Wholly plant-based and whole grain, with no oils-salt-sugar-gluten-dairy
Here is a pretty dish to awaken your culinary talents and encourage more playing with our food. These simple, healthy, botanical cups can be filled with whatever you like. They're an excellent way to repurpose yesterday's chili, curry, or chunky veggie pasta sauce. In my mind, food is always more fun when it's wrapped in a bit of dough, don't you find? Floral whimsies make eye-catching, elegant appetizers but they are filling enough as an entrée.
Slender French beans are blanched to keep them bright and tooth-tender. The free-form floral cups are made from buckwheat and chickpea flours and sweet potato. Baked in a popover tin, I filled them here with a creamy, garlicy bean purée and a zesty veggie summery sauté. I outline the bean purée and vegetable sauté below, but if you use leftovers, it becomes an easy matter of just mixing up a batch of dough in your food processor, a quick 10-minute bake in the oven, and filling them as you like. Easy!
Like playing with clay, these pretty flowers are therapeutic to make and just plain fun to eat!
And here's something extra fun to do! Inspired by my floral whimsies, the Elegantly Raw Show on the JaneUnchained Network is holding a free cooking challenge through the end of the year. We'll be offering prizes for the best raw-foods interpretation. How fun is that?! Get creative, have at it, make it a party, and have fun!
Recipe for Floral Whimsies
Prep time 90 minutes (plus 90 minutes if using dried beans)
Baking time 10 minutes
1 pound fresh French beans (haricots verts), blanched
2 15-oz cans beans, no sodium, any variety, drained and rinsed or 1 cup dry beans, cooked and drained.
1 head garlic, roasted, peeled
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
½ teaspoon freshly ground chipotle chilis or to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoon aka (red) miso •, or to taste
Squirt liquid smoke
1 small bunch cilantro, well washed, crudely chopped
1/3 cup water, if needed
1 medium onion or large shallot, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
Splash of dry vermouth, white wine or no-sodium veggie broth to deglaze pan
1 baby eggplant, small dice
1 small zucchini, small dice
1 small summer squash, small dice
3 cups fresh multicolored cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup mini bell peppers, cored, dry roasted, cut in ¼” slices
2 sprigs fresh basil
A few grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon aka (red) miso •, or to taste
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup chickpea flour a.k.a. besan
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons freshly ground golden flaxseed
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon granulated or powdered onion
1 teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles
Pinch white pepper
1 tablespoon shiro (white) miso •
1 cup sweet potato from one medium-large sweet potato, any variety
• Miso is a good salt alternative that lowers heart rate and does not elevate blood pressure (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5313421/#:~:text=Miso%2C%20which%20is%20made%20from,%2C%20including%20salt%2Dsensitive%20hypertension).
A food processor
Rolling pin or dowel
Spray water bottle
30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 425°F/205°C
Blanch the Beans
Wash French beans. Heat a pot of water to a rapid boil. Submerge the beans all at once and cook for 4-6 minutes, testing frequently by cutting off a piece and tasting. As soon as they become tender but are still crisp, remove them immediately, drain, and plunge in a large bowl filled with ice water to halt cooking and to brighten their color. Do not overcook or you will have droopy beans that will not stand up in the cups. When cool, drain, set aside.
Roast the Peppers
To dry roast the mini bell peppers, place the whole but cored peppers on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in a 375°F/190°C oven for 10-15 minutes or until they have collapsed and begun to darken on their edges. Slice and set aside for the veggie sauté.
To roast garlic head, peel off the outer, loose papery skins, place head in an oven, preheated to 400°F/204°C oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Cool and peel cloves.
To reconstitute dried beans, rinse and boil in ample water 5 minutes, then turn off heat, cover and steep for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until all beans have rehydrated and sunk. Drain and refill water, toss in a few sprigs of rosemary or sage and a couple of peeled garlic cloves. Simmer until tender but intact ~ usually 20-30 minutes, depending on the age of your beans. Drain.
If using canned beans, simply drain and rinse. Toss beans and the rest of the purée ingredients in a food processor and run until smooth. Taste to correct seasonings. Set aside.
Hint! The leftover bean purée is delightful in burritos and over nachos.
Heat a skillet over a medium flame for 3 minutes. Dry sauté the onion or shallot for a minute or two, until they release their liquid and begin to caramelize and darken the pan. Deglaze the pan with your liquid of choice.
Add the thyme and garlic, stirring, and cook for a minute.
Throw in your eggplant, squashes, lower the flame and cover, cooking for about 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Now add the tomatoes and sliced peppers. Cover and continue to simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the heat, uncover, add the miso while the sauté is piping hot, stirring well to dissolve and disperse it throughout the sauté. Throw in the basil, stir it around. Taste and correct seasonings, as needed.
Hint! The leftover veggie sauté makes a delicious sauce for pasta or polenta.
Cook the Sweet Potato
Wash the sweet potato and cook right before adding to the dough while still hot, as the steam from the sweet potato hydrates the dough and makes it pliant to work with and tender to eat. Microwave for 5-6 minutes on high until quite soft. Alternatively, bake in a 400°F/204°C oven for about 45 minutes or until a knife penetrates easily. Scrape the flesh from the skin, measure 1 cup and immediately add to the food processor with whimsy dough ingredients while it is still steaming.
Combine all dry dough ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the hot sweet potato and miso. Run for about 2 minutes. The dough should gather into a very, pliant ball.. Adjust with a bit more buckwheat flour or sweet potato if too wet or dry.
Divide your dough into 8 portions. Remove one piece, keeping the others tightly wrapped in plastic to prevent drying out or cooling.
Hint! The whimsy dough is best used now, while it is still warm. Once it cools, it will begin to solidify and become difficult to roll and crumbly.
On a board, sprinkled lightly with buckwheat flour, roll out one piece of dough thinly into a circle about 1/8” thick. If the dough begins to adhere to the board, lift, sprinkle a bit more flour, flip dough and continue rolling until uniform in shape and thickness.
Transfer to the popover baking tin, gathering the dough together to center it over and into its cavity. Lightly press the dough flat into the tin’s bottom. If you do not, you may end up with a rounded base that might topple over. Artfully fold the dough arranging it around the cavity opening to resemble an open flower. Spritz the dough lightly with water to prevent premature drying and cover with a clean dish towel.
Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Bake for about 10 minutes (check at 5). The dough cooks quickly. Remove when it is golden and beginning to darken on its edges.
Cool on a rack fully before removing from their tins. They should come out easily.
Filling the Flowers
Fill in each cup some of the veggie sauté that reaches the bottom of the whimsy cups more easily. Then spoon in bean purée until the cups are three-quarters full.
Top it with a layer of veggie sauté.
Take a small bunch of your French beans and push them into the filling, arranging them to stand at roughly the same height and filling the cup. If need be, cut the bottoms of the beans so they are of uniform height.
Serve the floral whimsies warm, as an appetizer. For a fuller course, serve 2-3 atop a bed of raw baby salad greens, unadorned or lightly dressed with your favorite plant-based, oil-free dressing.
Alternatively, surround the whimsies with your veggie sauté, and encourage your guests to scoop up the sauté with "petals" of the floral whimsy cups.