This is my little tribute to sunflower seeds.
You guys know I love cashews. And why wouldn’t I? They’re the most versatile nut: so mild and creamy that they can be used as a base for nearly any dessert, pate, or sauce. They’re the reason why I love my raw alfredo, and they’re the secret ingredient in my raw whipped cream.
Even so, I’ve gotten some feedback from you guys saying that you find nuts a little heavy, especially in the summertime. I love nuts, and consider them a very important source of fat and protein in the raw diet, but I understand this concern: too many nuts can sit like like a brick in one’s belly. And when it’s 95 degrees outside and as humid as a steam room (as the fair isle of Manhattan is right now), this is no fun.
Here’s the good news. Most people find that seeds–including sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds–are a little bit easier to digest than tree nuts. And yet they boast some of the same wonderful health properties: healthy fats and oils, antioxidants, and (depending on the seed in question) magnesium, selenium, and calcium. Best of all, they’re versatile and easy to transport: you can carry them around in a baggie to throw on salads at lunch, to a restaurant if you want to liven up a veggie plate (sesame seeds on sauteed or steamed veggies is a favorite of mine) or simply to snack on.
Or, if you’re in the mood for something lunch or dinner worthy, you can try a seed pate.
A few nights ago, in the midst of trying to cool down my-apartment-the-sauna, I found myself craving a nut pate. But I wanted one that would be a bit lighter than my old stand ins (pizza cheeze and walnut pate). Fortunately, I had sunflower seeds on hand. I knew they’d make for a light, quick digesting pate, and they (unlike almonds or walnuts) can be soaked quickly.
I’m often asked about precise soaking times for nuts. (If you rawcurious readers are asking why, it’s because soaking nuts before you eat them renders them more digestible, not to mention more tender for blending.) The truth is that I’m not particularly diligent about my soaking times. I rarely go through the trouble of germinating or sprouting nuts before I eat them–I just soak them until they’re tender enough to use. I will say, though, that if you’re going to use almonds in a pate or sauce, they’ll benefit from being soaked eight hours or overnight. Cashews are soft enough to only demand a few hours. And in my experience, while it’s ideal to soak sunflower or pumpkin seeds five hours or more, they’ll be totally fine after an hour or two.
On the night in question, I happened to have an hour of free time (imagine that!). So as I soaked a cup of sunflower seeds, I came up with the following recipe: a light, lemony pate that’s perfect for summer months.
Sunflower Seed and Carrot Pate
1 cup sunflower seeds, soaked 1 hour or more
1 tsp nama shoyu
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbsps lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1/2 carrot, grated
Several sprigs of dill
Blend the first five ingredients in a food processor until it begins to form a paste. Drizzle in the water until it reaches a consistency you like. It should resemble a hummus or any other spread. Next, throw in the carrot and dill, and pulse the mixture until everything is well incorporated. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
I’ve blogged before about the variety of uses for nut pates. Like hummus or cream cheese or guac, they’re perfect for stuffing into wraps or sandwiches, for using as a dip, for layering between stacks of veggies (like a Napoleon) or for simply plopping onto salads. Tonight, I made a feeble attempt at culinary creativity with the green pepper I had on hand. I cut it into slices, filled each with about 1-2 tbsps of the pate, and sprinkled it with some zucchini and carrot. Like nachos. Kind of.
OK. Not so much like nachos. But I get points for trying, right?
I served this alongside one of my typical giant salads: a kale/lettuce, carrot, tomato, zucchini, and pepper mix.
It was a perfect summer dinner: light and refreshing, yet not without substance.
And just in case you’re wondering? Sunflower seeds happen to be an incredible source of Vitamin E (the most important fat-soluble antioxidant), thiamin (or Vitamin B1, which is important for the nervous system and carbohydrate metabolism), and phytosterols (which help to lower bad cholesterol). Not so bad for a little seed.
I hope you’ll all try this–or another pate–soon!
And if you need inspiration, I direct you all to my new and refurbished recipe page! I’ve gone too many weeks (OK, months) without updating it, for which I apologize! Now, you should all be able to search for recipes (cause I updated my tags, too–thanks Mel) and to explore the recipe page for ideas.
And next to it, you’ll notice a new “kitchen tools” page. Please, please check it out! Questions about the appliances I use at home and requests for recommendations are among the most prevalent sorts of emails I receive. I hope this is a useful resource.
OK kids, I’m out. Have a wonderful night!