Desserts, Snacks

Vanilla Coconut Popsicles

One of my earliest memories is eating a coconut popsicle. A creamy white pop with little bits of shredded coconut sprinkled throughout. I don’t remember where I was, or who I was with, specifically. And maybe the memory is actually a blur of many popsicles, the result of countless visits to roaming trucks and Central Park kiosks, but I can close my eyes and see my fingers ripping through the flimsy plastic. I know I was three or four, and the moment I unwrapped the pop, it began melting down the stick in the hot Manhattan sun, cream getting dangerously close to my fingers. I’ve had many a coconut “froz fruit” since those first few, and this happens every time. I’m a little more okay with the meltdown now, (I’m fairly sure I was the only kid to really really really hate being sticky) and every time I pass a truck it takes everything in my power not to buy three.

In celebration of summer and Billy’s #popsicleweek (!!) I felt it was high time to take a whack at these in my own kitchen.

All I hoped to achieve with my own version of this popsicle was that slightly chewy consistency that comes from all pre-packaged ice cream truck confections. Let it be known I’m not talking about that taffy-like quality that New England-style ice cream does so well (shoutout to Herrell’s in Northampton, which supplied me with my delightfully chewy birthday ice cream sundaes and homemade chocolate whipped cream from 2011-2015). No, I’m talking about the kind of icy texture that comes only as a result of bumping around in the back of a Mister Softee freezer for months at a time, temperature going up and down by day, even by hour. The treats start to melt, then freeze back up, then melt again. Once they’re unwrapped and bitten, it’s clear the contents aren’t a solid mixture, but a hundred million coconut-flavored snowflakes.

It’s impossible to create the real thing, but I’ve come pretty close. I added a hit of vanilla, which is technically not part of the classic pop, but I think it added a little something special. The recipe is wildly simple too, for more time eating popsicles and less time debating whether this was worth it, and if you should’ve just walked outside to a truck.

A note on the sweetener for this recipe: Anything will do, it simply depends on your preference. If you want to notice the flavor, use honey or maple syrup; if you don’t, use powdered sugar. Completely your call. As for the chocolate, I personally prefer dark chocolate in general, but I’ve found that semisweet makes for that classic, barely cloying magic shell-type coating, which is actually kinda great. Again, the choice is yours.

There can never truly be enough popsicles, so do yourself a favor and head over to the #popsicleweek homepage on Wit & Vinegar for about a million more wildly creative and delicious-sounding frozen treats.

Vanilla Coconut Popsicles

1 (13.5 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
±2 tablespoons desired liquid sweetener (honey, syrup, coconut nectar, etc.) OR 1/4 cup powdered sugar (see note above)
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

Optional:
2-6 ounces 80% dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped (you’ll need more for dipping, less for drizzle)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
flakey sea salt

Place all ingredients in the first list except shredded coconut in a blender and blitz for 25-40 seconds, or until well mixed. Add shredded coconut and blend for a few seconds just to incorporate. Pour mixture into a prepared popsicle mold. Freeze for about 4 hours.

If you’re interested in doing a chocolate dip or drizzle: Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler, then remove from the heat. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. If dipping: Pour the chocolate into a tall heat-proof jar. Un-mold the pops one at a time, dip, let excess chocolate drip off, then place the pops on the baking sheet and return to the freezer for a few minutes. If drizzling: Working quickly, un-mold all the pops and place then on the baking sheet. Drizzle the chocolate on with a spoon, then return to the freezer for a few minutes.

🔜🔜🔜 #popsicleweek

A post shared by Rebecca Firkser (@ruhbekuhlee) on

 

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Breakfasts, Desserts, Snacks

Olive Oil Tortas


Summer is coming.

I can tell from this new light streaming through the window in the back room where I’m currently typing, blinding me in a way that is mostly uncomfortable, but also encouraging of the changing seasons.

Everyone around me can feel it too: The streets around the farmer’s market yesterday were more crowded, the lines outside the brunch spots longer. The cat does nothing but stare out the plate glass front door. It makes me feel like I should start eating every meal outside, even if it is still possibly a little to chilly for that.

As someone who marks time by thinking of past years, I can’t help but think back to the last time I saw this kind of weather. Back at school, in such a different state of mind and daily routine. I was so much better at exercising, at eating vegetables. Really good at drinking at least one beer a day, too. There was no daily commute, unless you count the seven minute walk to the theatre building. My world is so much bigger now, even though it feels matchbox-tiny.

I’m going to run now, even though I’m rusty. Old-spending-every-winter-weekend-couch-lounging habits die hard, I guess?

In the meantime, you can pour yourself a cup of coffee and head over to Tasting Table and read this thing I wrote. And to Food52 to read this thing, too. You’ll also find a pretty rad recipe for Olive Oil Tortas!

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Book Review, Desserts

Coconut Orange Cookies

The Whole Coconut Cookbook is a collection of fresh gluten- and dairy-free recipes starring that famous fibrous drupe, the coconut. Nathalie Fraise‘s collection of recipes explores every meal (plus snacks and dessert) injecting each recipe with every iteration of coconut. Some recipes are now-classics you can’t seem to open a brunch menu without, (chia pudding, grain-free granola, nut butters galore) the recipes for which taste good, but weren’t especially stimulating. Others, upon my recitation of their titles aloud, elicited reactions along the lines of “wait, what?” (banana cauliflower Farina.) However, the majority of Fraise’s recipes are new ideas I can’t wait to make and eat (green onion patties with spicy peanut sauce, coconut sesame noodles with bok choy and tamarind dressing. cheesy paprika popcorn, vanilla rosemary crème brûlée helllllo.)

According to the introduction, Fraise grew up in Madagascar. Her regular experience with coconuts involved trucks toting the fruit into the town where she lived, and others (when traveling near the coast,) involved buying them directly from children who’d plucked them from their own trees. It’s safe to assume Fraise knows what she’s talking about. And if you doubt her, just check out the back of the book where she lists pages of resources, recommended brands, and texts she consulted in order to make this collection of recipes so successful. I found all necessary ingredients at Whole Foods.

Before you get cooking from this book, here’s a list of coconut-based items you’re going to need:
– coconut oil
– coconut butter (which is different from coconut oil; it’s simply coconut meat that’s processed into a thick butter)
– a few cans of coconut milk
– coconut flour
– coconut palm sugar
– coconut nectar (thick syrup, technically the raw liquid sap of the coconut blossom)
*Pick up a copy of the book for more useful ingredients and descriptions*

I chose to make Fraise’s coconut orange cookies, which were essentially an almond flour-riff on macaroons. Chewy, moist, and just salty enough for a dessert, plus topped with toasty sesame seeds, these little cookies were a wildly pleasant surprise. They also go very well with white wine, just saying. I think the next time I make them, I may bump up the sesame factor by adding a good dollop of tahini to the batter. If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your dessert table this Passover, I’d highly recommend taking these cookies for a test drive. They’re thickened with arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch, and the combination of coconut and almond flours + alternative coconut-based sugars make for a pretty complex flavor. Check out these articles if you’re nervous about Passover recipes that include baking powder.

Cookies (from The Whole Coconut Cookbook, makes about 2 dozen cookies)

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut butter
1/3 cup coconut nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, shredded coconut, coconut flour, coconut palm sugar, arrowroot, baking soda, and salt.

Combine coconut oil and coconut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Melt gently, then whisk in the coconut nectar, vanilla, and orange zest. Pour into flour mixture and combine.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough (I used my trusty cookie scoop, rolled the cookies into balls with my hands, then flattened them very slightly). Place on the prepared baking sheets, separated by a couple of inches. Do not overcrowd, as they spread while cooking. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (or better yet, roll the whole top of the cookie in seeds). Bake in the middle rack of the oven, until golden brown on top, 7-9 minutes. Make sure the bottoms do not burn.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

NOTE: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. Check out this review on their website too!

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Desserts, Musing

Orange Rosewater Madelines

“And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature.”
–Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

The Proustian madeleine may be a cliché to the literati, but there is no doubt about it: food evokes feeling. One bite of tea cake is all it takes to make the back of one’s jaw tingle. Flavors passing over my tongue can shoot me into another time, another country. Keep your eyes closed the next time you eat something you like and you’ll see.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to talk about something I love: Food. Who’s surprised?

Food brings me joy. Making it. Serving it. Eating it. Food brings me discomfort. Buying it. Eating it.

For the past eight years my relationship with food has been dysfunctional. Compulsive. For the past eight years I haven’t eaten a meal without some form of guilt or rationalization. It bothers the people around me. It makes some people nervous, even irritates some of them.

“I know you’re sad, but you can’t have yogurt for every meal.”

“How could you possibly have room for more French fries?”

“Just have a bagel. What’s the problem with that?”

“You looked really thin the last time I saw you, but you looked healthier in that picture posted of you last week.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t talk so much about what you going to eat, just eat it or don’t.”

“Just go to the gym if you care so much about this.”

Every one of this things was said to me probably out of the goodness in people’s hearts, or out of confusion. But each comment stings in a way only those who also have a complicated relationship with food could possibly understand.

There have only been a few times where people have vocalized their worry about my relationship with food. Typically, it goes unnoticed, because my body doesn’t physically change all that much. If I eat a lot of meals with someone they probably notice the weird portioning and the food journal app on my phone. Or they’ll notice that I’m on my third bowl of pasta and headed to the kitchen to “clean up,” only to see I’m fishing out strands of spaghetti with my fingers, quickly, quietly.

I talk about food a lot, to be fair. It consumes most of my brain space, and therefore is a topic that controls a lot of the conversations I have. And if I’m around someone regularly, they can see that it might not only be recipes I’m concerned with. But it’s hard to talk about with someone who doesn’t share this experience. Someone who has a more logical (or rational, or dare I say healthy– even though I hate that word) relationship with food might be confused about why, if I’m so concerned, I can’t just implement a regular workout routine. Or why I can’t just say fuck it and eat what I want to eat. In fact, I do both of these things sometimes. More often than it would seem. But that doesn’t change the way I let these habits control me.

I spent a lot of time debating whether or not to post this. And I think a day focused around love is a good day to do so. I love to eat. I love to cook. I love working with food and recipes– professionally and personally.

Yet I don’t love what my brain has done to my relationship with food; it makes things tricky. I think sharing a meal with someone is is one of the most intimate activities. But there are complexities beyond my control at play here. It’s hard. I go through good spells and not-so-good ones.

But nothing ever makes me feel more than food. That “exquisite pleasure,” which causes nothing else to matter. I won’t ever let go of that.

Orange Rosewater Madelines (makes about 24 cookies)

1 or 2 madeline tins

3/4 cup +  1 tablespoon AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch sea salt (or orange salt)
2 teaspoons orange zest
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup cane sugar
1 tablespoon rose water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick)+ 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, pouring 2 tablespoons into a separate bowl. Stir orange zest into larger amount of butter, and cool to room temperature. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar until thick and light in color, about 4 minutes. Quickly beat in rose water and vanilla extract. Sift half of the flour mixture into the egg mixture and fold until barely combined. Repeat with the other half of the flour mixture. Gently fold in the orange butter until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375º F. Brush a madeleine tin with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and dust lightly with flour.

When madeleines have chilled, quickly spoon batter into tins. Bake until cookies are golden brown and spring back to the touch, about 8-12 minutes. Let cookies cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then let cool completely on wire wracks.

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Desserts

Banoffee Pie Parfaits

The turkey has been served. Siblings came back from college in waves; facial piercings dangling, quoting Althusser and complaining about dining hall scrambled eggs. Grandma can’t get over how old everyone looks, and also wants to know who’s engaged yet. Our belts have been thrown into the closet, not to be seen again for several months. It’s officially *that* time of year. Which means all the holiday movies are about to take over our lives. ARE YOU READY? I’m not, really.

Except in the case of one. Love Actually. If you haven’t seen it, you better get yourself a copy or rent it on demand or illegally download it or obtain the movie however you watch movies now, because this is what you should do tonight. It’s one of those movies that focuses around 107890 different storylines so you don’t get too bored/can get up for more pie or eggnog without worrying about missing much. And Love Actually Day (five weeks before Christmas) was officially last Friday, so we’re a little late but that’s okay.

The point of those sentences is the first time I ever heard of Banoffee pie was in Love Actually. Kiera Knightly tries to win Andrew Lincoln’s (who, incidentally, you probably know as that guy from The Walking Dead) friendship with banoffee pie. How freakin’ cute, amirite? I immediately looked up what the heck banoffee pie was, and got very very excited. It’s basically banana cream pie with dulce de leche. How had I not heard of this?!

There is, however, one HUGE error with this otherwise flawlessly written rom-com-feel-good-“Holiday” scene: Kiera says she has terrible taste in pie. Referring to the banoffee pie. What what what are you doing. I made up my mind right then and there to make this pie asap and then promptly forgot until the next time I watched the movie about a year later and yelled at myself for my not having made it yet. And then forgot again. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was looking through my favorite vegan blog‘s archives instead of doing adulty things and I saw a recipe for the pie. And then I was at my friend’s house and she reminded me that Love Actually Day was a week away. It was fate. Spoilers: banoffee pie is fucking incredible and even if you don’t like bananas you will like this pie IT’S THAT GOOD.

Most recipes for this pie have a nut-infused pâte brisée pie crust or crumbled cookie crust, but you can make whatever your heart desires. *I* think the best possible choice is a digestive biscuit crust. Digestive biscuits were v hip and trendy for like a week on the food websites in 2014, but I think they deserve more than 15 minutes of fame. They’re so much more than something to bring out when having a British-theme night or looking for a cookie made with whole wheat flour as an excuse to eat an entire sleeve-ful. They’re also not super sweet, which balances out the very sweet bananas and toffee.

ALSO: do you like to read other things on the internet? You should check out my beautiful friend Kelsey’s blog, Kelsey at the Movies. Kelsey’s a fantastically talented writer and a film scholarship grad student at NYU. Read her stuff!

ALSO ALSO: We’re getting close to my *200th* recipe post up in here! Any requests for what I should make will be appreciated~

Banoffee Pie Parfaits

20 digestive biscuits
5 tablespoons coconut oil, soft but not melted
pinch of salt

2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 bananas

1 cup whipping cream (or 1 batch coconut whipped cream with sweetener left out if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

Make the crust: Butter or oil any kind of pie pan and set aside. It 100% doesn’t matter what you use here, as you will be destroying said crust upon its completion. Place biscuits and salt in a large food processor and pulse until you have fine, flour-like crumbs. Add the coconut oil and pulse until combined. Press into prepared pan and freeze for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, then bake crust for 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Make the filling Simmer the sweetened condensed milk in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat until very thick and golden brown, stirring VERY frequently (about 25 minutes.) Do NOT walk away, as there is a strong possibility the milk will begin to burn on the bottom of the pan. If this does begin to happen and the burnt bits are only brown, you’re okay; you’ll just want to pass the milk through a fine mesh sieve when it’s done cooking. If this doesn’t happen, take pride in the fact that you’re better at cooking/have a superior stove than I. Remove from heat, transferring to a heatsafe glass bowl, and stir in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool completely, then transfer to a jar.

Put it all together: locate four or five glass jars or parfait/sundae glasses. Whip cream, syrup, and vanilla together until peaks form. Remove crust from tart pan and crumble it up completely. Slice bananas thinly. Spoon a thick layer of crust crumbles into the jars, then a layer of toffee, then a layer of bananas. Repeat until you’v filled the jars or used up all your ingredients. Dollop a final smear of whipped cream over the bananas, then top with a sprinkle of crust. Consume immediately if you so choose, but the flavors combine fantastically after sitting in the fridge for a few hours. Dessert will last for a few days in the fridge.

 

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Desserts, Snacks

Olive Oil, Almond and Candied Ginger Mandelbrot

I am a pizza bagel.

Maybe you’ve heard me say this before? I can’t remember how or when or where I was introduced to this term for those with Italian and Jewish roots, but I love it. I love it even more because the two places I’ve called home for the longest amount of time are New Jersey and New York; if you know anything about these spots, you KNOW they take their pizza and bagels seriously. And with good reason. The bagels I found in my dining hall in Massachusetts were slightly chewier pieces of white bread that crumbled at the merest smear of cold cream cheese or butter. I’ve had that deep-dish thing everyone in Chicago is so obsessed with, and while it was good, (how can dough + sauce + cheese not be??) it wasn’t *pizza* as I know and love it.

You get the gist. So when I was developing a recipe for The Nosher, a blog that focuses on Jewish food, I knew I wanted to make a snack –dare I say, a nosh,– that highlights both the pizza and the bagel sides of my family. And that led to Olive Oil Mandelbrot (also known as Mandel bread. Also also known as biscotti.) Check out the article and recipe here!

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Desserts

Prune Plum Galette

“There are a million reasons to be unhappy, all the time, for all of us. I mean, the world is in terrible shape. The future looks grim…one in eight children in America goes to bed hungry. If you want to be miserable, it’s not hard. But, balancing that, there are all kinds of things, little things, that can give you great pleasure in life. Different people like different things, I truly like everything that can happen in a kitchen.”
— Ruth Reichl, Burnt Toast, “Ruth Reichl Is Coming To Dinner”

I am eating a meringue cookie right now. It’s crumbly on top and little chewy on the bottom. It’s sticking to my teeth. They’re supposed to have this bi-textural thing going on though, I’m 87% sure of that. The other 13% knows that I probably just didn’t let them dry out completely. I think I like the top section more. I may have bitten off the tops of two others, but I’m not saying anything for certain.

I’m okay with little imperfections, like this batch of less-than-pâtisserie-perfect cookies. Imperfections like these are good. So are the masses of concentrated melanin that make freckles– constellations on faces that are far more interesting to look at than my own. My favorite two baking pans: Tin Man-colored, except for the black bits of caramelized sugar that no amount of scrubbing can erase are others on this list of imperfect, but lovely. An apple picked right from the tree that has a few more bruises than preferable would also be included.

But there are imperfections that are decidedly not good. The hole developing in my car’s tire after an ill-timed encounter with a pointy rock. The skin on my hands, chapped from washing them thirty times today after seeing an alert about flu season. The things I’m too self-conscious to write about– words I’ve typed and then deleted because I know that once I print them here they become real. I notice them. I’m trying to let them bother me less. This is not to say I’ve adopted anything resembling –god forbid– the Chill persona. Nor is it that I’ve achieved a new level of self-actualization and am no longer letting the “little things” bother me. I didn’t even get a cool job or anything. But I am trying to notice those not-so-good-imperfections less. It’s probably healthier, though I don’t know how long it’ll last.

Speaking of imperfections: galettes. While one can trim the dough to be an even circle, lay out each slice of fruit into a balanced twisty spiral, and painstakingly flute every two inches around said circle, I don’t recommend it. While flawless desserts are incredible to look at in an Vogue-airbrushing sort of way, I’m constantly drawn to rustic pastries. Fruit bubbles over the top and onto the sides of crust, chocolate oozes down the layers of a cake that leans slightly to the right. Some of the best food styling comes from just making the thing and placing it in a natural space.

Prune Plum Galette

1 batch pie crust

~20-30 prune plums (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
zest of 2 clementines (or one large orange)
1 tablespoons clementine or orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water or 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
a few tablespoons flour
pinch of salt

1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk

Make the crust: Make and chill the crust according to these directions. Instead of the egg white, mix a whole egg with cream or milk.

Make the filling: Wash, halve, and pit the plums. Slices thinly and place in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar, zest, juice, extract, orange flower water/Grand Marnier, ginger, and 2 tablespoons flour and combine well. Set aside.

Put it all together: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the crust out onto a floured work surface and roll until you have about a 13-inch round (no need for perfection.) Carefully wrap the crust around the rolling pin and unroll onto the baking sheet. Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar and flour together and sprinkle it onto the center of the crust. Dump the fruit into the center, spreading it out evenly, but leaving an inch or two boarder. Fold the dough over the filling, fluting it every few inches to ensure no fruit leakage (brush the underside of the flute with cold water if they’re not sticking together.) Brush the crust with egg mixture and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking after 25. It’s done when the filling is starting to bubble and the crust is golden. If the crust starts to get too dark, tent with foil until the last 5-10 minutes.

 

 

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Desserts

Herby Summer Fruit Crisp

It was dark this morning. Overcast. Windy. Yet it won’t rain. Why won’t it rain?! I feel like I used to happily read a book on my back porch while listening to fat raindrops pelting down upon the glass at least once a week. This isn’t the case anymore, and it makes me nervous.

But the selfish part of me is the teeniest, tiniest bit pleased that it’s not raining quite yet. It’s just now becoming the perfect temperature for eating outside. And after reading that, you’re probably wondering if I’ve gotten a little forgetful, as outdoor dining seems to be all I can Instagram about these past few months. But hear me out: last night I was at dinner, drinking rosé and dipping crispy fries in garlicky mussel broth. I was sitting outside, but for the first time in months I wasn’t slapping at mosquitoes or surreptitiously wiping away sweaty strands of hair. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! Every few minutes there was a little breeze rustling the stamped-paper tablecloths. It felt cool against my back. It made the food taste better.

The sun is out now– it never rained. I went running, even though I definitely drank a glass or two more of wine than I should’ve last night. Mile one. Mile two. Mile three. A little bit more so I could run through the sprinklers of folks who are still watering their lawns EVEN THOUGH WE’RE IN A DROUGHT (I know Montclair is not California but still.) Ran up my driveway, opened the freezer and defrosted some fruity, herby crisp. Ate it all with my fingers, dyeing them a truly alien shade of purple. Full disclosure, it was not the one pictured in this post. That one was devoured by yours truly and Emily (making another hand/general modeling appearance here) on a lazy afternoon a few months ago. But I did use this method to make the crisp. And it is the best.

Just FYI, the following recipe is a little different than the precise measurements one may expect to find in a food post. But I rarely, if ever, use a recipe for crisp. And you shouldn’t feel like you need to either! It couldn’t be more simple, read on and discover.

Herby Summer Fruit Crisp (serves as few as one or as many as 20, depending on serving size)

Things you’ll need, see directions for further clues:
Fruit
Fresh herbs
a little bit of sweetener plus about 1/4 cup more for later
cornstarch
Vanilla (extract, paste, or scraped bean)
~1/2 cup coconut oil
~1/2 cup nondairy milk
~1/4-1/2 cup flour
Oats
Chopped nuts
pinch or two of kosher salt and cinnamon or allspice

Select and prep your fruit. You’ll need enough fruit to fill your desired baking dish, but no need to get out the measuring cup. Just start slicing and stop when it feels right. In terms of which fruit to use: when in doubt, go with whatever is in season. The fruit is the shining star of this dessert, so it’s definitely worth it to look into what is thriving when you decide to make one. Check out a farmer’s market or do some internet sleuthing before spending all your money on bushels of out-of-season berries. You also shouldn’t feel pressure to make just one kind of fruit crisp: raspberries and peaches go beautifully together, as do apples and cranberries. Or you can do what I did and use as many perfect summer fruits as you can carry. Once you’ve added all the fruit to the baking dish, toss with a good dash of vanilla and a tablespoon or two of the sweetener of your choice (really, anything goes!) and a tablespoon of cornstarch. Set aside.

Decide which herb you want to use to add a little extra zing to the topping. It may sound strange, but it is worth it. A subtle hint of thyme, mint, basil, sage, or rosemary does wonders with fruit. Grab a sprig or a handful of leaves and chop well; you won’t be sorry.

Pick your desired dairy replacer. Far be it from me to suggest anything that challenges the gospel of Julia Child, but for a delicious fruit crisp you need neither dairy-based butter nor cream. I like to use unrefined coconut oil because I enjoy the taste, but any vegan butter will do. You’ll need about ½ cup. Now for milk: pour about ½ cup of the dairy-free milk of your choosing (almond! coconut! soy! hemp!) into a small saucepan. Add the butter and the herb you decided on in the previous step. Place over low heat until the butter melts and the kitchen smells herby. Let cool slightly.

Choose your flour. If you’re gluten-free, this part is for you. Though I will admit, I didn’t miss my trusty all-purpose nearly as much as I thought I would when trying out almond, garbanzo bean, and coconut flours. Go for about a cup of flour at first, you can always add more later. Mix the flour with however much sugar you feel is right. A good rule of thumb is to start with ¼ cup and work your way up to ½ cup. At this point, I throw in a few handfuls of rolled oats and sometimes chopped almonds or pecans for texture. Pour the non-dairy mixture over the flour, adding a good pinch or two of salt and cinnamon or allspice. Mix it all up with your fingers until coarse crumbs form, adding more flour or oats if things get sticky.

Put it all together! Dump the topping over the fruit, resisting the urge to fill in any imperfect spots. We’re making a rustic dessert here, people! Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Top with your favorite ice cream or coconut whipped cream. Or if you’re like me, you may even put it in a bowl and drown it in almond milk and pretend it’s breakfast.

Fabric from the featured image: scarf c/o Rain Lily Shop, a lovely Fair Trade accessories shop supporting artisans from around the world!

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Desserts

Blackberry Fig Cornmeal Cake

    

Outside is changing. It’s getting darker earlier, and cooler. I bring the usual dinner fixin’s to the table on our little backyard patio at 7pm and the sun is setting. The light is tinted with the oranges usually reserved for hours later. By the time we’re finished eating it’s nearly dusk, mosquitoes nipping at my ankles all the while. It’s crisper in the morning, too. The air is less thick and it’s much easier to run. The sun feels warm, not oppressive. The wind doesn’t feel reminiscent of someone breathing in your face on the subway. It feels practically chilly, compared to those 95 degree days last month. But that doesn’t last long. You could miss it if you aren’t a person who stays awake after getting up at 5 am from particularly unnerving dreams you’re not an early riser. By 8, it’s just as hot as it was in July, when summer was in full swing. It’s only at nighttime that the looming season change is unmistakable.

The other morning I woke up and all the windows were open. I think I was supposed to shut them before going to bed, but I won’t tell if you won’t! The golden August light streamed through the glass. Breeze blew in, disturbing the not-at-all messy and horrifying stack of newspaper clippings and magazines I have piled on my desk. The air was so NOT hot and sticky it almost made me want to put pants on. Almost. I think the thing I’ll miss most about summer is the relative acceptability of pantless-ness. No, actually, beers outside. No, pants. No. Yes. Uh uh uh can we call it a tie? The temperature is going back into the nineties later this week though, so I think this is just a fluke.

But maybe the real thing I’ll miss most about summer is the blackberries. I’ll come clean: I intended to make this cake many weeks ago, but every time I bought blackberries, most ended up in my mouth before I could get the rest of the ingredients together. I finally had to buy several cartons: one use to jazz up my breakfast smoothie, one to munch on, and one for cake. It was worth it.

“As she approached the corner of the barn where the sugar maple stands, she plucked a few blackberries from a stray bush and popped them into her mouth. She looked all around her – back at the house, across the fields, and up into the canopy of branches overhead. She took several quick steps up to the trunk of the maple, threw her arms around it, and kissed that tree soundly.”
—Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

I find this cake to be most enjoyable very early in the morning with a large cup of coffee or around 4 pm with…another large cup of coffee. It’s not too sweet, so you could definitely pile on the vanilla ice cream/whipped cream if you feel the need, but I rarely do. It’s also very acceptable to eat half the cake tiny slice by tiny slice with one’s fingers directly from the fridge. Not that I did that or anything.

Blackberry Cornmeal Cake (loosely adapted from Tastebook)

1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup melted coconut or olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 scraped vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup blackberries
2 fresh figs*, sliced very thinly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, sugar, oil, lemon juice, and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry, and whisk until combined. The batter will be very runny. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 15 minutes, then take it out of the oven and quickly top with figs and berries. Bake an additional 35-45 minutes, testing at every 5 minutes after 35. When the cake is done, the top will spring back when lightly pressed, and the edges will start to pull back from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely and slice with a serrated knife as not to disturb the berry magic!

*note: some vegans/vegetarians don’t eat figs because the plants have a tendency to pull an Audrey II on wasps. I’ll leave it at that, but you can read more here if you’re concerned/interested, and use your own discretion when it comes to eating figs. 

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Desserts

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Ginger Sage Cashew Ice Cream (V, GF)

There are certain times of day where everything feels quieter. Calm. Every now and then it feels like this at six in the evening on warm nights, but only when it’s overcast and just about to rain. The feeling is always there at five in the morning, regardless of weather or temperature. I spent a lot of time awake at five am over the past year or so, but now that I actually sleep through the night, I’ve been missing it. I used to crawl out of bed and walk around and just listen to the calm. The early risers on a morning jog. The all night-pullers just leaving the library with their laptops and exhausted faces. For me, being up at that time wasn’t about going for a run or doing work, it was just about being awake and alive. I kinda miss that. But not as much as I missed sleep.

I like this summer. It feels less hectic than others. Without a doubt, I’m busier than I’ve been in years past, but I like keeping my time occupied. I usually tend to let my brain wander into circles, revisiting every possible scenario and outcome of any situation I find myself in. It gets hectic. I don’t like feeling that way. It’s better to be busy and let things just happen as they may, otherwise who knows what I may trick myself into thinking. Now that I’ve started working, I’m pretty beat at the end of the day. Which, for this job, is in fact four in the afternoon. It sounds early, I know. But you try teaching fifteen 12-year olds how to draft a bodice block pattern or corral them around New York City and then you might get where I’m coming from. I’m never too tired to cook though, which is a comfort. This brings me to the reason for this post: sage ice cream. Yes. Yum.

This recipe isn’t complicated at all, it just involves a bit of planning ahead. You have to give the cashews time to soak and the custard time to chill and the ice cream time to freeze. But it’s soOOooOo worth it, let me tell ya! Side note: I’m sure this would be just as good with a dairy custard base (or perhaps a yogurt one?) but I made this dairy free to enter a contest featured by Food52. I really really RLY want to win a Vitamix. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!

ps- the fresh sage comes from the herb garden my mother planted and it makes me SO happy. Speaking of which, does anyone need any basil?? Because we have a literal mountain of it..and there’s only so much pesto a girl can make!

A few notes: I recommend using organic cashews, as the nonorganic may be treated with icky pesticides. I know they’re pricey, but I think it’s worth it. But that’s your call! And be careful not to soak the cashews for more than 24 hours, as they can start emitting a weird gel (yum veganism!); it’s easily washed off, but that means you’re getting very close to over soaking, which could turn the nuts rancid. And you don’t want that! 

Ice Cream (makes about 1 1/2 quarts)

1 3/4 cup organic cashews
1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (or regular milk if you don’t care about this being vegan)
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup maple syrup/agave/honey
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional, sub chocolate chips if you like it sweeter)

Place the cashews in a large jar and cover with filtered water. Soak for at least 6 hours or overnight (highly recommend an overnight soak if you don’t have a Vitamix or other high-powered blender.) Drain and rinse well.

Place the vanilla bean paste, scraped vanilla bean, chopped sage leaves, and milk of choice in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is almost boiling. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes. Let cool. Pass through a fine mesh sieve.

Place the rinsed cashews, vanilla sage milk, sweetener, and 1 cup water in a blender or food processor and blend into a smooth creamy custard. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

Transfer to the bowl of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the instructions. Once the custard starts to thicken, add chopped ginger, sea salt, and cocoa nibs. Eat it right away or store in a freezer-safe container until snacking time! If it’s frozen solid, let the ice cream thaw for 20+ minutes before digging in.

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