I first got involved with Slow Food when I met Alice Waters in Chicago, at a lecture about Slow Food. She is one of my idols as far as chefs go. Slow Food really resonated with me because I see how we are a fast food nation. No one seems to cook anymore, and that makes me sad. I want to get people back into their kitchens, eating together with their families and friends. The basis of my business is teaching people to live a life that promotes a healthy longevity. I came to cooking after managing restaurants throughout the Midwest for more than 30 years, I was hired by a company where the owner was a vegan who wanted to improve the food being prepared for employees. It was a breakthrough for me: finally I was going to get the chance to put into practice my ideas of cooking with seasonal, high-quality and exclusively plant-based ingredients.
I joined the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance last year and participated in the “Cook Up a Better Future with Meatless Monday” campaign. My cooking style is whole-food and plant-based with no added salt, oil or sugar. My nutrition standards are based on scientific evidence. I usually write my recipes first, then cook them, make revisions, and finally create a simpler version that I can sell to my clients, or teach them how to make. The main components in this recipe are the squash, the Sea Islands Red Peas and the Benne seeds, and the latter two are products on the Ark of Taste. Sea Islands Red Peas developed into an important feature in Creole cooking, while Benne seeds are an heirloom variety of sesame seed popular in the South, with a slightly sweeter, more pronounced flavor than regular un-hulled sesame seeds. The sweetness of the squash, paired with the earthiness of the red peas is tied together seamlessly with a luscious, sweet and spicy curry sauce.
Roasted Delicata Squash with Sea Island Red Peas, Haricot Verts, Benne Seeds and Spicy Curry Emulsion
- 2 Delicata squash (or an equivalent cream-coloured winter squash), unpeeled, cut into 16, 1-inch thick rings, seeds and pulp removed
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos (or, if not applicable, soy sauce)
- 1 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground star anise
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups Sea Island Red Peas
- 4 cloves garlic
- Sodium-free vegetable stock
- 32 haricot verts, steamed until al dente
- 4 chives, steamed
- ½ cup fresh pea shoots
- 1 ½ cup sodium-free vegetable stock
- ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons blood orange vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 3 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon togarashi (if you cannot find togarashi, you can make your own, recipe below)
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 4 tablespoon lightly toasted benne seeds, divided
- ½ cup of the cooked red peas
- ½ cup of the aquafaba from the red peas
- 2 Medjool dates (a large, sweet, and succulent from Morocco), pitted
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, chives or other fresh herbs
To prepare the squash:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the water, Bragg’s, cinnamon, star anise, nutritional yeast and a few grinds of black pepper. Add the squash and toss until thoroughly coated. Place the squash in a single layer on a Silpat-lined or non-stick baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, turning them over after 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To prepare the peas:
Place the peas in a medium saucepan with the whole garlic cloves, and cover with the stock. Bring to a simmer and slowly cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes or until the peas are tender.
To prepare the haricot verts:
After steaming, make four bundles of 8 beans, each one tied with a steamed chive.
To make the curry emulsion:
Place the vegetable stock, orange juice, vinegar, curry powder, paprika, turmeric, and togarashi in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and whisk to mix. Pour into a high-speed blender along with the cashews, 2 tablespoons of the benne seeds, ½ cup of the cooked red peas, the ½ cup of aquafaba, and the dates. Blend on high until hot and frothy.
Place a 4-inch long mound of the cooked red peas in the center of each plate. Lean 4 squash rounds on each other in a row on top of the peas. Place a bundle of haricots verts against the squash and scatter some of the pea shoots around the plate. Finish by spooning the frothed curry emulsion over the squash and peas, and sprinkle with the remaining toasted benne seeds and the fresh herbs.
Togarashi is a traditional Japanese spice blend. Here is how to make a salt-free version:
- 1 teaspoon lightly toasted benne seeds
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon ground bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon Szechuan pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
Using a mini food processor or spice grinder, grind all ingredients until finely ground. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.