Monday, September 15, 2014

No-Bake Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ready for the next mini cheesecake installment? It's starting to look like all I post are dessert recipes. I guess desserts are a lot more interesting to me than savory food (not true).  I'm just really bad at measuring and writing down what I put into my savory dishes.  I hope to get better at that.  But in the meantime, here's another one of my beloved no-bake mini cheesecakes in celebration of autumn.  It's my favorite time of the year due to all the pumpkin flavored treats associated with the season. Let the pumpkin mania begin!

I made this cheesecake to use up some leftover pumpkin purée that I had after making an awesome vegan challah recipe. (It turned out fabulous-- I highly recommend the recipe!) I wasn't in the mood to deal with soaking cashews, so I used peanut butter instead. And because peanut butter was involved, I figured chocolate should be too. :)


Makes one 4-inch mini cheesecake (like one of these

Crust
1/2 cup raw pecans (or walnuts or almonds)
4 soft pitted Medjool dates
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon water, if needed
Pinch of salt

Filling
1/2 cup pumpkin purée (store-bought or homemade)
1/3 cup unsalted peanut butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt

For Sprinkling
A handful of pecan pieces

Chocolate Topping
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
  1. Pulse the pecans a few times in a food processor. Add the rest of the crust ingredients and blend until a sticky mixture forms. (If your dates are dry, add the water to help the mixture stick together)
  2. Press the crust mixture evenly into the bottom of a mini cheesecake pan lightly greased with coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. Blend all the filling ingredients together in a blender until smooth.
  4. Spoon the filling mixture over the crust and smooth out the top. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.
  5. Whisk together the chocolate topping ingredients and then drizzle the mixture over the cheesecake.
  6. Cover with foil and place the cheesecake in the freezer for 2-3 hours or overnight until completely set.
  7. Let the cheesecake thaw for 15-20 minutes before slicing. Serve chilled.

You'll definitely taste the peanut butter. And with the spices in the mix, you'll also taste your standard pumpkin pie. It's a pretty delicious combo, so says my palate. But if you have a preference for peanut butter over pumpkin (or vice versa), give the filling mixture a taste before sticking it into your cheesecake pan. As always, adjust the flavors to your liking. If you add more pumpkin purée, you'll probably also have to add more coconut oil to ensure that the cheesecake firms up nicely while in the freezer. And if peanut butter flavored cheesecakes aren't your thing, you can also use raw cashew butter or raw cashews instead of peanut butter.

For a full-sized 8-inch round or square cheesecake, you can double the crust ingredients and double or triple (for more height) the filling ingredients. Even though this is a mini cheesecake, I think it would make a nice dessert for two or even four people to share. Nut-based cheesecakes are so rich and decadent that even one small slice is filling.  But of course, no one would blame you for wanting seconds. :)

Enjoy!


Friday, August 22, 2014

The HappyCow Cookbook Review & Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant Napoleon Recipe from Millennium Restaurant

There's an abundance of vegan recipes available online these days, but I still love flipping through cookbooks, bookmarking my favorite recipes, and admiring all the mouthwatering food photos.  So, I was excited to learn that the HappyCow team was putting together a cookbook featuring recipes from various vegan restaurants from around the world.  During my travels in the U.S. and abroad, the HappyCow guide has been a lifesaver, leading me to some of my most memorable vegan meals.  I purchased The HappyCow Cookbook as soon as it was released and now I can enjoy recipes from well-known vegan restaurants such as Candle Café in New York City, Counter Culture in Austin, and Portobello in Portland-- all from the comfort of my own kitchen!  

For me, and I'm sure for most people, photos in cookbooks are a must. Thankfully, The HappyCow Cookbook includes a full color photo of nearly every recipe, as well as snapshots of each restaurant.  Another cool feature in the cookbook is a question and answer section with each restaurant's chef/owner that provides interesting information on the restaurant's history, philosophy, and most popular dishes.  

The cookbook features over 80 recipes including comfort foods, ethnic foods, desserts, gluten-free dishes, and raw foods.  From casual to gourmet recipes, there's something in this cookbook for home cooks of all levels.  A good number of the recipes are from U.S. based restaurants, but recipes from restaurants as far as Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Israel, Canada, and Japan are also included.  How's that for a vegan food tour around the world? 

(Photo Credit:  The HappyCow Cookbook)

As if finally getting my hands on the cookbook wasn't enough, I was even more excited to be asked to participate in The HappyCow Cookbook's Summer Road Trip blog tour. Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, one of my favorite vegan restaurants of all time, is featured in the cookbook.  As a San Franciscan, I'm lucky to live near such an amazing restaurant.  I've dined there several times for special occasions and have always been impressed by their innovative dishes, unique flavors, and beautiful food styling. Millennium also has special events like their recent Annual Heirloom Tomato Dinner.  Earlier this year, I attended their Annual Southern Comfort Dinner, which included an inventive 5-course prix fixe menu. I enjoyed this delicious tequila and oregano marinated king trumpet mushroom "fish" taco with chipotle crema as my entrée.

(From Millennium's Annual Southern Comfort Dinner on May 22, 2014)

As part of The HappyCow Cookbook's Summer Road Trip blog tour, I'm happy to represent San Francisco and share Millennium's stunning Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant Napoleon recipe from the cookbook!

(Photo Credit:  The HappyCow Cookbook)

Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant Napoleon
(Millennium Restaurant; recipe posted with permission from BenBella Books)

Serves 6

For the eggplant:
2 cups coarsely ground shelled pistachios
3 cups white rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Soy milk, as needed
2 to 3 Rosa Bianca or Tuscan Rose eggplants, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds (12 rounds total)
Vegetable oil, as needed

For the lemon tofu “cheese”:
1 1/2 pounds medium-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 sage leaves, thinly sliced
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Pinch chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the tomato, leek, and artichoke tagine:
2 pounds whole San Marzano or plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili Urfa or Aleppo chili pepper flakes (or substitute crushed red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups sliced leeks, cleaned and sliced 1/3" thick
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock, or as needed
4 cups quartered fresh blanched or frozen artichoke hearts
2 cups cooked Corona beans (or substitute any large cooked bean)
1 teaspoon arrowroot, dissolved in cold water
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the cilantro-cardamom coulis:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 yellow onion, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano chili, seeds removed
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Israeli couscous salad:
2 cups cooked Israeli couscous
2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
4 tablespoons minced parsley or cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To assemble:
2 cups frisée leaves
Herb of your choice (optional)

For the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the ground pistachio, flours, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and combine well. Place the soy milk in another mixing bowl. Place a piece of eggplant in the dry pistachio/flour dredge, coat well, then place in the soy milk, then dredge again in the flour mix. Place the finished eggplant slice on a well-oiled sheet pan. Follow with the remaining eggplant slices.

Place the pan in the oven and bake. Flip the eggplant over after 6 or 7 minutes. After a total of 12 to 14 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside.

For the lemon tofu “cheese”: Place the crumbled tofu in a mixing bowl. In a pan, sauté the garlic in the oil over medium-low heat until just starting to brown. Remove from the heat and add the sage, lemon zest, and chili flakes. Stir together ingredients in the pan, then pour over the tofu. Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and more yeast to taste. Stir or knead to incorporate the ingredients. Set aside.

For the tomato, leek, and artichoke tagine: Place the tomatoes on a baking pan and broil until the skin on top is blackened. Cool to room temperature. Peel the skin off the tomatoes. (It should slip right off.) Try to keep the tomato in one piece.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the ginger, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, chili, dried mint, thyme, and cinnamon stick until they sizzle—for 20 seconds or so. Then add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Sauté 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and sauté another 30 seconds, followed by the stock. Simmer covered for 10 minutes or until the leeks are soft. Add the artichoke hearts and simmer 5 minutes. Follow with the peeled tomatoes and add the 2 cups cooked beans, and simmer another 5 minutes. Stir in the arrowroot slurry until just thickened. Add the salt and pepper.

For the cilantro-cardamom coulis: In a sauté pan, heat oil and pan-char the onion, garlic, and chili over high heat. Sauté until they are 25 percent blackened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cardamom seeds, then place in a bowl to cool to room temperature. When cool, place in a blender with the remaining ingredients, then blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper.

For the Israeli couscous salad: Combine the couscous with the remaining ingredients. Set aside.

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On an oiled sheet pan, set down an eggplant slice, top with 1/4 cup of tofu “cheese,” then top with another eggplant slice. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices to make 6 Napoleons. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake 10 to 12 minutes or until heated through. To serve, place a portion of the tagine in shallow pasta bowl. Follow with a portion of the couscous salad in the center of the plate. Top with a Napoleon. Combine the frisée leaves with the herbs and top the Napoleon with the frisée herb salad, if using. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cilantro-cardamom coulis around the plate. Serve.

***

The HappyCow Cookbook combines two of my passions:  vegan cooking and travel. The unique recipes in the cookbook not only motivate me to get in the kitchen and cook, but they also make me want to hit the road so that I that can experience all of these wonderful restaurants in person.  But until then, having these recipes at my fingertips makes me one happy person.  :)

Enjoy!