My first attempt at making a chickpea curry was a disaster. At the end of the evening, my aunt gently reminded me to pre-soak the beans before cooking them. Ever since that rock-hard-chickpea incident, I’ve resorted to using canned cooked chickpeas, and generating a lot of discarded liquid in the process. Until now. Aquafaba, the residual liquor from cooking chickpeas, works perfectly as an egg substitute – a boon to those with an egg allergy or a vegan with a sweet tooth.
Aquafaba, from the Latin aqua (water) and faba (bean), is a more attractive name to give the liquid from a legume. This viscous amber-colored liquid is rich in starch and protein plant material that is drawn out from the legume during cooking. Aquafaba whisks into a binding agent for use in cakes or froths up as foam in drinks. Its neutral flavor doesn’t compete with other ingredients when substituted for eggs in mayonnaise or meringue. Goose Wohlt, an American software engineer, is widely recognized as the person responsible for both the name and making the first stable vegan meringue in 2015.
Aquafaba can be made from canned chickpeas. However, using dried chickpeas eliminates the added salt and preservatives found in the canned version.
Dried chickpeas – 2 cups
Salt – 1 tsp
Wash the dried chickpeas with several changes of fresh water.
Drain in a colander.
In a fresh bowl, add the chickpeas, 6 cups of water, and salt. Leave it to soak overnight or for about 13-15 hours.
Pour the contents of the bowl into a cooking pan.
Boil the chickpeas for 1¼ – 1½ hours. Check the chickpeas halfway into cooking time for the frothy scum that rises to the top. Using a spoon and in one continuous motion, scoop out as much of the froth as possible.
Chickpeas are ready when they have no crunch but are firm to the touch.
Strain the chickpeas, reserving both the chickpeas and golden-colored liquid or aquafaba.
One of my new favorite drinks is the Peruvian Pisco Sour – but the cocktail was hard to make for a large holiday party. It would have been a challenge to separate so many eggs and keep the egg whites at an optimal temperature. Substituting aquafaba for egg whites addresses these concerns, and is suitable to serve both vegans and worriers (regarding raw eggs) alike. Cheers!
Pisco – 3 oz
Aquafaba – 2 tbsp
Simple syrup – 2 ½ -3 tbsp (depending on taste)
Lime juice – 4 tbsp
Crushed ice – ¾ – 1 tbsp
Angostura Bitters – 2-3 drops (optional)
Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
Add the crushed ice. Shake vigorously.
Pour in thirds (to create as much foam as possible) into a short glass. Serve immediately.
Note: Use the cooked chickpeas to make a simple Italian appetizer with garlic and chili powder, chickpea curry, or process into a smooth hummus.
After printing a successful issue, my first editor in London brought caviar to the office. The team was excited to enjoy this expensive gesture. The black bubbles of cured sturgeon roe glistened from a small glass container, sitting on top of a mound of crushed ice. A delicate mother-of-pearl spoon rested nearby. While everyone savored the refined treat, I seemed to be the only one who didn’t appreciate the caviar’s long aftertaste. However, I changed my mind about caviar this New Year’s Eve.
To ring in the New Year, my neighbor served a delicious appetizer of caviar, crumbled hardboiled egg, and onion on lightly buttered toast. The two additions provided a delicate balance to the texture and salty flavor of caviar, and for the first time, I enjoyed this extravagant food.
A few days later, I saw the holiday episode of The Great American Baking Show that featured champagne “caviar” as a dessert garnish. The “caviar” was easy to make; the golden champagne droplets were teased out from stock items in my pantry such as gelatin, sugar, and oil. I was inspired to create a whimsical twist on the champagne and caviar pairing. I topped the black sturgeon beads and orange salmon roe with the captured champagne “caviar” bubbles, which added a hint of sweetness to this festive and decadent treat.
Scoop out some of the yolk from the hard-boiled egg, and replace with caviar.
Sprinkle the champagne “caviar” on top of the caviar.
Another option: Combine the hard-boiled egg with caviar and serve on toasted bread. Top off with champagne caviar.
Note: This luxurious treat can be made a little more affordable by replacing champagne with sparkling wine and /or using locally-farmed roe. Here’s to a year of celebratory meals that don’t break the bank!
This has been a week of celebrations, from Cinco de Mayo and ending this weekend on what is known as two-minute sporting spectacle, the Kentucky Derby. Both celebrations feature great food as well as a signature cocktail. Margarita’s tequila and triple sec and mint julep’s bourbon base combine with simple syrup to make easy-to-down cocktails. Most people are familiar with making (and drinking!) margaritas, but the bourbon-based mint julep is just as easy.
The mint julep is associated with the American South, where a whiskey/bourbon and mint combination that is savored during the long hot months makes this cocktail a perennial favorite. At the Kentucky Derby, the drink is served in a special silver Julep cup. Using a metal container in the heat is practical as the frosted cup insulates the cocktail. A mint julep is easy to make: Use the best bourbon that you have available, fresh mint leaves for both aroma and aromatics, and simple syrup.
Bourbon Whiskey – 2 oz
Simple Syrup (see below) – ½ –1 oz
Mint Sprigs – 5-6
Crushed ice – enough to fill the serving Julep glass
Mix 4 tsp of sugar and 4 tsp of water. Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat. Add 3-4 mint leaves. Keep aside until the simple syrup is cool.
When ready to serve, add the remaining mint leaves to the serving cup. Crush the leaves lightly (muddle) with a wooden spoon.
Fill the cup with crushed ice. Pour in the whiskey and simple syrup.
Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Cheers to the winner!
Note: If you don’t own a metal cup or silver julep, chill a standard highball glass.
Persimmon is a mellow fall fruit, which looks like a cross between an apricot and tomato. The fruit’s color also reflects autumn shades, falling somewhere in between a pale orange and drifting maple red leaves. The two varieties of persimmon, categorized as astringent and non-astringent fruits, are available through December. Their edible skin bruises easily, and once the fruit has ripened, their shelf life hastens.
The rapidly deteriorating condition of the persimmons inspired me to preserve their essence. I remembered my mother’s stewed pineapples and jackfruit, which I savored long after their season. Stewing the persimmons conserve their subtle sweetness. Stewed fruits can be flavored with cinnamon or ginger and they can be used immediately as a spread or frozen and used later. Fresh persimmons can be added to a salad or baked in an open tart. I used the stewed paste to flavor simple syrup. The persimmon syrup became my fall version of a mojito – a persimmoto!
Persimmon – 5-6
Light cane syrup – 2-3 tbsp
Water – ½ cup
Wash the persimmons. Remove the brown calyx, and extract the seeds from the mashed fruit. Place the fruit into a pan.
Add the cane syrup and water. Bring to a boil.
Simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the fruit has softened.
When ready to use in the cocktail, crush the pulp with the back of a spoon to extract as much of their flavors.
Strain the pulp through a tea strainer, keeping both the syrup and pulp separate.
Add syrup (1oz) and mint leaves (5-6) and muddle them in a glass. Add light rum (1½ oz) and pulp (½ tsp). Top with ice, a lime wedge, and a sprig of mint. Cheers!
Two of my friends recently shared memories of a dessert that both their mothers had made – a combination of Jell-O, Cool Whip, marshmallows, and canned fruit. They both acknowledged that they wouldn’t make the dessert because of the many processed ingredients, but they still savored the memory. Like most comfort food, the ingredients are a combination of all that is no longer popular, yet together comprise textures and flavors that stay with us forever. My friends’ conversation reminded me of another delicious dessert that had some of the aforementioned unfashionable ingredients.
As October 1 is designated as start of dessert season, it was the time to start with a classic. Trifle is my husband’s favorite pudding from the many years he spent in the U.K.. Without the traditional English ladyfingers and Bird’s Eye custard that are not readily available in the US, I had to tinker with the ingredients. Dessert, after all, should always take us to a happy place. Have an indulgent month!
Pound cake – ½ loaf, cut to fit the base and sides of a bowl
Port (or sherry) – 4-5 tbsp. (enough to soak the cake)
Mixed fruit cocktail – 15 oz. can
Strawberries, Raspberries, grapes – 1 cup
Strawberry Jell-O – 6oz packet
Whole Milk – 1 pint
Egg yolks – 4
Sugar – 2 tbsp
Vanilla essence – ½ tsp
Whipping Cream – ½ pt, whipped until it forms firm peaks
Use the fruit syrup replacing some of the water needed to prepare the Jell-O according to the instructions on the packet.
Cut the fresh fruits into small chunks and mix in with the mixed fruit cocktail.
Layer the bottom and sides of the glass bowl with pieces of cake.
Pour the port over the cake, making sure all of the pieces are soaked through.
Add the fruits on top of the cake.
Pour the Jell-O over the fruits and cake. Once cool, refrigerate until the Jell-O is set.
Meanwhile, mix the eggs, sugar, and essence together in a bowl.
Heat the milk in a pan the milk to just before it starts to boil. Remove from heat.
Take a tablespoon of the hot milk and add it to the egg and sugar mixture. Mix. Keep adding a few tablespoons of milk at a time, until the egg-sugar mixture is warm (this is to avoid curdling). Add the egg and milk mixture back into the pan containing milk. On low heat, continue to cook (about 15-18 minutes). The custard is ready when it is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.
When my mother made flambéed Baked Alaska, a dessert consisting of sponge cake, ice cream and folded-over meringue, the special occasion became pure theater. She would turn down the lights and step into a darkened room with a dancing, ghostly-blue flaming dish to a dramatic hush of anticipation. The spectacle of flambéing (cooking off the alcohol) that doused the meringue still excites A., N. and me.
Theatrics aside, flambéing adds yet another layer of flavor to a dish. When high-proof liquor such as rum or brandy is set alight, the highly volatile alcohol vapor burns off quickly in bursts of flames. This process leaves no residual alcohol in the dessert, but just hints of its smoky flavor and aroma.
Flambéing bananas was my choice of dessert for this Valentine’s Day. The dessert is both elegant and quick to make. The caramelized just-ripe banana becomes meltingly soft in texture. Just as the singed meringue crests were the only indication that alcohol was once present in Baked Alaska, the dark rum vapors flash in orange and blue hues as they sear through the buttery banana mixture.
Alcohol (80 proof) is highly flammable, and great care has to be taken when lighting the vapors. Some basic precautions include using a skillet with a long handle or lighting the alcohol with a long matchstick while keeping the pan well away from your body. Other common flambéed meals include Crepe Suzette (pancakes) and Steak Diane (thin slivers of steak meat); both are presented table-side in restaurants. Flambéing your dessert or main course can be mastered with a little care and practice.
Banana – 1, large
Butter – 2 tbsp
Brown sugar – 2 tbsp
Lime/lemon – ½
Rum – 2 oz
Juice the lemon.
Peel and slit the banana lengthwise.
Heat a skillet and add the bananas (do not add butter at this stage). Cook them on each side for about a minute, until they caramelize and brown. Remove from heat and keep aside. Add the lemon juice on both sides to prevent discoloration.
Heat the skillet, and add the butter and sugar. Mix well. Keep aside until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, keep everything close at hand. Begin by reheating the butter-sugar mixture. Warm the rum (15-20 seconds in a microwave or stove).
Pour the rum over the heated sliced bananas and sugar mixture. There are two ways to burn off the vapors, but remember to be vigilant with both. The first method is to tilt the contents in the pan away from you (towards the fire), and watch as the vapors alight. The second method is to bring a lit match or candle close to the skillet and watch carefully as the vapors start to burn.
The dessert can be plated once the alcohol has burned off.