Of all the non-dairy milks out there, coconut milk is my favorite for so many reasons. It’s naturally sweet, yet whole coconut milk contains enough saturated fat to blunt the impact of its sugars and give it a low glycemic impact. (And one of those medium-chain saturated fats is lauric acid, which is antimicrobial and antiviral.) Its fat content also means that whole coconut milk is shelf-stable, while nut and grain milks have a much shorter lifespan. And unlike soy milk, coconut milk is not one of the top eight allergens in the country, which means more people can enjoy it.
Whole coconut milk naturally separates into coconut cream and coconut water just as unhomogenized whole dairy milk separates into cream and milk. That means you can scoop out the coconut cream and use it as cream (and use the water as water) or stir the two together to have coconut milk. If the room temperature is warm enough — say, over 78F — you can just shake the can a few times to have a smooth, homogenized milk. Alternatively, you can warm the milk until the fat melts into the water and it homogenizes.
I recently purchased a milk frother that makes lovely cold or hot foam, and I realized that I can add my separated coconut cream and coconut water to it, press the button for hot foam, and wind up with light, fluffy, and completely smooth coconut milk foam. How handy! Much easier than stirring or shaking. Now I can make a silky latte whenever I want one. Even better, I can create perfectly blended coconut milk for any beverage or main dish. But whether you have a milk frother or not, just plunk a few cans of whole coconut milk in your pantry, and you’ll have fresh, creamy milk whenever you want it!
Coconut Milk Latte
All you need is a can of whole coconut milk, your favorite brewed coffee, and if you like, a splash of vanilla extract. You can use a hand-held milk frother to create the foam, or perhaps you already have a milk frother. Or you can warm the coconut milk until it’s completely blended, then place it in a jar and shake the heck outta it.
Just pour your coffee into a pretty mug, add the vanilla, and pour the foamy milk on top. The frother I used is the Epica, which so far has been well worth the $36 I paid for it in Amazon. Cold frothing seems to make more foam with my whole dairy milk, but for the coconut milk, hot frothing is better — then the otherwise-chunky saturated fat will melt into smoothness as the frother warms it. As for the coffee, I like to cold-brew mine and then enjoy it chilled or warmed.
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Lentils, lovely lentils. Maybe I’ve had them on the brain because earlier this month the friendly Canadian Lentil Association folks were serving delicious lentil dishes at my favorite annual event (the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference), or maybe I’ve been thinking about lentils because I always have a plethora of them on hand: red, black, tan, and sometimes the green-speckled, elegant French Le Puy variety.
When I was browsing through my pantry for last night’s dinner ingredients, I thought about combining black beans and corn — a time-honored choice — but then I spotted the black beluga lentils and knew where I was going to go with this dish. That said, you can use any lentil you like except red. That’s because red lentils have been hulled and cook so quickly that they can’t hold their shape in a stir-fry scenario. Red lentils are fantastic for soups and stews, especially if you want to take advantage of their thickening effect, but when you want pleasantly firm lentils in a dish, skip the red variety in favor of any other lentil.
I also threw in lobster mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes that I reconstituted in hot water before chopping and adding to the stir-fry. Dried and plumped veggies like mushrooms and tomatoes add a flavor punch along with a slightly chewy texture, but if you prefer fresh mushrooms or tomatoes, you could sauté them along with the onions to create a full flavor base. And you don’t have to use lobster mushrooms — any kind of dried mushroom would pair well with the sweet corn and earthy lentils.
Corn & Beluga Lentil Sauté with Lobster Mushrooms
Makes 4 light lunch portions. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
1 oz. dried lobster mushrooms
1/2 to 1 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, preferably not packed in oil
1/4 cup black beluga lentils OR any other type of lentils except red lentils
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen sweet corn, preferably organic, thawed
2 tsp. thyme
Sea salt & freshly cracked peppercorns to taste
Grated Parmesan-Reggiano for garnishing (optional)
Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and the tomatoes in another small bowl. Pour boiling water over each and let soak for at least 30 minutes to plump the veggies. Drain well and chop, then set aside.
While the veggies soak, place the lentils and 1/2 cup water in a medium pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils have reached their desired tendency. Drain if necessary.
While the lentils simmer, pour a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil into a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until onions are soft and fragrant. Stir in the corn, thyme, drained and chopped mushrooms and tomatoes, and the drained lentils.
Continue to cook another 5 minutes, then salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Leftover sauté can be refrigerated for 4 days. If you like, garnish the dish with Parmesan-Reggiano for an extra kick of savoriness.
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Want pancakes that are crispy on the outside and airy on the inside? Try cooking them in ghee! You’ll get nicely browned edges and wind up with a non-messy stove since ghee doesn’t spatter and fly the way butter does. (That’s because ghee is clarified butter — the water content has evaporated and the milk solids have been left behind, leaving just the oil portion of the butter.) And because I used buckwheat, quinoa, and teff flours for these ‘cakes, they have a satisfyingly savory flavor. Buttermilk gives them a slight tang, too, which is a welcome contrast to sweet strawberries.
Buttermilk & Buckwheat Pancakes
Makes about 14 pancakes.
1 cup buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup teff flour OR brown rice OR millet flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, preferably from grass-fed cows
Ghee for cooking
Sliced strawberries OR other fruit for serving, optional (opt for organic strawberries — they are a top-sprayed crop)
Unrefined nut oil for drizzling, optional (pecan and walnut are particularly good choices)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and baking powder. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and buttermilk. Stir them into the flours until well-blended.
Melt a generous knob of ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the batter in 1/4 cupfuls, being careful not to overlap the ‘cakes. (I can cook 3 at a time in my skillet; yours might be different.) Cook for 3 minutes or until you can see tiny bubbles forming in the batter and the edges and bottoms are turning golden brown. Flip and continue to cook another 2 or 3 minutes or until both sides are golden brown. Remove to a wire rack. Continue to cook the pancakes in batches, adding more ghee to the skillet between each batch.
Serve immediately, garnishing with fruit and oil if you wish. Leftover pancakes can be refrigerated for a week. They’re best reheated in a toaster oven — then they regain their lovely crisp edges.
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When I lived in Costa Rica, my host family made a picadillo as part of my farewell dinner the night before I went on a week-long tour of the country and then came home. Their picadillo included finely chopped beef and didn’t include zucchini, but when I saw the various veggies I had on hand, I thought I would make a summer-style picadillo in the spirit of my Tico family. Feel free to add chopped cooked beef or chicken into the mix.
Likewise, although I soaked dried black beans and then simmered them until they were tender — freshly prepared beans tend to be a little creamier than canned beans — you could skip the soaking and simmering and use a can opener instead. The latter option certainly saves a lot of time! But since my original picadillo meal was prepared entirely from scratch, I thought I would do the same for this version. And if you let the beans soak all day or even overnight and a day, they’ll cook in the time it takes to cook the rice, so you don’t wind up with much more prep time.
Makes 4 servings. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
1 cup dried black beans OR 15 oz. canned black beans, drained
1 cup raw brown rice
Rendered bacon grease OR butter for cooking
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, flesh only, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
About 6 oz. marinated tomatoes (commonly found in olive bars of well-stocked grocery stores) OR 2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 T. oregano
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
Chopped cooked beef or chicken, optional, preferably from pastured animals
Whole-milk plain Greek yogurt OR sour cream for serving, preferably from grass-fed cows
Chopped avocados for serving
If you’re using dried beans, let them soak in a bowl of cold water for at least 6 hours. (You can leave them on the counter overnight, covered if you like.) Drain well and add to a medium pot. Cover with at least 2″ of water and simmer until the beans have reached their desired tenderness. It’s impossible to give an exact time for this because how quickly the beans cook depends on their age and how well they’ve been stored — older, tougher beans take longer to cook — but the beans will likely be tender in 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well.
Place the rice in a medium pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cover pot. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all of the water. You can let the rice soak in the water for at least 6 hours, too, and thereby reduce the cooking time to more like 10 or 15 minutes. Using canned beans and pre-soaking the rice makes this a very quick meal to prepare!
Melt a generous dab of bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the zucchini, pepper, and onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the veggies are soft. Stir in the remaining ingredients and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Stir in the cooked and drained beans and the cooked rice. If using chicken or beef, stir that in as well.
Heat through for 2 or 3 more minutes and serve immediately, garnishing with with Greek yogurt/sour cream and avocado if you like. Leftover picadillo can be refrigerated for 4 days. This dish freezes well, too, if you’d like to make extra and have your own frozen meals ready to go.
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Tags: avocado, beef, black beans, brown rice, chicken, chili powder, costa rica, cumin, dried beans, garlic, greek yogurt, Latin American cuisine, marinated tomatoes, onion, oregano, picadillo, red bell pepper, sour cream, tomatoes, zucchini
In the search for sustainable and affordable seafood, too many folks head right to the fresh fish counter. Sure, a beautiful sockeye filet is beguiling, but you might not be able to fit it in the shopping budget every week. (And fresh salmon is highly seasonal.) Enter the canned/tinned/ jarred seafood section! We’ve come a long way since tuna fish. Canned tuna is still a great option, but so is canned salmon — including that gorgeous sockeye — and canned crab and smoked tinned trout. Or how about tinned sardines or anchovies or kippers? You can even find octopus occasionally, or perhaps eel. All of those options are welcome additions to simple meals, from stews to pasta dishes to scrambled eggs. And since they’re shelf-stable, you can tuck away a few strategic cans or tins and always have tasty seafood waiting for you in the pantry.
For this quick dish, I used tinned anchovies. Note that these are NOT the ultra-salted variety used to make paste or packed with salt and added whole to pizzas. No, I’m talking about anchovies that are treated much like tuna and are packaged with (preferably extra-virgin) olive oil with minimal salt. These anchovies taste much more like freshly caught anchovies, which in turn taste the way most fish does: mild and buttery rather than fishy and salty.
My all-time favorite is Wild Planet, which packs their wild-caught anchovies in spring water. Their white anchovies are the closest I’ve found to the freshly caught anchovies I’ve had in Spain. Delicious! And sustainable, inexpensive, and a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. (Even more so if you pair them with butter and eggs from pastured animals.) Win-win-win.
Anchovies with Basil & Eggs
Makes breakfast for 4 or a light lunch for 4. Feel free to double the recipe.
Melt a generous knob of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in 1 small sliced onion and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and slightly golden brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in 4 lightly beaten eggs, about 3 ounces of tinned anchovies, and a handful of thinly sliced fresh basil leaves.
Cook, gently stirring often to cook the eggs evenly, for 3 minutes or until eggs are fluffy and opaque. Serve immediately. See what I mean about simple?
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One of the beauties of this buttery sable-style cake is that you can change your fruit topping according to the seasons and what strikes your fancy. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, and berries would all pair with the almond flour and would all look gorgeous arranged in neat rows on top of the batter. Adding whole slices of fresh fruit gives the cake plenty of natural sweetness, too, so you don’t need much sweetener in the batter — I used just 1/4 cup of palm sugar for the entire cake, which means that each serving has a little over 1 teaspoon of palm sugar. (A typical cake recipe for this size cake would have three times that much, and the sugar would probably be refined white sugar.)
If you’d like to enjoy this cake for breakfast, serve it with a dollop of plain whole-milk Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of cinnamon; if you’d like it for dessert, top it with freshly whipped cream. Either way, you’ll add lush richness and simultaneously decrease the glycemic impact. (Which is already low thanks to the almond and buckwheat flours and the absence of white sugar.) It’s true — what tastes the best is also the best for you!
Apple Almond Cake
Makes an 8″x 8″ pan.
2 medium firm apples such as Pink Lady or Braeburn, preferably organic
1/2 cup buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup palm sugar OR sucanat
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 stick butter at room temperature, preferably from grass-fed cows
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, preferably from pastured hens
2 T. whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt or freshly whipped cream for serving, optional
Cinnamon for garnishing, optional
Preheat the oven to 350F and thoroughly grease an 8″x 8″ glass pan. (I save my butter wrappers to use for greasing pans.) Thinly slice the apples and place the slices in a bowl of cold water. Add a squirt of fresh lemon juice to prevent the slices from browning while you’re preparing the rest of the cake.
Place the buckwheat flour, almonds, palm sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and twirl until you have fine crumbs. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the vanilla for at least a minute — you want the butter to be light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then beat in the milk. Finish beating in the remainder of the flour mixture.
Scoop the batter into the greased pan and arrange the apple slices on the top in rows. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is turning a light golden brown. Let cool on wire rack. If you like, serve with the yogurt/cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Leftover cake can be refrigerated for a week. Assuming 9 squares per pan, that’s over a week’s worth of breakfasts. So much better than sugary cereal! And remember, you can keep swapping out the fruit topping — figure on 3/4 pound to 1 pound of fruit.
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When most people make chicken salad, they mix the chicken with this: WATER, SOYBEAN OIL, MODIFIED STARCH (CORN, POTATO), EGGS, SUGAR, SALT, VINEGAR, LEMON JUICE, SORBIC ACID AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY), NATURAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN E. That’s the ingredient label from Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise. Or maybe you opt for Miracle Whip, in which case you’ll have to figure out the ingredients list yourself — it’s virtually impossible to find online.
But here’s a thought! How about using two simple ingredients? Crème fraîche is cultured cream — that’s cream with probiotic cultures. And extra-virgin olive oil is extra-virgin olive oil. (Assuming you use a good-quality brand like California Olive Ranch. Not all olive oils are created equal!) Even if you count the cultures as a stand-alone ingredient, you’re tossing the chicken with just three ingredients. That’s a lot more straightforward than 12 ingredients, especially considering that two out of those 12 don’t make any sense to home cooks who aren’t food scientists. Calcium disodium EDTA? Natural flavors? Crème fraîche and extra-virgin olive oil are a lot more relevant — we could make those ourselves by letting cream naturally sour or by pressing some pitted olives.
So here’s to DIY chicken salad tossed with simple ingredients that also happen to be lush and creamy! And we haven’t even started talking about the bacon…
Herbed Chicken Salad with Bacon & Crème Fraîche
Makes 2 servings. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
Double handful green beans, trimmed and rinsed
1/2 lb. cooked chopped chicken, preferably pastured chicken
1/4 lb. cooked chopped bacon*, preferably from pastured hogs (try Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon — divine!)
Generous spoonful of crème fraîche
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dill
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Dried or fresh minced chives for garnishing
Fill a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Coarsely chop the beans and then simmer them for 3 minutes or until they’ve reached their desired tenderness. Drain well.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked beans with the cooked chicken and bacon. Stir in the crème fraîche and herbs, then stir in a generous drizzle of the olive oil. Taste to see if you’d like to add more basil or dill. If you’d like your salad to be more creamy, stir in more crème fraîche.
Garnish with the chives and serve. Leftover salad can be refrigerated for 4 days.
* Check out “Bringing Home the Non-Messy Bacon” for tips on cooking bacon in the oven mess-free.
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Cabbage — and all of its cruciferous cousins — is capable of being sweet and innocent or pungent and reeking of sulfur. What makes it different? Timing. The longer you cook cabbage or broccoli or Brussels sprouts, the more thoroughly their sulfuric compounds break down and become noticeable. (Hence the distinctive aroma of corned beef and cabbage.) At the same time, it’s a smart idea to cook cruciferous veggies since they’re goitrogenic in their raw forms. If you have a hyperactive thyroid and want to impair its function, goitrogenic foods might be a great idea, but if you’re like the majority of folks with thyroid problems who have underactive thyroids — hypothyroidism is particularly prevalent in women — the last thing you want to do is impair what function you’ve got. So with those caveats in mind, please do cook your cabbage and broccoli and Brussels sprouts (and leafy greens and cauliflower), but just not too much. Since this cabbage is thinly sliced, you can sauté it for 10 minutes before adding the egg and cheese. Then you’ll have still-sweet cabbage that pairs well with smoky cheese and velvety eggs.
Scrambled Eggs with Cabbage & Smoked Gouda
Melt a generous pat of butter or ghee in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add a handful of thinly sliced cabbage or coleslaw and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cabbage has softened and is starting to turn translucent. Stir in a lightly beaten egg and a sprinkling of shredded smoked Gouda.
Continue to cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the egg is fluffy and opaque. Serve garnished with a dash of sweet or smoked paprika. If you’d like to make more than one portion, figure on 1 egg and 1 handful of cabbage per person and use a larger skillet.
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Most people enjoy drinking coffee while eating chocolate, so why not put the two ingredients together in the form of lush muffins? Unlike coffee, muffins can’t spill, and unlike chocolate, they can’t melt. Talk about a convenient go-to breakfast! And thanks to their base of almond, coconut, and buckwheat flours, these muffins are surprisingly hearty: almonds are protein-forward, coconut flour has more fiber than just about any other flour, and buckwheat flour has the nearly the lowest glycemic index of any flour. (Wild rice is lower, but wild rice generally isn’t milled into flour. You can mill your own, though, if you have a flour mill or high-powered blender! Try ultra-nutty wild rice in pizza crusts and other savory baked goods.)
Using butter, half-and-half, and eggs from pastured animals gives these muffins even more nutritious flavor. And while I used some of my latest batch of cold-brewed coffee in the batter, you can use whatever coffee is your favorite. I tend to go with cold-brewed since the flavor is stable and it can be refrigerated for two weeks. (Versus traditional hot-brewed coffee, which changes drastically in flavor once it has cooled. It doesn’t lend itself nearly as well to re-using.) Making your own cold-brewed joe is easier than you’d think!
Coffee Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
4 T. butter, preferably from grass-fed cows
75 grams (about 2.6 ounces) of 75% or darker chocolate, snapped into pieces
3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup raw buckwheat flour OR brown rice flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs, preferably from free-range hens
1 cup half-and-half, preferably from grass-fed cows
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup coffee, preferably cold-brewed
Preheat oven to 375F and line a muffin tray with parchment paper cups.
Place the butter and chocolate in a small pot over the lowest heat setting on your stove and let them slowly melt, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the pot and pull it off the stove when a few lumps still remain. Keep stirring to finish melting the chocolate.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, and coffee. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate.
Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and promptly scoop the batter into waiting muffin cups. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until the tops are turning golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Completely cooled muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for 4 days (unless it’s hot and humid) or refrigerated for a week.
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Tags: almond flour, breakfast, buckwheat flour, butter, chocolate, coconut flour, coffee, cold-brewed coffee, dessert, eggs, gluten-free, half-and-half, maple syrup, muffins, snack, vanilla, whole grain
Southeastern Asian dishes manage to be all things at once: savory and sweet, tart and smooth, soft and assertive. Vietnamese, Thai, and neighboring countries offer an enchanting blend of incredibly savory ingredients like tamari and fish sauce paired with fresh, sharp ingredients like lime juice and fresh herbs. (Basil, mint, and cilantro are classic Southeast Asian herbs.) Traditionally, the garnishes are offered on the side, or you can toss them directly into the pork and green beans as I opted to do.
Along with classic ingredients, this dish also includes peanut butter for a creamy undertone and pomegranate molasses for a sweet/tart note. Any one of the flavors could be overriding out of of proportion, but when used judiciously, they blend into addictive harmony. The base sauce could be used for any kind of meat or seafood you’d like — shrimp, chicken, or beef would be equally welcome — and likewise, you could include whatever veggies you have on hand. Or toss the sauce with freshly cooked pasta. Striking varieties made with black rice are all the more alluring.
Note: if you’re unfamiliar with fish sauce, the scent of it may throw you off. My advice? Don’t sniff it — just use it. It’s incredibly savory (talk about umami!) and would be missed if it weren’t there. We all like Caesar dressing, right? That’s because of the anchovies, which are very similar to fish sauce. And I bet you like Worcestershire sauce! Anchovies/fish sauce strike again.
Vietnamese Pork with Green Beans, Sprouts & Cilantro
Makes 4 servings.
For the sauce:
1 T. tamari (be sure it’s gluten-free if you’re making a gluten-free dish; otherwise, you can use standard soy sauce)
1 T. fish sauce
1 T. peanut butter (the ingredient list should read “peanuts” or “peanuts, salt”)
1 T. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses OR tamarind paste*
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips OR 2 tsp. dried basil
For the pork:
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed
3/4 lb. ground pork, preferably from pastured hogs
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large carrots, grated or shredded
1 medium radish, grated or shredded (daikon is a great option)
Double handful of sprouts
Chopped cilantro (anywhere from a few leaves to quite a large handful if you’re a big cilantro fan like me)
To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well to combine. The lime juice and vinegar will prevent the fresh basil from blackening.
To make the pork, fill a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the beans and cook for 3 minutes or until they’ve reached their desired tenderness. Drain well.
Melt a generous knob of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pork and garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often to break up the pork, or until the garlic is fragrant and the pork is turning golden brown. Add the remaining ingredients and the drained beans. Stir in the sauce and let cook for another 3 minutes to marry the flavors. Serve immediately. If you like, have bowls of grated carrot and radish on the table as garnishes, or offer your guests additional sprouts and/or cilantro.
* Pomegranate molasses is typically used in Middle Eastern cuisine, but it makes a great substitution for tamarind paste and is often easier to find. Or look for tamarind paste in Asian stores or in the Asian section of well-stocked grocery stores.
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