‘Tis the Season for Cherries

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR CHERRIES

While I’m not enjoying Phoenix’s 100 degree+ summer temperatures, I am loving that some of my favorite fruits are in season:  berries, stone fruits, melons, and cherries.  I’ve capitalized on numerous opportunities to stock up on these for cheap through our Bountiful Basket co-op.  This past weekend, I scored eighteen pounds of cherries for $1.59/pound – a smokin’ deal!

While I will surely eat most of these in salads, snacks, and breakfasts, I know I won’t get to all of them before they spoil, so I need to get creative.  I’m making a good portion of the cherries into jam (see my jam formula), am dehydrating a bunch to chop and add to my granola, and today, have even attempted a totally vegan cherry pie.  As with all of my formulas, this pie is lower in fat, sodium, and sugar than many (if not most) typical animal-product versions and of course, cholesterol-free.

What I came to discover in researching making a pie from scratch is that there are actually very few ingredients involved.  Of course, the fruit is the star and the crust is a close second.  I prefer to consume fruit raw and for the most part, under-ripe; in other words, I prefer fruit rock hard and crunchy.  So, the fruit preparation in pie kind of goes against how I prefer to eat it, thus making a crisp crust essential to balance out what to me, is “mushy” fruit.

Pie crust needs something to make it rich and dense.  In an ordinary pie, this is usually butter or some other form of fat.  My crust incorporates a little fat—from coconut oil—but achieves the bulk of its density from the garnet yam.  What?!  In my pie crust research, I came across a vegan blogger who uses banana in lieu of most of the typical fat.  In creating my formula, I thought that I would do the same, but didn’t have any ripe bananas on hand (for like the first time ever in my life!).  True to my Fresh Formula concept, I got creative and decided to substitute a garnet yam I had sitting on the counter.

As I explained while introducing you to my curry formula, yams are not sweet potatoes.  Although similar in taste and texture, sweet potatoes—often pale yellow inside—boast greater nutritional benefits, not that the yam is a poor choice whatsoever!  Many people use what they think are sweet potatoes in Thanksgiving dishes because of the appealing bright orange color.  With that said, beyond an attractive appearance, yams are also loaded with fiber, protein, and vitamins A and C.

DSC_2222I’m proud to have developed a formula that combines the flavors and textures I love while packing a ton of nutrients.  Cherries, in particular, have a number of amazing health benefits.  The most significant reason to chow down on cherries, in my opinion, is that they can help boost your melatonin production, thus resulting in better sleep.  Now five months pregnant with a babe that is constantly on the move and a bladder that has been squished to what seems like the size of a thimble, sleep is becoming more difficult; cherry season couldn’t have come at a better time!

DSC_2224Take this pie to your next summer barbeque and see if anyone even notices that it’s vegan.  🙂  Depending on how many cherries you have on hand, you can also make multiple pies and freeze them for when cherry season has long passed.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  FRUIT PIE

Makes 1 pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups flour (+ ½ cup for dusting your work surface)  –>  I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup mashed fruit or vegetable (e.g. banana, potato, applesauce, etc.)  –>  I’m using garnet yam, peeled and boiled.
  • ¼ cup chilled oil (+ 1 tbsp for greasing the pie plate)  –>  I’m using coconut.
  • ¼ ice cold water (literally, float ice in it while you’re prepping other ingredients)
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (+ 1 tbsp for topping the crust once the pie is assembled) –>  I’m using 100% pure maple syrup.
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tsp spices (optional)  –>  I’m using ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, and ¼ tsp cardamom.
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened plant milk  –>  I’m using hazelnut.

If necessary, peel and steam or boil your fruit/vegetable of choice and cool completely in the fridge or freezer.  Place this fruit/vegetable in your food processor first to puree.  Next, add all remaining ingredients except the water and plant milk.  Start the food processor and stream in the cold water (sans ice) from the top as the ingredients come together.  You should end up with a semi-sticky dough (similar to that of my bread formula).

DSC_2225Sprinkle ¼ cup of the remaining flour onto your preferred work surface.  Empty the dough onto the surface and knead with your hands just until the flour is incorporated and the dough is less sticky.  Place in a bowl, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Pit cherries while you’re waiting or complete any necessary fruit prep (i.e. peeling and steaming, etc.).

DSC_2229For the filling:

  • 4 cups raw cherries, berries, or another peeled and chopped fruit (e.g. apples, pears, peaches, etc.)  –>  I’m using sweet red cherries.
  • ½ cup sweetener  –>  I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup cornstarch or arrow root  –>  I’m using cornstarch.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on flavor intensity)  –>  I’m using ½ tsp almond.
  • Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt

If you’re using them, pit your cherries.  This is a long process!  While your dough is chilling, pop down in front of the TV with your cherries and get pittin’!

By the time you’re done preparing those cherries, it’ll be time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Retrieve your chilled dough and separate into two balls:  one is approximately 2/3 of the dough and the other 1/3.  Use remaining flour to dust your work surface and roll out the larger ball.  It should be approximately an 1/8 of an inch thick and in as much of a circle shape as possible – perfection isn’t necessary.

DSC_2230

Grease your pie plate.  Carefully lift your smooth, flat circle into your pie plate and press down to coat the entire inside of the plate.  Make sure that this is as even in coverage and thickness as possible.  Again, perfection isn’t necessary.  Pinch the edges of the dough (if that’s your thing!) and mix up your glaze (plant milk + remaining sweetener from crust formula above).  Use a kitchen brush to glaze your crust and poke holes in the bottom to vent.  Set aside remaining glaze.

DSC_2231Pre-bake the crust—without the filling—for 10 minutes.  During baking time, roll out the smaller dough ball to the same thickness as the base and cut into your shape of choice.  Want to keep things simple?  Make a nice, smooth circle that you can use to cover the filling completely (slice vents on top).  If you’re feeling adventurous, use a pizza cutter to create strips for a traditional lattice pattern, or use a sharp knife to cut out other shapes.

DSC_2234Once the bottom crust is out of the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Combine all filling ingredients and pour into the pre-baked crust.  Gently top your filling with the remaining dough, pinching the edges to connect it with the bottom crust.  Glaze the top crust and vent if necessary.

DSC_2236 DSC_2239Place the pie back into the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the top crust is golden brown and crisp.  Let cool before serving.

NOTE:  The edges of the crust on my pie are a little overdone.  🙂  Travis said that next time I can prevent this by covering just the circumference of the pie with foil.  Just a tip!

DSC_2244 DSC_2251

Advertisements

The Plant-Based Decadence That Is Risotto

DSC_1955

If you’re like me, at some point, you may have thought or assumed that risotto contained milk, cheese, or some other form of dairy to give it its creamy consistency. While some cooks add dairy to make risotto extra creamy, it is a naturally plant-based and wonderfully decadent dish.

I use risotto as an opportunity to fulfill a craving for comfort food and to eat vegetables that must be cooked to be palatable, such as sweet potatoes. When Travis and I whip up a batch, it almost always contains some form of potato or other root vegetable, allowing us to eat the majority of our other vegetables raw. If you’re not in the mood for veggies (hopefully because you’ve been chowing them all day!), just make it plain, seasoned to taste.

Since it doesn’t, in fact, contain dairy, you should know that risotto achieves its creamy consistency through a slow and steady cooking process that involves an abundance of liquid and regular stirring. Risotto is NOT a last-minute go-to dish, nor is it for light snacking; this, is a square meal that will fill you up before you get to the bottom of your bowl.

Risotto is prepared with an Italian short-grain rice called Arborio. Arborio rice is high in protein, packed with vitamins and minerals, easy to digest, and can even help to fend off disease and maintain regular bodily functions. Plus, when slowly simmered in white wine, vegetable stock, sweet onions, and fresh herbs, it is simply delicious!

DSC_1936While you can certainly prepare this Italian must-have as a side dish, I put down a whole bowl as my dinner. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: RISOTTO

Serves 4 (as a meal)

  • 8 cups homemade vegetable stock (or water)*
  • 2 cups Arborio rice**
  • 1 cup chopped vegetables (optional) –>  I’m using one medium peeled garnet yam.
  • ½ cup white wine –>  I’m using Riesling.
  • 1 small onion –>  I’m using yellow.
  • Several cloves garlic (go with what you like) –>  I’m using three large.
  • 2 tbsps oil –>  I’m using refined coconut.
  • Fresh herbs, spices, salt, and pepper to taste –>  I’m using a sprig of fresh rosemary (which I will remove after cooking) and a pinch each pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

*You may not use it all, but it’ll be close. Have it handy on your stovetop in a pot on low heat, ladle-ready.

**Unlike other grains, do not rinse your Arborio rice before use.

Start by chopping your onion and garlic and sauté in a touch of oil over medium-high heat until they are almost cooked through, but not quite. Then, transfer them to a bowl, return the pan to the stovetop, add a touch more oil, and sauté your vegetables, if using, until almost cooked. Transfer them to a separate bowl and return the pan to the stovetop, this time over medium heat.

Add more oil (about 1 tbsp) to the pan to toast your dry rice. Stir the rice constantly to prevent sticking, toasting it until it has deepened in color slightly, about 5 minutes. Add in half of the cooked onions and garlic, as well as your seasoning of choice, and deglaze your pan with the white wine. After the wine cooks down, add a ladle of your veggie stock and stir fairly regularly over the course of the time it takes for that ladle to absorb completely. You can expect 3-5 minutes between ladles.

DSC_1946 DSC_1947

You will repeat this process—ladle and stir—many times over the course of 40-45 minutes. When the rice is almost finished, add in the remaining onion and garlic, as well as your veggies (if any), to the pan to finish cooking. From start to finish, this dish will take you 60-75 minutes (depending on how fast you prep and such) and a lot of attention. As soon as the rice is tender, you’re done, so taste as you go.

DSC_1948

Garnish with fresh herbs or thinly-sliced green onion. Makes for yummy, comforting leftovers for 3-5 days.