Recently my littlest guy had a birthday and celebrating with his buddies meant figuring our some yummy treats that could be dairy and egg free. We ended up with two tasty desserts for two different celebrations and wanted to share them because it’s always good to have a few extra ideas up your sleeve when it comes to vegan desserts.
Where do cravings come from? Sometimes it seems they follow you for a lifetime, other times they come and go quite mysteriously. My little one is in the midst of a massive pickle phase at the moment which came on all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere. He’ll eat dill pickles any time of day (even breakfast) and steals the pickles off our plates when we’re not looking. My favorite junior foodie Ria made her grandparents keep a food diary on their last trip to Singapore, and paging through it reveals a very high frequency of Hainanese Chicken Rice. My older son has always craved the sweet stuff (the particulars change but never the framework), my husband the spicy stuff (or BBQ or chocolate covered bananas). Lately my cravings seem to lead directly to these spiced lentils and rice which are addictively sweet-savory and even more perfect with the tang of yogurt alongside. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it!
The ease of making this dish is another reason to love it, especially if you plan ahead a bit and cook the lentils the night before. Then it’s really only a matter of a couple of minutes of toasting spices and then plunking everything else to season the rice while it cooks. Admittedly, frying the onions is a huge pain (you’ve got to do it in batches and you have to pay attention so they don’t burn), but it’s definitely worth the effort because they really make the dish. Luckily, like the lentils, you can make them ahead of time.
Our family has been on a quest to include more vegetables and whole grains in our diet. As we’ve gone down this path, I’ve realized that it helps to mix it up and go beyond our standby salads and steamed/stir fried vegetables. So we often have a simple pureed soup as a starter or side to our meal. What’s nice is that you can make a soup like this over the weekend or on an evening when you have a bit more time and you’ve got a readymade vegetable course for a busy night. Smooth, pureed soups are also baby-friendly which is another bonus.
One of the pureed soups I make most often is this ingeniously simple cauliflower soup from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks “Cooking By Hand” by Paul Bertoli. Cauliflower is one of those things I’ve noticed a lot of people actively dislike, but stay with me here…. even if you’re not a fan, try this one! It might just change your mind. In the preface to this recipe, Paul Bertoli himself admits to not liking cauliflower, but enjoys this soup because it brings out the vegetable’s finest qualities. I agree. When prepared this way, cauliflower has an incredibly silky, velvety texture. You would swear that this soup was cream-based.
With only 2 ingredients (cauliflower and onion), it couldn’t be easier to make and or more versatile. It’s perfection as is, but you can also dress it up with condiments (crispy shallots, garlicky croutons, herbs, a drizzle of your finest olive oil, a pinch of spices), or use it as a sauce for a crispy fish or chicken fillet, even add it to other sauces where you want a little creaminess (mac and cheese). It’s a great dunk for a sandwich or a piece of garlic bread. So grab a head of cauliflower and an onion and give it a go!
(from “Cooking By Hand” by Paul Bertoli)
Ingredients: 1 Head of Cauliflower, 1 Onion, Water, Salt & Pepper
- Wash and trim one head of cauliflower and set aside.
- Saute one medium onion in a little olive oil in a large pot until translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the cauliflower to the pot along with 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly and let braise for 30 minutes (cauliflower should be tender by this point).
- Uncover the pot and add 4 1/2 cups water and simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes. Let cool.
- When cool enough, puree in blender. Beware of hot foods in a blender — they can explode on you!
- When ready to serve, warm through and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.