Thursday, October 23, 2014

Everything Halva

If you've eaten more traditional halva, this version will likely be a bit different for you.
It's sort of like a power bar, chock full of nuts and protein. Compared to what it could be, this "everything" halva is not too sweet- the sugar comes from a small handful of dates and a bit of honey.

Though I do like picking up halva on occasion at the store, I find I'm usually somewhat disappointed at how overly sweet it is. I guess I'm always surprised and don't remember it being quite so tooth-achingly saccharine.

Nut-based halva is usually made of ground nuts and seeds mixed with lots of sugar syrup.

It's not the case with this version here.
And besides, with all that's in it, I think this halva tastes better and is much more interesting to eat than what I can buy at the store.
Plus, if using appropriate oats, it's free from gluten in addition to eggs and milk if those are allergens you watch for.
Though caution- there are nuts.

Though not completely necessary, goji berries add a nice pop of color, along with some different texture and flavor.
(I always think it's quite strange that as berries they taste like graham crackers- well, they do to me, anyway.)

Everything halva is a nice sit-down treat with black coffee or tea, or great as a pick-me-up on it's own when you need a little something for a snack.

I like to slice into little fingers, perhaps 36-42 per batch.

Everything Halva
Adapted from The Vibrant Table by Anya Kassoff

6 large medjool dates, pits removed and flesh soaked in water for 1 hour
1 c (150 g) raw hazelnuts
1 c (120 g) raw walnuts
1 c (130 g) raw cashews
1/2 c (56 g) raw pecans
3/4 c (75 g) rolled oats
1/2 c (75 g) roasted sunflower seeds
1 T (15 ml) coconut oil
1/4 c (60 ml) tahini
a pinch of salt
1/4 c plus 1 T (75 ml) honey
1/4 c (38 g) sesame seeds
1/4 c (44 g) chia seeds
1/4 c (38 g) hemp hearts
1/2 c (66 g) pumpkin seeds
1/2 c (70 g) roasted and salted pistachios
1/2 c (55 g) goji berries (optional)

Soak the dates in a bowl of water 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
Prepare a small pan with sides (8x8 inch, 9x9 inch... I like an 11x7) with a layer of parchment paper that extends up the sides of the pan. 

Place the hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, and pecans on a baking sheet, making sure that the hazelnuts take up a section by themselves to facilitate removal of the skin after toasting.
Toast the nuts about 10 minutes, then remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the nuts to cool completely. Rub the hazelnuts between two layers of a towel to remove the skins, trying to keep those bits as separate as possible from the other nuts (though skin really won't hurt anything). 

Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times so that they are mostly broken down. Remove the ground oats to a large bowl. 
Pour all the nuts into the food processor along with the sunflower seeds and process until they resemble chunky breadcrumbs. Drain the dates and add them to the nut mixture with the coconut oil, tahini, and salt. Process the mixture well, until it is combined and smooth as possible. 

Pour the contents of the food processor into the large bowl containing the ground oats. Add the honey, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, and goji berries. 
Knead everything with your hands until everything is well-combined and the mixture is relatively homogenous. The mixture will be sticky and should hold together if your take a bit and compress it in your fist. 

Turn the mixture out into the parchment-lined pan and press it tightly into a single layer. 
Freeze the halva in the pan 1 hour. 
Remove the pan from the freezer and lift the parchment paper and halva from the pan. 
Slice the halva into serving-sized bars using a large sharp knife. 

Halva can be refrigerated 3 weeks stored in an airtight container. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A One-Dish Meal for Fall

This is on of those fairly easy throw-together meals, potentially put together ahead of time and layered in a single dish.
Just toss together a salad, perhaps offer fresh cranberry sauce, and open up some cider for a warm and homey fall dinner.
Maybe pull out some grainy mustard, too...

In this instance, since I've made the dish in an open pan and everything is cooked at a high heat, the sausages are roasted.

If you would like them instead braised, just bury them under everything else. That or cook the meal in a covered pot, such as a Dutch oven, to keep all that moisture completely contained.

There's a hint of maple syrup included. If you're not a maple fan, you're more than welcome to exclude it, but it only adds a hint of sweetness to the juices of the finished dish.
And if you're one who happens to love a maple-y flavor, add a bit more.

Sausage with Apples and Butternut Squash
serves 6 or more 

3 lb. (1.36 kg) butternut squash
1 t (5 g) salt
several good grinds fresh black pepper
3-4 apples (I prefer Honeycrisp or Braeburn)
3/4 t (scant 1 g) dried thyme
1/2 t (2 g) cinnamon
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
1 T (15 ml) good maple syrup
1 large yellow onion 
8-10 bratwurst

Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
Halve and peel the squash. Scoop out the seeds and cut the squash into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces. 
Place the squash in a 9x13 inch (or so) pan with sides (or a Dutch oven). Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper.
Peel the apples and cut into eight slices, then cut each slice in half so that the apple pieces are roughly the size of the pieces of squash. Scatter the apples over the squash, sprinkle with the dried thyme and dust with the cinnamon. 
In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil and maple syrup. Drizzle the mixture over the top of everything. 
Cut the onion in half, pole to pole, and slice into 1 cm thick half moons. Layer pieces of onion over the apples. 
If a teetering pile, carefully place the sausages on top of everything (things will cook down a bit and slump). 
Place the dish in the oven and bake 35-40 minutes, or until the squash and sausages are fully cooked.