9/28/2014

vegan pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust

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So if you're going to delve into the pumpkin craze (and you are because, let's face it, once the leaves have begun to turn resistance is futile), you might as well do it right, starting with this vegan pumpkin pie. I admit that I felt skeptical at first. As much as vegan treats have many times exceeded my expectations, I know the very non-vegan staples of traditional pumpkin pie: eggs and condensed milk. It doesn't get any less vegan than that.


So how will this work? What will it be like? How can a pumpkin pie be vegan and made with only a 1/4 cup of maple syrup? Where's the sugar? Where's the dairy! Well. With our first (MASSIVE) pumpkin of the year roasted and ready to purée (which you can do too, and it's totally easy), I decided it was time to find out. Now I'm going to be completely upfront with you. This is one of those recipes that takes a big time investment. Not because the recipe itself is complicated or prolonged, but because you're going to have to refrigerate this pie for a longass time. What's recommended is 8-24 hours, so my advice to you is to prep it the day before, pop it in the fridge, and try not to think about it until morning. Sure, your dreams will be all about pumpkin people with pumpkins for heads, but who hasn't had that one before?


For this recipe (adapted from Love & Lemons' mini vegan pumpkin pies), you'll need:

For the filling:
1 cup of almond milk
1 cup of fresh or packed pumpkin purée
3 tablespoons organic corn starch
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups vegan gingersnap crumbs (not too hard to find, believe it or not, as a lot of boxed varieties are made without animal products)
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup ground walnuts
6 tablespoons Earth Balance or coconut oil, melted (we went with half and half)
3 tablespoons brown sugar (Now, I couldn't say for sure since I've only made this WITH the brown sugar, but I've got a thought that the crust completely doesn't need it, as the cookie crumbs provide all the sweetness you need. Let me know if you agree!)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and then you can begin preparing your crust. In the bowl of a food processor, using the S-blade, pulse your cookies until fully broken down. Add your almonds and walnuts and repeat this process. Next, add in your brown sugar and Earth Balance or coconut oil and pulse until combined or the crumbs start to stick together.


Press into a lightly greased 9-inch pie pan and place into the oven to pre-bake for 8-10 minutes. There's nothing here that needs to cook, per say, but it's just to help the crust set up before you add your filling.


In the meantime, in a medium saucepan (with no heat yet), add your almond milk and corn starch. Whisk together until no lumps remain and then whisk in your maple syrup. Put your pot over a medium-low heat and continue to whisk until the mixture starts to thicken. This is a pretty cool part of the process, I have to say. It made me feel a little bit like a mad scientist and I don't mind.


Immediately remove from heat and whisk in your pumpkin purée, coconut oil, vanilla, spices and salt. Set aside and allow to cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Once slightly cooled, add to your gingersnap crust and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is set-ish and the color has gotten a bit more orange.


What is "set-ish?" you ask? Well, this pie is not going to get very un-wobbly in the oven. That's just not the way it goes. The real firming up is going to happen during that loooong overnight wait when you're having pumpkin dreams (nightmares?), remember? So don't leave it in the oven until it no longer moves. A little movement is good, even aspired to. So just let the top of the filling come together and then allow to cool completely.

Finally, cover well and transfer to the fridge to chill for 8-24 hours.


Here's the thing: if you're a vegan by choice or by circumstance and you really, really miss having pumpkin pie? Then this wait is totally worth it. I'm not a vegan, and probably never will be, and pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts. Once, I ate a whole one, by myself, in the span of two days. Impressive, yes, but that was also a rough year. IN ANY CASE: make yourself wait. You will not be sorry. As you know, that's the very heart and soul of this operation, so make it count. Vive le vegan!

Want some other pumpkin stuff to make? I thought you'd never ask:








9/24/2014

orange ginger turtle cookies

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Alright, everyone: I give. Fall is here, boo, hiss, etc. I mean, I'm still wearing shorts and no sleeves as I write this and I plan on keeping that up until the temperature hovers somewhere around 55 (okay, 60 might be pushing it) and as itchy as we all are for pumpkin everything (sheesh), I thought I'd take it one step further: enter gingerbread.



I know gingerbread usually gets restricted to the Christmas season, but my question is: why the heck? It's SO good, right, so spicy so full of unique flavor, why the heck are we reserving it for a four-week window in the dead of winter? (Okay, let's not allow this to stem into a rant about Christmas feeling four months long these days. But just so you know how I feel about that.) But I say, if pumpkin drinks and candies and cookies and soups hit the shelves and our kitchens sometime in mid-August, the first week of fall is a good a time as any to start baking with cloves and molasses.


However, I did summer it up just a touch in bypassing the traditional gingerbread man shape in favor of a too-cute turtle cookie cutter gifted to me by my mom, just because. (Thanks, mom!) We recently returned from our annual family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey, where I've previously been known to spot some daring sea turtles, crossing the road from the bay to the, well, sea. This year, no such luck. So these cookies are a salute to these guys, who I hope to see next year: swim safe!

I've tried a handful of ginger cookie recipes in the past, many of which were good, but I've never felt committed. Until now, my friends: until now. This time, I happened upon Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli's take and decided to give it my own adaptation. She's definitely one of my favorite Food Network-ers. She just seems like she's equally good at being tough and to the point as she is at being sweet. She tells it like it is. Plus, I saw her one time at a no-name pizza shop in Union Square, so you know that makes her pretty down to earth. Plus, this. Cue abnormal squeals of excitement!

Anyway, for this recipe, which is quite easy, you will need:

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 2/3 cup of sugar
Zest of one orange
4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 lemon, juiced

For the orange glaze (optional, but wholly delightful):

1 cup confectioners sugar
1-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, add your butter, sugar and orange zest. Beat together for about five minutes (but no more than ten) until fluffy and smooth. If you can resist taking a swipe from the bowl, you should win a Nobel Prize. Trust me, though, you don't have a fighting chance.


In a large bowl, sift together you flours, all spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together until evenly combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together your eggs, molasses and lemon juice. This mixture might look a little weird and separated, but don't sweat it.


Slowly integrate your dry ingredients into your butter-sugar-zest component, lowering the speed on your mixer so as to avoid flour going everywhere. Once all of your dry ingredients have been added, pour in your wet ingredients and continue to beat until evenly combined. Separate your dough into two even balls and wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for thirty minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Once your dough as chilled, lightly flour a clean, flat surface. Flour a rolling pin and roll out your dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using your cookie cutter shape of choice (turtle turtle turtle), cut your shapes aiming to make as few scraps as possible (through the scraps can always be rerolled or shaped into the weird, reject cookies that you get to eat with guilt of throwing off the batch ratio, ahem!). Repeat until all your cookies are rolled and cut. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until browned around the edges.


When your cookies (turtles) come out of the oven, allow to cool on the pans for about 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks. Once completely cool, whisk together your confectioners sugar and orange juice, one tablespoon at a time until you've achieved your desired consistency. Think thick, but spreadable. If it's too runny, it will be hard to ice your cookies without making a total mess. Lightly coat the tops of your cookies with your glaze, which can be done by dipping or careful application with a butter knife.


And you thought pumpkin was the only way to welcome the shift in season. Okay, we roasted a pumpkin today, too. Might as well embrace the change as it comes: bring it on! (Thank you, Alex!)

And, just for good measure, this.






9/22/2014

middle eastern ratatouille

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We recently added another cookbook to our shelves. The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian by Sally Butcher, which is full of what can pretty much be described as my dream meals: savory breads, one pot meals, unexpected sweet concoctions. I've mentally bookmarked just about every page.


What got us started was Sally's suggestion for a Middle Eastern take on the classic ratatouille. Which, actually, has never been my favorite version of any of the vegetables involved. I prefer my veggies when they retain a little snap (save for roasting, which I am always in the mood for), so ratatouille doesn't normally do it for me. Still, I knew my affinity for the spice variety in Middle Eastern cooking could turn this whole thing around, and that it did. When you add the right dose of garlic, lemon, cumin and oregano, all the flavors just sing together, something like: dinnnnner is SERVED.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 medium eggplant, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 handful of chopped fresh parsley


Sally's original recipe also called for potatoes, which I nixed, in favor of putting them on the side as a Middle Eastern twist on potato salad: think more tahini and less mayonnaise. Actually, no mayonnaise at all. But if you'd rather keep it all together, you can also add two medium potatoes, diced and parboiled.

What's great about recipes like this is that aside from a little chopping prep work, you can throw it in the oven and get on with your evening. It also answers the question, "WHAT am I going to do with all this eggplant and zucchini?" as it piles up on your counter even late into September. This job hits two summer bounties with one stone. You get the idea.


Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Toss all of your chopped vegetables together in a large casserole dish (or two medium ones, if you're like me). Coat generously with olive oil, oregano, cumin, lemon, salt and pepper. Arrange your smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves throughout your pan (or pans). Transfer to the oven for 1 1/2 hours (I knowww, I know) or until your vegetables are tender.


So, your best bet here is to not be STARVING when you start this dish. The cooking time is long: yes. But what I love about it is that it's not hands on (not even a little) and you can free yourself up to do other things while you wait. As much as I love cooking, which is a lot, sometimes it's good to get a little relief from the kitchen, especially as summer is coming to a close. Not that I'm complaining: a high of 70 degrees on the first day of fall? Exactly, world. I'll take it.

This dish is great served up with a scoop of fragrant rice (think jasmine or basmati), but is still tasty enough to stand up on its own. Sprinkle your parsley on top before serving, which adds a great freshness to your very cooked components. Happy equinox!




9/15/2014

summer pasta with roasted tomato, chard and garlic

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Summer has so many good vegetables. I mean, so does winter. I'm only saying. Something about putting together a summer meal feels a little lighter and airier, maybe. I'll just toss in a bit of freshness and a pinch of goodness and we'll all just hang out in the kitchen and laugh and have a late dinner. Right? It could have something to do with the fact that we're barefoot and sun-tired and stuff like that, and even though cooking in the winter feels a little heartier (and a bit more hibernation-urgent), working with summer produce makes me feel more like this, while winter leaves me a little, well, this. But that could just be the thought of snow talking.


I'm a big fan of throwing together a pasta dinner with what we have going on from the farm. It the summer (or maybe ever), it's pretty hard to go wrong. But especially in the warmer months when you've got a bounty of tomatoes and lots of pretty greens, you're just in for something pretty exceptional. This is one of those dinners where there doesn't have to be a lot of rules, but you can always swap out the chard for spinach or kale or roast eggplant instead of tomatoes. Whatever you have on hand will do.


What I used for this simple pasta night is:

1 pound whole wheat pasta (any shape, though I find fusilli and those like it are better suited for greens)
2-3 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped
3-4 cups Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
1 small onion, chopped (any color)
3-4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Fresh oregano, if you've got some, otherwise dried will do

Start by prepping your tomatoes for the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees. Cut your tomatoes into wedges and place them, face side up, on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour (I know, but it's worth it!) until they are oozy and sweet.


When your tomatoes are almost done, set your water on to boil in a large pot. Salt it well and cook your pasta according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, you can get started on your greens. In a large pan, get some olive oil heating on medium high. Add your garlic cloves (crushed, but still whole) and stir for 1 minute or until the smell starts to permeate. Add your onions and continue to sauté until they start to soften. Add your greens and allow them to wilt, adding seasoning as you wish and waiting until the last possible moment to add your oregano -- if you're using dried, you can add it in during the garlic-and-onion phase.


When your pasta is about one minute from being cooked, remove from heat. Reserve about 1/2 cup of your pasta water and set aside. Drain your noodles and then add to the pan with your chard, onions and garlic. Remove the tomatoes from the oven, which should be looking beeeeeautiful, and add those as well. Toss together until the tomatoes are evenly distributed throughout.

And, ta-da, you are officially and excellent summer cook! Because those few and easy to find ingredients are all you need for a dish that's light and still full of ripe, seasonal flavor.


9/14/2014

the best bruschetta

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Anyone who knows me also knows that at this time of year, you are likely to find me going gaga over tomatoes. I wait all year (yes, all year) for that perfect, New Jersey tomato. It is a thing of beauty. I love the colors, the awkward shapes, their perfect smell. In fact, I've been eating heirlooms and mozzarella every day for lunch for maybe ... well, as long as there are heirlooms scattered on the countertop, that's what I'm doing. You can expect me to be not sorry about it, too.


Still, every now and then, you have to mix it up a little, divert from the classic (but delightful) Caprese and make bruschetta. Especially if you've got some really good bread, like from this place, which my mom brought us the other weekend: nothing better. I've had a lot of bread in my life, and this. is. it.


So with a paper bag full of beautiful sun gold cherry tomatoes from Gravity Hill, a loaf of half-eaten crusty bread and a beautiful basil plant sunning on our kitchen window sill, we were fully prepared to create the perfect simple Saturday lunch.


For this recipe, you'll need:

About 11/2 to 2 cups of tomatoes, diced (or if using cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon of dark balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
A generous pinch of salt
Black pepper
A palmful of basil leaves, gently torn or sliced
2-4 pieces crusty bread of choice (the one we had on hand is sourdough, and while this is not traditional, it was amazing)

Depending on the type of tomatoes you choose, slice accordingly and mix together in a large bowl. Sprinkle evenly with salt and toss together. Set aside for 5-10 minutes; this will draw out some (but not all) of the natural moisture, just to keep your bread from going a little too soggy.

Once drained, add your garlic, vinegar, olive oil and black pepper. Toss to evenly coat. Meanwhile, slice your bread (about 1/2-3/4 inch thick) and toast: hint, the broiler is best! It can give a nice crunchy char around the edges, which is always nice.


After your bread is toasted, top each piece with one scoop (or two) of your tomato mixture. Top with torn pieces of basil. And just like that, you're ready to serve and bite right into summer. This is a great simple appetizer for dinner any night of the week, and still just as tasty (and easy!) to offer to guests.


9/09/2014

eggplants stacks with couscous and lemony chard

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I love summer. CSA-season in the warmer months is the best, at least around here. And while last year we were lucky enough to have the family plan from Honeybrook Farm (thanks sister and brother!), we quickly realized how difficult it was to use up our beautiful bounty before it started all over again: every week! I remember one particular Tuesday having enough tomatoes and potatoes to cover an entire counter. We made a lot of sauce. And ate a lot of potatoes.


Listen though, I'm not complaining. There is nothing more exciting than picking up your weekly share. It's like the lottery and Christmas all rolled into one. Will we get melons this week, or squash or greens or all of the above? Will there be berries and hot peppers and herbs to pick? And of course always (once July-ish hits), tons of beautiful flowers.

This year, we opted for the smaller, medium-sized share. Perfect for two people who both happen to vegetable lovers and vegetarians. We get a lot, but we're usually able to use it up just in time to start the new week. Which is why every Monday evening becomes a what-can-we-make-with-what-we've-got-left meal. We usually don't have to get too inventive, since there is often still a variety to work with. And more often than not, meal-planning has been our friend. It's also a great chance (or, challenge?) to incorporate more veggies than usual which is 1. always great for you and 2. surprisingly easier than you'd think.



Even as a vegetarian (going on five years!), I'm not always sure what the correct serving of vegetables looks like. The Kitchn has this handy pictorial guide: totally manageable, right? And here I was, stuffing extra greens and fruits into anything I could think of. Chances are, if you're eating mostly right, you're meeting your goals!

So for this particular clear-out-the-CSA meal, I went with eggplant stacks (similar to eggplant parm, minus the parm), whole wheat couscous and Swiss chard sautéd with lemon, onion and garlic.

For this recipe, you will need:

2 medium eggplants, sliced, salted and sweated for 1 hour
1 1/2-2 cups of homemade marinara sauce (I made this the night before, but you can make far in advance and freeze; just remember to defrost the morning of!)
1/2-3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat couscous or whole grain of choice
1 large bunch of Swiss chard, any variety
1 medium onion
The juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Fresh oregano, if available
Fresh basil, if available
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes (or any small variety), sliced
Thin slices or shreds of any sharp cheese, optional

The first thing you'll want to do is prep your eggplant. These purple beauties are a little bit finicky, but totally worth the trouble if done right. My trick is to lay a single layer of paper towels on a large, preferably rimmed baking sheet. Salt the sheet generously, then put down a single layer of sliced eggplant, about 1/4-inch thick. Salt the top side of the eggplant, then cover with another layer of paper towels. Using something as a barrier in between (I usually use another same size baking sheet), put something heavy on top of the eggplant. The added weight will help the sweating go along faster: I usually use a stack of my thickest cookbooks. Does the trick! Set aside for 30 minutes to one hour -- the longer you wait, the better they will be!


If you don't have any sauce on hand, now would be a good time to make the sprint version of this sprint or marathon sauce.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When your eggplant has been properly sweated, wipe off any excess salt with a dry paper towel. Lightly dredge both sides of each slice in a bit of flour. On two large baking sheets, lightly greased with some olive oil, place your eggplant slices in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes on each side. After they've been cooked on both sides, in a small casserole dish, starting with sauce first, layer eggplant slices between spoonfuls of sauce, alternating until all of the eggplant is covered in sauce. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until thoroughly heated through (sauce bubbling is usually a good indicator).


Meanwhile, you can prepare your other ingredients. What I love about couscous is that it's a super quick option that I've turned to LOTS of times when feeling crunched on time. Its ratio is one-to-one, so you can imagine that quickly boiling one cup or water or stock takes no time at all. Perfect!

Cook your couscous (or grain of choice) according to the package instructions. It's always great to add a little seasoning while cooking, just to give it a little extra flair.


In a large pan or work, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add your onion and smashed garlic cloves and sauté until softened. Add your chopped chard and continue to sauté until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and continue to stir together. About one minute (no more!) before removing from heat, add your fresh oregano. Fresh herbs are best added in at the last possible moment. They retain all that fresh flavor without overpowering the dish.


To serve, you can be cute and layer up your ingredients in any way you'd like. I went couscous, chard, then eggplant on top. Top your eggplant with fresh basil, sprinkle your smaller tomato slices over the top and add fresh cheese, if you'd like (Uh, are we friends?)

I love not having any food go to waste. It's the least we can do, considering what we're given. These meals can sometimes start out a little haphazard, but they always end up being the best of the whole week. What are you making with your fridge leftovers?





9/05/2014

caramelized figs and oats (plus a special announcement!)

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Everyone knows that oatmeal is good for you, right? We read about it all the time as a healthy start-your-morning option: it's filling, it's got fiber, protein, whole grains. It's basically a superfood before anyone started using the (sort of dumb?) word "superfood" - if a food is inherently good for you, that's pretty super, right?

Right.

The only problem with naturally healthy foods is that it's really easy to immediately negate all that natural goodness by overdoing it on the sugar. And I'm just wondering, is anybody else tired of sugar? Don't get me wrong: I know it's goooood, and a little bit like crack in that just a little will leave you wanting a lot more. Not that I have any experience in the crack-field, but that's what I hear. But lately I've found myself standing in the kitchen wanting to make a meal or a snack and seriously wondering: what can I have that isn't sweet? Not because I've started hating that addictive taste or anything, but just because it seems like SO MUCH of our food is sweet. And it just seems to be the flavor profile that's overpowering everything else, mostly because these days there's added sugar in every. single. thing. Seriously: everything. Even though brownies and cookies are obvious (dessert, yes!), it's also found its way into our breakfast foods, breads, milks, sauces, salad dressings, etc. Simply savory is nearly a thing of the past.


So along with my exciting news (which I'll get to in just a second!), I wanted to celebrate with a new, simple take on oatmeal that is naturally sweetened with one of nature's most prized fruits: fresh figs! Never a better time to snag them, these beauties are wonderfully sweet in a way that feels virtuous and won't mess up your morning meal with a crash and burn.


But first, the news: I won Bob's Red Mill 4th Annual Spar for the Spurtle contest! WHAT. I've never won anything like this and I am SO, SO excited! I'm pretty sure when I opened the email I thought it was a joke, and then I just started yelling nonsensical phrases to cute Colin like:

"BABY. I WON. FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. WHAT. THE WIN. I. WHAT?" Insert more insane gibberish here.

And then I danced around the apartment a little bit and said I was going to buy jewels. Which is, of course, completely untrue. I splurged on two books and the new Counting Crows album, which my heart already belongs to, and I'm thinking about getting one of these bad boys. Will our kitchen ever be complete? We surely have NO space left, not since the juicer, the waffle maker and the extra-large salad spinner came into the picture, but supersmoothies and creamy soups are calling my name!

So a huge, massive thank you to all the wonderful folks at Bob's Red Mill! It's surely one of my favorite companies, food or otherwise, and I'm honored to have been chosen. My recipe will get to represent Bob's Red Mill at the 21st World Porridge Making Championship in Scotland: Go team! You can check out my winning recipe here.

So for this simple, celebratory recipe, you will need:

1 cup of Bob's Red Mill quick-cook steel cut oats
2 cups of unsweetened almond milk (an almond-coconut combo is also great)
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of brown sugar (just a little, of course!)
2 tablespoons butter (or, if vegan, organic Earth Balance works great)
12-15 black mission figs, de-stemmed and halved (any variety will work as long as they are super ripe!)
Chopped walnuts or pecans, optional


Begin by preparing your oats according to the package instructions using the almond milk and salt. Once the milk is heated, this option will take about 7-10 minutes to cook through, so get that going while you work on taking your figs from great to glorious.

In a small cast iron skillet, melt your butter or Earth Balance over medium heat. Once liquified, add your pinch of brown sugar and swirl together. Place your figs slice-side down into the melty butter (or Earth Balance) and sugar. Let them caramelize and crust up for about 7-10 minutes. Try your best to resist taking a peek at what's going on underneath; trust me, it's alllll good. If you're worried about burning or have a slightly uneven stovetop, you can rotate the pan about halfway through.



After they've gone all golden and lovely on one side and your oats are just finishing up, scoop your oatmeal into hefty, beautiful bowls. I feel like this is a must in the morning. I like my bowl of oatmeal so heavy that it takes both hands to hold up, you know? This recipe serves about 3-4 moderately hungry people, but we made do with just the two of us. Top each serving with a generous portion of figs and drizzle with the remaining caramel from the pan. Add your nuts, if using, and try not to make this every day of the week until fig season is over. Here's betting you can't.


Thank you again to Bob's Red Mill for inspiring me to eat healthy and well without sacrificing what tastes great: you rock!

For more information on the contest (you know, so you can enter next year), go here.


9/01/2014

vegan thyme-lime ice cream

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Okay, so this ice cream recipe was inspired by my favorite ice cream place of all time, The Bent Spoon in Princeton, New Jersey. I'm inspired flavor-wise (and I guess life-wise) pretty much every time I go there (ricotta ice cream and rhubarb sorbet combo, anyone?), but one particular evening we decided to brave the long line (perhaps the only excessive line that I can say with complete sincerity is totally worth the wait) before seeing a movie. I got bananas foster (good) and ... thyme lime: GREAT. INSANITY IN A CONE.


Now, I know bananas foster and thyme lime don't sound like the smartest combo together, but Bent Spoon has never, no, not ever, done me wrong no matter what I choose. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

For as many amazing flavors that I've had there, and there have been many, thyme lime was definitely one of the most unique and most memorable. They do a lot of fresh herb flavors in the summertime (basil ice cream? with raspberry sorbet? hold me now), but I never ventured into the thyme side of things - I do admit to feeling mildly hesitant. That is, until the very first bite. The thyme was a light, fresh hint of flavor, and the burst of crazy-lime goodness paired so great with the traditional ice cream base. I originally assumed this would be better as a sorbet, but once I tried it, I immediately reformed. SO good.


I knew I had to recreate this flavor for this guy. Livin' that dairy free life ain't easy, and I knew that he would really love this one, so I went back to my coconut milk ice cream making roots and came up with the following recipe.

You will need:

2 15-ounce cans of coconut milk (1 full fat, 1 light)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 of fresh lime juice, strained
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium-large bunch fresh thyme, depending on how strong you want the flavor to be
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot

Start by adding your coconut milk, sugar, lime juice and vanilla extract to a medium stockpot over medium heat. Whisk together until the sugar has melted (or no longer feels gritty), then add your thyme. Spoon out a few tablespoons of your warm base into a small bowl. Stir in your arrowroot until smooth. Bring your mixture to a gentle, barely-there simmer, whisk in your arrowroot mixture and then remove your stockpot from the heat. Cover and let sit for one hour. This is so that the thyme flavor can get seriously infused. If you're looking for a gentler first taste, start with steeping for 30 minutes and then taste your mixture. The intensity will also depend on the freshness of your thyme and the size bunch you decide to use. Of course, when I say "intensity" I don't mean to scare you off. The flavor is fresh and bright, but also a bit unexpected in a wonderful way.


After you've achieved the right dose of thyme flavor for your palette, transfer your mixture to a medium sized bowl and refrigerate for four hours or up to overnight. Once completely chilled, transfer to your ice cream maker of choice and churn until airy and about doubled in size. Which is totally fun to watch happen, by the way.


Transfer to a freezer safe container and put in the back of your freezer until completely firm.

I really, really liked how this came out. So very close to the original, and even with the same creaminess despite having no dairy at all. It almost tastes like an herbaceous key lime pie, minus the graham cracker. So what I'm saying is: next time, toasted graham cracker crumbs on top?! Add thyme in your key lime pie? It would all work. Seriously: trust The Bent Spoon.