At Dynamic Dish, the organic restaurant in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood that he ran 2007-2010, Sweeney’s artful quinoa bowls, millet cakes and vegan pates made with sunflower seeds earned him loyal fans, who follow him to farmers markets, pop-ups and cooking classes. (He also shares a bounty of ideas on his @dynamicdish Instagram account.)
About five years ago, he developed David’s Seedy Bars, a gluten-free, granola bar-like snack flavored with warm spices, such as star anise and cinnamon, and inspired by Turkish sesame brittles, Bolivian amaranth bars and Russian sunflower bars.
These days, Sweeney can be found on Saturdays at the Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center, selling bags of those bars, along with an assortment of seed-based spreads, handmade crackers, sweet and savory “pseudocereals,” and other seedy creations, such as butternut squash pies in sprouted millet crusts and banana-rum puddings topped with chocolate-coated popped amaranth.
David Sweeney made these millet, sorghum and sunflower seed crackers. Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: Mia Yakel/For The AJC
Credit: Mia Yakel/For The AJC
“You can bake with seeds, toast them for salad or vegetable toppings, and grind them to blend into smoothies,” he said. Chia seeds thicken puddings and jams, and chia and flaxseed “eggs” bind vegan baked goods. Sweeney pops amaranth into pinhead-size kernels like popcorn for toppings and snack mixes, and sorghum seeds to combine with popcorn for kettle-corn balls.
Soaking and sprouting is a great way to benefit from the goodness packed in seeds, he said, mimicking the germination process and increasing the bioavailability of the nutrients. And, it’s easy to sprout and dry the seeds for snacking in a warm (115-degree) oven or dehydrator, if you have one. Instructions abound online for roasting fresh seeds from pumpkins and squash.
Use raw, hulled seeds for the spiced pumpkin seed topping that Sweeney pairs with his easy coconut curry cauliflower soup.
Millet and pumpkin seeds are two of Sweeney’s favorite seeds for incorporating into his cooking. Here are a couple of examples, along with a few other ideas for growing your seed repertoire in your kitchen.
David Sweeney sells slices of his butternut squash-ricotta pie Saturdays at the Carter Center’s farmers market. Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: Mia Yakel/For The AJC
Credit: Mia Yakel/For The AJC
BUTTERNUT SQUASH-RICOTTA PIE WITH MILLET CRUST
Sweeney sells slices of this savory custard pie on Saturdays at the Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center, where butternut squash currently are plentiful. Millet (which I found in a bin at Whole Foods 365) is soaked overnight, rinsed, and lightly toasted in a skillet for better baking, and to germinate the seed, so that the nutrients will be more readily absorbed. For an actual sprout to form, you’ll need to repeat this process several more times, and, even then, it may not happen. Not to worry — an overnight soak will do the trick for this application. The nutrients in the millet, combined with the egg and dairy, make this gluten-free dish a complete vegetarian protein.
Butternut Squash-Ricotta Pie with Millet Crust
- For the crust:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted cultured butter, divided
- 1 cup dry millet, soaked overnight in 3 cups water
- 1½ cups water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (equal amount Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour may be substituted)
- For the filling:
- 1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
- 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 cups butternut squash (chopped in small cubes)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (equal amount Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour may be substituted)
- 1 cup full-fat ricotta cheese, kept cold until use
- 3 ounces (about 1 cup) grated pecorino cheese, kept cold until use
- 5 large eggs, preferably pasture-raised
- Making the crust: Grease a 9-inch glass pie dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter, using your fingers, then refrigerate.
- Rinse the pre-soaked millet under cold water in a fine strainer and tap as much water out as possible. Set a saucepan on high heat for 1 minute. Transfer the millet from the mesh strainer directly onto the heated pan. With a metal spatula, scrape and toss the millet for about 3 minutes, keeping it from sticking, then lower the heat to medium. Continue stirring the millet and toast it for another 5 minutes.
- Add 1½ cups water and cover. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 18 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, and remove from the burner to cool down, covered, for 30 minutes. Then add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 3 tablespoons of flour.
- While the millet is still warm, mix the ingredients with a metal spoon until melded (you also can use your hands for this, and form clumps with the millet). Firmly press all the millet mixture evenly into the pie dish, building up a thick border around the edge and crimping. Return the pie dish to the refrigerator while you make the filling.
- Making the filling: In a large, stainless steel skillet with a lid, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat, stirring every other minute for 8 to 10 minutes, and keeping the lid on in between. Add the squash and continue to stir every few minutes, always keeping the lid on when not stirring, until everything is tender. Depending on how large and firm the butternut is, it should take 20-25 minutes. Allow to rest and cool, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. If you have a “convection roast” option, use low fan.
- Using a food processor, puree the sauteed vegetables until smooth. Add turmeric, salt, baking powder and flour, and blend for 20 seconds. Add cold ricotta and pecorino, then pulse until all ingredients are well blended. Cool for 20 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Using a large rubber spatula, combine the filling with the eggs and stir until well blended.
- Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake uncovered in the center of the heated oven for 25 minutes. Gently remove and tent with foil, being careful not to let the foil touch the filling. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is set. Serves 8.
Per serving: Per serving, based on 8: 432 calories (percent of calories from fat, 57), 14 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 28 grams total fat (12 grams saturated), 165 milligrams cholesterol, 848 milligrams sodium
David Sweeney’s coconut curry cauliflower soup features spiced pumpkin seed topping. Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: Mia Yakel/For The AJC
Credit: Mia Yakel/For The AJC
COCONUT CURRY CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH SPICED PUMPKIN SEED TOPPING
This velvety autumnal soup gets its golden hue and an extra dose of nutrients from grated turmeric — now sold fresh widely in produce bins. I substituted the powdered spice and still got terrific results. I also used soy-based miso, which is available in most supermarkets, in place of the chickpea miso he calls for that I could find only online. I was not disappointed. The savory-sweet spiced pumpkin seed topping makes an ideal crunchy contrast.
Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Topping
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated turmeric root (or 2 to 3 teaspoons powdered turmeric)
- 2 mild to hot red peppers, diced (cherry bomb, Fresno, or jalapeno)
- 2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 3 pounds cauliflower, broken down into small florets (hard stems discarded or reserved for another use)
- 3 tablespoons chickpea miso (or soy-based)
- spiced pumpkins seeds (see recipe) and cilantro leaves or fennel fronds for garnish
- ¼ teaspoon lime zest
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ lime, optional
- spiced pumpkins seeds and cilantro leaves or fennel fronds for garnish
- Heat the oil in a large, stainless steel pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until soft. Add the ginger, turmeric and peppers and continue to saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender.
- Stir in the coconut milk, water and cauliflower. Raise the heat to bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to the lowest temperature, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft. Add miso, mirin and lime zest.
- Using an upright or immersion blender, carefully puree the hot soup until smooth.
- Return the soup to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. More miso will add more body and salt. Squeeze in a little lime juice just before serving, if desired.
- Serve hot, garnished with spiced pumpkin seeds and cilantro or fennel fronds. Serves 6.
Per serving: Per serving, without seeds: 475 calories (percent of calories from fat, 74), 9 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 42 grams total fat (36 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 410 milligrams sodium.
SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Sweeney suggests this simple formula for a versatile topping or snack that’s great sprinkled over soups, salads, rice bowls or roasted vegetables. You easily can vary the mixture by substituting sunflower seed, sesame seed and/or flaxseed for part of the pumpkin seeds.
Spice Pumpkin Seeds
- ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon madras curry powder
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spread out pumpkin seeds on a sheet pan lined with parchment, and toast for 8 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, sugar, tamari, vinegar, salt and curry powder.
- Toss the warm seeds into the mixture, coat well, then place back onto the parchment and into the oven for an additional 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool; store in an airtight container if not using immediately. Makes ½ cup.
Per serving: Per tablespoon: 65 calories (percent of calories from fat, 71), 2 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 98 milligrams sodium.
Chia seeds thicken cooked berries enriched with blended cashews and coconut butter in berry chia pudding. Courtesy of Anson Smart
BERRY CHIA PUDDING
Amy Chaplin devotes a whole chapter of “Whole Food Cooking Every Day” to low-sugar puddings thickened with super-nutritious chia seeds, using the fruits of each season. This one can be made with fresh or frozen berries, so it is good year-round. Raw cashews and coconut butter (which I purchased at Whole Foods) give it a creamy texture and nutty flavor, and the intense fruity flavor is wonderful with a dollop of ricotta cheese or yogurt swirled in, for a fortifying breakfast or a refreshingly light dessert.
Berry Chia Pudding
- 4 cups fresh or frozen berries (about 1 pound)
- 1½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- pinch of fine sea salt
- ½ cup (2¼ ounces) raw cashews or macadamia nuts
- 2 tablespoons store-bought coconut butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons (2 ounces) chia seeds
- Combine the berries, orange juice and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the berries have softened and released their juices. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
- Transfer the mixture to an upright blender, add the cashews, coconut butter and vanilla, and blend until completely smooth. Pour into a wide-mouthed quart jar or a medium bowl, add the chia seeds, and whisk thoroughly, making sure there are no clumps of seeds hiding anywhere.
- Allow to sit for a few minutes and then whisk again. Leave the whisk in place and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until completely chilled, whisking every now and then to distribute the chia seeds evenly, and to help cool the pudding quickly.
- The pudding will thicken further overnight; if it gets too thick, stir in a splash of water or nut milk. Store the pudding in an airtight glass jar or other container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Serves 6 (makes about 3 cups).
Per serving: Per serving: 253 calories (percent of calories from fat, 49), 6 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 14 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 26 milligrams sodium.
Reprinted with permission from “Whole Food Cooking Every Day” by Amy Chaplin (Artisan, $40).
This savory yogurt bowl switches out fresh fruit and sweet granola with roasted carrots and chickpeas, along with skillet-toasted and spiced pumpkin seeds. Courtesy of Christina Holmes
SAVORY YOGURT BOWL WITH ROASTED CARROTS, CHICKPEAS AND PUMPKIN SEEDS
Pumpkin seeds are toasted quickly on the stovetop and then tossed with olive oil and spices to use as a topping in place of granola, for a savory twist on a yogurt bowl. I roasted the carrots and chickpeas the night before, and gave them a quick zap in the microwave before assembling. The recipe, which would be good for breakfast or a light lunch, is from “The Complete Vegan Cookbook: Over 150 Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Recipes, and Techniques by the Natural Gourmet Center.
Savory Yogurt Bowl with Roasted Carrots, Chickpeas and Pumpkin Seeds
- 2 large carrots (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick pieces
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup hulled pumpkin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups dairy-free yogurt (or regular plain yogurt, if you’re not vegan)
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves, for serving
- zest of 1 lime, for serving
- lime wedges, for serving (optional)
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, combine the carrots and chickpeas. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, the fennel, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, cumin, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
- Spread the mixture into an even layer, and bake until the carrots are lightly browned and some chickpeas are starting to split, tossing occasionally, for about 25 minutes. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, put the pumpkin seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat, until they start gently cracking, are slightly puffy, and smell nutty, tossing occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Turn the heat off. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of oil and toss to coat the seeds. Season with the paprika, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine.
- To serve, divide the yogurt among 4 bowls, top with about ½ cup of the carrot mixture, the spiced pumpkin seeds, cilantro and lime zest. Drizzle with oil and serve with lime wedges, if desired. Serves 4.
Per serving: Per serving: 425 calories (percent of calories from fat, 40), 20 grams protein, 47 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 20 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 670 milligrams sodium.
Reprinted with permission from “The Complete Vegan Cookbook: Over 150 Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Recipes, and Techniques” by the Natural Gourmet Center (Potter, $35).