Purslane

Local farmers’ markets are in full swing here in Boston and I couldn’t be happier. Every year the farmers bring new and interesting produce to the market giving adventurous eaters plenty of great things to try.

Purslane

Purslane

Purslane has turned up in my local markets (Central Square and Davis Square), and I love it. In America we’ve treated purslane (also known as Portulaca) as a weed. Other cultures have recognized it as a remarkably healthy vegetable that just happens to grow like a weed!

Purslane is loaded with all of the nutrients you expect to find in a leafy green vegetable: vitamin A is present in large quantities, as well as vitamin C and multiple B vitamins. It contains a decent amount of minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

The truly exciting nutrient in purslane is Omega 3 fatty acids. Purslane has a large serving of ALA, which is usually found only in fish, flax, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

So, how do you prepare it? What does it taste like?

Like most foods that contain omega 3s, heat is the enemy. Purslane is delicious raw, either as a stand-alone salad or mixed in with other salad greens. It has a nutty/lemony flavor with a great crunch when you have it raw.

It’s also nice quickly stir-fried. It’s great stirred in to scrambled eggs. Saute an onion first, then briefly saute the purslane before adding your scrambled eggs to the pan. Serve with salsa and maybe corn tortillas.

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are relatively new on the health food market, and I’ve been experimenting with them in a lot of my baked goods. They are a complete protein, and are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They also have a decent amount of vitamins and minerals. They also pack a good amount of fiber, too. Click here for the nutrition data breakdown.

Chia seeds have a unique ability to absorb large amounts of liquids, opening interesting possibilities for consumption. They become thick and gelatinous when soaked in liquid, and can be consumed as a beverage (a chunky beverage, which is better than it sounds), or made into a nutrious gel that you can eat with a spoon. I have been using ground chia seeds in all of my gluten-free baking because they help things stick together.

It’s a nice travel food for those with food sensitivities–easy to pack, and when mixed with any liquid it becomes a nourishing and filling food source. I’ve been seeing juices on the market with chia seeds floating in them–just make your own by adding some to your favorite juice.

One of the tastiest ways I’ve been enjoying them is as a pudding. It’s easy and fast, involves no cooking (and few dishes), and is open to infinite variables. I don’t have a picture of it for you, though, but at the request of my patients I wanted to get the recipe up (and maybe I’ll add a picture later). It’s a bit like tapioca pudding, but it’s healthy instead of starchy.

I enjoy it both as a post dinner snack (it’s a great ice cream substitute). Depending on how much sweetener (and what type) you use, it can be a nice breakfast too (maybe with some granola or nuts stirred in).

It’s hard to call this a recipe, it’s really a ratio: 1/2 cup chia seeds to roughly 2-3 cups of liquid. I used coconut milk the last time I made it, but you can use any tasty, creamy base that you like.

The infinite variety come in with how you choose to flavor the liquid. Vanilla or almond extract? Chocolate? Warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves? All are nice, so it’s up to you. If you are using whole spices like cinnamon stick, cardamom pods or cloves, you’ll get a richer flavor if you gently heat the base for a few minutes, and then leave the spices to steep (and then remove before you add the chia seeds).

Here is a rough sketch for a vanilla pudding and a chocolate:

Chia Seed Pudding

1/2 cp Chia seeds
2-3 cups coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk or whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
2-4 tbsp of your favorite sweetner (I use 1/2 palm sugar, 1/2 maple syrup)

Combine all ingredients and stir with a wire whisk. Let chia seeds soak for at least 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to prevent clumping. Start with less liquid, adding more to achieve your desired consistency. You can also add more chia seeds if it’s too liquid-y

It’s ready to eat as is, or you can chill it for a while.

To make this chocolate, add 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, and maybe use the larger amount of sugar.

Taste for sweetner, add a bit more if you need it.

A quick-and-dirty chocolate chia pudding can be had by mixing your chia seeds into chocolate soy milk (or whatever chocolate milk makes you happy).

Montreal and a quick egg recipe

Every few years my husband and I trek to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival has changed a lot since our first trip their. On this trip we realized that instead of going to mostly listen to music, we were going to mostly enjoy some favorite things about Montreal, and then listen to a little al fresco music in the evening. It was one of our best trips yet.

Community garden in Montreal

We rented a small apartment near the Atwater market and the Lachine Canal, two of the highlights of our trip. The lovely community garden pictured above was next to the apartment, and it was pure joy to walk past it several times a day and see gardeners tending their tidy plots.

Farm stand at Atwater Market

The Atwater Market was a delight for me–a permanent farmer’s market with a wide variety of small local vendors. Quebec is a bit behind Boston in their season, so they still had strawberries and asparagus. Both were delicious and so simple to enjoy in our our little kitchen. We also bought some delicious local goat and sheep’s milk cheese, some maple syrup and La Messagere, a wonderful Quebec-made gluten-free beer.

The Lachine Canal (with access conveniently located right behind the market) is an amazing urban park, perfect for biking. It was originally built as an industrial canal, and spurred development in that parts of Montreal that it traversed. Biking along it is fascinating–a range of historic stone buildings, modern buildings and infrastructure, crumbling factories, and luxury condos line the path. There’s even one section that travels parallel (and within a visible, but safely distant) section of a major highway. Despite all of this human-made scenery, sections of it are lush with greenery and overall it was a peaceful ride.

Our bike journeys were made possible by the BIXI bike share program that’s like the one we’re getting here in Boston. It was a great service and I’m so excited to have something similar in Boston.

Kusmi Tea store

We also found a shop dedicated to selling our favorite tea, Kusmi Tea. It’s Russian-via-Paris, expensive, decadent and totally worth every penny.

Most of our meals were simply prepared dishes with loot from the farmer’s market (like the egg, potato and asparagus recipe that follows), but I have to mention the fantastic vegetarian restaurant we visited in the Plateau neighborhood, Aux Vivres. They serve a nice variety of interesting and healthy vegetarian fare, including several gluten-free items.

I’ve found that one of the easiest and healthiest foods a vegetarian can prepare when you’re traveling is eggs.

They’re versatile–on recent trips I’ve made omlettes and fritattas, hard-boiled, scrambled and poached in spicy tomato sauce–all with minimal equipment and seasonings.
They’re healthy–the white is almost pure protein, providing slow-burning fuel. Eggs are also an important source of B vitamins for vegetarians, something in short supply in the vegetable kingdom.
They’re filling–perfect to fuel a morning or afternoon of walking around or biking (or after, to refuel for the next adventure).
They cook up fast! Perfect for a quick lunch after a morning of exploring

They’re also available everywhere, maybe one of their best features.

Taking advantage of the delicious local asparagus and some nice new potatoes, I made this “hash” for lunch after one of our bike rides. It’s so simple it’s hard to call this a “recipe.” If you can use real butter, I encourage you to do it tastes great! If butter is not you’re friend, use your favorite butter substitute.

Eggs with potato and asparagus hash

For 2

4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are, beaten
8 small, 2-3 medium or 1 large potato
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces.
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
butter
Salt, pepper
Optional additions: crumbled goat cheese (or any cheese), tabasco, avocado, chopped fresh herbs

Cut potatoes into a 1/2 inch dice. Boil until just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).
To prepare asparagus, either add to potatoes in the last minute of cooking, or parboil or steam them separately until bright green and just tender.

Heat butter in a large frying pan. Saute onion or shallots until soft. Add potatoes and allow them to gently brown in the butter (but don’t burn the butter!). Add asparagus, stir to coat with butter.

Push veggies to the side of pan, add a bit more butter and pour eggs into the empty 1/2 of the pan. Scramble until mostly cooked, then stir veggies and finish cooking the whole process should take about 5 minutes, depending on how well you like your scrambled eggs to be done). Salt and pepper to taste

Served topped with any of the optional additions you’d like.

Nice way to use Mangos

Ataulfo mangos have reappeared in the markets for the spring and I can’t get enough of them. They’re so rich and custardy and “stringless” which is a really nice thing. I always feel great joy when I eat orange things like sweet potatoes, but these mangos are an extra special joy.

I had an eyes-bigger-than-my-stomach moment at the store the other day and bought 4, all unripe, and all destined to ripen at the exact same time. I could happily eat them, just as is, but then I remembered this recipe I found over at Chef in You.

Chef in You is a healthy Indian food blog that I’ve recently discovered. I love this recipe for Amrakhand, a thick yogurt and mango lassi. I’m planning a dinner of spicy Indian food this weekend just so we can cool off with this for dessert.

You can read the original post here. I’ve simply copied and pasted the recipe below.

Amrakhand

2 cups plain yogurt (use Greek style yogurt if available)
2-3 fresh mangoes, to make about 1 cup mango pulp (you can use canned mango pulp too)
sugar to taste
1-2 tbsp chiroli nuts for garnish (optional)
few fresh slices of mangoes for garnish

Note: You can also use saffron, cardamom powder and nuts to flavor this further like Shrikhand.

Method

If using fresh mango pulp, slice the flesh of the ripe mangoes. I used sweet mangoes for this recipe.
Process mangos in a blender or food processor until smooth. You can strain the pulp to remove the string,s if any.
Make sure the yogurt you are using is thick. if not, you can tie the yogurt in a clean cotton cloth (or cheesecloth) and hang it up for an hour or so to drain off all the whey. Or if you can get your hands on Greek style Yogurt, go for it. I think its perfect for this dessert.
Whisk the yogurt in a bowl and beat it well.
Add sugar little by little and continue to whisk.
When the yogurt gets light in texture, stir in the mango pulp.
Stir it until blended and then chill it.
Serve cold garnished it with chiroli nuts and some sliced mangoes.

Teff, the super grain

I’m a big fan of the high-protein grains quinoa and amaranth. They fill me up and keep my energy steady for hours. I like to cook them together with millet to make a breakfast porridge, and also to use instead of rice in one of my stews or quickie rice/veg/egg lunches.

Teff is another high-protein grain, and one I’ve neglected for far too long. Teff is rich in minerals with a healthy dose of calcium and iron, making it ideal for women (and men, too, of course). It is also gluten-free, making it a nice addition to a gluten-free diet.

Teff flour is used to make injera, an Ethiopian flatbread that is used both as a serving dish and a utensil. If you haven’t eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared to eat with your hands.

Ethiopian feast served on injera

We like Asmara in Cambridge. Addis Red Sea in Boston is also quite good. My Ethiopian patients tell me that Fasika in Somerville is the best place.

I’ve been experimenting with both the grain and the flour this week. Since teff cooks up fairly sticky, like amaranth, I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast. For my most recent pot, I added some chopped sweet potato and cinnamon, and I’ve been reheating it with soy milk, raisins and pecans.

I tried the Bob’s Red Mill Teff Chocolate cake recipe, and while I liked it, it wasn’t chocolaty enough for my taste. I will experiment with it and post an updated version in the future. One great thing about the cake, though, is that it’s very filling (which is a good thing–it’s filling you up with high-quality protein).

One down side to adding teff to your diet is that it’s hard to find it at the store. Whole Foods in Cambridge carries teff flour, but not the grain. I order all of my grains from Bob’s Red Mill, and I think teff is definitely worth the trouble of ordering.