I have been a bit homesick in the last few weeks. Maybe it was thinking about all the fun my cousins and brothers had over the holiday and missing the time spent together in 2015. Maybe it was missing my NYC friends and that community I had. Maybe it was missing the streets of NYC and my old apartment after seeing the building I lived in for 11 years in a scene in Mozart in the Jungle. On top of that, it was cold and I wanted to stay under the covers. Whatever it was, I wanted something comforting. But this whole food challenge does force me to think about how I can achieve comfort without relapsing into my old food habits. So I had to think about how I could make something that was tasty and veggieful with protein that could satisfy my craving and my body at the same time. And so a tasty snack and appetizer was born: Dairy and gluten-free butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potato patties with an avocado, zucchini and cashew aioli.
I felt the need for comfort when I woke up Monday morning. Monday the 11th of January. My world was a bit rocked, as were the worlds of many others, by the untimely death of David Bowie. He provided to the world with his art and has had a significant impact on my life. Aside from an accomplished groundbreaking musician, he was a man who was a great father, a voracious reader, a man that helped to tear down walls, a fashion icon, a progressive genre bending chameleon that, until the day he died, wanted to give to the world with his music and art. He taught me to reinvent myself over and over again. He taught me it was OK not to fit in. He taught me it was OK to explore and be yourself, whoever yourself was at that moment. And it doesn’t matter who you were last year, last month or last minute. Be whoever you are now.
I re-invented my image so many times that I’m in denial that I was originally an overweight Korean woman. -David Bowie
Like everything in life, we have to explore our bodies and its relationship to food to discover what our body wants or needs in the moment. I have contemplated the subject and have some answers when I try to analyze a craving, but food can be an addiction and may have a stronger hold on us than chemical nourishment for the cells of our body.
I can exhibit self-disciple and not give into my craving for the most part, but sometimes that craving does not go away. Sometimes I really want to satisfy that craving… but I try to do it with something healthier so I don’t give in and relapse into emotional eating. Substituting french fries with water or an apple won’t work for me, but substituting it with baked turnip fries or a baked sweet potato often does. Often that healthier food helps me break that addiction and replace it with a much better-for-you food. Knowing my cravings can be satisfied by something exquisitely tasty yet much healthier created at home usually helps me maintain my willpower.
I was craving a nice flavorful sauce and something I could bite into. Fried foods and an aioli were on every menu when I was out and about. I found myself jonsing, really wanting to just order it…but managed to keep my mouth shut when the waiter came around asking if we were OK or if we needed anything else. As soon as we got home, I was in the kitchen.
Aioli is essentially a garlic mayonnaise. As I was looking at the squash on my counter top and thinking about how I could make it different, I thought about the starchiness of zucchini. I use zucchini as a base in my chickpea-free hummus, why not an aioli? Cashews to make it creamy and avocado to add the fat that egg yolks would add to a normal mayo. The key to an aioli is flavor which is provided through the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and coconut vinegar for acid, salt and a bit of mustard. But it is important to find a good, whole ingredient, sugar-free mustard – and yes it is possible
The aioli was simple to make – all those ingredients, plus some water in a food processor or vitamix and blend for a few minutes until smooth. And….
But it is not eaten alone. I wanted it with….of course fries of some sort came to mind. But I was tired of breading and baking veggies – from green beans to zucchini to portabella mushroom to sweet potatoes to turnips. They can be a great substitute, but like good old french fries, can be easy to eat unconsciously and too many of.
I wanted something different. Looking at the butternut squash, I thought about the fact that I puree it, chop it, roast it and stuff it but I have never shredded it. I have made zucchini patties and sweet potato patties but never one with butternut squash, much less all three. It is so simple – quarter a butternut squash and chopped the skin off before running it through the grating blade on a food processor. Mix it with zucchini and sweet potato shreds, shredded the same way.
I left the skin on the white sweet potato and zucchini and shredded them, but you can peel them if you prefer. If you don’t have a food processor with a blade for grating, you can grate by hand, but the butternut squash will be work by hand.
Then added two eggs, beaten in a bowl, along with garlic, salt, pepper and tapioca flour. Tapioca flour provides a nice glue.
Since the aioli is very flavorful, I kept the flavor profile of the patties simple. They are easy to cook – place a small amount in a pan over medium heat with some ghee and cook for 2-3 min on either side until golden brown. It will stick together when one side is cooked.
Once all the patties were cooked, place them on a tray with parchment in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 min to cook the inside and crisp up the top.
And then topped them with aioli.
Yes – something to bite into that is not a fry but still hits the spot and fulfills my craving. The need for something comforting through food was satisfied. I have made these as small bites for parties, as appetizers before brunch or dinner, as a snack for my office. Once cooked they stay keep in the fridge for a few days and can easily be reheated in the oven without drying out even after cooking (or in the microwave but they will be soggy).
David Bowie was not a man often associated with food and aside from the pictures above, I am not sure if he was pictured with food often (or ever again). But he was a man who expressed himself, created art and encouraged others to do so. He encouraged us to reinvent ourselves and be strange. Food is my art. I create in the kitchen. And whole food vegetarian restricted recipes can be wildly tasty and exquisite. When people make a face, call me crazy or say I don’t enjoy food when I tell them the restrictions I challenge myself to embrace, I do not shy away or criticize their diets or lack of imagination with food. I tell them to eat my art and let the creation speak for itself.
And it usually opens minds. Be strange. Be different. Be healthy. Be yourself.
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie
Zucchini, Avocado Cashew Aioli
- 1 small zucchini, chopped (skin on or off, your choice)
- 1/2 cup cashews soaked for 3 hours to overnight in water, drained
- 1 ripe avocado
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- lemon rind zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 2 tsp coconut vinegar (apple cider or white whine vinegar is fine)
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
Butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potato patties
- 2 cups butternut squash, shredded
- 1 small zucchini, shredded
- 1 small sweet potato, shredded
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 cup tapioca flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- coconut oil or ghee for cooking
Turn on oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a pan on medium heat. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl so all is coated and mixed. Place a small amount of oil to the pan and when melted add a small of amount of the coated shreds. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it holds together and golden brown. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. Place onto a tray for baking. When all the patties are cooked place in the oven for 10 minutes until golden and sizzling.