Archives for posts with tag: summer

Fresh local peaches are perfect for summer dessertsSummer is the perfect time to highlight a bounty of ripe juicy fruit. What better way to celebrate the season than with a trifle?

For those of you who have not been properly introduced, the trifle is a throwback dessert to bygone days of 18th century banquets, when people wore curly wigs, and custard stole the show at dessert tables. Back then, traditional trifles relied on whatever was at hand in the kitchen: leftover sponge cake, sherry, or freshly-whipped cream. If the ingredients weren’t used in the trifle, they’d be thrown out.

As I made my own vegan trifle, my focus shifted to the fruit — specifically, ripe peaches, raspberries, strawberries, and mango — combined with a rich vanilla coconut cream.

While not at all a traditional trifle (I don’t think Elizabeth I knew about vegans), what this trifle lacks in authenticity it makes up for in taste. Let me tell you, this summery dessert delivers. My family shared it last night for my mom’s birthday, and no one passed up seconds.

The main ingredients here are a vegan vanilla sponge cake, a bounty of fresh fruit, preserves, and a hand-whipped coconut milk cream.

A simple sponge cake makes the perfect vanilla base for all of these fruits. I baked one cake, cut it up, and voila:  two layers of my final trifle dish were already done.

1 1/3 cup of non-dairy milk mixed with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix together the milk and vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes. Together, the milk will curdle a little bit, which will provide leavening for the whole mixture. This is how you get the sponge-cake quality without any eggs.

Mix together the wet ingredients, and then the dry. Combine. I cooked mine in a lightly-greased springform pan at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. You’ll know it’s done by a nice golden yellow color and when a knife stuck in the center comes out clean.

After the cake had cooled for a while, I cut it in half to spread on strawberry and raspberry preserves.

I also cooked and hand whipped the coconut cream with only a few simple ingredients: coconut milk, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch (it serves as a thickening agent). Although it was rich and delicious, the texture was not quite perfect — I would use the word “drippy.” With that said, I think the coconut milk has a great deal of potential, and I’ll keep experimenting before I post the final recipe.

Assembling the dessert is the best part about the trifle. There are very few rules, especially when you’re breaking them all to begin with.

This particular fruit trifle was a whirlwind of improvisation. My layers went like this: cake, strawberries, peaches, coconut whipped cream…then more cake. Next went some raspberries, scattered with a bowl of mangoes and lemon juice, which were then topped with more raspberries and peaches. As I went, I liberally dolloped on cream.

Get the point? However you throw it all in, I guarantee this trifle will taste delicious. After all, it’s summer, and there’s no use wasting any time you could be enjoying your food.

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Oh, summer. Sometimes it’s 100 degrees and humid and you have a mysterious insect bite/rash on your ankle (hint: last week). And sometimes it’s perfect.

This weekend I struck gold. My family hosted cousins for a backyard picnic complete with late afternoon breezes, red wine, and tales of Italian relatives growing figs in North Providence, R.I. (it can be done!). Best of all, an early visit to the farmer’s market inspired many delicious dishes for the evening, all of which were light, fresh, and reflective of the summer season. You really can’t ask for more.

It all started in the morning when my mom and I shopped the town farmer’s market. Asparagus had never been part of the dinner equation, but who could resist these beauties?

These green asparagus tasted delicious with a quick grill on the barbecue. With just a hint of char, the stalks retained their crisp, juicy bite. Do not underestimate freshly-grown asparagus. When I was little, these grew wild behind our house. I’ve loved them ever since.

Also at the market: ruby red radishes. I was tasked with creating an interesting salad to share for the evening, and decided to go with quinoa, my personal favorite. As a vegan, I often seek out this protein-packed seed — it cooks like a grain and really satisfies. A quick survey of the kitchen revealed ripe avocados and edamame I’ve been itching to use, so I threw it together into a delicious salad, complete with a drizzle of homemade lime dressing.

Quinoa, Radish, Avocado & Edamame Salad with a Lime Dressing

1.5 cups dry quinoa

4-5 small radishes, chopped

1 ripe avocado

1 cup frozen edamame

1 lime

Olive oil & salt

To start, prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on whatever box it came in — the general rule of thumb is 2 cups water for every cup quinoa. Once all the water is absorbed and the grain cooked, fluff that pot o’ quinoa with a fork and put it in the fridge to cool for at least half an hour.

While the quinoa is cooling, cook your edamame in a pot of salted, boiling water. Important Note! Do this only briefly, and dunk them in cold water immediately afterwards so they don’t get mushy — the salad relies on the combination of crisp textures. The satisfying pop of the edamame is key.

When the quinoa is cooled, toss in the edamame. Add the chopped radishes.

Make a quick lime dressing: the juice of 1 lime, a splash of olive oil and salt to taste. Drizzle over the whole thing. I didn’t add any this time, but I think a light addition of cumin to the dressing would also work really well.

Toss the avocado on top and serve — easy!

And just because I can’t help myself: here’s the baguette from Provencal bakery that we also purchased from the farmer’s market. An all-around tasty complement to the entire meal, with a beautiful knotted and cracked-top crust.

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