Sprouting up for your health

August 10, 2016

Alfalfa sprouts add just the right touch to most sandwiches. (Cathie Campbell/For The Madera Tribune)

For many years, I have been a fan of just about any kind of sprouted legume or grain, especially alfalfa. One of my favorite meals (tabbouleh and falafel in pita bread, with sprouts and yogurt) goes back decades and I never tire of it.


Well, if I had to eat it every day, there is no doubt I’d be wishing for something else!


But luckily, we are able to choose from a wide variety of wonderful foods and recipes, and today the star of the show will be sprouts and ways to prepare them.


As I write this, I have not yet eaten anything except for two gummy adult vitamins, so everything is looking good at the moment. Reminds me of how when we go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, we tend to over-shop because so many things look so delicious.


But I know the following recipes are good, and I hope you decide to try one or more.
Here’s to your health and to those delicious sprouts!

Cracked wheat and parsley salad
From an old Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook I’ve had so long the pages are yellowed. This recipe is included because sprouts are part of the presentation. It’s the “one of my favorite meals” mentioned above, or at least part of it.

3/4 cup cracked wheat (bulgur)
1 1/2 cups snipped parsley
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup chopped green onions, with tops
1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint or 2 teaspoons crushed dried mint
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Whole ripe olives as garnish, optional

  1. Cover cracked wheat with cold water, let stand 30 minutes. Note: For a softer texture, cover the cracked wheat with boiling water and let sit 1 hour. Drain, press out as much water as possible.

  2. Place wheat, parsley, tomatoes, green onions and mint in a salad bowl. Mix remaining ingredients; pour over wheat mixture and toss well.

  3. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Garnish with whole ripe olives if desired. Makes 6 servings.


Falafel
Also from the Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook, but with a few slight changes I made. This goes along with the tabbouleh. Note the standing-around time it takes for this recipe’s completion, so don’t be in a hurry.

2 cups water (see note)
1 cup dried garbanzo beans (see note)
1 egg
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons snipped parsley
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of ground red pepper
Canola oil for frying

Note: Two cans (15-oz. each) garbanzo beans, drained (reserve liquid) can be substituted for the dried garbanzo beans. It’s my preferred method.

  1. If using dried garbanzo beans:  Heat water and dried garbanzo beans to boiling in a 2-quart saucepan; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Add enough water to cover beans if necessary. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or even longer if they are still not tender. Drain, reserving liquid.

  2. If using canned garbanzo beans: Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Mash well, with potato masher.

  3. For both types of beans, when they are mashed, add 2 to 3 tablespoons reserved liquid if necessary. Do not puree beans in blender or food processor! Stir in remaining ingredients except for the oil. Mixture should be thick. Cover and let stand 1 hour.

  4. Pinch off 1-inch pieces; shape into rounds and flatten. Let stand 30 minutes. Heat oil (2 inches) in a 3-quart saucepan to 375. Fry 4 or 5 rounds at a time in hot oil, turning once, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes; drain on paper towels. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


The meal
Finally, we are getting around to using the sprouts!

Pita bread rounds, your choice of size
Plain yogurt (Greek is good)
Fresh alfalfa sprouts
Falafel rounds
Tabbouleh salad

  1. Cut each round of pita bread in half and if necessary, carefully open up the pocket.

  2. Place the desired amount of tabbouleh salad inside each pocket, remembering to leave room for other ingredients.

  3. Place 1 or 2 falafel rounds inside each pocket, depending on the size of the rounds and the pita.

  4. Stuff desired amount of alfalfa sprouts into each pocket. Drizzle or spoon some plain yogurt over the fillings and serve.


Bean sprouts and tofu
I prefer to use red bell pepper rather than the red chile peppers.

2 cups (about) fresh mung bean sprouts
1/3 cup water
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (see note)
3 shallots
1 clove garlic, crushed or pressed
1 teaspoon powdered chicken bouillon
Salt, to taste
1 carrot, shredded
2 red chile peppers, chopped or sliced
1/2 to 3/4 cup firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes and lightly fried (don’t stir too much)

  1. Saute shallots, garlic and chile peppers in oil until fragrant. Add the shredded carrots and cook until tender. Stir in the bean sprouts, pepper, bouillon, coriander and salt. Cook until the bean sprouts are hot.

  2. Add green onion, tofu, sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce and water. Stir until all are combined. Serve with hot rice.

Note: Sweet soy sauce is an Indonesian ingredient called Kecap Manis. You can make your own if you can’t find it. A recipe is included here.

Kecap Manis
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup brown sugar or palm sugar

 

  1. In small saucepan, combine soy sauce and brown or palm sugar. Boil the mixture, then cook over low to medium heat until it has thickened to the consistency of maple or pancake syrup. Keep a watchful eye as it is cooking so it won’t over-boil. It will thicken some more as it cools.


Avocado salad sandwich with sprouts
Chive spread
1/4 cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise (or 2 tablespoons each)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For salad:
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1 tomato, cored and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced, optional
Squeeze of lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For sandwich:
4 slices bread, preferable whole grain, or 4 small tortillas
1/4 cup (or more) alfalfa sprouts
2 to 4 slices pepper jack cheese

  1. To make chive spread: In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt (or mayo or mixture) and chives. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

  2. To make the avocado salad: In a medium bowl, mix together the avocado, tomato, cucumber, lime juice, basil or cilantro, taking care not to smash the avocado, tomato and cucumber. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

  3. To assemble sandwiches: Spread the chive and yogurt mixture over each slice of bread (or tortilla). Divide the alfalfa sprouts between two slices of bread. Top with avocado salad and cheese. Cover with remaining slices of bread. If using tortillas, after spreading with chive spread, divide the avocado salad, sprouts and cheese evenly, then roll up. Makes 2 large sandwiches or 4 small wraps.

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