White Chocolate Blood Orange Mousse Tart

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February 6th, 2016

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Recently, I’ve been working on developing very light, very mildly sweetened, mousse-like dessert recipes for the new cookbook, and this White Chocolate Blood Orange Mousse Tart is an example of my experiments. I have a weakness for anything soufflé or custard-like, and I’ve grown quite sensitive to the overly sweet treats that monopolize our world, so this tart turned out to be the dessert of my dreams.

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It’s blood orange season and I can never miss the opportunity to take advantage of the fruit’s photogenic nature. In addition, I just got my hands on a fresh batch of the most fragrant raw cacao butter. Being that orange and cacao is one of the most heavenly pairings known to man, I had to combine the two.

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Irish moss will always be my number one thickener of choice, but because it’s so difficult to find for so many readers, I’ve decided to familiarize myself with the more widely available option – agar-agar. Agar is another sea vegetable based thickener, available in most health food stores, and I use it in this recipe to achieve a mousse-like consistency.

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The texture of the mousse is very light and airy, accompanied by the intoxicating aroma of cocoa and subtle notes of citrus. Blood orange juice contributes the most gentle pale pink color, one that makes me stop and stare for a little too long. You’ll love the crust as well – it’s tender, buttery (with no addition of butter), and thin – all to go along with the delicate nature of the filling. Enjoy!

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White Chocolate Blood Orange Mousse Tart
makes 1 9-inch tart
Notes:
1) I highly recommend using homemade almond milk here, as it is one of the few and main ingredients. Homemade almond milk is much creamier than its store-bought counterparts, and the creaminess is important to the texture of the mousse.
2) You can choose to omit the crust and serve the filling on its own, distributed between ramekins, as shown in the photo above.

for the crust
1 tablespoon ground chia seeds
3-4 tablespoons ice cold water, divided
1/2 cup coconut oil – cold and solid, plus more for oiling the springform – at room temperature
3/4 cup oat flour (I use ground rolled oats)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
pinch sea salt

for the filling
3 cups homemade almond milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons agar-agar
2 1/2 oz raw cocoa butter – shredded
zest of 2 blood oranges
1 cup blood orange juice
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract – optional

to make the crust
1. Combine chia and 1 tablespoon cold water into a paste in a small bowl, keep refrigerated. Prepare a 9-inch springform by covering the bottom with parchment paper and generously oiling the parchment and the sides of the form with coconut oil.
2. Combine all the flours, coconut sugar and salt in a food processor, pulse to mix. Add refrigerated chia paste, pulse to incorporate. Cut coconut oil into cubes, add to the flours and keep pulsing until the mixture resembles sand.
3. Add 2 tablespoons cold water and process until the mixture comes together when pressed with fingers. Add 1 more tablespoon of water if necessary. Take care to not overproces.
4. Press the crust mixture against the bottom and sides of the form evenly, leaving about 1/2 inch of the sides uncovered at the top. The crust will be very thin to be to compliment the airy and delicate blood orange mousse. Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 F. After 30 minutes in the fridge, cover the crust with parchment paper, weight it down with baking beans and blind bake crust for 20 minutes. Remove beans and paper and bake for another 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool.

to make the filling
1. Combine almond milk, maple syrup, salt and agar-agar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Lower heat to a slow simmer and cook partially covered for 5 minutes, whisking periodically, until agar flakes dissolve.
2. Remove from heat and add shredded cacao butter. Cover and let melt for about 5 minutes.
3. Add milk and cacao mixture to a blender, together with blood orange juice and vanilla. Blend to combine, for about 20 seconds. Taste and add more maple syrup, if needed. Add orange zest and pulse a few times.
4. Pour the mixture into a large heat proof bowl and let cool for about 30 minutes, whisking occasionally. When cool, pour mixture into the baked crust and refrigerate until completely set.
5. Carefully remove the spring form. Decorate tart with orange slices and/or zest. Slice one piece of the tart at a a time and serve immediately.

Tags: agar-agar, almond milk, blood orange, dessert, orange, tart

Simmered Squash Soba Bowl

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January 18th, 2016

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Today’s soup was inspired by the Simmered Winter Squash recipe from Heidi Swanson’s beautiful new cookbook, Near and Far. I’m used to roasting or steaming squash, so Heidi’s take on the Japanese technique of simmering it in a flavorful mirin and tamari-based broth had me intrigued. Simmering turned out to be a simple and quick way of preparing very flavorful squash, so I decided to build on Heidi’s recipe, originally a side dish, and make it into a meal.

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I made a soup, adding more water to make the simmering liquid into a broth, with the addition of kombu and shiitake for a more pronounced broth flavor. As a side note, I’ve been adding kombu to many of my broths lately, for its amazing health benefits and subtle sea flavor.

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I served the squash covered with its broth, alongside soba noodles, tofu, toasted black sesame seed paste and herbs, making for a nourishing winter bowl. Whether you are getting home from the cold in need of a hot meal, or feeling under the weather, this soup will be your friend this winter.

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And if you haven’t gotten a chance to take a look at the Near and Far cookbook, do not wait much longer. It’s a thoughtful piece of work, full of recipes that will inspire you to get up and cook, explore new ways of seeing familiar ingredients, and feel as if you are a world traveler with every flip of the page.

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Simmered Squash Soba Bowl
(adapted from Near and Far)
serves 4 -6

1 package firm non-GMO tofu
5 cups water
3 1/2 tablespoons tamari
4 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
4-inch piece kombu
1 small winter squash – kabocha, kuri or butternut, seeded, sliced into wedges or chunks, peeled for butternut
about 1/2 lb fresh shiitake – stems removed, sliced
12 oz soba noodles
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, toasted and crushed with mortar and pestle
few drops of toasted sesame oil, optional
handful wakame seaweed, optional
1 watermelon radish – thinly sliced, optional for garnish
handful fresh basil leaves or finely chopped green onions for garnish

1. Drain tofu and place it on a plate. Cover with another plate and place a weight on top, like jar filled with water. Let drain while you’re working on the rest.
2. Combine water, tamari, mirin and sugar in a medium soup pot, stir to combine. Add kombu and squash and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, partially covered, until the squash is tender. Add shiitake at the last 5 minutes.
3. Add a few drops of sesame oil to the crushed black sesame seeds, if using, set aside. Prepare a separate pot of water for cooking soba noodles
4. When squash is almost done, cook soba noodles according to the packaging instruction.
5. Taste the broth, add more tamari if more salt is needed and remove from heat. Remove and discard kombu, add wakame if using, stir it in and let sit for a couple of minutes.
6. Drain and slice tofu into large chunks. Distribute tofu between bowls, followed by soba noodles and squash. Pour the broth with shiitake and wakame into the bowls. Garnish with slices of radish, black sesame paste and fresh basil. Enjoy right away.

Tags: black sesame, shiitake, simmered squash, soba, soup, squash, tofu

Rum and Raisin Bundt with Orange Miso Glaze & A New Cookbook!

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December 20th, 2015

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My reason for posting this festive cake today is not only a holiday related one. I’m very excited to finally announce that Masha and I are working on our second cookbook, scheduled to come out in the Fall of 2017, published by Roost Books. The working title is Simply Vibrant, which quite accurately describes what the book will be all about. Like in The Vibrant Table, the recipes in this book will focus on healthful, whole foods ingredients, with a new key element of simplicity. This time around, I’m giving lots of thought to practicality, quick preparation and accessible ingredients, all under the umbrella of seasonality. We have lots of hard work ahead – you can always follow along with the trials and errors on Instagram, #simplyvibrantcookbook.
Now it’s time to celebrate with cake!

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This cake started with a craving I had for one of my favorite childhood treats, the rum baba. When I was a kid in Russia, I would often buy the sweet, raisin studded, glazed pastry on my walk home from school. To this day, I go crazy for any baked goods that contain raisins.

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This cake has all of the properties of the rum baba and more. The batter is based on spelt dough with pear and sweet potato puree, which makes it very moist. Adding to that, the raisins are plumpened through soaking in rum or orange juice. The finishing touch is a glaze that I’m quite proud of – Miso and Orange Glaze, enough said.

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Wishing Happy Holidays to you and your family, cheers to 2016!

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I created this recipe as part of a healthy recipe package for Food & Wine online, see the detailed recipe here.

Tags: cake, dessert, miso, orange, raisins, rum, spelt