bad odor during the sprouting process. Cultivating them in a flat tray filled with soil would probably work well and would yield a better looking, sexier sunflower sprouts. After soaking and draining them, remove the skins before sprouting. These sprouts are the strongest that I’ve tried so far in terms of flavor. I could really taste the intense sunflower seed with a bit of spiciness and bitterness at the end of the palate. Sunflower sprouts are really great in flavor. It would be a great idea to have some sunflower greens on hand as well.


salad


Making a sprout salad (with your favorite dressing) would be a great way to utilize the fruits of your labor. But you can use them in sandwiches, soups, stir-fries and wraps. But they are also great to eat like popcorn. Just season them with a little bit of Celtic or Himalayan sea salt. For a more interesting flavor, spice them up with a combination of ground coriander and sea salt or some umami salt (another blog post).


This is just the beginning of my sprouting adventure. There are more sprouts to come in the following weeks.



Monday, March 16, 2009

Mung Bean Sprouts



I’m a frustrated gardener. I’ve tried growing cilantro many years ago but no matter what I do, they always die after they flourish for a few days. I’ve tried my luck again last year with other herbs and it seems that having a green thumb has been given to a chosen few like my brother John. Because of that, I did something that I’ve done during my elementary days - sprouting. If you can spare 5 minutes of your time every single day, anyone can sprout. For me, the easiest legume to sprout is the ever popular mung bean. They are easy to handle and they don’t impart an odor during the sprouting process compared with other legumes. The key here is to wash them twice a day so they stay fresh and clean. Then, allow them to drain to remove the excess water so they don’t rot.



Sprouting is normally done in a jar secured with a cheesecloth but for half a cup of mung beans, I prefer to sprout them on a large strainer place over a large bowl. This way, the beans will have enough room to grow. My mung bean sprouts are not as fat and juicy. But my sister prefers mine compared to the ones bought in the supermarket.



So, what happens when you sprout a dormant seed? During sprouting, the powerful enzymes from dormant seeds are released. They spring to life and become edible. The activity of enzymes increases dramatically, converting starch into natural sugars, protein into amino acids and fats into fatty acids. They are predigested making it easy for the body to digest and absorb. The nutrients (vitamins and minerals) enhance in quantity at least 6-20 times more, depending upon the specific plant.



To grow your own mung bean sprouts at home, you need a large bowl, a large strainer, clean water, some mung beans and a towel.
  • Rinse the mung beans well. Place in a large bowl and cover with clean water. I also add a drop of liquid mineral. Cover the bowl and leave overnight in a warm, dark place for about 8-10 hours.

  • Rinse seeds the next day with fresh water. Drain through a large strainer. Place the strainer along with the seeds over a large bowl to catch any drippings of water. Do these twice a day until seeds start to sprout. Cover with cloth. Return the bowl in a warm, dark place. I usually put a weight (such as a bag of beans) on top to allow the sprout to grow under pressure which will result in a juicier and fattier sprout.

  • After 3-4 days, place them on a sunny windowsill for a few hours to get an energy boost. You will notice that the sprouts will develop leaves. When you expose them to sunshine they turn green and you'll have a fresh source of chlorophyll which is renowed for its cleansing, anti-inflammtory and rejuvenating properties. After a few hours, they are ready to use in stir-fries, soups or salads.
Starting with day 2...

DAY 2


DAY 3


DAY 4


The skin from the mung bean will just fall off automatically. But if you want to completely remove them, place the sprouts in a large bowl with cold water. Scoop out the skins and discard, although some of them will sink to the bottom. Then transfer the sprouts to a colander to drain. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. Use the sprouts within 3 days, maximum. Remove the root ends of each sprout, if desired.

Happy sprouting.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sweet Potato Salad



Sweet potato greens (aka talbos ng camote or camote tops in the Philippines) are so cheap and very nutritious. This lowly vegetable should be considered one of the kings of green leafy vegetables as they have the ability to detoxify our bodies. When they are made into tea or juice, they can heal the dangerous dengue as they can increase platelet count. There may not be scientific findings available for this but sometimes in our lifetime, who would you trust, medicine or nature? After these miraculous results, most people are growing their own camote tops at home.


Freshly-picked Camote Tops

Camote tops are usually stir-fried with garlic and shallots or served as a salad with chopped tomatoes, red onions and a dressing of fish sauce and Philippine lemon (aka calamansi). They are also great with soups.


Calamansi

This rustic salad is composed of orange sweet potatoes, camote tops, raw sunflower seeds and broccoli sprouts. The tops can either be served raw or blanched. I prefer them blanched which are what most people do. Although, when the leaves are small and tender, I prefer them raw. Also, leafy greens are best eaten with unrefined oil and an acid for better absorption. Now, it’s up to you if you want to roast or steam the sweet potatoes. I choose to steam them as I want them moist. Make extra dressing as the potatoes will soak up the liquid and by the time you serve them, you will definitely need more dressing.

When I am serving a root vegetable such as sweet potato, I always serve it with a leafy green vegetable. Root vegetables are hard and strengthening which nourishes the intestines and the lower organs while the leafy green nourishes the liver and the heart. So, when I’m serving carrots, I would pair it with another type of leafy green.

I also want to serve this with some local fresh goat cheese but my order hasn’t arrived yet but it will definitely add a dimension of flavor to the whole salad. Some broccoli sprouts or any other type of sprouts of your choice will increase its nutritional value. For the dressing, I did a combination of lemon juice and calamansi but orange or lime juice would work really well. I really want a strong citrus dressing for this salad so I reduced the amount of oil that I used. Feel free to vary the flavors as well as the amount of the ingredients (because I didn’t exactly measure them). :)

Sweet Potato Salad

Serves 4-5

Dressing:

  • 1 large shallot
  • ½ lemon
  • 5 large calamansi
  • 2 tbsp natural soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4-5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:

  • 5-6 big handfuls of camote tops
  • 1 lb small orange sweet potatoes
  • 3 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup goat cheese
  • broccoli sprouts

To start the dressing, peel and mince the shallots, juice the lemon and the calamansi into a bowl. Add the soy sauce and honey. Add the oil slowly until combined. Taste for seasoning and set aside.

To start the potato, wash and scrub the sweet potatoes, then trim the ends. Fill a pot of water and place the steamer insert with the sweet potatoes. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and steam the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes (depending on size) or until tender but not mushy.

To blanch the leafy green, bring a pot of water to a boil for the leafy green. Then, prepare an ice bath and a strainer with a bowl underneath. Remove the leafy greens from its stem, then wash with plenty of water and drain. When the water has boiled, blanch the leafy greens for less then 5 seconds and transfer them into the ice bath. Then, lift all of them out onto the strainer before squeezing the excess water. Cut them into smaller pieces and arrange them onto a large platter.

To serve, drizzle the greens with a little bit of the dressing and lightly toss. Cut the sweet potatoes in half and arrange on top of the greens. Then, add the sunflower seeds and crumble the goat’s cheese on top. Drizzle with more dressing over the potatoes and garnish with sprouts. Serve while the sweet potatoes are still warm.



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Watermelon “Gazpacho”



Summertime is the best time to eat watermelon. Watermelon is a great fruit to hydrate your body and they are full of nutrients most especially glutathione, an antioxidant that most people are crazy about. I prefer watermelons with the seeds. I noticed that they are sweeter than the seedless ones. You can remove them but I prefer to blend them with the flesh as they are high in vitamin E. Watermelon is also an excellent source of vitamins C, A, B6, B1, and the minerals magnesium and potassium. Include the watermelon rind, the white part next to the skin that most people throw out as they are also high in nutrients. You can also make pickled watermelon rind or just simply juice them.



When people are thirsty, they would usually grab a can of iced-cold soft drinks. The truth is they don’t hydrate your body as many people think it does. They are so high in sugar and even if they are sugar-free, sugar substitutes are toxic to the body. Watermelon along with cucumber can quench your thirst and it’s excellent for dehydration and summer heat symptoms which include headache, nausea, irritability, low appetite, heavy, weighted body sensation, sluggish digestion, increased body temperature and sticky sweat. It is also good for canker sores and sore throat.



Be careful when buying watermelon shakes as they usually add water and simple syrup. So, what if there’s no watermelon and cucumber? Well, just simply drink water. Water is a miracle fluid that most people take for granted. Of course, we have to make sure it’s clean water too.

For this chilled soup, I blended more than half of the watermelon and the rest are diced along with the shallots, cucumber and red bell pepper. You can also add some fresh diced tomatoes. I like to keep it simple so the only other ingredients that I added are lemon juice, fresh torn basil, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. You could blend all the ingredients together but I like the watermelon nectar to have a dominant taste than the rest of the ingredients. I actually hold the lemon juice, sea salt and oil and just add them when it’s about time to serve. I even leave the watermelon seeds and just spit them out onto a spoon but that’s up to you. My family doesn’t like to eat cold soup. They always prefer to eat soup hot and to eat fruits as a dessert. But this one is an exception. I could have a big bowl or a small bowl of this "gazpacho" at anytime of the day.



Watermelon “Gazpacho”


Serves 4
  • 3 lbs watermelon wedge
  • ½ shallot
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • ½ cup basil leaves
  • fresh lemon juice
  • unrefined sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
To start the gazpacho, place the watermelon wedge on a cutting board. Using the tip of the knife, cut the watermelon by slicing in between the skin and the flesh. Cut three-quarters of the watermelon into large cubes and place in the blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Cut the remaining watermelon into medium diced, about ¼ inch, removing the seeds, if desired. Next, mince the shallots, peel and dice (about 1/2-inch) the cucumber and the red bell pepper. Add these to the diced watermelon. Remove the basil leaves from the stem and torn into small pieces onto the mixture.

Chill the watermelon puree and the mixture, covered, for about 2-3 hours. Ladle the puree onto a chilled bowl and 2-3 spoonfuls of the mixture. Season the soup with sea salt, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil.

Alternatively, you can combine the puree and the mixture together before chilling.
Notes:

You can add some fresh pink grapefruit juice or some cranberry juice to the watermelon puree for a tangy twist.

Instead of lemon juice, substitute with lime juice or vinegar such as red wine vinegar.

Instead of shallots, substitute with sweet red onion.

For an extra kick, add some minced jalapenos.

Other herbs such as parsley, cilantro or mint would also be a great alternative to basil leaves.


Watermelon Gazpacho