Food for Thought
Eating sustainably is as simple as eating lower on the food chain. And when you broaden your culinary horizons to include more plant-based foods, you'll discover a whole new world of mouth-watering surprises. Vegan cuisine is truly a celebration of taste, texture, and color. It's an endless cornucopia of dazzlingly delicious, eye-appealing, taste-bud-tantalizing dishes.
By adopting a plant-based diet, you are taking the single greatest step towards reducing your impact on global warming, deforestation, air and water pollution, topsoil depletion, world hunger, and of course, animal cruelty. And you do all of this while improving your own health, too! Begin a new and exotic epicurean adventure, and delight your palate with these sinfully sweet treats from around the world.
Moroccan Apple Dessert - T'fah
T'fah is the Arabic for for apple. In this simple recipe, tart apples are soaked in a sugary syrup scented with cinnamon and sweet orange blossom water.
8 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced into small wedges (Granny Smith, Jonathan, Cameo, or Braeburn work well)
3 lemons, juiced
2 cups evaporated cane crystals
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons orange blossom water
Remove the yellow part of the lemon peel from the lemons and cut into small strips. Juice lemons.
Peel and core apples, cutting into small wedges.
Place sugar, water, and cinnamon in a large saucepan and bring to a low boil.
Once the mixture boils, add the apples, lemon rind, lemon juice, and orange blossom water to the pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the apples are tender and the syrup has thickened (about 30 minutes).
Remove from heat and allow the dessert to cool. Serve at room temperature.
Indian Rice Pudding "" Kheer
This heavenly dessert beckons the palate with aromatic cardamom seeds and rosewater. The slow-cook method allows for the rice to become very tender, and the spice to become intensely fragrant.
Serves 4 to 6
¼ cup basmati rice
4 cups soy milk*
¾ cup evaporated cane juice crystals
¼ tsp cardamom seeds + 1/8 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp rosewater
¼ cup finely chopped pistachios
Place the rice in a small bowl and cover with water. Soak for 1 hour.
Drain the rice, place in a medium-size heavy saucepan along with the soymilk, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 45-50 minutes, until rice is tender. Stir in sugar and cardamom, and cook 20 minutes more, still stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and add in the rosewater. Refrigerate until chilled. Pudding will thicken as it cools. Serve in dessert glasses, and garnish with chopped pistachios.
*Substitute almond milk for a soy-free pudding
Sweet Oranges Congo
Fruits and nuts figure predominantly in African cooking, as a wide variety of tropical fruits and nuts, both native and non-native, are cultivated in Africa. In this Congolese recipe, oranges, dates, and peanuts play together in a pleasing dance of taste and texture.
5 navel oranges
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup raw, unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbs apricot preserves
1 cup moist shredded coconut
Peel 4 navel oranges, cut into 1 inch slices and then into 1/2-inch squares. Mix in the chopped dates and nuts, and set aside.
In a small saucepan, mix 1/3 cup orange juice from the last navel orange along with the apricot preserves. Cook over med-low heat, stirring frequently, until preserves are dissolved (about 10 minutes.) Allow to cool slightly, then pour the orange, date, and nut mixture into the orange juice mixture.
If coconut flakes are dry, soak in water for 10 minutes, and drain excess liquid.
Divide the shredded coconut into 8 dessert cups, and make a hole in the center of the coconut for filling. Fill centers with orange mixture, dividing evenly into all 8 cups.
Variations: Use canned mandarin oranges and their juice in place of fresh navel oranges.
For a sassier dessert, substitute apricot brandy or Curacao for the orange juice.
Thai Bananas in Coconut Milk - Gluay Buat Chee
Serves 4 to 6
When women in Thailand become Buddhist nuns, they dress in white garments. This quick-and-easy sweet dessert made of bananas bathed in coconut milk is white as well, giving rise to its charming Thai name, translated as "bananas ordained as nuns."
4 barely ripe bananas (not spotted or over ripe)
1 14-oz can coconut milk
½ cup palm sugar or evaporated cane juice crystals
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
Unsweetened dried coconut flakes
Peel bananas and cut into diagonal pieces, about 2" long, then cut in half lengthwise.
In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, sugar, and salt, and whisk over medium heat until dissolved, being careful not to let the coconut milk boil.
Add bananas to coconut mixture and cook 3 minutes, just until bananas are heated through, again being careful not to let the mixture boil.
Serve warm in individual bowls, garnished with nutmeg and coconut flakes.
Bulgarian Sweet Walnut Pastries -- Banitsa Saralia
Baklava, is a rich, sweet pastry featured in many cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire. It's cousin, banitsa saralia, is made with layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped walnuts and sweetened with a sugary syrup, instead of honey.
8 sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed
½ cup melted Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup evaporated cane crystals
¾ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a shallow baking tray or rimmed cookie sheet.
Brush two sheets of phyllo pastry with Earth Balance spread, and place one sheet on top of the other. Sprinkle one quarter of the walnuts over the top of the two sheets, and repeat with the remaining sheets of phyllo, Earth Balance, and nuts.
Roll lengthwise to form a cylinder, and transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until top is golden-brown.
Place the remaining ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Continue to cook and stir for 10 minutes longer, until the mixture is thick and syrupy.
Remove banitsa from oven and pour the hot syrup over the top. Let cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. To serve, cut into slices while still warm or at room temperature.
Mexican Sweet Tamales
Mexican tamales are packets of corn dough made with a savory or sweet filling and wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. Though raisins are used here, this recipe for sweet tamales can be made with any dried or fresh fruit you desire.
24 corn husks
2/3 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, softened
2/3 cup Earth Balance Shortening, softened
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
3 cups masa harina
5 ½ cups of water (or more, if needed)
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup raisins, soaked in water until plumped
¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pine nuts
Place corn husks in a large pot, and cover with hot water. Top husks with a heavy plate, and keep submerged for at least 30 minutes, until husks are soft and pliable.
Mix together the Earth Balance spread, shortening, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and beat until light and fluffy. Using a large spoon, the beater, or your hands, mix in the masa harina, ½ cup at a time, until thoroughly blended. Gradually mix in warm water, using as much as needed until dough just holds together and is the consistency of soft cookie dough. Mix in coconut, raisins, and walnuts or pine nuts.
For each tamale, spread about 2 tablespoons of dough in center of a corn husk to form a 3"- square. Fold or roll each tamale, folding up bottom end. Stack tamales in a large steamer basket, either standing up, folded side at the bottom, or stacked on top of each other, seam side down. Place steamer basket over 3-4 inches of boiling water, cover with lid, and adjust heat to maintain a gentle boil. Steam tamales for about 1 hour. Remove 1 tamale, and unwrap to check for doneness. If dough pulls easily from husk, it is done. If not, steam for 5 or 10 more minutes. Serve hot.
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