This Easy-to-Make Mousse Satisfies Both Your Sweet Tooth and Your Chocolate Craving

———–

———–

Eons ago, in the days of my misspent youth, I passed a couple of summers waiting tables at waterside restaurants in the bohemian enclave of Provincetown, a village on the tip of Cape Cod. I remember watching, amazed, when I first saw a chef fold beaten egg whites into melted chocolate on the way to chocolate mousse. At the time, my culinary knowledge was rudimentary, and making mousse seemed a mark of great sophistication. Years have passed, and I confess to having made chocolate mousse that way a few times myself. Consulting Julia Child, whom I consider to be the authority on such matters, I see that her recipe for mousseline au chocolat calls for very fine sugar, egg yolks, orange liqueur, semi-sweet chocolate, strong coffee, butter and egg whites. It’s not all that complicated to make, but then neither is my vegan version, and the only ingredient our recipes have in common is chocolate. Search out the best premium unsweetened chocolate you can find. I buy Ghirardelli’s 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate at my local supermarket. Three friends who joined me for dinner gave this creamy, rich dessert a hearty thumb’s up. The secret here is the use of agar agar, which adds lots of volume and almost nothing in the way of fat or calories. This recipe makes eight servings, but you could easily cut it in half.  Garnish it anyway you like, but I kept mine vegan by using coconut cream, the thick part only of canned coconut milk, whipped with a fork and sweetened with just a few drops of maple syrup. And raspberries, I’m sure you’ll agree, are never wrong with chocolate. Full recipe after the jump.

———–

———–

Photos: A Chocolate-Almond Mousse so rich and creamy your guests will never guess it’s vegan, garnished with coconut cream, raspberries and toasted, sliced almonds.

———–

Continue reading

Advertisements

Summer’s Harvest: Three Sweet Berries Together in a Delicate Gel

———–

———–

You don’t need me to tell you that it’s berry season. You’ll likely find lovely, ripe berries in abundance at your farm market. Eat them right out of the basket–what a pleasure. Pour on a little cream (or more likely, your favorite substitute), and if the berries are ripe and sweet,  you’ll have a memorable dessert.  But if you’re in the mood for something a little out of the ordinary, try this elegant summer gel made simply with fruit juice and agar agar, a sea vegetable used as a dessert gelling agent throughout Asia. Although it goes together quickly, make it at least a couple of hours ahead, so there’s time for the gel to cool and set. If you’re remembering the jello you ate as a kid, forget all that. This gel is so much more delicate and sophisticated. Make it in a loaf pan, then slice and garnish with additional fruit and something creamy. In the photo, the garnish is coconut cream, made by using a fork to whip only the thick part of canned coconut milk.  You can add a little sweetener if you like, but I didn’t and it worked well. The recipe, as usual, is after the jump.

———–

———–

Continue reading

Wondrous Vegetables from the Sea: What They Are and How to Use Them

Clockwise from top: bars of agar agar, sliced kombu, kombu, hijiki, sheets of nori, wakame, in the center: dulse

Writing about intriguing foods which are under-appreciated in the U.S. seems to be one of my themes. Sea vegetables (marine algae) certainly fall into this category. Today, I begin an exploration of these edible marvels: what they are, where to find them, how to eat them.  I’m not a marine biologist, so I’ll only be able to scratch the surface of the thousands of varieties of sea vegetables which are cultivated or grow in nature.  I’ll concentrate on the eight to ten varieties most readily available to purchase (I’ve included links to people who sell sea vegetables online at the end of  this post).

So, why do I find sea vegetables so interesting?  Three reasons, mainly.  First, to me and to most of us, they provide new flavors, textures, colors and tastes. They expand the range of materials we cooks have to work with. Incorporating them into our cuisine breaks new culinary ground, and I find that exciting.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is their nutritional profile. Like everything natural, they vary from variety to variety and harvest to harvest, but generally, they are remarkably high in minerals and trace elements, especially iron, calcium, iodine, magnesium and potassium, as well as vitamins A and K and folic acid, while being low in fat and cholesterol free. And thirdly, some of the best ones are gathered in our own back yard (I consider the Mendocino coast part of our back yard).

So let’s get started with a few of the common varieties…

Pear and Red Grape Kanten, gelled with agar agar (recipe after the jump)

Continue reading