Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Posts Tagged ‘sugar-free dessert’

POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 30, 2014

I’ve only encountered polenta in a savory form, usually served as a side dish. But I often wondered if it would be possible to turn it into a delicious, gluten-free dessert. When a friend invited me for dinner and asked me to bring dessert, she created the perfect opportunity for an experiment.

The texture of polenta was a concern. If polenta is not fully cooked, it can have a rather grainy texture, which would be horrible in a dessert. I also wondered if I could make the dessert sugar-free, since recent studies have revealed health concerns about sugar.

I decided to make a dessert polenta with dried fruits and prepared a simple date paste as the sweetener. As with most kitchen experiments exploring new territory, success often comes after several trials, eliminating this or adding that, or even changing the cooking method or varying the temperature.

Occasionally, magic happens and that first go-around works as if there were a tiny kitchen elf holding my hand and guiding me every step along the process. Amazing! And it looked pretty darned appealing, too!

It was a delicious surprise that also looked enticing enough to bring to a dinner party. When my friend asked what to call this dessert, I hesitated only a moment–and out popped the amusing name. Because of the bounty of fruits, small servings make this dessert go a long way. I actually squeezed 16 servings out of this dessert, but, really, 10 to 12 servings would be more realistic.

Polenta Porcupine copy

POLENTA PORCUPINE PIE

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Fruit Mix

1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup black raisins

1/3 cup diced dried Turkish apricots

1/4 cup pine nuts

 

Date Paste

2 cups pitted dates, snipped in half and lightly packed

1/2 cup water

 

Polenta

4 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarse whole grain cornmeal

1/2 cup whole almonds

  1. Line a large, shallow mold, about 9 to 11 inches in diameter, or a 2-quart ring mold with plastic wrap large enough to drape over the sides. Set aside.
  2. TO MAKE THE FRUIT MIX, combine the carrots, golden and black raisins, apricots, and pine nuts in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. TO MAKE THE DATE PASTE, put the dates in a food processor. With the machine running, add the water and process until smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Measure 1 cup of the date paste and set it aside for the recipe. Save the remainder for another use.
  4. TO MAKE THE POLENTA, put the water, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Add the cornmeal and return the mixture to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the reserved date paste and mix well with a wooden spoon to incorporate it thoroughly. The mixture will become very thick.
  7. Add the fruit mixture a little at a time, stirring continuously, until well mixed.
  8. Working quickly, spoon the mixture into the prepared mold and spread it to the edges. Let cool completely and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
  9. Before serving, invert the polenta pie onto a large platter and remove the plastic wrap. Poke the tips of the almonds into the top surface, gently pressing them in just enough to secure them.

Note:

Commercially packaged pitted dates, may contain one or two date pits that have evaded the pitting machinery. To avoid damaging the food processor blade, I use a kitchen scissors to snip the dates in half before adding them to the processor. The date paste makes about 1 1/3 cups.

Posted in almonds, Desserts, Nut Desserts, pine nuts, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

SWEET SUMMER PEACHES DANCE WITH CHOCOLATE AND WALNUTS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on June 13, 2013

Summer desserts often spotlight fresh fruits as the center of the season’s sweet indulgences. Many of us home cooks, feeling a little weary of the long, long season of apples, pears, and oranges, really look forward to the refreshing flavors of stone fruits. They perk up the fruit bowl with their brilliant colors, and every bite is divinely sweet and juicy.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the market on a hunt for fresh, ripe peaches with the hope they would also be sweet. Often, the first-of-the-season fruits tend to be a bit tart–and they were–so tart they even made my mouth pucker. On this week’s shopping trip I was thrilled to discover bins of beautiful yellow peaches with a gorgeous rosy glow. I bought some for my cooking class and had the pleasure of hearing the peaches were delicious and the dessert was a smashing success.

This is a dessert I devised especially because it contained no sweeteners of any sort. The sweetness comes only from dates. It’s also gluten-free. Anyone wanting to avoid sugar or suffering from gluten intolerance will find this an ideal dessert because there’s no sacrifice–really–none at all because it’s decadently sweet and chocolaty rich without the offending ingredients. If allergies are a problem, just leave out the walnuts, and you’ll still have a fabulous dessert.

Easy as pie–that’s how I think of this recipe, and I think you’ll agree. You can also make it a day in advance by brushing the exposed peach flesh lightly with lemon juice to prevent discoloring.

nut toolsThe only tools you’ll need are a food processor and a hand-crank nut mill to grind the walnuts into a coarse meal. I’m pretty sure everyone knows what a food processor looks like, but I often encounter puzzled looks when I mention nut mill. If you don’t have one, you can use other tools, like a hammer, food chopper, rolling pin, or mini blender, to grind the walnuts into a coarse meal. The nut mill is the item in the center of the photo and has a black cover and black handle on the end of the hand-crank. It’s a good old-fashioned low-tech tool, but turns out perfectly ground nuts I often use as garnish or to add a little texture to a recipe.

And don’t skimp on the garnish! Those little finishing touches are what dazzle the eyes and ramp up the temptation meter. A few perky sprigs of fresh mint and some scattered nuts on the dish do the deed.

Well, here they are–fresh, sun-ripened peaches stuffed with indulgent chocolate all ready for dessert. They look so irresistible, chocolate fans will snap up these gorgeous treats in a flash. The best part is that you won’t need to use the oven or stovetop to prepare this hot-weather dessert–it’s deliciously raw and can be assembled within minutes. And it doesn’t hurt that they look so tantalizing.

Chocolate Stuffed Peaches copy

CHOCOLATE STUFFED PEACHES

Yield: 4 servings

6 fresh peaches

1 cup firmly packed dates, cut in half
2 to 3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nutmill
12 golden raisins, for garnish
3 to 5 fresh mint leaves, for garnish

1. Cut the peaches in half, discard the pits, and set aside.

2. Put the dates into a food processor and pulse chop a few times. With the machine running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the water and process until well mixed but still very slightly chunky, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add all or part of the remaining tablespoon of water if needed to moisten the date mixture.

3. Add the cacao and almond extract to the processor and process briefly until completely incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of the ground walnuts and mix well. Put the remaining ground walnuts into a separate small bowl.

4. Using your hands, form the cacao mixture into twelve 1-inch balls. Press a ball into each of the peach halves. Holding the peach carefully, invert it and dip the top of each cacao ball into the ground walnuts to coat the top of the ball. Arrange the peach halves on an attractive serving platter.

5. For the finishing touch, poke a golden raisin into the center of each cacao ball. Sprinkle any remaining nuts around the platter and garnish with the mint leaves.

Posted in Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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