Monday, March 28, 2011

Cranberry Coconut Munchies (Gluten Free)

I am in need of warmth. Winter in the Northeast has been relentlessly cold. Yes, I know I should not complain, considering world events and natural disasters that have taken place recently. In truth, I am very grateful for all that I have, and have learned to create pleasant substitutions for things that I miss. 
So what foods do you associate with warmth? If I had a magic wand, I would wave away and magically appear in the tropics, slurping away on a straw with a giant coconut in hand. Nothing like coconut to quench your thirst.
Since I am not a fairy princess- much to my dismay, I figured let me bake something that will induce the feeling of warmth. Cranberry coconut munchies, adapted from the eclectic Vegetarian cookbook by Nicola Graimes, is just that. I love recipes that combine ingredients from different regions that just work. These cookies are a mix of the traditional American cranberries with the tropical coconut. It's amazing how these two ingredients come together to form an alchemy in taste- like they were meant to be together.
These coconut cookies speckled with orange zest and cranberries have a tart-sweet crunch lending to an exotic flavor. Such a simple dessert, that is ready in no time for afternoon tea or coffee.  Can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week.

Serves 20

2 egg whites
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup almond meal
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut
Zest of 1 small orange
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1   Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.
2   In a medium size bowl, with an electric mixer beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. This should take a few minutes.
3   With a spatula, fold the sugar, almond meal, coconut, orange zest, vanilla extract, almond extract into egg whites to form a sticky dough. Then gently fold in the cranberries.
4   Place heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown at the top.
5   Cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Upside Down Persian Rice Dish Reveals the Story of Purim~ Shirin Polo (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Just like the elements of the seder plate or oil fried latkes, most Jewish holiday foods recall the story of the holiday. Purim is no different — we feast on hamantaschen that represent Haman’s hat (or pockets, or ears, depending upon which story you buy). But one of the central themes of Purim, hippuch or sudden reversal, is often left out of our celebratory food for the holiday. By adding dishes that include an element of reversal we can recall the story of the holiday at our own banquet. This year, I will serve Shirin Polo, a traditional Persian rice dish, which is served upside down to tell the Purim story through food.
Throughout the Megillah, things are reversed and turned upside down, over and over. Haman holds a great deal of power, until in a split second during a banquet, Esther changes everything, and his plot to annihilate the Jews is foiled. The very gallows Haman built to hang Mordechai was used to hang himself. Finally, fact that Esther, a Jew (even in hiding) was the queen of Persia is a reversal of expectations and norms of the time. So it seems only fitting to eat meals of foods that incorporate the idea of hippuch.
Shirin Polo, made with Basmati rice topped with rosewater infused orange zest, is a dish that is served upside down, from the bottom up, where the candied oranges are served at the top symbolizing the sweet turn of events for the Jews. In addition, this rice dish has a crispy crust cooked at the bottom of the pan where it is cracked and flipped over facing up on the serving dish. This symbolizes the evil plot of Haman, broken into pieces. Eating this culinary delicacy known in Farsi as tadig, is symbolic of enacting the mitzvah of destroying Amalek, the ancestor of Haman. By eating the tadig, we are are fulfilling the commandment (figuratively) of destroying Haman. The crunch and flavorful rice, recalls this theme of Purim and is the perfect centerpiece for a festive table.
The rosewater, which flavors and scents this dish, is a crucial element of Persian cuisine and so fitting for the Purim meal. In the Megillah, Mordechai who was related to the patriarch Jacob is referred to as the Rose of Jacob (Shoshanat Yaakov), when he refuses to bow to Haman.
Finally, I will serve this dish because it is may be similar to something Esther had prepared for the feast that plays the central role in the Purim story. According to the Talmud, in order for Esther to disguise her Jewish identity, she subsisted as a vegan. Shirin Polo could have been a typical festive dish that she would have eaten at her own banquet. It is for this very reason that the holiday of Purim is connected to feasting — to pay homage to the many banquets thrown by the king and queen in Shushan. By serving at our banquet it helps recall the story of the holiday where sudden reversals saved the Jews of Persia.
Courtesy of Javan Restaurant

Shirin Polo
Persian Sweet Rice
6-8 servings
3 cups Basmati rice
8 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
Orange Layer
1 cup finely slivered orange zest
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
Pinch of saffron threads
¾ cup roasted slivered almonds
2 tablespoon rose water
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
4 tablespoon vegetable oil
pinch of saffron
2 tablespoon water
1) Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Soak in cold water and let stand for at least 3 hours. Drain and rinse.
2) In a large heavy saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a boil with salt. Add the rice and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse again under cold running water.
3) To make the orange layer: Fill a small saucepan with cold water. Add the orange zest, bring to boil, drain, then repeat.
4) In a medium saucepan, combine the zest, water, sugar and saffron and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until syrupy, about 20 minutes. Let cool, then stir in the rosewater and cardamom.
5) In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat. Stir in the turmeric, then 2 tablespoons water.
6) Spread one-third of the rice in the saucepan. Scatter half of the orange zest over the top, cover with half of the remaining rice, then the remaining filling, and finally the balance of the rice. Poke 7 deep holes into the rice. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
7) Place a paper towel over the top of the saucepan and cover with the lid. Cook over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender and the bottom is crisp, about 30 minutes.
8) Carefully remove the orange layer from the top and set aside. Remove the rice layer and place on serving platter. Place orange zest on top of the rice. Break crust from the bottom of the pot and scatter over the top of the orange layer and garnish with the roasted almonds.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mango and Coconut Cake (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Right about now I could use some tropical weather as winter just does not seem to end here in the Northeast. Looking for sun light amidst this haze, I was inspired to make a tropical dessert from coconut and mango.

When I think of mango and coconut, I am transported to Thailand- they are famous for their mango and coconut sticky rice. While I do love that dessert, because mangos are one of my favorite fruits, I thought why not put the two tropical ingredients together and make a cake?

Although mangos are not in season yet, Trader Joe's sells mangos in their frozen section which are imported from India. I bought a bag, defrosted it and pureed it which serves as the fruity sweetener in this cake.

This low fat cake with tons of flavor has a spongelike cake consistency that is moist with pieces of mango interspersed adding a sweet surprise to every bite. This cake was inspired from The Witchy Kitchen's Mango and Coconut cake, however I have made it gluten free.


3/4 cup Oat Flour
3/4 cup Coconut Flour
2/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/8 Tsp. Salt
2 Ripe Mangos, pureed
3/4 Cup Almond Milk or Soy Milk
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
Flaked Coconut for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a round baking pan.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. Mix thoroughly and create a well in the center. Place the almond milk, oil, mango, and vanilla in the well and mix gently till homogeneous. Pour into prepared baking pan and top with coconut. Bake for 27-30 min.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...