Dec 29, 2014

The ADDICTIVE Sweet & Savory Roasted SUNFLOWER SEEDS

Sweet & Savory Roasted Sunflower Seeds
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The beautiful sunflower's center head is loaded with seeds, about 1500. Actually they are not seeds at all, but rather the fruit of the sunflower. They are a popular snack across the U.S., and around the world. I buy them raw, without the outer shell, and roast them at home. After you try my simple recipe below, you will understand why I call these little seeds "addictive". I flavor them in sweetened, savory Tamari soy sauce, with a little chili seasoning, transforming them into my favorite out-of-hand snack that goes really well with a cold beer on a hot Hawaiian day. Try adding dried cranberries to them for an energy snack, or use them sprinkled on a fruit salads, pastas, rice, stir-fries, casseroles, bake them into bread, rolls, or biscuits, or on top of Hawaiian ahi poke.

Sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients. Whether roasted or raw, they provide ample amounts of protein-building amino acids, along with magnesium, potassium, zinc and Vitamin E. In fact, a quarter-cup serving provides 90 percent of daily Vitamin E requirements, which helps prevent asthma, arthritis, colon cancer and cardiovascular disease. Magnesium promotes a healthy immune system and strong bones, potassium improves kidney functioning, and zinc supports healthy overall growth. Even when roasted, these kernels lose only a minimal amount of vitamins and minerals, and still pack a powerful health punch. Sunflower seeds make a nice addition to any well-balanced diet, however they should be enjoyed in moderation due to their high caloric content. One ounce of sunflower seeds has 160 calories, which is overshadowed by so many other healthy benefits.

The sunflower is not a genetically modified plant (non-GMO). Europe is a large production region for sunflower and the EU will not accept GMO planting seed. The regulatory hurdles in the U.S. are insurmountable at the present time due to possible gene flow to wild sunflower. Without Europe and the U.S. there is not enough market size for the private sector to make the necessary investment in sunflower GMO.

These raw, sunflower seed kernels are usually available in most grocery stores, or at Friendly Market here on Moloka'i. Their are many brand names, but I use "Health Best", $3.69 for a 14 ounce bag (about 2 1/2 cups), or you can buy many other brands online at amazon.com.

Sweet & Savory Roasted SUNFLOWER SEEDS
This is my favorite way to prepare them, however check out this site for many other recipe ideas.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups raw sunflower seeds (14 ounces)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon Nanami Togarashi* chili seasoning, or to taste

Procedure:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.

In a bowl, blend brown sugar, Tamari soy sauce, water and Togarashi seasoning until sugar has dissolved. Put seeds in the bowl and mix with a spoon several times so that all of the seeds are totally coated. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir again.

Spread the sunflower seeds evenly on a large baking sheet.

Roast for 18 minutes, turning once with a spatula halfway, until the seeds turn a golden color. Watch closely so that the seeds don't burn. Place the baking sheet on top of the stove to cool for about 30 minutes. At this point, taste the seeds, and sprinkle more Togarashi seasoning on if you like the seeds spicier.
Nanami Togarashi
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Store in glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to a week, however they won't last that long. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

*Note: Nanami Togarashi is a spicy powdered assortment of dried chili peppers and other seasonings including orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed, and is usually available in the Asian section of your grocery store, or on Amazon.com. This product is also available at Friendly Market here on Moloka'i in the Asian section. I always have this little bottle in my spice cabinet, it's great sprinkled on top of so many things, like saimin noodle soup, rice, or ahi poke. Add a little spice to your life.


Roasted Beet Salad 
with Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
What tops off this beautiful roasted beet salad is a honey sweet balsamic vinaigrette and roasted sunflower seeds, all on a bed of watercress leaves.

Beets from Kumu Farms
Ingredients for roasting the beets:
1 1/2 pounds red beets, medium sized, scrubbed clean, green tops removed.
Olive oil
Salt

Ingredients for honey-balsamic vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Ingredients for salad:
1 large bunch of watercress, washed, stems removed, or mixed mini salad greens
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds (recipe above)

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the beets in the pan. Rub olive oil over the beets, and sprinkle with salt. Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum foil, crunching up the sides of the aluminum foil together to seal. Roast for 1 to 2 hours (depending on the size of the beets) or until tender and easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Remove from oven and take off the top foil. Set aside to cool enough to handle. When cool, peel the skin off. They should peel easily by hand, but you can use a paring knife if you want. Cut the beets into 1/4 inch slices. Refrigerate covered until you are ready to serve.

While the beets are cooling, make the vinaigrette by simply combining the ingredients in a small bowl or jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve, divide and arrange the watercress leaves into 4 bunches on chilled salad plates. Place cold beet slices on top of the watercress, overlapping each slice in a circle. Season the salad with the vinaigrette and sprinkle roasted sunflower seeds over the top of the beets. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Always look for fresh beets with big bushy tops. That way you know the beets are fresh, and the tops are very similar to the taste of spinach. I usually sauté the tops in a little chicken stock or water, with a little sliced onion, garlic, and a little salt for about 5 minutes. Beet greens cook quickly, so take care not to overcook them. Serve hot with a little splash of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of roasted sunflower seeds. One big bunch of beet tops will make 2 servings, however they will cook down quite a lot. I always buy extra because they are so good. Kumu Farms usually have beautiful fresh beets and tops here on Moloka'i (see photo above).
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