Vegan Love Bites

A Lifestyle of Romance

This is the time of year to shake off the dust of distraction, polish our manners and look for creative ways to express ourselves romantically.   Often the centerpieces of these endeavors are built around sensual foods and, when wooing our loved ones on Valentines Day, chocolate rules supreme.

The roots of St Valentines Day lay in Rome with February marking the beginning of Spring on the Roman Calendar.  At that time, every household was swept out and  sprinkled with salt and spelt berries. The fertility festival, Lupercalia, began on the Ides of February (15th) and was celebrated throughout Rome by pairing unmarried youths until the following February, often resulted in marriages.

Roman culture had a great appreciation for earth’s beauty and those who inhabited it.  They celebrated the gifts of the land and the power of attraction which is intimately intertwined like a grape vine in an arbor. One could reason this had something to do with the word romance being derived from Roman.

In 485 A.D., the Catholic church sought to Christianize the Lupercalia festival by celebrating Saint Valentine, thought to be a martyred priest from two centuries prior.  As a result, the romantic aspect of the celebration does not appear again until the Middle Ages.  It was the mid 19th century when it began to resemble the phenomena it is today.

On Valentine’s Day, when the meal is emotionally charged, there is one ingredient that is a “must” on the menu–chocolate.  Chocolate has long been known as an all around sensual ingredient.  The Aztecs called it “Nourishment of the Gods.”  Not only does it enchant us with its dark seductive flavor, but it contains compounds which have an immediate sensual effect as well as long lasting health benefits.

This dessert, Hazelnut Love Bites, is a combination of three luscious flavors and textures–hazelnut, raspberry and chocolate–all making for a passionate dessert experience.

Love Bites

Makes 24 Love Bites

Bites

1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
2/3 cups plain almond milk
1/4 block (3 ounces) firm silken-style tofu
1/8 cup raw cashew nuts, ground to a meal
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º F. Using a 24 cup mini cupcake pan, line each cup with unbleached baking cups. Put hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, evaporated cane juice and arrowroot into a large bowl and whisk together with a French whip. In a blender, puree soy milk, tofu and cashews to a smooth consistency. Transfer to another large bowl and stir in canola oil and vanilla. Combine the two mixtures and stir vigorously for one minute to develop the gluten in the flour. Fill each cup to just below the rim and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean(a little sticky is Ok).  Allow to cool.

Raspberry Sauce

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add all ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Then strain by pushing through a fine wire strainer with a rubber spatula until only the seeds are left–really work it. Discard seeds. Return strained raspberries to pan and simmer for another 5 minutes. Reserve.

Chocolate Ganache

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/2 cup plain almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a double boiler on medium heat, add all chocolate ganache ingredients. Stir periodically and cook for about 30 minutes until chocolate is melted and smooth. Test a drop on a cold plate, it should set up to a frosting consistency.  Allow to cool and reserve.

Assembly

When the cupcakes are cool, use a small pointed-tip knife to create a crater in the center of each cake, then pour in a small amount of raspberry sauce.  To frost, either use a flat knife to frost each cupcake or put frosting into a pastry bag and pipe.
Ready to serve.

Note:

I only use organic and unadulterated ingredients

Through personal example, my father inspired me to respect beauty and romance on a daily basis–one never knows when they will be encountered, often by chance.   He often expressed his inspirations through poetry.

 

 

 

 

Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

With the kindness of its weather,

San Diego has developed multiple forms of beauty.


(My words of enthusiasm are difficult to restrain.)


The soil harbors and embraces plants which give birth

to hundreds of varieties of flowers.


Their creative method of procreation is:

they make their flowers so fragrant and colorful

that the bees and other pertinent species

are attracted to visit,


To collect their nectar, and thereby leave tracks

from gathering visits to neighboring flowers.


The plants then “eat”, and become happily pregnant.


This is the intelligence of beauty!


Now the plants we call ‘trees’ reach high for the sky

and its sunshine.


Each family has its own leaf formation, and height,

their arms lissome to the winds,

as their hair of leaves is tousled.


And we humans too enjoy our views of them.

~Spyros Vutetakis 2007

Happy Valentines Day!

 

 


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About Julia Child

July 2009-28

Julia wanted her viewers to loosen up, get physical, not with controlled substances but with food, not through a glass darkly but at table, with delight. Hers was a civilized sensuality, the integration of the senses that she’d learned in France. This is why her following was legion—Julia’s appetite appealed to young and old alike.
“Americans didn’t come over on the Mayflower trusting food,” says Laura Shapiro. “Julia’s whole thing about food was that you had to trust it. That, to me, is her great message. Getting your hands into it—touch it, breathe it, smell it, live it. If we as Americans have overcome to any degree our fear of food, our weird neurotic thing about the body, it starts with Julia.”

July 2009-56
“I felt very related to her,” says Judith Jones, “because we were both released from very traditional, middle-class American values. And it was France that released us. She wanted to bring this message to America—that we were still steeped in the Puritan attitude towards food, and what the food industry had done to make us feel that food was not for the modern woman. It’s what an artist does: you want to express it so that you awaken sensibility. And she really did that.”

July 2009-50
“Her favorite point in her life was the years in France, that period of discovery and awakening,” says Alex Prud’homme. “As she said, ‘I felt myself opening like a flower.’ It was a lovely phrase. And I think one of the reasons that—this is my personal theory—she wanted to write all these recipes down and transmit them to Americans is it was a form of distilling experience, almost like a short story or a poem. She used the recipe as a way of talking about France and its values, which are so different from ours. You know, doing things correctly and taking the time to get it right, and to work hard and learn your technique, and also to have fun.”

Original article:
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2009/08/julia-child200908

Sounds

Pimiento peppers

Chefs witness this on a daily basis, but most of us disconnect from the notion that food influences us far beyond the digestive tract.  Eating is a multi-sensual experience and what we hear plays a significant role.  With food,  sound supports the other senses, placing us in a three dimensional experience. Even though it seems to play a background role, the influence of sound on our heart and mind is perhaps the most powerful sense. In Feng Shui and Vedic Vastu, sound is recognized as having the ability to create motion through vibration. What we hear inspires us to react and that is why the aural environment is important in all stages of the food experience.

According to Pythagorus, and confirmed by Plato, sound is the primordial element. This is also embraced by the Vedas from India, which are considered by many to be the oldest books in the world. According to these beliefs, sound is the original element that creates vibration, thus causing movement in the universe. If we could hear across the entire aural spectrum, everything would have a sound, including the silence we currently perceive. According to the Vedas, physical environments can change through sound and it is also an important tool for spiritual connections. Sound is a key part of our environment affecting our mind, body and spirit. Often, ancient Greeks spoke in song. This is still evident through Cretan spontaneous poetry known as Mantinades. Sanskrit is a poetic language, verbalized with meter and rhythm, often with melodious incantations. Sanskrit is called Deva Nagiri, because it is believed to be a heavenly language and is structured in a way that creates change and movement when enunciated. Vedic Brahmins maintain chanting specific Sanskrit mantras can change physical environments, mundane elements and alter the cycles of action and reaction they call Karma.

crunchy salad

More accessible to everyday thoughts, music can change moods, evoke passions and greatly effect perception.  White noise and harsh noises can also make a difference. Cutting words, arguing, criticism and expressions of anger are vocal distractions which can  affect us in both subtle and gross ways. Abrasive soundscapes often create stress, adding clutter and distraction to thoughts and actions.  Sound affects our mindset, bodily movement and clarity of spirit. It is natural to see how an aural environment influences cooking. For me, cooking is an expression of what lies within, most often I see culinary actions as a conveyance, of knowledge, tradition and creative expression. As some people are eloquent speakers, the eloquence I rely on the most is in the language of food and all that goes with it.

Marathi

Choosing sounds

Often, traveling to Crete with my father and son, we found simple tavernas where waves lapped in symphonic meter by our feet while feasting on a crisp cucumber salad glistening with the liquid gold of fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil. Local dialects epitomized the Greek word onomatopoeia, with mellifluous chatter beautifully decorating the aural landscape. Mixed with the scents of the sea and the olive oil basted grills we entered a meditative state, much like Odysseus and the Sirens, where a concentrated effort to extract ourselves from the hypnosis was necessary to accomplish tasks of the day.

sesame-eggplant-070108

A visual landscape is dramatically enhanced by sound. The transition from silent film to ‘talkies’ is one example of the difference. Sound gives depth and definition to sight. To create a fulfilling dining experience, chefs and restaurateurs sculpt the aural experience to compliment and enhance the sensual experience. In dining, sound is a compliment to the meal, a background enhancement that soothes and excites indirectly. Anticipation and salivation are encouraged with the sight of food cooking uttering companion sounds like crackling, spurting, bubbling, puffing and sputtering Sound also plays a direct part as an accompaniment to taste, touch and aroma as food is consumed and we sense such things as crunching, slurping, chewing and swallowing. In some old cultures, a good belch at the end of a meal signifies a cook’s success. Listening, and becoming sensitive, to the sounds of cooking and eating is a very important part of the world of cooking. Just as a spice can change the nature of a preparation, so what we hear when cooking and eating alters the food and how we digest it.

Cold preparations in particular seem to produce more sounds due to brittleness enhanced by the temperature.  While eating, these dishes produce a mellifluous combination of crunches, snaps and juicy sound bites that are intriguing, fun and fresh.

debra-bread-2

The snack food industry is testimony to the human addiction to crunch. Thinking about it, if we take the sound away from crunching, the feel alone is not enough to satisfy. It is the sound, inside and outside the jaw, which pleases our senses and creates the moment of satisfaction until the next bite. Crackers, chips, nuts, apples, corn, celery, carrots and many other foods are crunch worthy. In a dinner, a light, delicate crunch from a garnish or integrated crispy pastry provides a surprising and very pleasant addition to the sensual experience. A salad is an ideal course for exploring crunching with fresh, crispy greens, delicately cut vegetables, toasted nuts and the snap of fresh cherry tomatoes.

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Dessert can turn into an extravaganza for all the senses by adding the crunch factor with a sweet pastry or candied nut.

About Making Scents

jasmine-and-buddhaSweet Jasmine in the Garden

 

 

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived”

Helen Keller

Aromas enchant us, molding images into the cerebral cortex which can be recalled at any moment with a familiar whiff.  With food, an attractive scent can trigger the desire to eat and cause a singular drive to eat something right away. 

The sense of smell is seventy percent of taste.  While taste buds receive input from salty, sweet, bitter and pungent receptors, olfactory input can recognize up to 10,000 different aromas.  This input is immediate and can bypass the normal processing to trigger memory in the cerebral cortex.  Imagine having a barbecue without the intensely sensuous aroma not wafting by.  A world without aroma is a sanitized and bland proposition.  Studies have confirmed that the olfactory sense triggers memories more than the other senses.  Mental imagery with the natural romanticized versions, adds immensely to the ‘theater of dining.’ 

Just as the chemical combination of food ingredients are medicine, food is also integral in aromatherapy.  To exemplify this, think of the scents that floated out of the kitchen as a child, baking cookies or a cake, baking bread, or the almost acrid aroma of food cooking over an open fire.  There is a sound reason for fast food restaurants to exhaust fumes onto the street.  Over the years, it was very common for passersby to eat at Inn Season Café after walking by and smelling the great cooking scents outside our building. 

It has been well documented that specific aromas encourage the body to function in different ways.  There are scents which cleanse nasal passages, a few aid digestion and some inspire passion, while others work with the psyche.  Scent is very much part of the ‘feng shui’ of food and old cultures have this built in to the cuisine.  

Setting a stage with scents

Scent is also very subjective.  What we like has direct correlation to our life experience and conditioning.  For one person the scent of a wonderfully aged cheese is mouth watering, to another it is revolting.  The audience is important when planning a meal.  Sometimes, we need to help educate a palate, so scents are orchestrated to enhance each other, framing the so called offensive aroma with more accessible and universally appealing scents.  When entertaining, it is good to plan an aromatic environment along with the rest of the menu.  Many times the aromas around the food have a profound effect on the flavors inside the preparations.  

Importance of smells in cooking

Without tasting, the scent of food becomes prominent as a tool for perfection.   In Vedic cooking, enjoying the smells of the food for oneself while cooking is the same as tasting it.  The cooking aroma can be enjoyed as part of the process of cooking for others and certainly may be used as a tool for creating culinary wonders. 

Manipulation of aromas during eating

Timing the drifting scents emanating from food and organizing them in a almost symphonic way can be as important as combining spices.  Complimentary aromas play off each other, dancing in the imagination, toying with our memories.  

The after dinner scents

After a fulfilling dinner, scent plays an important role in comfort and good digestion.  Some of the unpleasant things restaurants do which we can avoid in our personal lives are spraying tables with window cleaners to sanitize while customers are nearby; using heavy bleach  solutions to sanitize equipment and counters; have strong smelling food being served with delicate flavors; and allowing smoking nearby, or even at all.  

Fortunately in our own homes, we may create environments without these olfactory pitfalls.  To focus on the positive, candles create warm, cozy scents that are nice when extinguished too.  A flaming dessert or steamy hot fudge sauce can fill the air with deep sensual undertones.  Also removing the food from the table is a must before dessert and after the entire dinner when conversation may be heightened.