As you have probably guessed by now, I am mad about figs. And so many generous friends and neighbors have brought me baskets and jars of them following Joe’s passing.
Tonight is our 7th annual Julia Child Birthday Bash–stay tuned for fabulous recipes and photos in the next few posts!–and I am making my Five-Minute Curried Figs Brulee, but I still have more than we will be able to enjoy this evening.
So, I made a fig smoothie today to drink on the way to yoga. Perfection!
Here’s the simple recipe:
1 cup ice
1 cup unsweetened soymilk (or your favorite plain or unsweetened non-dairy milk)
12 small fresh figs, stemmed
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate (organic preferred)
Optional: sweetener of your choice to taste (I think it is sweet enough without adding additional sweetener)
Place all ingredients in a blender or, my preference, Nutri Bullet, and blend until very smooth. Serve immediately.
As everyone probably knows now, when the rhythm of my life changed on July 30, so did my approach to cooking and eating.
For a week after my husband passsed away, I ate almost nothing. But I have now segued to slightly more than nothing or what I call mini-meals. They are gorgeous and nutritious, but they are tiny and, for folks eating normally, are perfect sides. (These figs were today’s lunch with a peanut butter rice cake.)
Whereas, in days of old, communities rallied round those who had lost loved ones with heavy comfort foods. In contrast, my tribe surrounded me, as I may have mentioned, with a bounty of fruits–figs and more figs–vegetables, salads, prepared vegan dishes, and vegan bakery treats that went into goodie bags for out-of-towners booked at the Westin for Joe’s (amazing) Celebration of Life.
My artist friend, Sheila Gioliti brought the biggest and the firmest figs which inspired this glorius oh-so-simple recipe.
4 large slightly firm fresh figs, stemmed and halved
2 teaspoons granualted or brown sugar (I use demerara)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon curry powder (mild or “warm”)
1/8th teaspoon smoked paprika
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon vegan pesto or chimichurri (or more to suit your taste)
Garnish: fresh basil or cilantro and pine nuts, roasted or not
Prheat broiler. Arrange figs, cut side up, on a baking sheet. In a small cup, whisk together sugar, salt, and curry powder. Sprinkle on figs, dividing evenly among them. Broil for 3 minutes or until surface of figs is slightly caramelized, but figs still hold their shape. Top, if desired, with pesto or chimichurri and serve with fresh sprigs of basil or cilantro, and pine nuts.
I deeply regret my 2 1/2 week hiatus from The Blooming Platter, and hope this is the beginning of the end of it. As many of you know, my love, my husband of 25 years passed away from an acute coronoary on July 30 and life took on a new rhythm.
But, this past weekend, I already had a trip planned to meet my best friend from graduate school–we were both art history majors at Vanderbilt University–in Philadelphia for an “art tour.” Joe was from Philly, so we had also planned a dinner at *Vedge (oh, wow–cannot recommend highly enough!) with his two sisters and our niece on Saturday night. Knowing the trip would be “good medicine,” I didn’t change my plans, and I am thankful that I didn’t.
When I returned home, a friend picked me up at the airport and I invited another to stop by for dinner of chilled gazpatcho on her way home from the hospital where she had been with her mother. Gifts of food are as much a part of death as flowers, and our friends had filled my refrigerator and freezer with a bounty of beautiful fruit, vegetables, prepared vegan dishes and, okay, vegan cupcakes from My Vegan Sweet Tooth, a new vegan storefront bakery in town.
So, I swirled together cantaloupe, watermelon, fresh figs, an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a half-pint of heirloom tomatoes, and some basil from my garden with cumin and smoked paprika to make the most beautiful of soups. Then, as if to prove correct the “grieving” books and their gentle warnings of forgetfulness as part of the process, I left it on the counter in a sparkling crystal bowl in full reach of Minnie. It got very quiet downstairs and then she came up with gazpatcho breath detectable from a foot away!
Not angry, just fearful, I first called our vet’s wife–on a Sunday–to make sure she’d survive. And after learning that she would, I went looking for something else with which to make a cold soup. And, though this combination of ingredients may sound a bit odd, my guest and I both thought the following combination of ingredients was delectable and I will be making it again and again. Minne can’t say, as she didn’t get to taste this batch.
*V-Street, Vedge’s sister street food bar, specializing in flavor- and texture-forward small plates, is not to be missed either. We ate three of our five meals at there, each one as delightful as the previous.
White Bean and Fresh Fig Gazpatcho
1 can white beans with juice
1 large tomato, cored and quartered
approximatley 8 to 10 fresh figs
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garnishes: vegan sour cream, a few marinated veggies (onion, tomato and cucumber in a light vinaigrette), green or purple basil, and spiced pecans (I used rosemary-lime)
Place all ingredients except garnishes in food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached. Serve chilled, garnished as desired.
When the temperatures rise, cool off with these sweet and refreshing shots of some of my favorite tropical flavors: banana, chococlate, coffee, and cherry. And for adults only: a hint of Creme de Cacao.
This is my sixth and final entry in the fun “Savory, Sweet, Sippable” Go Dairy Free and So Delicious Dairy Free Snackable Recipe Contest to celebrate the release of the FREE Snackable eBook. Each contestant was allowed to enter two recipes in each category, so I had fun working my way through from Savory to Sippable over the last few days.
My repertoire is a little light on beverages, so this was a fun excuse to “beef”–not!–it up. Plus, it made for a nice little afternoon pick-me-up!
These Spiked Banana Mocha-Cherry Sippers would taste delicious drunk from a boot (!), but I love them served in little *jars (or shot glasses) on a long rectangular white ceramic plate with a summery napkin and cute paper straws (find these in the “$1” bin section of Target).
Vegan Spiked Banana Mocha-Cherry Sippers
1 small banana, peeled, quartered and frozen
8 ice cubes
12 maraschino cherries
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or decaffeinated coffee
2/3 cup So Delicious Chcocolate Coconut Milk
1 tablesoon Creme de Cacao (optional but delicious)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in a blender container (I use the Nutri-Bullet) and blend until smooth. Divide among 4 small glasses or* jars and serve with cute paper straws. (*Note: many decorative glass jars like the ones pictured are NOT safe for food consumption, so read labels carefully.)
I confess to not eating a lot of fruit, but I do like to drink it daily in the form of juices, smoothies, and, on occasion, sangria.
The perfect opportunity to add a little somethin’-somethin’ to my repertoire of fruit-forward beverages was provided by the announcement of the Go Dairy Free and So Delicious Dairy Free Snackable Recipe Contest to celebrate the release of the FREE Snackable eBook.
Though this refeshing sippable snack very definitely tastes of fresh summer peaches, it is more green in color thanks to the addition of fresh basil and mint which also enhance its distincitve summery flavor profile.
Enjoy this trio of some of summer’s freshest flavors in my simple frozen snack you can slurp, er, I a mean sip through a straw!
1 large peach, cut into 8 wedges and frozen
2/3 cup So Delicious Original Coconut Milk
2/3 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer (or substitute more So Delicious Coconut Milk)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Stevia or other natural sweetener to taste
12 fresh basil leaves + additional for garnish
12 fresh mint leaves + additional for garnish
Place all ingredients except garnishes in a blender container (I use the Nutri-Bullet) and blend until smooth. Divide among 4 small glasses or* jars, garnish as desired, and serve with cute paper straws. (*Note: many decorative glass jars like the ones pictured are NOT safe for food consumption, so read labels carefully.)
I think that canned fruits and vegetables are so beautiful, sparkling like jewels under glass. But, sterilizing jars is a deal-breaker for me.
So, when I saw this recipe from Robby Melvin in Southern Living, I was all about it. These quick pickles are “put up” in jars, but no sterilizing is required, as they stay refrigerated.
His paired strawberries and rosemary, honedew and thyme, and peaches and mint, but pair up any fruit or berry and woody herb you choose.
I altered the recipe just a little only because I didn’t have white balsamic vinegar on hand, but did have white balsamic vinegar reduction and white vinegar. I also upped the vinegar in the vinegar-water ration–I love bold flavors–and I didn’t have mint in my herb garden, so I used rosemary with the peaches I purchased at the farmer’s market on the way home from yoga yesterday morning.
I doubled my recipe to make 2 jars and took them as gifts to the inaugrual dinner of the Starlight Supper Club last night. I’ve always wanted to be in a “supper club,” so two friends and our husbands finally started one. Becky Bump and Reese Lusk set the bar high with a deliciously inspired menu in a breathtaking setting among treasured friends. More on our wining and dining throughout the year.
Note: you may substitute 1 generous cup white balsamic vinegar for the white vinegar and white balsamic vinegar reduction if you choose.
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar (I use demerara sugar)
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar reduction (I purchase at Kroger)
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, water, white balsamic vinegar reduction, and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and completely cool (about 1 hour). After about 45 minutes, slice peaches into eighths and place in a 1 quart jar along with rosemary on the sides so that it shows nicely. Poor cooled pickle brine over the fruit, seal tightly with a lid and refrigerate for 1 hour, at least, but best after 8 to 12. Keeps about 1 week in the refrigerator.
This is the perfect light and lovely breakfast or brunch treat for Mom on her special day. Tofutti Better than Ricotta Cheese is not available everywhere, but hopefully you can find it or another vegan brand where you live, as there really is not an equivalent product to substitute.
Happy Mother’s Day to all…regardless of who your children are! (Mine happen to be 140 teenage art students that I am privileged to teach and “the twinz”: a pair of beloved lookalike canines.)
Tofutti loved my recipe and posted it HERE.
Vegan Ricotta Lemon Pancakes:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons natural sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup soymilk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
3/4 cup Tofutti Better than Ricotta Cheese
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
Lemony Maple-Ricotta Cream (recipe follows)
Garnish: fresh strawberries or blueberries plus additional lemon zest and/or confectioner’s sugar for dusting
In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, pour in soymilk, and whisk just until combined. Add ricotta in several spoonfuls, and whisk into batter, along with almond extract and lemons zest. Avoid over-mixing. Spray cast iron skillet with non-stick spray. (For more flavor, but also more fat and calories, you may use a little oil and or vegan butter, melted.) Heat skillet over medium-high. Make pancakes using a 1/4 cup measure, 3 at a time. Cook for a couple of minutes on first side, or until small bubbles just begin to appear, pancakes puff slightly, and are golden brown on underside. Flip and cook on remaining side for a couple more minutes or until pancakes appear set and are golden brown on underside. Drizzle a tablespoon of Lemony Maple-Ricotta Cream over each pancake as you make the stacks. Garnish top of stack as desired with fresh berries, lemon zest, and or a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar.
Lemony Maple-Ricotta Cream:
1/2 cup Tofutti Better than Ricotta
1 tablespoon soymilk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Process in food processor until smooth. The mixture will be creamy for drizzling; not fluffy.
These “Peeps” that I created–which I think look more like Toucans!–were inspired by “Ugly Ducklings” sold at a local Mediterranean restaurant called Azar’s.
I wanted to take the store-bought ones to an Easter dinner on Sunday, but the restaurant was closed and I could find no recipe, so I decided to “wing it,” so to speak. Fortunately, the ingredients are few.
I’m so glad I did, as they are super simple and so unique! I apologize for not having them ready to share with you in advance of Easter, but they are nice for spring in general, and certainly next year!
Resting in decorative cupcake liners and tucked, along with softly colored wooden eggs, into their straw nest, they looked peepin’ adorable and were also a rave in the taste department!
They seem especially appropriate for spring, but the ingredients are pretty season-less, so enjoy all year when a festive presentation and a little decadent bite is in order.
Approximately 1/2 cup (or slightly less) almond paste (I purchase it in a can on the baking aisle of the grocery store)
16 pitted dates, opened out (be sure to use fairly moist ones)
1-9 or 10 ounce package vegan chocolate chips
8 whole roasted and lightly salted cashews
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Using your fingers, mold a scant tablespoon of almond paste into an egg shape. Moisten your fingers if your paste seems dry. Then press into one of the dates, pressing another date over the top to encase the almond paste inside, forming an egg or bird body shape. Continue with all remaining dates and almond paste. Cover and refrigerate them for about a half hour. Melt chocolate in microwave in a narrow deep bowl for ease of dipping. (For 9 to 10 ounces, I have found that 1 minute on full power, a slight stir, and then 20 to 30 seconds at full power, followed by a good whisking works in my microwave.) Pierce each date-almond paste ball with a toothpick. One at a time, dip them into the chocolate, covering completely, and place on prepared baking sheet. Remove toothpicks and “patch” hole with a dab of melted chocolate if need be. Then, one at a time, dip half of each cashew into the chocolate and attach it to the top of each “body,” slightly toward one end, with the cashew “beak” curving into the body and touching at each tip–chocolate toward the center–so that it is secure. Refrigerate for a half hour or until chocolate is hardened. Arrange as desired and serve.
Note: you will have some chocolate left over, but when it gets low, it is difficult to coat the date-almond paste balls.
The weather has been like no other winter here in Eastern, VA, so, while I made these pears quite a while ago, sunshine and my schedule did not coalesce until yesterday for me to photograph or I would have posted well before now so that if you, too, were gifted with a box of Harry & David Pears, you would have a new and delicious way to serve them.
It was a gift of these pears sent also to my parents by my cousin (he sent mine much later due to a snafu of some sort) and my mom’s craving that resulted in this recipe. The cream-cheese orange filling makes them extra special and extra pretty.
Hopefully, now that the winter holidays are well behind us, you can enjoy this recipe with the crop of summer pears.
Hey, did you know those Harry & David pear crates make ideal tree ornament storage boxes?
Pears and Red Wine Reduction:
6 large pears (about 8 ounces each), halved lengthwise, stemmed and cored using a melon-baller or small spoon
2 cups Burgundy wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 large orange, zested (reserve zest), halved, and then sliced into 1/2-inch slices
3 cinnamon sticks
Combine wine and sugar in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears, cut side down, and then tuck orange slices and cinnamon sticks between them. Bring to a simmer and poach for 10 minutes on one side; gently flip, and poach 10 minutes on the other side. Arrange in a serving dish or on individual plates or bowls, cut side up. Place a dollop of filling in the hollow left when the core was removed, drizzle with Red Wine Reduction, and serve.
Vegan Cream Cheese-Orange Filling:
8 ounces vegan cream cheese such as *Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Reserved orange zest
In small bowl using a fork, mash together cream cheese and sugar. When almost smooth, incorporate vanilla extract and zest.
*You can also find this recipe HERE on the Tofutti website!
For our 10th anniversary, my husband and I took a Mediterranean Cruise, one of a number of life-changing trips to that magnetic part of the world from where his family hails (specifically, the Abruzzo region of of Italy). I fell in love repeatedly, including with Santorini.
My dish, created especially for the Yummy Food-Canarias Recipe Competition, is an ode to one of the most memorable and simplest “meals” I have ever eaten. We had spent the morning touring an ancient archeological dig on the island and had stopped at a cliffside vineyard overlooking the stunning atoll. There, in the wind-whipped courtyard, we were served wine, of course, accompanied by crisp fresh cucumber, olives and tomatoes. That was it. Simple perfection.
Since it is January and tomatoes are not in season, I chose instead to celebrate the cucumber and the olives, adding my beloved figs and pine nuts plus a little lemony brightness along with herby dill-scented cannelini beans for protein . The result is a simple little Mediterranean-infused bite-size meal.
Yield: 24 canapes or 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-15.5 ounce can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup loosely packed finely chopped fresh dill
16 dried Calmyra or Mission figs, stems removed, halved (I like to use 8 of each)
1/4 cup brine-cured pitted black and green olives, drained (I like some that are a little spicy)
3 ounces toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon tamarind syrup (you may substitute pomegranate syrup or agave nectar)
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
Garnish: fresh dill sprigs
Cucumber slices (or toasted bread rounds/crackers)
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and saute, stirring frequently, until onion begins to turn golden, about 8 to 9 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent scorching. Add garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for another minute. Stir in beans and remaining tablespoon of olive oil, partially mashing the beans with the back of the spoon. Add dill and remove from heat.
Process figs in a food processor, pulsing until coarsely chopped. Add olives, and continue pulsing until both are finely chopped. Add pine nuts and pulse a few more times or until all ingredients are very finely chopped. Add syrup, lemon zest, and additional salt and pepper if desired, and pulse just to combine.
Serve a spoonful of the beans topped with a spoonful of the tapenade on cucumber slices, toasted bread or crackers. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.
Alternative serving suggestion: spread the beans into a 1/2-inch thick disk on a serving plate, spread the tapenade over the top, garnish, and serve with cucumber slices (or toasted bread/crackers).