Laughing Lemon Recipes
I’ve adapted this recipe to eliminate the copious amounts of dairy in a very popular dessert we used to regularly make. The Parfait Tortoni, as it was called, was basically a creamy ice cream flavored with Amontillado sherry and meringue chunks.
I made my first adaptation during the previous fall. I created a version of the Tortoni using cashew cream as the base and flavored the cream with a pumpkin puree. It was festive, delicious and very popular.
The version I am presenting below is identical, with the exception of course of the pumpkin puree, which I have now replaced with a mango puree. The result is a light, ice cream-like dessert with wonderful textural chunks of meringue, which I think is a perfect summer dessert to enjoy!
This is one of the great alternatives to a traditional hummus made with chickpeas and tahini. Like its cousin, babaganoush is a staple found throughout the Middle East. Most traditional recipes call for cooking the eggplant in a hot oven, grill or in a hot pan. The eggplant is often left whole while cooking, then peeled once the flesh inside has softened and the entire eggplant collapses.
I’ve made it this way before and I was always quite disappointed with the yield as I thought there was simply too much of the flesh (and taste) left on the peel which is discarded. So, I began searching for alternatives in cooking the eggplant.
I came across one recipe which left the peel mostly intact. This procedure calls for slicing the eggplant, then sautéing part of it in oil until browned. The remainder of the eggplant is added to the cooked eggplant and the entire contents are cooked in a bit more oil. It sounded a bit oily to me and I was suspicious.
Finally, I decided to simply eliminate precooking the eggplant altogether, although I preserved the partial peeling of the eggplant step. The version I came up with uses a pressure cooker to lock in flavor and aroma…and only takes 8 minutes to cook. It yields a very soft and velvety dip…especially if you use a high speed blender like a Vitamix to blend the eggplant, garlic, lemon juice and tahini. This method also protects the integrity of the olive oil as it is not cooked. In practice, you can substitute other oils (like hemp or flax seed), or simply reduce the entire fat content altogether. Let your taste buds guide you in your preparation.
Most professional cooks will probably tell you it is extremely important to create balance in a final dish…and that balance is achieved by artfully combining flavors, texture and appearance. Unfortunately, most professional cooks have also learned the standard techniques in a classical kitchen which rely heavily on the use of fats, salt and sugars. And if you don’t believe this statement, then simply tune into any cooking show on television and watch how the professionals cook. I guarantee you will see a recipe which is most definitely unhealthy!
But is all that fat really necessary to produce a tasty and balanced dish?
As a mostly plant-based cook, I have discovered how to produce really tasty food without the use of animal products and with a heavy emphasis on supporting good health. Removing fats from a dish will dramatically affect its flavor, so I had to consider how I would maximize the flavor of ingredients I use in my recipes. I began looking at alternatives. I started to emphasize toasting and roasting nuts, seeds and spices before I would use them in a recipe. I increased the sweet, acid and spice elements in my dishes to create powerful flavors which balanced well in the mouth. I concentrated flavors through reduction to bring even more flavor into my no oil dishes. And I never missed the fat!
I really enjoy having granola bars on hand because they are, in many ways, the perfect snack food. They are packed full of nutrients and an important source of carbohydrates to boost your energy reserves. Unfortunately, many store-bought granola bars are filled with fats and other mysterious ingredients to promote long shelf lives, and I’m just not willing to ingest these ingredients.
So, I make my own – and they are surprisingly simple to make!
I came across this original recipe from my friend Dawn, co-founder and content guru at Rouxbe Online Cooking School. The recipe itself is quite simple to prepare and it uses only natural and healthy ingredients. You can also make the entire recipe gluten-free if that is important to you by making sure you use certified gluten-free oats.
The base of these granola bars are dates, and here it is important to get off to a good start. Always make sure your dates do not have any pits in them before beginning. Be sure to soak the dates in warm water until they soften – usually no more than an hour, unless of course, your dates are already quite soft. Process the dates quite well in a food processor until they begin to ball up. I don’t like using a high speed blender for this task because I think the dates become too soft and mushy. They should have a bit of texture, but also completely processed.
Once the dates are complete, it is really only a matter of combining the remaining ingredients…and here there is a great deal of flexibility. For instance, try using cashew butter instead of almond butter for a lighter version. Add some raisins to the mix as well. For a crunchier version, try adding a handful of GM-free soy flakes. Dried ginger gives the bars a bit of punch…and cinnamon is an excellent addition, especially if you are adding some chopped dried apples.
Cavallucci are traditional, rustic biscotti (cookies) that date back to 16th century Tuscany. They are now frequently given as gifts during special occasions or holidays. They are especially beloved during the Christmas holiday season.
According to some really old Tuscan cookbooks, their name seems to stem from the cavalli (horses) used for delivering the mail. It is believed that the postal workers who substituted the tired horses with new horses ate the cookies on a regular basis…presumably as a snack. At one time, the shape of a horse was stamped on the surface of the cookies, but that is rarely seen these days.
The cookies are traditionally round and fairly large with an irregular shape. Original versions were made using only flour, a little sugar, anise seeds and a couple of walnuts. Modern day versions are now made with acacia honey and sugar slowly melted over low heat, then mixed with flour, chopped walnuts and hazelnuts, minced candied citron and orange, some spices (anise seeds, nutmeg, coriander powder) and a pinch of baking soda to lighten the dough. Once cooled, the dough is rolled into long logs and divided into pieces before being baked for about twenty minutes.
There is another version coming from the seaside village Grosseto, which tend to be a bit larger and softer than most other Cavallucci. They tend to have almonds, coriander seeds, nutmeg and cinnamon…which do seem perfect for Christmas.
Cavallucci are simple to make…and are always completely dairy-free! A bonus to me and a real treat for my sweet tooth!
Paula Wolfert’s wonderful book, Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, describes Byesar as the North African cousin to the Middle Eastern hummus made of chickpeas. This is high praise indeed as hummus is one of the world’s greatest food contributions. So I was…well, slightly skeptical. But after tasting one spoonful of the freshly made warm fava bean puree, I was more than convinced. This recipe is one of the most exciting finds I have found this year!
I grew up eating many special foods from Morocco, but I never had the opportunity to taste this beloved dish. It is made with split fava beans (broad beans for those of you who are more familiar with this name), fruity olive oil, a hint of garlic, cumin and lemon. That’s it – just some humble ingredients put together in your food processor.
Hang out with us long enough and you will no doubt taste our whisky-cured gravlax at some point. We make this simple delicacy at least once per week and use it in a number of ways: on bread with avocado puree and a dash of flax seed oil, on mini savory olive oil scones as an apéro item, inside wraps using lavash or tortillas with plenty of avocado and sprouts, on whole wheat Irish soda bread, on buckwheat blinis (pancakes), on salads…or simply sliced and enjoyed naked (not us…just the food).
The juicy texture and fresh aromas coming from the orange and herbs marry with that unmistakable hint of smoky whisky to create a taste sensation which has, quite frankly, replaced our fondness for smoked salmon.
The cooler weather of fall always brings me to soups…and I really enjoy all types: creamy purées, thick lentil soups, chunky vegetable soups, clear consommés and so on. But in my opinion, the king of all cold weather soups has to be the famous Tuscan ribolita. It is a thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup filled with healthy vegetables, beans and potatoes. It is excellent when first prepared, but like the name suggests (ribolita means to re-boil), the soup improves in flavor when reheated, which makes this soup perfect for keeping around a couple of days
Most ribolita soups you will encounter are somewhat different than the original…either lacking in vegetable variety or packed full of tomato puree and cheese. My version below is very similar to the actual DOC designated recipe, which was officially declared on the 24th of May, 2011 at the Florence Academy of Italian Cuisine. The designation followed a long research period with some of the finest restaurants in Florence participating. The concluding recipe implied most restaurants in Tuscany do not serve the real version, but mere impostors.
It doesn’t take very much time these days to search for and find soup recipes made in a pressure cooker. In fact, you can even search within this blog from just a few months ago and locate my marvelous Caramelized Carrot and Ginger Soup, adapted from “The Modernist Cuisine.”
So why is there a sudden spike in popularity amongst soup enthusiasts in using pressure cookers? Well, I think the answer is simple; pressure cookers cook soups quickly and create unmatched flavors. That’s the bottom line…and that’s all that should matter.
My two newest soups this fall are based on a couple of regulars: Curried Pumpkin and Orange and Creamy Pumpkin and Chestnut.
Strudel desserts are perfect during cool fall evenings because they really highlight the fruit inside. I like to think of a strudel as a rolled up pie – much the same as a calzone is basically a rolled up pizza. The classic recipe, of course, is apple strudel which is very difficult to beat in terms of overwhelming satisfaction. But I like to tinker a bit, so I added some pears or green figs to the recipe…you know, just to be a bit different. Sometimes I even feel a bit more bold and replace the traditional roasted hazelnuts with walnuts.
However I decide to make the filling, I always make sure to make the dough in the same manner which is more in the Austrian style.
Austrian-style strudels are typically a bit smaller in diameter than their German or Hungarian counterparts…and the dough is much crispier – somewhat reminiscent to phyllo dough. German-style strudels are typically made from a dough similar to puff pastry, while Austrian strudels are made with essentially a pasta dough which has vinegar added to it. The addition of vinegar to the dough is very important…if not a bit odd sounding at first. Vinegar will help the formation of a very elastic gluten network, which helps greatly when stretching out this dough to a paper thin consistency. I always use a mild flavored white wine vinegar in my strudel dough.
Most traditional recipes include copious amounts of butter – both inside the filling and as part of the dough. I personally think the butter covers up the wonderful fruit and spice flavors, so I replace it with oil…plus, I don’t eat any dairy products.