Monday, June 05, 2006

Dessert: Strawberry Mousse Cake

This dessert was not an impromptu one like the dinner entree and salad in my previous posts. It was planned as soon as I received Love, Eric cookbook by Eric Lechasseur sent by mail. This cookbook has beautiful pictures on almost every page. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to make vegan desserts.

How I found the cookbook was another story. Julie, my friend in Oregon, recommended M Cafe De Chaya, a macrobiotic restaurant, in Los Angeles. We went there last month for a casual dinner to celebrate our anniversary. The dinner was great but I fell in love with their vegan macrobiotic desserts and pastries. A huge glass display case filled with European style desserts and pastries and they are all VEGAN. Oh my! My DH had to ask the guy behind the counter if it is true that there is no egg or dairy in ALL of them; although, there was a big sign hanging above 'NO DAIRY, NO EGGS, AND NO REFINED SUGAR'. It was confirmed that they are vegan. I pointed the sign to DH but he said, 'I have to ask and make sure because it is unbelievable!' True, it is unreal! We as vegans are so used to go to a bakery or patiserrie and just drool on what's on the display case and wish that they are vegan. But not here, at M Cafe, we can order whatever we want as long as our wallets can take it.

These are the kind of desserts I love, too. Growing up in Asia, I don't particularly appreciate American desserts since they are too sugary for me. Asian desserts are generally not very sweet. I thought it was just me for being 'not a dessert person' but actually it is just that I don't enjoy sugary desserts. Now I remember that I used to go to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and visited their bakeries who serve French-Japanese cakes and pastries. I LOVE those! After being a vegan, I can't buy them anymore because they contain dairy, eggs, and gelatin. But now, I am not deprived anymore, M Cafe De Chaya has done it with their desserts! We bought many desserts and pastries to take home that day for breakfast and snacks the next day. They had to be eaten within 2 days, so we couldn't buy too many. We will come back to M Cafe for sure.

I was raving about the restaurant to Julie and thanked her so much for her recommendation. I talked about how the desserts were totally my style. She emailed me that their Chef wrote a cookbook about vegan macrobiotic desserts but she forgot the name of it, Eric something, she said. Cookbook? You know me, I determined to get it so I searched the Internet and Amazon. I finally found out the title. Julie also found the website for me: Obviously, I had to buy the cookbook and bought it straight from the Chef. It didn't take me long to try one recipe.

The picture of my cake is not exactly the same as in the book since I am not a professional photographer. This picture I took is not as good as the cake. This cake is so elegant and delish! The strawberry mousse was lightly sweet, smooth, and creamy. The vanilla genoise cake has a soft and delicate taste. Overall, the cake is not very sweet. If you are used to sugary American desserts you may not appreciate this kind of cake which is more of a French style dessert.

There is no refined sugar in this cake. The ingredients used were maple syrup, brown rice syrup, organic apple juice, and organic strawberry jam (all fruit). The mousse is made of Mori-Nu tofu, fresh organic strawberries, tahini, organic apple juice, and agar flakes.

I already plan to make my next desserts from this cookbook which are going to be Blueberry Pine Nut Pie and Upside-down Berry Cake (I was thinking maybe for the 4th of July). I thank Eric for creating such a wonderful and beautiful vegan desserts to enjoy!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dinner: Acorn Squash Stuffed with Sage Polenta and Seitan Bourguignon

What's on our dinner menu yesterday were the salad from my previous post (the Ruby Grapefruit one), Acorn Squash Stuffed with Sage Polenta and Seitan Bourguignon, and for dessert: Strawberry Mousse Cake (next post).

There was no special event or invited guests for this festive dinner. I just bought so many vegan cookbooks lately and wanted to try so many recipes.

The recipe of this dinner entree is from the Millennium cookbook's page 140 titled: Pumpkins Stuffed with Sage Polenta and Seitan Bourguignon. It is supposed to be a winter dish but it was an impromptu cooking, might I say. I brought the cookbook to Whole Foods with me while I was shopping thinking that I might get some ideas from it and from what's available at Whole Foods. If you ran out of ideas what to make, sometimes, this method will help. I opened the cookbook and sat it against my shopping cart. I was flipping the pages when my eyes caught on this recipe and at the same time I saw several acorn squashes were sitting on the shelf. I think these were the last batch in WF. Perusing the rest of the ingredients listed, I was sure that I can get them all at this market. I also found cipollini onions that I could add to this dish to replace the pearl onions in the recipe. These are unusual onions that the cashier was having trouble to find the code for it.

This dish turned out to be very elegant and perfect for a company dinner. It is so delicious and satisfying. The red wine sauce from the seitan bourguignon was really smooth on the creamy sage polenta and baked acorn squash. I didn't make my own seitan this time. Whole Foods sells White Wave prepared seitan that surprisingly was good in this dish.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Salad: Ruby Grapefruit, Avocado, and Pickled Red Onions with Baby Spinach, Grapefruit Mojo Dressing and Chile-Lime Toasted Almonds

Ever since I opened The Millennium cookbook for the first time, I had been thinking of making this salad since the picture in this cookbook is so enticing. Today, I determined to do it cause it is such a perfect timing: summer has arrived in Southern California. It is hot and who wants to turn on the stove?

The title of this salad is a mouthful one but you can't really leave out any ingredient since each ingredient played an important role in the whole ensemble and deserved to be mentioned. Just like in the movies, all individuals contributed needs to be mentioned in the credits.

The Ruby Grapefruit and the Grapefruit Mojo Dressing played major roles and created refreshing flavors. The avocado added a buttery and creamy taste. The pickled red onions was a WOW! I fell in love with this pickled red onions that I may want to include it in my salads this summer, always. It is very easy to make: slice a red onion very thin, add minced grated lime zest from 1 lime, add fresh lime juice (about 1/4 cup), and sea salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp). Magic happens when you mix all these ingredients together and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so. The onion releases sweet flavor and beautiful pinkish color. The strong oniony flavor was somewhat reduced. The lime zest, lime juice, and salt did all that for you.

The Chile-Lime Toasted Almonds is the best supporting star, I think. Without it, this salad is not complete. It is also so simple to make: mix a cupful slivered/sliced almonds with 1/4 fresh lime juice, 1 tsp. chili powder (I am thinking about chipotle powder next time), a dash of cayenne pepper and 1/4 tsp. sea salt. Mix them all together and bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 10-15 minutes until brown and toasty. Every 5 minutes, stir them all up so they are browned evenly. At first, I thought, hhmmm...toasting wet sliced almonds? But I went ahead and followed the recipe and they became crunchy and toasty at the end after they were cooled down. This toasted almond is so good I kept tasting them without the salad and had been thinking about making a big batch for snacks.

Baby spinach was what made it called salad. I supposed anyone can replace it with green lettuce leaves but I think spinach is more suitable for this salad. I bought organic baby spinach that were in plastic bags already triple washed to cut down some steps.

I pretty much followed the grapefruit mojo dressing recipe on page 41 but replaced the honey with agave nectar. I also did the variation: oil-free version, suggested in the cookbook by eliminating all oils and replaced them with lite silken tofu. So, this salad is a FAT-FREE one (I didn't even tell DH and he still likes this salad very much). There are lots of fat-free recipes in this cookbook including several salad dressings. This cookbook will become one of my favorites.