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Home cook in Davis Islands shares her healthy habits, hummus recipes

Three steps out the back door and snip, snip. Parsley and mint for tabbouleh; rosemary, basil, dill, sage and fennel to trick up hummus. Harvesting homegrown herbs brings Valarie Blau joy every time.

Both Mediterranean mezzes are mainstays for the health-conscious Blau family. Val, a registered nurse at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital Medical Mobile Clinic, runs, bikes, swims or works out six days a week, her family history of heart disease never far from mind.

Husband Richard, immediate past chairman of the board of Feeding America Tampa Bay, is an attorney specializing in alcohol beverage and food marketing governance. Son Alex, 15, performs in piano competitions and plays football at Berkeley Prep with a rabid teenage appetite. Twin daughters Jennah and Hannah, 25, live together in Santa Monica and share the latest California health trends when they visit.

"We're all about the food in this family," Blau said, looking out the window of her Davis Islands kitchen at the garden in full bloom.

"I read that men who garden live longer," she said. "So Richard's out there for hours on a Saturday. It's so relaxing and productive, and then I make him jump in the pool before he comes back inside."

Truth be told, she said, "I really don't enjoy dining out. I much prefer to cook at home where I can control the quality of the ingredients. I know the fish is wild and the greens organic. It's more natural, healthier … and cheaper."

An ideal weekend for the couple might include foraging at Mazzaro's for fresh pastas and St. Petersburg's downtown Saturday Morning Market for organic greens, then stopping for fresh seafood at I.C. Sharks on the way home.

"Richard is more hunter and gatherer than cook," she said "He enjoys the research … finding honey, olive oil, wine. He bought me emmer grains from a grower in Washington."

We asked her to share her signature recipes for hummus and tabbouleh, both high in fiber and protein and low in saturated fat. They make for super healthy appetizers or snacks.

Hummus begins basic and Blau adds favorite mix-ins, artichokes and lemon or roasted red peppers, laced with fresh-snipped herbs.

Baked pita bread and lavash — 60 minutes at 250 degrees — turn into triangle crackers.

"So much healthier than buying high-carb, processed crackers."

Blau pairs the hummus with antioxidant-loaded tabbouleh, made of bulgur and freshly chopped parsley, mint, tomatoes and scallions from her back yard. Plus hearty squeezes of Meyer lemons plucked off their own tree.

"It makes a big difference when you use your own ingredients."

Contact Amy Scherzer at ascherzer@tampabay.com.

>>EASY

Basic Hummus

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 2 lemons

¼ cup sesame tahini, well stirred

2 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ teaspoon cumin

teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, for garnish

1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted, for garnish

Drain the chickpeas in a colander into another bowl, saving the liquid from the can.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade, combine the chickpeas, ⅓ cup reserved canning liquid, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and olive oil. Process for 5 minutes until smooth and creamy.

Transfer to serving dish. Use a spoon to make a shallow well in the center. Drizzle olive oil in the well and sprinkle with parsley and toasted pine nuts. Serve at room temperature.

Source: Valarie Blau

>>EASY

Roasted Red Pepper and Rosemary Hummus

1 large red pepper

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 cup Italian parsley (large, flat leaves)

2 medium green onions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed

6 tablespoons tahini

3 whole lemons, juiced

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons cumin, to taste

1 pinch cayenne pepper, to taste

½ cup olive oil

Slice red pepper in half and take out seeds.

Roast halves under broiler or on grill until skin is blackened, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.

Place red pepper, garlic, parsley, onions and rosemary in food processor and mince very finely.

Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, soy sauce, cumin, cayenne pepper and olive oil to food processor and mix to form a thick paste, blending for about 10 minutes total. To thin consistency if desired, add more lemon juice, olive oil or lemon juice/water combination. Serve at room temperature.

Source: Valarie Blau

>>EASY

Basic Tabbouleh

1 cup bulgur

1 ½ cups boiling water

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)

1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)

2 cups diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Crumbled feta cheese, to garnish

Greek peppers and black kalamata olives, to garnish

Place the bulgur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water and add the lemon juice, olive oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Add the garlic, scallions, mint, parsley, tomatoes, other ½ teaspoon of salt and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Form a small well in the center of a serving dish and add the crumbled feta cheese to make a mound. Garnish with Greek peppers and olives. Serve at room temperature.

Source: Valarie Blau

Home cook in Davis Islands shares her healthy habits, hummus recipes 05/23/16 [Last modified: Monday, May 23, 2016 10:36am]
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