Sunday, June 20, 2010

Screaming for ...Spice Dreams?

Ice cream season is upon us! For the foreseeable future I'll be sticking with dairy-free sorbets, which is fine by me--especially if they all turn out to be as good as Coconut-Ginger Sorbet. Creamy, laced with with shreds of coconut, and refreshing, but with a little heat from ginger--this sorbet is a classic. It's from a new book called Spice Dreams: Flavored Ice Creams and Other Frozen Treats by Sara Engram and Kimberly Toge, which is all about adding spices like basil, cardamom, chile, mint, and thyme to frozen desserts. Some of them can get a little wacky (not that I haven't tried making bizarre ice cream flavors before), but the combination of ginger and coconut is spectacular.

Coconut-Ginger Sorbet

Makes about 3 cups

3/4 c sugar
3/4 c water
1 t ground ginger
1/8 t salt
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
1/4 c sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 t vanilla

Combine the sugar, water, ginger, and salt in a medium, heavy saucepan. Heat the sugar mixture over medium heat, stirring gently, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup is clear, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep for 1 hour.

Combine the coconut milk, flaked coconut, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Strain the syrup mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the coconut milk mixture. Whisk until the syrup and coconut milk are completely mixed. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. The sorbet mixture may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Freeze the chilled sorbet mixture in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours before serving.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Temporary Vegetarian

There's a column in the New York Times called The Temporary Vegetarian, and last month, it featured a recipe for "A Vegan Main Dish of Indian Green Beans." Halfway through my two-week dairy and soy hiatus, and this recipe is coming in handy.

Not only is it handy; it's actually very, very good--the sort of vegetable dish I can see myself making again and again. While Julie Sahni, a cooking teacher and cookbook author who created the recipe, says you can make this with cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, or brussels sprouts, I went with green beans tonight. They got plump as they cooked, and soaked up the rich sauce, a savory and spicy mix of ground cumin and coriander, red pepper flakes, and paprika, built up with finely chopped onion and garlic, and thickened with coconut milk.

Sahni suggests topping the dish with sliced almonds which you fry gently, and this is a nice touch, adding crunch and earthiness. A squirt of lime brings out even more flavor. Definitely make a pot of rice to serve alongside the beans; it helps soak up the sauce and temper the heat. We also had some seared scallops (so much for that "vegan main dish" thing--oops), which were also excellent with the coconut sauce.

I'm actually relishing the challenge of avoiding dairy and soy. It's leading me to some great new recipes--and making me so much more conscientious about what I eat.--S

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Here's the Story, Morning Glory

For me, breakfast isn't just the most important meal of the day; it's possibly my favorite meal of the day. Homemade yogurt and granola; an egg and cheese sandwich; even just a bowl of cereal with berries and milk--such simple things really make me happy in the morning.

And then the pediatrician suggested I cut milk and soy out of my diet, since it might be triggering an allergy that's turned the baby's skin into a dry, cracked mess. Five days in, her skin is looking better, and I'm getting used to black coffee. Breakfast, too, has taken a new direction.

The only reason I'm eating a bowl of soy-free cereal with rice milk and strawberries right now is that I've polished off all the Morning Glory Muffins I made last week. I wanted to find a recipe for a muffin or bread that didn't include dairy or soy, and that wasn't vegan, so I went to Cookstr, which I think has the best search options of any recipe site I've visited. I searched for a baked breakfast item that was lactose- and soy-free, and that didn't take more than an hour to make. Voila: Morning Glory Muffins, which were apparently the muffin of the back-to-the-land movement in the '70s.

Here's what I love about these muffins: they're made with shredded coconut, carrots, apple, crushed pineapple, raisins, and walnuts. As if that magnificent ingredient list isn't enough to lure you in, here's more to love: the recipe makes 16 regular-sized muffins (I got 12, since I made 6 jumbo and 6 regular). You can substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the regular flour (which I did). They don't get weighed down and gooey after a day, and make a very hearty breakfast.

I'm only on this diet for two weeks (for now), but I have a feeling I'll be making these muffins for many years to come.--S