Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Orange Rosemary Salad

Autumn or winter would be the perfect season for this salad, when oranges are abundant and rosemary leaves are still fresh on the bush. But I cannot stop eating it in summer; for nearly a week, I've had it twice every day! This makes it very easy to get in the pound of greens I've been aiming for, and it's so satiating and tasty, you'll be tempted to make it a daily habit too.

In this salad, the primary flavor comes not from dressing or vegetables, but from a savory crumble that's tossed over the top. The crumble is excellent in salads, but don't stop there: scatter it over cooked or marinated vegetables, sprinkle it over soup, or use it to adorn dipping sauces and dinner plates.

Orange Rosemary Salad
1 very large or 4 luncheon servings
I use half an avocado and one orange because it's usually just me eating it. If you're making it to serve many, use a whole avocado (or two) and two oranges, so everyone gets some. Unfortunately you can't see the oranges here, as they sank to the bottom, and I wasn't fussy enough to slice more over the top.
The dulse really is optional, so feel free to omit it. But it's nice here, and a simple way to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet without a strong oceanic taste.

For the Rosemary Crumble:
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds or pistachios
1 heaping tablespoon nutritional yeast
8" length of fresh rosemary, with the tough central stem removed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dulse (optional)

For the Salad:
juice of half a lime
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 orange
10-12 cups fresh young lettuces or spring mix
coarse sea salt (optional)
half an avocado, pitted

Make the Rosemary Crumble: In a food processor, combine all ingredients until well mixed and crumbly. Get the bits fairly small, but not to the point where the mixture becomes oily. Set aside.

Make the Salad: In a large bowl, stir together lime juice and olive oil. Cut the ends off of the orange, and remove skin and pith with a sharp knife. Slice in between the membranes to release the segments into the bowl; these are supremes. Repeat through the whole orange. Squeeze the remaining membranes over the bowl to release leftover juice, then discard. Add greens, and toss. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, and toss again. Don't agitate it too much at this point; the sea salt should just begin to dissolve, adding a slight brininess, but should still be in large, crunchy flakes.

Slice the avocado thinly, scoop out the slices with a large spoon, and fan over the salad. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup-1/3 cup of the crumble. Shake additional coarse sea salt over everything, if desired, and serve immediately.

The extra crumble can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fior di Coco Gelato

Fior di Coco Gelato, on Cardamom Crepes with Pistachios and Orange Blossom "Honey" from Cook, Eat, Thrive

Walk into a gelateria, and you'll find rows of frozen metal containers, mounded high with gelati and sorbeti, and topped with fruit or bits that indicate their flavors. It makes those cardboard tubs in regular ice cream shops seem awfully pedestrian by comparison, and it's easy to see why so many of us are growing to appreciate gelato. I suspect several million Italians would agree!

Gelato is infinitely better than ice cream, I think. It's creamy texture feels more decadent in the mouth, and less air in the mixture means a denser, more substantial dessert. Despite the density and intense flavor, gelati generally contain less fat and sugar than their American counterparts. For this reason, they don't store well and are best eaten within a few days of making. The conventional stuff is made with milk and eggs, but this version gets a rich texture and mouthfeel from coconut milk and the addition of agar.

Fior di Latte is literally "flower of milk," and serves as the base for all other gelato flavors. My Fior di Coco is a simple coconut cream to which you can add pureed figs, espresso, chocolate shavings, or one of the variations below. These are flavors you'd find at a gelateria, along with favorites like bacio (chocolate hazelnut), amarena (sour cherry) and cannella (cinnamon).

Fior di Coco Gelato
1 quart
Fold two parts gelato together with one part Whipped Coconut Cream, and you'll have Semifreddo, a delicious semi-frozen mousse. When I worked as a pastry cook, my Peach Melba Semifreddo--peach semifreddo marbled with raspberry puree and topped with lemon curd--was always quick to sell out!

2 14-ounce cans coconut milk (full fat)
1 tablespoon agar flakes
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup evaporated cane juice or agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or seeds scraped from 1" of vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional, for a creamier gelato)

Simmer the agar flakes in the 1/2 cup water over low heat until nearly dissolved. Set aside.

In a blender, combine coconut milk, sweetener, vanilla, and sea salt. Pass the reserved agar mixture through a sieve into the blender, and blend again (if you have a high-speed blender, you can skip the straining). With the blender running, add coconut oil, if using. Refrigerate until completely cold, about 1 hour.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Gelato di Menta, with bittersweet chocolate shavings and fresh spearmint

Menta Gelato
1 quart
Mint doesn't sound quintessentially Italian, but it's actually used in many regions of Italy, from Tuscany's panzanella, to Calabria's eggplant salads, to Emilia-Romanga's melons, where it's drizzled with aged balsamico. Here, it adds a fresh, cooling bite that's particularly welcome in summer's heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest for a more complex flavor.

Omit coconut oil. To the basic gelato recipe, after the initial blending, add 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, and continue blending until only small pieces remain and the mixture is a very pale green. You want to pulverize it, but not blend completely smooth. Strain through a fine strainer, discarding solids (I strain it directly into the ice cream maker). For gelato with no green bits, strain through a chinois or several layers of cheesecloth. Chill as directed, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Gelato di Burro di Arachidi, with peanuts and chocolate chips

Burro di Arachidi Gelato
1 quart
Peanut butter is very American, and difficult to find in Italy, but follows the traditional use of nut pastes and purees in gelato. Burro di arachidi is literally "butter of peanuts," but you can use any nut butter for this gelato. Hazelnut, cashew, or pistachio would be especially delicious.

Omit coconut oil. To the basic gelato recipe, after the initial blending, add 1/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter. Continue blending until completely smooth. Chill as directed, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

There's an amazing array of flavors to explore when making gelato! I can't wait to whisk together a batch of liquirizia (licorice) or zuppa inglese, flavored with bits of Almond Shortbread and a drizzle of sherry...

What kind do you want to try?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Becoming a Cheesemaker

Fresh Chévre over summer squash and greens

In college, a friend had me over to his small apartment for dinner. It was hot, and he announced that we'd be starting with a "light summer appetizer" of bruschetta with ricotta and peaches. "I usually make my own cheese, but..." he trailed off apologetically. But that was all I needed to hear. I was smitten.

That man later confessed, with some trepidation, that he had never, in fact, made his own cheese. And I'm sure it struck me as a terrible lie at the time. But he's since overseen every pancake flipped in our home--a number in the thousands now--and also fathered [almost] two of my children, the combination of which I think atones for the indiscretion.

Get Cultured

Not many people make their own cheese using an actual fermentation process, but it's absolutely worth trying. Here are some reasons why:

The fermentation process adds good things. Probiotics. Beneficial bacteria. They're all in here. Cultured foods are rich in healthy micro-organisms and lactic acid, which help maintain the balance of bacteria in the intestines. And a proper balance of intestinal flora means more effective synthesis of things like B12 and Vitamin K2, both particularly important in vegan diets.

Cultured nuts, seeds, and beans are predigested for optimal nutrition. The culturing process breaks down complex proteins in nuts and seeds, making them simpler to digest and absorb. If you have stomach trouble with a particular nut or seed, try the cultured version. As with soy products, the fermentation process often makes them easier to digest (think tempeh or miso), and the cultures make for easier assimilation of nutrients. Soaking is also a helpful component, as it removes some of the enzyme inhibitors in raw nuts, which can contribute to digestive issues.

This cheese is versatile. Got a cheese recipe that calls for raw cashews? Try fermenting them into cheese first. Making sunflower pate? Add the tang of beneficial cultures. Once fermented, these nuts and seeds can be used in equal amounts in any recipe that calls for them (just add after the soaking phase). Try it in Chévre, Baked Macaroni, raw Cashew Nacho Sauce or even Cheesecake.

It makes you a culinary badass. Omnivores and vegetarians eat cheese all the time, but do they make it? Hell no! But you do. Because you are a cheesemaker. Now get out there and grab some nuts!
[Insert agressive athletic style ass-slapping, and a hearty cry of whatever it is Marines say here.]

Culturing basics

When working with a starter, it's important to choose a product with live cultures. Unpasteurized miso works well, as do vegan yogurts, kombucha, or the liquid from fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut. Miso, kimchi, and saurkraut can impart strong salty flavors, so be mindful of this when seasoning the finished cheese. For this batch, I used coconut water kefir from Inner Eco, an excellent vegan product teeming with good bacteria. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you want to use less of a very concentrated starter (miso), and more of a less concentrated one (kombucha or kefir).

A quick note about safety

All the precautions that apply to consuming raw, unpasteurized cheeses also apply here. While it's unlikely you'll encounter contamination by listeria or salmonella, it's still possible. If your immune system is compromised or you're pregnant, you might want to use the finished cheese in a cooked sauce, like the Cayenne Crumb Baked Macaroni mentioned above.

First, be sure all your utensils and gadgets are very clean; the cheese base is an ideal environment for growing bacteria--good and bad--and you want to prevent the latter. Your nuts and seeds should be relatively bacteria-free, but if you have any concerns about this, rinsing them in a mixture of pure water and hydrogen peroxide will eliminate the bad stuff.

While fermenting, try to keep the temperature as consistent as possible, which will keep your good cultures growing at a rapid rate, with no room for the other stuff. Also, don't allow the cheese to ferment beyond 10 or 12 hours, as this can encourage spoilage and ruin the batch. These tips should ensure you have no potential issues with your cheese, but if you feel like the finished product is off somehow (bad off, not good, cultured off), err on the side of caution and toss it.

A jar of fermenting nuts and seeds, in ghostly outline

Nut and Seed Cheese
About 1 cup
The cheese pictured here is made from a combination of cashews and pumpkin seeds, but you can use whatever varieties you prefer.

1 cup raw nuts, seeds, or a combination
1-3 tablespoons live cultures (see above)
4-6 cups fresh water

The best vessel for making seed and nut cheeses is a large, wide-mouthed jar, like those used for sprouting, which have a screen covering the lid (pictured above). If you don't have a screened lid, simply cover a large jar with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel, and secure with a rubber band.

In the large jar, soak nuts and/or seeds with enough water to cover for 6 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Wash jar well with hot water, and set aside to dry.

In a blender or food processor, combine nuts/seeds, cultures, and just enough water to cover. Process until well mixed, but not smooth. The finished texture should appear mushy, like small-curd cottage cheese. Return mixture to jar, covering the top with the screen or cheesecloth, and place in a warm spot. Inside a dehydrator or next to a heating vent is ideal. You can also place the jar in a bowl of warm water, then loosely cover it with a towel (don't allow it to get wet), switching out the water as it cools.

The temperature should be between 85 and 95 F at all times. Too cool, the cultures won't activate quickly enough. Too warm, the beneficial bacteria will be killed.

I've found that the easiest timing for me is to soak nuts/seeds overnight, then ferment them through the next day. While fermenting, I keep the jar in a bowl of water, placed in the oven, where I can easily refresh the warm water as needed, in between other household stuff.

It's going to be tempting to poke at and examine your cheese, but let it sit undisturbed for 6-12 hours. The bacteria in the culture will begin to work, consuming the sugars and fermenting everything into cheese. The mixture may darken, separate, or bubble, and this is all okay.

Pressed cheese "curds" with the whey drained away

Once the fermentation has occurred, transfer to a clean kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth, and gently squeeze to remove excess liquid. The remaining cheese is ready to be used in recipes, or blended smooth into a dip.

The cheese should keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly against the surface to prevent further oxidation and darkening.

Congratulations! You're a cheesemaker!

The finished product, blended smooth

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eating for Pregnancy

Clockwise from top left: organic tamari with wasabi, pickled ginger, spinach, almond-miso spread, oyster mushrooms, kimchi, carrots, ume plum, and cucumber, ready to be wrapped in sheets of nori

So here's the post where I confess my loyalty to raw foods, and apologize to anyone who wants to see only baked goods and seitan dishes. It's true. Before I ever protested fur or groaned at the protein question, I was a raw foodist.

Yes, I detoxed. I had a perpetually full dehydrator. I attended events known as rawlucks.

My food philosophy is to eat what makes you feel really alive, as long as it's vegan. For me, that's a diet composed primarily of fresh fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, with bits of cooked stuff, too. I eat whatever I want to eat, which usually means green smoothies, salads, and lots of fruit. Food should nourish the whole person, so there's room for all of it: cupcakes and chia puddings, dosas and raw crackers, piping hot stews and raw gazpachos. But these days, I've leaned very heavily toward eating fresh, uncooked foods. And during pregnancy, I'm committed to providing the best, least-processed nutrition for this little one.

So if you're rolling your eyes right now, give me a moment, and let me convince you to stick around for the next five months. Because even if you have no interest in raw food, good food is universal. I'll always feature plenty of that, whether it's homemade raw vegan cheese, or the smoothest, most decadent gelato (both of which I'll be posting this week!).

Here's what I've been eating.

Tropical Fruit Consomme, from Cook, Eat, Thrive

Fresh, watery fruits. It's wonderful to wake up to a whole papaya spritzed with lime, or to slice into a giant watermelon on warm afternoons. I get lots of nutrition from whole fruits, and when I'm not filling up on denser bananas or dates, I'm eating plenty of hydrating mangoes, grapes, peaches, and melons.

I've also wanted lots of fermented foods lately, and I find myself thinking about their sour tang throughout the day. My favorites are kimchi (look for brands that don't contain bonito or shrimp paste), coconut water kefir, and kombucha. I recently tried some raw kimchi from Rejuvenative Foods (above), which is a splurge at around $10 per jar. It's different from traditional kimchi, using regular cabbage instead of Napa or bok choy, but its gingery bite is certainly worth trying. Considering the amount of fermented foods I eat, I'm going to invest in a fermenting crock pot, so I can make fresh kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented vegetables at home.
Caution should be exercised with these foods during pregnancy, but if you've been consuming them regularly prior to conception (I have), there shouldn't be any ill side effects.

As in this recent post, I've been enjoying plenty of sea vegetables. Nori is one of my favorites, and a perfect crunchy snack when I want something salty. I also use it to wrap a variety of fillings, burrito or hand roll style. I include wakame in my miso soup, and often sprinkle dulse over a platter of crisp vegetables. Seaweeds are rich in minerals and trace elements, and assist in balancing digestive and endocrine systems. They also prevent tissue damage caused by toxins and radiation by reducing absorption, so consider increasing your intake if you're exposed to x-rays, chemotherapy, or heavy metals.

I love cucumbers, and try to eat at least one every day. These tasty non-sweet fruits are the ideal pregnancy food, providing excellent hydration and building skin and connective tissues with their high silica content. They're best, I think, soaked liberally in fresh lemon juice and sea salt (although I suspect the idea makes most people pucker and cringe!).

This salad combines some of my favorites: cucumbers and sea vegetables.

Sea Cucumber Salad, with red peppers and carrots added, topped with black sesame

Sea Cucumber Salad
4 servings
Seaweed and crisp cucumber combine in this clean, bracing salad. Serve small quantities as a starter for an Asian meal, or serve it over carrot or zucchini noodles with an almond butter sauce.

2 cucumbers, peeled, halved, and seeds removed
1 tablespoon Arame
¼ medium red onion
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil (not toasted)
½ teaspoon sea salt

Soak seaweed in fresh water for 5 minutes to hydrate. Drain, and remove to a medium bowl.

Slice cucumbers into ¼” half-moons, and add to bowl. Slice red onion into half-moons, as thin as possible, and add to bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar, oil, and sea salt, toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Enormous fresh salads. When I have a salad, I really have a salad. I use a huge bowl, and start with 8-10 cups of greens. Then I toss with a bit of dressing, and allow it to wilt slightly while cutting up other additions. Salads are best served crisp, but when you're aiming for large amounts (I try to get 1/2-1 pound of greens every day), letting the dressing soften everything makes it easier to eat lots. This one is spinach, hazelnuts, pears, and golden raisins, tossed in Agave Mustard Poppyseed Dressing (which is Maple Mustard Poppyseed Dressing here, made so by substituting flavorful grade B maple syrup for the usual agave).

Just writing about salads makes me want another one. Off to find some good leafy greens...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Italian Cornmeal Cake

From Cook, Eat, Thrive: Italian Cornmeal Cake with Coriander Creme Anglaise and Roasted Apricots

I've posted about Italian Cornmeal Cake before, but I think it deserves a place of it's own.

A few weeks ago, I'd just returned from Los Angeles. Our flight arrived around 10:00 p.m., and by the time we were home, had fed the cats, showered, and taken a breath, it was much later. The next morning, our social worker was scheduled to arrive for an adoption homestudy visit, and I wanted to bake something for breakfast. Muffins? Coffeecake? Cinnamon rolls?

Italian Cornmeal Cake, of course. I've used it for the past two years' Dia de los Muertos cakes, where it stood up to the rigors of carving and being draped in heavy fondant. I've make it for dinner parties, where it can be baked weeks in advance and frozen with no ill effects. It's been birthday cake, morning muffins, and chocolate-studded loaf cake with tea. It's so incredibly versatile, I've used it over and over. And over.

Loaded with strawberries and White Chocolate Buttercream for a birthday celebration

As the base of a tiramisu, continuing the Italian theme

On this early morning, I folded raspberries into the batter, which yielded a moist, tender breakfast loaf. Bake it a few minutes longer if you tuck in additions like berries, chocolate, or nuts, until the top springs back instead of leaving an impression when you touch it. I love mine with a generous dose of citrus zest and liqueur, or dusted with powdered sugar and topped with pine nuts and lavender flowers.

Any way you make Italian Cornmeal Cake, its mild sweetness and subtle cornmeal texture will charm you.

Italian Cornmeal Cake
8 thick slices
Multiply the recipe as needed to suit larger celebrations.

1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice or sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Heat oven to 350 F. Oil and line a 9" x 4" loaf pan with parchment, or a 9" round pan, and set aside.

In a medium bowl or 2-cup measure, combine non-dairy milk, evaporated cane juice or sugar, oil, lemon juice, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Pour in the liquid mixture, and gently whisk until combined and nearly free of lumps. Transfer to oven and bake 50-55 minutes. When the cake is done, the top will spring back when lightly pressed, and the edges will begin to shrink from the sides of the pan.

Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out to cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, wrap in plastic and keep at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Slice into pieces, or frost and decorate as you like.

Italian Cornmeal Cake, as the centerpiece for my daughter's first birthday

This morning? Our social worker loved it. I'm convinced it made things simpler when we discussed our family being vegan, and our plans to nourish any future children the same way.

And besides, it's always lovely to feel cake-proud on a moment's notice!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Japanese Kale Salad with Oyster Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the tofu of raw cuisine, taking on flavor and adding substance without too much say of their own. Oyster mushrooms, also called king trumpet mushrooms, are among the most interesting, and if you haven't used them in recipes yet, pick some up at an Asian market this week. Marinated in toasted sesame oil and paired with kale salad, they add a desirable meaty texture, and balance the salad's fattiness perfectly.

Massaged kale salads are a wonderful thing, transforming the vigor and solidity of kale into a silky, flavorful mess--the best sort of raw comfort food. These salads commonly combine kale, lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil, which is all massaged together with clean hands and left to marinate until softened. When it comes to fat, I like it as unprocessed as possible, so this version omits oil and uses the heaviness of avocado instead. And avocado is the perfect partner to the kale's other ingredients, a burst of Japanese-inspired flavors like rice vinegar, tamari, and various seaweeds. It's reminiscent of sushi rolls, but feels homey and substantial without the rice. It's also incredibly healthy, rich in iodine, calcium, and other minerals.

This dish is lovely as a starter, but also suitable for a main course. Even if you forgo the oyster mushrooms, don't miss the salad, if only for the massaging. Smashing everything together is shockingly enjoyable. Visceral. Cathartic, even. You'll enjoy it, I promise.

My plate at our neighborhood yard sale this afternoon, where I must have looked terribly bourgeoise trying to sell old vases and camping gear

Japanese Kale Salad with Oyster Mushrooms
4 servings
Tamari is non-raw, wheat-free soy sauce, and Nama Shoyu is unpasteurized, living (although not technically raw) soy sauce with the enzymes left intact. Both can be found at health food stores and Asian groceries.

For the Kale Salad:
1 bunch kale, tough center stems removed, roughly chopped into 1/2" strands
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari or nama shoyu
1/4 cup mixed dried seaweeds (I used nori, wakame, and dulse, but arame and hijiki would be nice, too)
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 small avocado, peeled and quartered

For the Oyster Mushrooms:
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, brushed clean and left whole
2 teaspoons tamari or nama shoyu
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds (white sesame seeds are a fine substitution)

Kale, seaweeds, and avocado before smashing

Make the kale salad: Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Using clean hands, reach in and squeeze everything until very well combined. The avocado should coat everything in a creamy veil, and the sesame seeds should appear evenly distributed.

Mushrooms, in marinade

Marinate the mushrooms: In a shallow bowl, toss together tamari, ginger, toasted sesame oil, and black sesame seeds. Add mushrooms, turning gently to coat. It won't seem like enough liquid, but once the mushrooms begin to weep a bit, it will be.

Allow both mixtures to rest for an hour. The kale, refrigerated. The mushrooms, at room temperature.

To assemble, divide kale evenly among four plates, mounding it up (I used a ring mold for this, but you don't need to be fussy about it). Gently squeeze the mushrooms to remove some of the marinade, reserving it for another use, and arrange them over the kale. Dust with a bit of powdered wasabi, if you like, and serve with pickled ginger alongside.

And a note: I consider this a raw dish, although all the ingredients aren't strictly raw (rice vinegar or toasted sesame oil, for example). I often pair primarily raw ingredients with a small amount of non-raw or questionably raw condiments. The way I see it, if a dish is composed mostly of raw fruits and vegetables, tossing in a bit of Dijon mustard or non-raw agave isn't going to be disastrous to your health, but if you're strictly raw, you may choose to avoid non-raw ingredients altogether.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Cherry Pie, Two Ways

Cherries are just beginning to appear in markets here, which means they'll be everywhere soon, in the season's flush of inexpensive, abundant stone fruits. Buy lots (organic, if you can) and you'll have enough to make both of the delicious versions below.

The first is a freeform galette, the simplest kind of baked pie: dough is rolled into a circle, filling heaped on, and the edges are folded over before baking. The second--and the one I'm most fond of--is a raw tart with a date-nut crust, topped with vanilla-scented cherries. These are straightforward pies that emphasize the flavor of fresh fruit, but if you want something more nuanced, add a pinch of cardamom to the filling, stir in a tablespoon of liqueur, or sprinkle with dried lavender flowers.

Rustic Cherry Galette
8-12 servings
My Mr. discovered that the best tool for removing cherry pits is a cake decorating tip with a width just smaller than the pits themselves. Place it on your finger, and simply press it through the cherry; the pit will pop right out.

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpoe flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1-4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice or vegan sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds fresh cherries, stems and pits removed

Heat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and set aside.

Make the crust: In a medium bowl, stir together flour and sea salt. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut shortening into flour until pea-sized bits form. Starting with 1 tablespoon, sprinkle ice water over the mixture and gently toss to combine, adding water by the tablespoon until the dough is moistened and just holds together. Form the pastry into a flat disk, wrap in plastic, and chill while you prepare the filling.

Make the filling:
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch until completely smooth. Add cherries, and gently stir to coat. Set aside until ready to assemble the galette.

To assemble: Lightly flour the prepared baking sheet. Roll out dough into a 12" circle directly onto the parchment; the edges will be slightly rough and uneven, and this is fine. Mound filling onto pastry, leaving a 1-2" clean edge. Fold dough over the filling, pressing gently to secure it. Brush with water, non-dairy milk, or vegetable oil, or sprinkle with sugar, if desired.

Transfer to oven, and bake 40-45 minutes, until filling bubbles and crust is golden. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing to prevent the juices from escaping.

Dust with powdered sugar immediately before serving, and top with vegan vanilla ice cream or Whipped Coconut Cream, if you like.

The second version is loosely based on Steve Pavlina's raw pie recipe, in which he gives fantastically detailed instructions, and includes some great variations. My recipe features an almond shortbread crust topped with lush raw cherries, and is so quick you can skip the windowsill cooling time.

Raw pies do weep their liquid over time, so remember that the crust will get soggy on sitting for more than a few hours. If this happens, flip the thing over, and serve like a cobbler with almond crumbs concealing juicy cherries. The crust is also delicious shaped into squares or rounds and served as shortbread. It's sandy crunch and almond flavor are great with a cup of tea or almond milk.

A tart pan with a removeable bottom works best here, but a pie tin can also be used; just skip the plastic wrap.

Raw Cherry Tart
12 servings

For the almond shortbread crust:
1 cups raw almonds
1 cups raw cashews
1 cups pitted dates
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
pinch sea salt

For the cherry filling:
5 cups fresh cherries, thoroughly rinsed
1/2 cup soft pitted dates (Medjools are ideal)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds scraped from 1" of vanilla bean

Make the crust:
Line the sides of a tart pan with plastic wrap, then drop the pan bottom over the wrap. This will allow you to easily lift the tart ring once the pie is assembled. Set aside.

In a food processor, process almonds and cashews until fine but not oily. Add dates, almond extract, and sea salt, and process again. The mixture will look sandy, but should hold together when pressed between two fingers. If it's too loose, continue processing, or add water 1 teaspoon at a time until it does, but don't allow it to become too sticky.

Press dough into the prepared pan in an even layer; the back of a spoon or bottom of a glass is good for this. Start with the center, and pat the crust up onto the sides, leveling the top. Transfer crust to refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Make the filling:
Roughly pit 1 cup of the cherries, and transfer to a blender. In a medium bowl, soak dates in enough water to cover, and set aside while you stone the rest of the cherries.

Halve remaining 4 cups of cherries, pitting them as you do--I like to cut around the widest part of the cherry for really pretty fruits--and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Drain soaked dates and add them to the 1 cup of cherries in the blender, along with lemon juice and vanilla extract or seeds. Blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Pour mixture over pitted cherries, and gently stir to combine.

To asssemble: Pour filling into refrigerated crust, mounding cherries generously over the top. Eat immediately, or refrigerate for up to several hours. To serve, gently lift the tart pan from its sides using the plastic wrap, which can be discarded. With the bottom still attached, transfer to a platter. If you plan to serve the tart at another location, bring the filling in a separate container, and assemble when you arrive.

Leftovers make a really nice breakfast, alongside a hot cup of tea.