While a reflective mindset should be a daily practice, it becomes ever more manifest as another year draws to a close. We look back and appreciate what has been accomplished, the foolish mistakes made, set goals for what is to come, and prepare for change and growth.
In 2013, I pledged to have “less inspiration, more self-creation,” with the intention to be more focused on developing a personal style and portfolio instead of looking at other artists, researching their works and striving to attain their successful levels of skill. I did create several original works and was pleased with them, such as the Durian Bubble Bombe Alaska. I find my style to be fresh, high raw and minimal, although one might also say traditional. On the “self-creation” side, I would say I have upheld that motto. No doubt undergoing the course Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine by Matthew Kenney Cuisine has further developed kitchen skills, knowledge and techniques. In fact, I daresay this intensive course was more interesting than any of the university courses I had been through!
One thing I would change in 2015 is the time spent on social media, particularly Instagram. Instagram and the phone had nearly ruined my blog, until I pushed myself to restart writing again and then the solace and therapy of writing kicked in to reform the old habit. I realized the back end of the blog/site was not strong, and perhaps I was being too “noisy” on Instagram. I need to erase the old photos as a form of curated amnesia. For 2015, the motto to live by will be focus, stay humble, simplify, reach out.
Since we are on the topic of reflections and looking-backs, I decided to revisit and improve on two basic but favorite recipes: Borscht and Sprouted Hummus, both made raw and vegan.
The first time I made raw Borscht which was more than a year ago, I had roasted the beets, then blended it with avocado and water. It was, well, drinkable, but it lacked refinery and had a chafing texture and flat taste. This time I collected the juice of beetroots, carrot and celery first, before blending it to velvety smoothness with ripe avocado chunks. Beet juice on its own would be too dimensional; carrots add sweetness and celery a natural saltiness. You could make a huge mason jar of Borscht and store it in the refrigerator; it is so paradoxically comforting and invigorating to have this chilled cream glide down your throat in the morning or after a day’s hard work.
Borscht is a soup of Ukrainian origin and is beloved broadly throughout Eastern Europe. In most countries, beets are the star ingredient of the dish that gives it its sanguine reddish-purple glow. In some countries, tomato or potato may occur as the main ingredient, while beets act as a secondary ingredient or even omitted, such as the Polish white borscht Bialy Barszcz. Color, ingredient and regionalism aside, in its multifarious forms Borscht is meant to be hearty stuff, as a source of sustenance for its people and as a cultural signifier. A dollop of sour cream often balances precariously above the soup. A native Ukrainian once emphasized the primacy of tanginess. “All authentic borshch recipes must have pickled beets,” he said. “That’s what gives it the sour touch, and if a borscht is not sour, it is not true Ukrainian borshch.” I might have – God forbid – put in hummus in my blasphemous version, but this is modernist cuisine. I did not have time to whip up a vegan sour cream, so hummus will do!
Now we travel from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, land of the Levant, where another fight of epicurean nature occurs – over hummus. Both Lebanon and Israel claim to have invented the creamy chickpea dip. That aside, the interest here is not so much politics but the science and whys of sprouted hummus over regular hummus.
Germination and sprouting are simple and economical methods to improve the nutritive value of legumes by causing desirable changes in the nutrient availability. During germination, extensive breakdown of seed-storage compounds and synthesis of structural proteins and other cell components take place. It is known that germination improves the nutritional quality of legumes not only by the reduction of anti-nutritive compounds, but by increasing the levels of free amino acids, available carbohydrates and dietary fiber. The subsequent increase in bioactive compounds make sprouted legumes more functional for human consumption. These are some of the primary research I gathered:
Sprouting reduces phytic acid (anti-nutrient) content. Research investigating sprouted chickpeas has shown that germination time up to 48 hours significantly reduced the phytic acid content from 1.01% to 0.6%. Interestingly, the authors also noted that beyond 48 hours phytic acid increased significantly reaching the maximum value of 0.9 % after 120 hours. Nevertheless, this is still significantly lower than control (1.01%). From this it can be gathered the optimum period for sprouted chickpeas, with minimum phytic acid is 48 hours.
Sprouting increases digestibility and antioxidant level. Another study investigated the ability of germination to increase the nutritional quality of chickpea in terms of protein digestibility and ascorbic acid level. It was reported that germinated chickpea flours compared favorably to casein as a control, and a significant increase in ascorbic acid was observed during germination.
One of these bioactive compounds are polyphenols protect cell membranes against the free radical damage induced and also reduce LDL aggregation in the human body. Epidemiological studies show that the consumption of food with high phenolic content is correlated with reduced cardiovascular, inflammation, cancer mortality.
To make sprouted hummus, you need to prepare two or three days in advance to let the sprouts grow. I had made sprouted lentil hummus before but not chickpea hummus. The issue with sprouted lentils is their tiny skins that is hard to remove, giving the hummus a rough feel. Chickpeas being larger in size, their skins are easier to remove and the preferred – as well more more authentic – choice for making hummus.
When I was making this, I got scared off by the funky smell at the end of the sprouting despite the multiple rinsing so I blanched them in boiling water for 1 minute to avoid food poisoning. Better safe than sorry!
- 1⅓ cup beet juice (from 2 medium beets)
- ½ cup carrot juice (from 2 medium carrots)
- ½ cup celery juice (from 4 stalks celery)
- 1 small ripe avocado, roughly chopped
- 1 cup sprouted chickpeas (from ½ cup raw chickpeas)
- 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sweet paprika
- Juice the beetroots, carrots and celery. Place the vegetable juices in a blender along with the avocado. Blend on high until very smooth. Transfer out into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator to chill and let the flavors mingle. Store for at most 2 days in the refrigerator. Best enjoyed chilled.
- Soak raw chickpeas in a bowl of water overnight (at least 10-12 hours). Ensure the beans are covered by 1 inch water. The next day, drain and rinse the beans until the water runs clear. Let them sprout for 2-3 days at room temperature using a sprouting jar or sieve method. Rinse and drain the chickpeas at least two to three times a day. This is essential for sanitation and to prevent the beans from drying out. After a day, you should be able to see small sprouts. Once the sprouts have are at the desired length, remove the skins, then rinse and drain the sprouts one last time, making sure they are completely dry before storing in a container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Optional step if you are concerned about food safety: blanch the sprouts in hot water for 1 minute before storing.
- Blend ingredients in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed. Transfer the hummus to a container, cover and refrigerate for up to a week. To serve, place hummus in a shallow bowl. Draw the back of a tablespoon down the middle of the hummus to form a shallow depression. Add a few teaspoons of oil to the depression and a dash of sweet paprika serve with crudites, crackers, or even soup.
Cacao Borscht: add 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
Berry Borscht: add 1 tablespoon acai powder
Aljazeera America (2014). How borscht crosses the border between Ukraine and Russia.
Food Chemistry (2007). Influence of germination techniques on phytic acid and polyphenols content of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) sprouts. Khattak et al.
Iran J Pharm Res (2012). The effect of germination on phenolic content and antioxidant activity of chickpea. Tarzi et al.