Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Dal is a cornerstone of Indian meals. They are wonderful with lamb and chicken or as part of a healthy vegetarian meal. And while I truly love Indian food, I have to be honest – it doesn’t make the most compelling photographs. Don’t be put off by that. The flavors in this dal are rich and smoky and yet mellow all at the same time. It’s very easy to make and if you get into South Asian or Middle eastern cooking, all of the ingredients will become staples in your kitchen as they are now in mine. Make the full amount since left-overs will not go uneaten.

I highly recommend the cookbook linked below. It is full of step by step instructions and photos so that even a novice cook can make successful meals.

Smoky Yellow Split Peas from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Yield: About 6 cups

Ingredients

1 pound Yukon Gold or russet potatoes

1 cup split yellow peas

4 cups of water

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2-4 dried red cayenne chilies (like chili de Arbol), stems discarded

1 Tablespoon whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 medium tomato, cored and diced

1.5 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt

2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from darkening.
  2. Place the split peas in a 4 quart saucepan. Smoky Yellow Split Peas1Add water to cover and rinse the peas, rubbing them gently between your fingers. Remove any debris that may be lurking (pebbles or the odd skin of the pea). Drain the peas and repeat until the water runs clear. Then add the peas to 4 cups of water in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. White foam should rise to the surface. Using a spoon, remove the foam and discard it.
  3. Drain the potatoes and add them to the peas along with the turmeric. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes or until the peas are tender and the potatoes are cooked. Smoky Yellow Split Peas2
  4. In a small skillet, add the chilies, coriander and cumin Smoky Yellow Split Peas4Smoky Yellow Split Peas3and toast the spices over medium high heat, tossing them occasionally until the chilies are blackened and the coriander seeds are reddish in color. Everything will smell smoky and aromatic. Transfer the spice blend and the tomatoes into a blender and puree.
  5. Once the peas and potatoes are cooked (there will be liquid remaining in the pot), add every bit of the tomato and spice paste to the pot. Stir through. This can be made ahead to this point. Stir in the salt.
  6. Increase the heat to medium high and allow the dal to boil vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle and the dal to thicken. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to smush some of the potatoes and yellow split peas for an even thicker sauce. Garnish with cilantro when serving.

Sriracha Cashews

Sriracha Cashews1The temperatures have peaked in the 90’s and even with air conditioning, I want EASY. I came across these nuts in an otherwise underwhelming recipe that used way too much soy sauce and was more effort than the result warranted. (I may make it again with some major changes, which I will post at a later date.) The nuts were to have been the garnish, but for me, they became the main attraction. And they are so ridiculously easy to make! Fair warning, though, they are addictive. Munch them with drinks – or anytime – and use them as a garnish over a simple stir-fry to take it to the next level. All you need are two ingredients, plus a sheet pan and an oven. The original recipe only made a half cup of nuts, but I have increased it to 2 cups because, let’s face it, a half cup will be gone before they are barely out of the oven. These nuts have just the right amount of spice – not so much that you will blow off the top of your head but just enough to wake up your taste buds.

Sriracha Cashews as part of a recipe for Grilled Soy-basted Chicken Thighs

Yield: 2 cups of nuts

Ingredients

2 cups of raw cashews

1/2 cup of Sriracha sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Mix the cashews with the Sriracha sauce in a bowl until all of the nuts are well coated. Pour onto the sheet pan, separating the nuts into a single layer with a little space in between. Don’t go crazy doing this. It’s simple, right?
  3. Bake in the oven, stirring once until the nuts are roasted and dry. The time will vary according to your oven, humidity etc. The original recipe suggested 20 minutes, but mine took about 1 hour to be the way I like them. The color when finished was almost mahogany. Roast them until the nuts are no longer sticky. Allow them to cool and then start munching. Sriracha Cashews

NOTE: If you are making these ahead and they get a little sticky, just pop them onto a sheet pan and put them back in a 300 degree F. oven for about 3-5 minutes to refresh them.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust8 (2)

It’s rhubarb season again! Growing up my mother always made a strawberry or raspberry rhubarb compote that always hovered on the edge of sweet-tart flavor that was so refreshing on a hot summer day. I wanted to capture that flavor again but in a slightly more complex dessert. It is especially wonderful topped with a little Greek yogurt sweetened with agave syrup or honey or some lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The resulting dessert is light, a little bit tart, a little bit sweet, with that distinctive rhubarb flavor and a crumbly, nutty crust.

Since everyone’s taste is a bit different and fruit also varies, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar. I also made dough for a 9-inch shallow tart with enough left-over to make about 4 individual tartlettes if you wish. I made my dough with a mix of butter and Crisco for the shortening, but you could use all Crisco (a solid vegetable shortening) if you wish to keep this vegan.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Yield: One 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the filling

4 cups (about 1 pound) of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust2

1 cup granulated sugar

Scant 1 cup water

2 teaspoons arrowroot

pinch of Kosher or sea salt

1 cup of sliced strawberries

About 1/4 cup of red currant jelly

For the crust

2 cups finely ground walnuts

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

12 Tablespoons very cold solid shortening OR 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter plus 8 Tablespoons of solid shortening

About 4 Tablespoons ice water

Directions

For the filling

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust1

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Add the rhubarb, cover the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the rhubarb is very tender. This only takes about 3-4 minutes so watch it! Drain the rhubarb, reserving the liquid. Add the sliced strawberries to the hot rhubarb and add the pinch of salt, mixing through gently.
  2. Return the liquid to the pan and add the arrowroot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid clarifies and begins to thicken – about 8 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool somewhat. When it has cooled a bit, add only enough (about 1/4 cup) to the rhubarb-strawberry mixture to give it a “sauce” but not so much as to drown the rhubarb or to make it soupy. You will eye-ball this since it is not an exact science. (The arrowroot will thicken the liquid but will not become gloppy, something I HATE in fruit pies and desserts.) Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. It can also be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to use it. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust3

For the crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust4 (2)

  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the cold shortening in small cubes. Using your fingers, work the shortening into the dry mixture until you have pieces about the size of peas.
  2. Add the water and continue working the mixture until you can form the dough into a solid ball. I didn’t need to add any additional water, but if you must, add it in very small amounts at a time. Gather the dough together and flatten into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This can also be made ahead and should keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  3. When the dough has been chilled, remove it to a well-floured board, counter or pastry cloth and roll it out so that it fits into the bottom of the 9-inch flan pan. I only used about 2/3 of the dough. Place the round into the ungreased pan and using your fingertips or knuckles, carefully push the dough into and up the sides of the pan. While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake it until well browned, about 30 minutes. Ovens vary, so just keep checking it. You want it to look like this: Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust6

Assemblage

  1. Once the crust has cooled, pour in the rhubarb-strawberry mixture and spread it evenly across the crust.
  2. Warm the red currant jelly and spoon it over the top of the filling. If the jelly had actual currants in it, pour it through a sieve before putting it over the rhubarb mixture. Spread it evenly with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush. Only use enough to give a nice sheen to the tart. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust7
  3. Refrigerate the tart in the pan for at least 2 hours to allow everything to set up nicely. This can be made a day ahead. Once the tart has chilled, carefully remove the tart from the fluted flan pan and place on a serving plate. Serve as is, maybe with a sprig of fresh mint for color. I like it with a bit of sweetened Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or whipped cream, but if you wish to keep it vegan, it is also delicious plain. I’m personally not a fan of vegan whipped toppings, but go for it if that is what you like. Just enjoy!

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

I have been making the Middle Eastern roasted eggplant pâté, both with and without tahini for years and I love it. However, I saw this recipe in an Indian cookbook and decided to try it for some variety. In Hindi bharta means a mishmash of sorts. This version uses ingredients from the peasant community in the northwest region of India. It is redolent with that smoky eggplant flavor and is wonderful as a side dish or spread on toasted baguette slices to go along with cocktails. Try it over smashed avocado for an even deeper dish. Eggplant Pate8While traditionally made with ghee (clarified butter) it can also be made with a neutral vegetable oil to keep it vegan. No matter how you try it, the result is wonderful and the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you are making it for a crowd. My husband LOVED this.

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta) from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

1.5 pound firm purple eggplant without blemishes

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 rounded Tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger (I admit that I use the stuff from a jar)

1 fresh green chili, stems discarded, finely chopped (The recipe suggests using a Serrano chili, but that is a bit too hot for my taste so I used a jalapeno. Since it was quite large, I only ended up using half of the jalapeno.)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 Tablespoon ghee or Canola oil

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

Juice from 1/2 of a small lime

1 Tablespoon, chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. If you are grilling the eggplant, place it on the grill grate, cover the grill and cook, turning it periodically to ensure even grilling. Cook until the skin is evenly charred, about 25 minutes. If you are broiling the eggplant (which I did since I don’t own a grill), position the broiler rack so the eggplant will be about 6 inches from the heat. Place the eggplant on heavy duty foil directly on top of the rack and broil it, turning it midway until the skin is evenly charred. This takes about 30 minutes.
  2. Place the grilled eggplant in a bowl large enough to easily hold it and cover the bowl with plastic wrap to sweat the eggplant. This will take about 15 minutes. Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel the eggplant skin away over the bowl using a soup spoon, discarding the skin and stem. Retain any of the liquid that has pooled in the bowl. Eggplant Pate6
  3. Smush the eggplant with a potato masher or your hands. Add the onion, ginger, chili, salt and turmeric and stir to mix well.
  4. Heat the oil or ghee in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil or ghee begins to shimmer, sprinkle in the cumin seeds. They will instantly sizzle and perfume the air. This only takes about 5-10 seconds. Add the eggplant mixture and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet to make sure that nothing sticks. Cook for about 15 minutes until the flavors have mingled and are irresistible. Eggplant Pate2
  5. Stir in the lime juice and serve it warm with the chopped cilantro.

Steamed Artichokes with Tahini Sauce

Steamed Artichokes2Most people think of artichokes only as the hearts that come out of a can or jar or occasionally the freezer. They casually throw them into salad or maybe cook them with chicken and rice. Very little thought is given to the rest of the vegetable. I freely admit that steamed artichokes are an acquired taste – one that I acquired as a very young child. My mother frequently served them with a lemon butter sauce or a simple vinaigrette – both wonderful and something you should consider trying. I recall the fun of peeling off the leaves one by one and dipping them in the sauce while I grabbed that teeny bit of edible green at the bottom between my teeth. I would peel and dip and discard over and over anxiously waiting to get to the prize at the bottom – the artichoke heart. But first I had to winnow the leaves down until I came to the spiny purplish leaves which covered the fibrous choke. The trick then was to dig out the choke without losing even the tiniest bit of the heart. That wonderfully green, firm/tender taste of the heart was the final destination at the end of the journey.

I haven’t made artichokes in years but I saw a recipe in the Sunday Chicago Tribune newspaper by Leah Eskin that reminded me how truly simple they are to prepare and I made up my mind to make some. You want to find nice green, fat globes. They can be eaten warm or cold with a host of sauces. My husband was not a huge fan, but for me – well, it brought back many fond memories and I enjoyed it immensely. Give it a try and make up your own mind.

Steamed Artichokes with Tahini Sauce (I always make extra sauce since left-overs never go unused)

Yield: Makes 2 but can easily be doubled or tripled

Ingredients 

Steamed Artichokes

1 lemon cut in half

1/2 cup tahini

2 cloves of garlic

3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt plus 2 teaspoons

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or fresh cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground sumac

2 bay leaves

2 large, fat artichokes

Directions

  1. Trim the stems of the artichokes with a large chef’s knife. You only want about 1/2 inch of stem and the artichoke should be able to sit flat on its bottom. Using the large knife, cut through the top third of the artichoke, discarding the leaves. Pull off any nasty leaves along the bottom of the artichoke. Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip off the sharp points of the remaining visible leaves so that the top of each leaf is flat.
  2. Place the artichokes cut side up in a deep pot that is large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour in cold water to a depth of about one (1) inch. Place one garlic clove and the bay leaves in the bottom of the pot. Place 2 teaspoons of salt in the pot. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a dish or measuring cup and set aside. Place the lemon halves (without the juice!) into the pot. Steamed Artichokes3Bring the water to a boil,cover the pot and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Steam until tender, which took 25 minutes for me. When the artichokes are tender (test by piercing a sharp knife into the base) carefully remove them from the water. Either use tongs or a large slotted spoon. Place them cut side down onto a clean dish towel and allow them to drain for at least 10 minutes. Discard everything else. The artichokes can be made up to a day ahead and eaten cold or you can eat them immediately.
  3. While the artichokes are cooking make your sauce. Place the well-stirred tahini into a bowl or measuring cup with the lemon juice. Whisk until well blended. Then add the remaining clove of garlic that has been crushed, the 3/4 teaspoon of salt, the Aleppo pepper and enough cold water to achieve the consistency of sauce that you like. When you serve them, be sure to have a place for people to discard the leaves and individuals bowls of the sauce for dipping. Steamed Artichokes4

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Some weeks it is challenging to come up with something that I think is worthy of sharing. I had intended on sharing a recipe for a Neapolitan Curd Tart, (which I am still determined to do – someday…) but while certainly edible, it just wasn’t share-worthy. However, I did come across a vegan recipe for a vegetable fritter that uses red lentils as a binder and I was hooked.

I never really knew my maternal grandmother. She was already fairly old and quite ill by the time I came along. However, I was always told that she had “golden hands.” My grandmother was a wonderful cook and baker and also could sew anything. But getting recipes from her was nearly impossible. She made an ice box cookie that my mother once tried to watch her make in order to write it down. Grandma was always improving recipes and would measure with instructions like “If the flour feels a little heavy in your hand, take a little off” or If it feels a little light, add some more.” I guess even though I never really got to know my grandma, I take after her in some ways.  I’m fairly clever with my hands and I am constitutionally incapable of making a recipe exactly as written. While I am sure that the original recipe is very good (although I never made it that way) I have to say that the version I am presenting here is outstanding. But feel free to improve it yourself. Change the seasonings to suit your taste. And if you prefer sweet potato to regular potato – go for it.

Since I am not actually a vegan, I served this with a simple Greek yogurt that I flavored with Major Grey’s Chutney. If you wish to remain vegan you could stir the chutney into a good quality vegan mayonnaise or use it as is or you could make a tahini sauce instead. If you don’t like Indian flavorings (really?!!) you could season with pretty much any herbs or spices you like. These would make a wonderful appetizer or a summer dinner served over some peppery watercress or arugula with a nice glass of Chardonnay or a Rose and some fresh melon for dessert.

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney by Sina from Vegan Heaven and seriously adapted by me

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Yield: About 2 dozen 3-inch fritters

Ingredients

3/4 cup red lentils, well-rinsed and cooked until very soft (I used masoor dal, which are split red lentils, but any red lentil will do. Cook according to the package since the time and amount of water will vary with the type of lentil used.)

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped (Any kind of onion will do; I used a yellow onion.)

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 medium raw potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated (I used golden potatoes but a Russet would also work.)

1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated

1 ear of corn with kernels removed OR 1/2 cup of canned or frozen kernels

5 Tablespoons of flour (I used Besan or Gram flour made from chickpeas which adds flavor and protein, but you can use all-purpose flour if that is all you have.)

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 generous teaspoon of Garam Masala

1 scant teaspoon of Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Oil for frying (I used Grapeseed oil)

Directions

  1. Cook the red lentils according to the package or until very mushy. Drain any excess liquid and set aside to cool.
  2. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients (except for the oil!) in a large bowl. Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney3
  3. Heat a shallow layer of oil in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet until hot but not smoking. Add about 1.5 Tablespoons of the mixture into the pan. I used a cookie scoop to make it easy. Using the back of a spatula, slightly flatten the fritters. Fry until browned on one side and then turn to brown on the other side. The whole process takes about 6-8 minutes. How crispy you like them is a matter of personal preference and since there is no raw egg you don’t have to worry about under cooking the fritters.  Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney4I placed browned fritters on a Silpat covered sheet pan in a warm oven while I continued frying. Alternatively you can place them on a plate lined with paper towels and serve immediately.  Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney2Any left-overs can be refrigerated and reheated the next day in the oven or in a frying pan.
  4. Serve with any sauce you wish, although, honestly, these are also good just as is.

NOTE of CAUTION: Be a little careful of popping corn kernels if they are in the oil for too long!

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut dip

I’m always looking for something that my guests can nibble on with drinks that will stimulate their appetite but which won’t overwhelm my main meal. I came across this dip which is adapted from Feasts: Middle Eastern Food to Savor and Share by Sabrina Ghayour. While I haven’t explored the actual book or any other recipes, based on this I am anxious to see what else Ms. Ghayour has in store.

I made this dip for Passover but it would be excellent anytime. And since it is vegan, it can be used at any meal if you observe food restrictions for whatever reason. If you are unfamiliar with nigella seeds, they are definitely worth trying. They can be found at any decent spice store or online and will be used in Indian as well as Middle Eastern recipes. Nigella is also known as black caraway, black cumin or fennel or kalonji seeds. Any left-over dip will easily last a week in the refrigerator.

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip 

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound carrots, peeled and very roughly chopped

5.3 ounces of walnut pieces, very lightly toasted in a dry pan on the stove (As soon as you begin to smell the nut, remove it immediately from the heat!)

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1 well-rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 Tablespoons of Agave syrup or honey

Zest and juice of 2 large unwaxed oranges

About 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) EVOO

3 Tablespoons nigella seeds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish

Coarsely chopped cilantro

Whole walnuts

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the carrots. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots are just tender (about 10 minutes). When a sharp knife inserted into a carrot chunk comes out without any resistance, the carrot is done. Immediately drain under cold water to halt the cooking.
  2. In a food processor combine all of the ingredients up through the EVOO. You want a course puree. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in a little more EVOO if you prefer a slightly looser consistency. I did not. Pulse through the nigella seeds and serve with a whole walnut and/or some coarsely chopped cilantro on top.

 

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake

I LOVE Passover. I love that it means Spring is here. I love the story of my People’s deliverance from slavery to freedom. I love sharing our table with family and friends and I love the food. Baking for Passover was always challenging but not insurmountable and I make wonderful cookies and cakes that would be delicious anytime, but which I save for Passover to keep them special. However, our godson is deathly allergic to eggs and THAT is a real challenge.

Sephardic Jews i.e. Jews who originated from Spain, always considered legumes (pulses) and rice Kosher for Passover, but Ashkenazi Jews i.e. Jews from Eastern European traditions considered these foods forbidden. Thankfully in the last couple of years this has changed if you follow the Conservative or Reform Jewish traditions. Some Orthodox Jews now eat quinoa during Passover and others do not. Yes, it’s complicated, so before you get too excited about this cake, find out if your community’s traditions allow for the use of quinoa and aquafaba (the liquid from cooked chickpeas). Some allow one and not the other. I am not a rabbinic authority. However, if you follow Sephardic traditions or the Conservative or Reform movement then this cake may just be a revelation to those of you who cannot or do not eat eggs but wish to observe Passover traditions.

I saw a recipe for Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake on the Food52 website and was intrigued. I wondered if I could take the recipe and “veganize” (is that a word?) it. I made the cake 3 times until I was able to get what I wanted. And unlike the original, I did not make this in a bundt pan but chose to make it as a layer cake. I then went on the hunt for a vegan Kosher for Passover option for a chocolate mousse and purchased a Passover chocolate spread. Just follow the steps and this works. There are no tricks or special skills required, but it does take some patience. Thankfully I worked out all of the kinks for you. I made the cake layers a few days ahead of when I needed them but I didn’t assemble the cake until the morning of the Seder. Please use only the best baking chocolate and cocoa. There are many excellent Kosher chocolate options available now. I used a 70% cacao chocolate from Elite but there are others. I wouldn’t go below 60% cacao or above 70% for best results. Assuming you have any left-overs, they will last refrigerated for several days. This can easily be made a couple of days ahead.

I wish that I could have had this recipe ready sooner, but keep this in your file for next year and/or make it during one of the remaining nights of Passover. Why do you think there are 8 days in which to celebrate?!

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake (Good anytime!)

Death by Chocolate Cake1

Yield: One 8-inch layer cake (It’s rich so this should feed at least 10 people.)

Ingredients

For Cake:

3/4 cup (130 g) quinoa

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water

Coconut cooking spray or melted coconut oil, for greasing the pan

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the pan

Zest of one large orange (optional)

1/3 cup (80 ml) orange juice

Aquafaba from one 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, beaten until it turns white and has begun to thicken but before real peaks form

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla if for Passover)

3/4 cup (180 ml) melted coconut oil

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

2 Tablespoons of strong black coffee

1/4 cup matza cake meal

1/4 cup almond or hazelnut meal (ground nuts)

1 cup (80 g) dark unsweetened cocoa

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3.5 ounces (100 g) bittersweet chocolate

Vegan Chocolate Mousse by the Minimalist Baker and tweaked by me

1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder

3/4 cup chopped cocoa butter 

3.5 ounces dark chocolate (64-70%)

1 14-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk or coconut creme

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of Kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon of Powdered or Confectioner’s sugar (Kosher for Passover)

6 pitted medjool dates (you could substitute maple syrup but the mousse will be thinner)

Garnishes (Optional)

2 Tablespoons 70% dark mini-chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

Directions

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 8-inch cake pans (preferably non-stick) and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. Either use quinoa that has already been rinsed or rinse your quinoa. If you don’t, there can be a slightly bitter aftertaste. Place the quinoa and water in a small pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Open the pot and allow the quinoa to cool. This can also be made a day ahead.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Give it a stir and then microwave for an additional 38 seconds. Set aside.
  4. Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor and process until the quinoa is broken down almost to a paste. Now add the sugar and pulse a few times. Add the zest, if using and coffee and pulse a couple of times.
  5. Add the cocoa powder and pulse about 5 times. Then add in the baking powder and salt and pulse twice. Add in the orange juice, melted chocolate and vanilla extract and pulse a few times. Now add the melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated. Lastly add the matza cake meal and nut meal. Just leave everything in the food processor, covered while you prepare the aquafaba.
  6. In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the strained liquid from a 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas. I like the ones that have salt. It just always seems to work better for me. Using the whisk attachment, beat the aquafaba on high until the liquid turns completely white, has increased in volume and begun to thicken. This takes about 15 minutes so be patient. You do not need to beat until actual peaks form.
  7. Add the aquafaba to your food processor and process until it is completely incorporated. This can be done by hand if your processor isn’t big enough. Divide and pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with just a couple of crumbs on it.  Remove the cake to a cooling rack and allow it to cool in the pan for about 12 minutes or until you can touch the rim of the pan with your fingers.
  8. Place a cooling rack over the pan and flip out the cake. Allow it to finish cooling completely. This can be made a couple of days ahead or even earlier if well-wrapped and frozen. If frozen, defrost the cake layers before assembling. 

For the Mousse

  1. In a small saucepan, combine cocoa or cacao powder, cocoa butter, chocolate, salt, and (180 ml) coconut milk. Begin warming over medium-low heat, whisking to combine.
  2. Once the mixture is melted whisk until fully combined. Then remove from heat and add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar to taste (or just add more dates). I found 3/4 teaspoon sugar to be perfect.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add dates and blend on high until creamy and smooth. 
  4. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more cacao powder for rich chocolate flavor, dates for sweetness, or salt for saltiness.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and cover. Refrigerate until cold and thickened – at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  6. To serve on its own, divide between serving glasses and top with coconut whipped cream, raspberries, and chopped vegan dark chocolate or cacao/cocoa powder (optional).
  7. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days. 

Assembly

  1.  Place one cake layer on a cake plate or cake board with the flat side facing up. (The flat side will have sunk slightly as it cooled but don’t worry since it will be filled with mousse and won’t show.) Spread with softened chocolate or chocolate hazelnut spread. How thickly you do this is between you and your cardiologist. I used about 10 ounces. 
  2. Now spread half of the chocolate mousse over the chocolate spread. If you like, you can sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons of shopped walnuts and 2 Tablespoons of mini-dark chocolate chips over the chocolate spread for a bit of extra decadence. Place the next layer with the flat side facing up over the first layer and the fillings. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining mousse. Using an off-set spatula, just smooth around the sides of the cake to catch any bits that may have oozed. You should see the filling, but it shouldn’t be oozing out. You need to refrigerate the cake at this point to keep things from softening and to make cutting the cake easier.
  3.  Add chocolate curls or sprinkles or piece of candied orange to the top if you wish but frankly nothing more is needed. Take the cake out of the fridge about an 45 minutes to an hour before you wish to serve it. This incredibly rich and decadent cake reminds me of a Chocolate Marquise cake that a wonderful French Bistro in Chicago used to make. No one eating this will think that they settled either for a Passover dessert or for a vegan dessert. This is  one INTENSE chocolate experience.

Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Kheer2My husband LOVES rice pudding. In fact, when I first met him almost 35 years ago, one of the very few things that he knew how to cook was a CrockPot version of rice pudding. My father also loved rice pudding and my mother made a wonderful custard-style baked rice pudding. However, a number of years ago, I came across this Indian version of rice pudding that did not use any eggs and is cooked on a stove-top. I won’t lie to you – it’s definitely labor-intensive (although not difficult) because it needs to be stirred very frequently for almost 1.5 hours. But if you love rice pudding and cannot use eggs for health or ethical reasons, then this is the recipe for you. Indians would eat this somewhat more liquidy than I personally like, but I will let you know in the directions when to stop cooking for a traditional kheer and when to stop for a somewhat more custard-like consistency. My husband prefers to eat this warm, although I personally prefer it cold. This is one time when I can report that we are both right! It is often made for special occasions since rice is a symbol of both happiness and good fortune. And who couldn’t use a bit of both?

While this time I did not make this a vegan version – using milk, butter and honey – I have successfully made it using non-dairy milk, sugar or agave syrup and either a non-dairy buttery spread or coconut oil. (My preference is for vanilla soy milk but any creamy non-dairy milk will work.) This version uses Indian flavorings, which we happen to love, but you can easily swap out the cardamom and saffron with 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract, zest of one lemon or orange and a few drops of a vegetable-based food coloring. Pistachios can be used in place of the almonds or the nuts can be left out entirely. In that case I would double the amount of raisins or whatever dried fruit you preferred.

Rice Pudding (Kheer) from Flavors of India by Shantra Nimbark Sacharoff and tweaked by me

Yield: 8-10 portions

Ingredients

1 cup of uncooked long-grain, white rice (I like Basmati)

8-10 cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads

2 quarts milk

1 cup of sugar or honey (I like to use a nice Greek honey, but any lighter floral honey will do.)

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, ghee or coconut oil

1/2 cup of golden raisins (also known as Sultanas)

1/2 cup of slivered blanched almonds (plus about an 1/8 cup additional that have been lightly toasted for decoration (optional))

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to directions in a heavy pot that will be large enough to take the 1/2 gallon of milk that you will be adding to the cooked rice. I like to just under-cook my rice slightly, but mostly you just don’t want it to stick to the pot.
  2. In the meantime, remove the cardamom seeds from their pods and using a rolling pin or bottle turned on its side, crush the seeds. Set them aside with the crushed saffron threads. In a small skillet, melt the butter and saute the almonds and raisins in the butter just until the nuts begin to gain a bit of color. 

  3. As soon as the rice is finished cooking, add the 2 quarts of milk. Turn the heat to medium high, continue cooking with the pot now uncovered and using a non-metallic spoon, stir the milk and rice from the bottom of the pan to prevent the rice from clumping and sticking and the milk from forming a skin. This needs to cook for 1 hour, stirring every 2-3 minutes. (I know it can be a bit tedious, but the end result is worth it. Read a book while you cook!) At the end of the hour, the volume will be reduced by about one third and the milk will have thickened. Kheer10
  4. Now add in your cardamom and saffron and stir well to distribute the seasoning and to color the milk and rice evenly. Then add in your sugar or honey and the nuts and raisins along with any butter to the pan. 

    Continue to cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 more minutes. The rice pudding is done at this point. However, since I like mine to be a bit thicker, I continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes (total of 30 minutes after adding in the raisins and nuts). Kheer3Immediately pour the pudding into your serving dish (glass is best I find) and decorate the top with the optional lightly toasted almonds. Even if you want to eat this warm, it is best if it sits for at least 2 hours before serving. It will continue to thicken some as it sits. Refrigerated it can last up to a week. Kheer

 

Cracked Wheat Onion Bread

Cracked wheat onion bread

The weather wasn’t that great this past weekend so the idea of spending some time reading Ron Chernow’s book on Ulysses S. Grant and baking bread while my husband put up some shelving seemed like a good idea. I wanted to make sandwich bread and none of the recipes I looked at got me excited so I decided to experiment. I wanted a bread that was flavorful, had some bite to it and would make wonderful toast; I came up with this cracked wheat bread with fried onions. While you could make fried onions, I bought mine from nuts.com. They also are available at most grocery stores.

This is a heavy dough and since I have arthritis in my hands, I find that I no longer can do all of the mixing and kneading by hand that I once did so I use my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Feel free to go at it by hand if you want a good workout. I am not vegan and do not keep Kosher, so I used butter and dairy milk in the recipe. However, if you wish to keep this vegan, I see no reason why you couldn’t use unsweetened non-dairy milk (my personal preference is for soy but any other creamy non-dairy milk should work) and a non-dairy buttery spread.

The cracked wheat bread made incredible toast slathered with fresh butter, but it would be equally great with smushed avocado on top. However you decide to eat this bread, you can’t go wrong. It is the perfect slice – crunchy, moist, great crumb and full of flavor.

Cracked wheat onion bread3

Cracked Wheat Onion Bread

Yield: Two 9 x 5-inch loaves

Ingredients

1 cup coarse cracked or bulghur wheat

2 cups of water

1/3 to 1/2 cup of fried onions

1 cup of milk

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/4 cup unsulphured dark molasses

1.5 Tablespoons Kosher salt

2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/3 cup warm water

2 cups of whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground

3+ cups of bread flour

1 Tablespoon neutral oil, butter or ghee for the bowl plus more for the bread pans

Cracked wheat onion bread1

Directions

  1. In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the bulghur wheat and 2 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot tightly and cook for 12-14 minutes. The time might vary according to the cracked wheat you use. It is done when the water is absorbed and the wheat is fluffy.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the butter, salt, milk and molasses and stir through well. Allow to cool until the mixture is just warm.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast, 1/3 cup of warm water and one teaspoon of sugar. Mix lightly and allow to stand for about 10 minutes until the yeast has eaten the sugar and the mixture is foamy.
  4. Add the bulghur wheat mixture and stir through with a heavy wooden spoon. Add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Now add 2 cups of the bread flour one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. The mixture will likely still be quite wet. Start adding more bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture starts to resemble dough. As the dough gets heavier, you can mix in the flour on the lowest speed of the standing mixer, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  5. Start kneading the dough once it is no longer too sticky and begins to come away from the sides of the bowl as an intact dough. I use the second lowest speed on my mixer for this. Add flour as needed about 1/4 cup at a time so that the dough will pull away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. I cannot give you an exact amount of flour to use since humidity and different brands of flour will lead to different amounts. The dough will be soft, but should not be sticky. I kneaded it for 11 minutes with the standing mixer set on Speed 2. I added flour in small amounts so that as the dough kneaded it came away cleanly from the bowl. After 11 minutes, I turned the dough onto a lightly floured counter and kneaded by hand for about 2 minutes. The dough should feel warm, supple and “alive.” Roll into a large ball or disk.
  6. Coat a large bowl (I use the one from the mixer to cut down on dishes!) with about 1.5 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel that was rinsed in warm water and rung out or use plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled – about 1 to 1.5 hours. This dough proved to be very fast-rising in my apartment which I usually keep on the cool side.
  7. Coat 2 bread pans generously with oil, ghee or butter. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form each half into a shape to fit the pan. Some people like to roll the dough into a rectangle and then tightly roll the piece up from the short end, pinching the dough along the seam at the bottom. (I don’t personally find that makes my crumb any better than when I simply shape it with my hands into a fat oblong. I then pull the two ends under and pinch the bottom seam.) Place the dough into the prepared pans seam-side down and cover lightly. Allow to rise until the dough reaches the top of the pans. This only took about 40 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Allow the oven to continue heating unopened while the dough has its second rise. When the dough has risen, place both pans in the oven side by side with a couple of inches between the two pans. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the breads are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon or your knuckles. Turn the breads out onto a rack. While the breads are still hot, brush them with some butter, ghee or oil. Allow to cool completely. The bread will last for a week or it can be wrapped well and frozen. This bread is a real winner.