Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Almond, Olive, and Rosemary Crackers with Roasted Butternut Squash, Chile, and Tahini Dip

Do you believe that true beauty comes from within? That idea is taken very literally in a new cookbook that offers nutrient dense dishes that help balance gut health and thereby assist with keeping your complexion at its best. The Beauty Chef: Delicious Food for Radiant Skin, Gut Health and Wellbeing by Carla Oates, of which I received a review copy, is a guide to eating for a medicinal effect. Oates writes: “the food we eat provides the ecosystem that interacts with our immune system to maintain our health and skin and overall wellbeing.” Whether you choose to eat certain foods specifically for their positive effect on skin conditions or you just want to try these recipes packed with nutrition powerhouses, there are a lot of great options here. First, there’s a list of nutrients with an explanation of why each one is good for you along with the foods in which it’s found. Then, throughout the recipes, the head note information will have some reminders about those nutrients and which ones are in the dish. The chapters cover Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner, Sides, Desserts, Baking, Drinks, and Basics. I became hooked quickly after seeing the variety grains and fresh vegetables used, the abundance of fermented pickles, and the use of less-refined sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. There’s an Autumn Spice Smoothie Bowl made with oats, banana, and almond butter and topped with poached pears that I can’t wait to have for breakfast. And, I marked almost every page in the Lunch chapter with dishes like Warm Cauliflower Couscous Salad with Roasted Roots, Hazelnuts, and Crispy Spiced Chickpeas; Raw Rainbow Salad with Soft-boiled Egg and Creamy Miso Dressing; Buckwheat Noodles with Miso-Roasted Pumpkin, Caramelized Onion, and Umeboshi Plum Salad; and Lunch Wraps with Poached Chicken and Celeriac and Roasted Almond Remoulade on homemade Millet and Linseed and Spinach Wraps. If that all sounds a little too virtuous, bear in mind there are also recipes for oven-fried chicken, bbq ribs, and creme brulee. But since I’ve been going meatless and dairyless a little more often lately, I decided to start with a snack of Almond, Olive, and Rosemary Crackers with Roasted Butternut Squash, Chile, and Tahini Dip.

In the book, the crackers have “Cheesy” in the title, but I don’t think that’s even necessary as a selling point. The cheesy flavor here comes from nutritional yeast. These are gluten-free crackers made with almond meal mixed with the yeast flakes, chopped Kalamata olives, fresh rosemary, and salt and pepper. An egg white and some coconut oil hold the dough together. The dough was rolled out between pieces of parchment paper. Then, it was scored and left on the bottom piece of parchment for baking. There’s a nice tip for baking the crackers: as the outside crackers become browned, they can be cut along the scored lines and removed. Then, the pan can go back into the oven to brown the rest of the crackers. The dip was a simple puree of roasted butternut squash, a roasted tomato, and roasted garlic and chile. Tahini and lemon juice were added to the food processor while pureeing.

The crackers have great, savory flavor with the olives and rosemary and the underlying umami from the yeast flakes. If they lose their crispness after sitting for a bit, they can be popped into a warm oven to bring back their crunchy state. The butternut squash dip paired well with them. And, sliced cucumbers made good vehicles for it as well. There are several more things I’m eager to try from this book and it will be a nice bonus if I happen to achieve a healthy glow in the process.

‘Cheesy’ almond, olive and rosemary crackers
Recipes reprinted with publisher's permission from The Beauty Chef: Delicious Food for Radiant Skin, Gut Health and Wellbeing.

MAKES 24

The combination of olive, rosemary and cheese is a delight. However, in this dish I have used yeast flakes instead of cheese, which are rich in B vitamins and a great substitute for the flavour of cheese.

1 cup (100 g / 3 1/2 oz) almond meal
1/3 cup (15 g / 1/2 oz) savoury yeast flakes (available from health food stores)
1/4 cup (45 g / 1 1/2 oz) chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Combine the almond meal, savoury yeast flakes, olives, rosemary, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and oil and mix well to combine.

Roll the almond mixture out between two pieces of baking paper, to make a 24 cm (9 1/2 in) square, approximately 2 mm (1⁄16 in) thick. Discard the top sheet of paper. Using a large knife, score the almond mixture to make 24 crackers. Press the ends of a fork into the centre of each cracker to mark. Transfer the crackers on the sheet of baking paper onto a large baking tray (cookie sheet). Sprinkle with additional salt. Bake for 10–15 minutes, until light golden.

Remove from the oven and cut through the scored marks. Separate into individual crackers. Remove the outer crackers that are crisp and golden and set onto a rack to cool. Cook the remaining crackers for a further 5 minutes, or until golden but not browned. Transfer onto the rack and leave to cool completely. Serve with dips, spreads, or as part of a meal.

Roasted pumpkin, chilli and tahini dip
MAKES 1 1/2 CUPS (SERVES 4)

A flavour-packed dip, starring pumpkin (winter squash), which is a great source of skin-rejuvenating vitamin A. And did you know that when you consume foods high in vitamin E – such as tahini (made from sesame seeds) – around seven days later vitamin E is secreted through your sebum to provide a protective layer?

350 g (12 1/2 oz) peeled pumpkin (winter squash), cut into 5 cm (2 in) chunks
1 medium tomato, halved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4 cloves garlic, in their skins
2 long red chiles
2 tablespoons tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Himalayan salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF).

Place the pumpkin and tomato on a baking tray (baking sheet). Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes.

Turn the pumpkin, add the garlic and chile and roast for a further 15 minutes, or until the garlic and chile are soft and the pumpkin is tender and caramelised. Set aside to cool slightly.

Squeeze the garlic out of its skin. Peel the tomato and chillies. Scrape the seeds out of the chiles and discard.

Place the pumpkin, tomato, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and chile in a high-speed food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Season with salt. Serve with crudites, crackers or as part of a meal.

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6 comments:

  1. Such a creative cracker recipe! I love crackers, esp. the homemade one. Can I replace yeast with Parmesan here?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, parmesan would be a great substitute.

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  2. i still have never tried making my own crackers. i'm such a slacker. i'll definitely try this dip though--love those ingredients!!

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  3. I like the idea of this and am glad that it isn't all virtuous food in it too! It means that I have a greater chance of sticking to the diet!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Those crackers sound fabulous! I'm always looking for new healthy snacks and these paired with the pumpkin dip would be perfect for my afternoon munching :)

    ReplyDelete

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