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Chai Impérial Pears

Sensual-Chai-Poached-Pear-Flowers-Maple-Berries

This is one of the most elegant desserts to make. It may take an afternoon or a day to poach these pears properly, but the rest of it is absolutely simple. I wanted to feature the beauty of tea in a dessert, so pears gently poached and steeped in chai tea was the perfect recipe. Palais des Thés Chai Impérial is a delicate black tea blend paired with an aromatic melange of green cardamom, pink peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger and orange zest.

I’ve loved chai tea for many years, and as you can imagine, being a lover of tea and spices, I can never have enough of either. There is a definite difference between a powdered sugary “chai latte” and the real thing. True chai tea— “chai” translates as “tea” in several languages— originates in India. In every Indian household, making chai is just making tea, a leftover custom from the British Raj influence in Indian culture. There is no one way of preparing a cup of chai.

A pear is a juicy and subtle fruit, which allows the chai tea leaves and spices to perfume its sumptuous plump flesh in a marvelous way. In an attempt to keep the flavor of the Chai Impérial tea as the main note upon the tongue, I first poached then steeped the pears overnight in the tea. The result? Incredible taste.

Sensual-Chai-Poached-Pears-Maple-Berries

This recipe will delight your senses. In my tea drinking experience, Palais des Thés Chai Impérial tea is a harmonious match for the pears. I do not suggest trying to make your own with any sort of black chai tea blend because the flavors will differ, particularly if it is heavily spiced with cloves which has the tendency to overpower. The cardamom note in this tea is quite beautiful and will enchant your palate. I find this recipe to be quite romantic and an aphrodisiac for the senses. Serve this to someone you love, especially if you know they love tea.

Chai Impérial Pears

INGREDIENTS

1 quart water

3 heaping tablespoons Palais des Thés Chai Impérial tea

4 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and halved

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons maple syrup

 

1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and tea gently on low flame until warm. Please do not boil. Add maple syrup and vanilla extract.

2. Slide in the pears with a spoon and cover with parchment paper. This keeps the heat to poach the pears evenly. You can cut the parchment paper in a circle to fit the top of the saucepan and poke a few holes on top to allow the steam to escape.

3. Keep the liquid at a very low simmer until cooked through, 15-20 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. You don’t want mushy pears, but a pleasant firmness with some soft bite.

4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid. I suggest placing the pot in the fridge overnight after cooling, or transfer to a tempered glass bowl, cover and put in refrigerator.

SERVING

Serve the pears warm or at room temperature by reheating the pears carefully on a low flame until just warmed. Don’t cook them.

I prepared a coconut cashew cream as a vegan alternative to custard, and garnished the pears with maple vanilla infused berries, silvered almonds and a sprinkle of chai tea and cinnamon.

If vanilla custard is more to your liking rather than the vegan coconut cashew cream, you can serve with the whole milk custard and berries as you please. Below is a recipe for coconut cashew cream. Infusing berries is really easy— just soak your berries in vanilla and maple syrup.

To plate as I have in the photographs:

1) Spoon a little coconut cashew cream (or vanilla custard) in the center of the plate and swirl it around to make a flat circle for its base.

2) Carefully place the pear (half or whole) upon the circle of cream/custard.

3) If you are serving a halved pear, fill the cored center with a spoonful of cream/custard. Just a dollop enough to fill.

4) Spoon some infused berries upon and around the pear, then sprinkle with almonds, toasted coconut flakes, and chai tea leaves (as garnish). If you have edible flowers (such as the borage flowers pictured) they will look beautiful with this dessert.

 

Coconut Cashew Cream (vegan)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup raw cashews (soaked at least 4 hours)

2 tbs coconut butter

2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup coconut water

vanilla extract

 

INSTRUCTIONS
Drain and rinse cashews. Combine ingredients in a food processor (except for the coconut water) and blend until creamy smooth.

To get the cream consistency, begin by blending 1 tablespoon of coconut water, adding more as needed until mixture blends smoothly.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Sensual-Chai-Poached-Pear-Half-Coco-Creme-Maple-Berries

Pears in the Time of Burnished Gold, a poem by Mohja Kahf

You bring me pears

The juice runs down your fingers

How long has it taken me to realize

that this is the place,

these are the times

which, if one day there is a paradise, 

we will look back upon and say

Yes, we drank a little of this wine

We tasted, yes, of this before

You bring me pears

They are so ripe the knife slides easily,

curving around the tender core

in a pear-cutting ballet

Your hands are whole

We have children, water, and good health

I am suddenly aware

how everything around us is of burnished gold

You bring me pears

You houri, if houris can be men

You lean toward me, dark of eye,

and I am almost afraid to let go my breath

For, from my armchair, in the ordinary light,

it seems as if your jeans are green brocade

embossed with silver, as, moon among men,

you orbit me and we put time on hold

You are the plenitude of every age

The Nile in its fullness

Baghdad in its day

A Michaelangelan resplendence

The cistern filled to brim

The gifts of heaven lie strewn

over my body like plump berries

You bring me pears 

and I take for a past or a coming poverty

from this munificence,

from this store of happiness and wealth

So let the glisten of my lips

express my thankfulness

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La Primavera Frangipane Tarte

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In celebration of spring, I’ve been creating recipes using edible flowers and experimenting with desserts. This tart was inspired by a raw vegan dessert cookbook and the beauty of all the flowers in my garden. The orange tree in my garden bloomed a few weeks ago in a magnificent perfume of orange blossoms. It seemed so sudden, but the fragrance! I’d open the sliding door wide to the backyard and the beautiful smell filled the house.

My friend Christina Ross just published her first raw vegan dessert recipe book titled after her blog, Love Fed, called “Love Fed: Purely Decadent, Simply Raw, Plant-Based Desserts” and it’s been waiting for me among the stack of cookbooks piled on top of my dining table. I had taken one of her raw vegan dessert workshops, chocolate making, a year ago just before Valentine’s Day. I’ve tried a few of her recipes so far and this tart was inspired by one of the many delicious treats described in her book. I could not decide upon several of her tarts and pies, so I made my own using her recipes as a guide.

Sensual-La-Primavera-Flower-Tart

The mint in my garden box is growing so bountifully so I plucked some mint leaves along with a few sprigs of chocolate mint and citrus mint. I had some borage flowers from the farmers’ market and plucked a few jasmine flowers from my climbing vines outside. The tart itself is adapted from a few Christina’s raw recipes, however, I toasted coconut flakes and sliced almonds to make it a frangipane tart.

La Primavera Frangipane Tarte

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CRUST:

1 cup raw almonds

6 Medjool dates, halved, pitted

1 cup lightly toasted coconut flakes, unsweetened

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tablespoon lemon zest

 

FOR THE FILLING:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked and rinsed

1/2 cup coconut cream

3 Medjool dates, halved and pitted

1/2 cup agave nectar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/4 cup melted cocoa butter

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 tablespoon almond extract

1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped

3 tablespoons agar agar flakes

 

FRANGIPANE TOPPING:

toasted almond slivers

toasted coconut flakes

 

BOUQUET GARNI:

jasmine flowers

borage flowers

mint leaves

 

DIRECTIONS:

 Make the crust by adding all of the ingredients— almonds, dates, coconut flakes, vanilla and lemon zest— into a food processor and pulse until fine. Form the crust by pressing the dough into a 9″ springform tart pan by pressing it in with your hands into the crust to shape it. Set aside and make the filling.

Warm the coconut cream, coconut oil, cocoa butter, vanilla and cut vanilla bean pod in a small saucepan. Please be gentle with this process and keep the heat on low. Grate the cocoa butter chunk with a grater over the pan as the coconut oil, coconut cream, almond extract, vanilla and vanilla bean are heating. Add the agar agar flakes. This ingredient will make your pie solidify, similar to gelatin but purely a ‘sea vegetable’ ingredient. (Agar agar is a seaweed that gels like gelatin.) The coconut oil will also solidify once turned cool. Turn off heat once the coconut oil has fully melted. Allow to cool.

Add the agave nectar, cashews, dates, lemon juice and maple syrup into the filling mixture and pour all into a food processor. Blend all ingredients. Please taste your filling with a tasting spoon. This way you will know what to add if you’d like more lemony flavor, or perhaps some more vanilla or almond extract, or more sweetener. The cashews will also turn creamy while blending the filling.

Pour a little of the filling into your tart crust shell once cooled off to room temperature. It shouldn’t be warm, however, since this recipe is raw, the tart crust is delicate and needs time to firm before adding the filling. NOTE: You won’t use all of the the filling— just spoon in enough to coat the base of the tart, but not too much. You can save or use the extra filling as a custard. I filled ramekins with the remaining “custard” and poured maple syrup on top with fresh blueberries for a “pot de creme” a la raw vegan! Once the tart has been filled and has set awhile on the counter, sprinkle the coconut flakes and almond slices all over the top and place inside of your refrigerator. Allow the tart to solidify and firm up, about 4 hours to overnight.

When ready to serve, garnish the tart with the edible flowers and mint leaves.

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Springtime in the Farmers’ Market

Sensual-Foodie-Springtime-Primavera

Seasonal produce gets me in the mood for creating something delicious in the kitchen. Lately I’ve been all about everything green and fresh, so a jaunt through the sunny bounty of vegetables and fruits in the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market was my idea of heaven. I’ve also been on the lookout for edible flowers to add a bouquet of visual beauty and aromatic taste to dishes as a special garnish.

Borage flowers in particular are such a brilliant blue, they remind me of Florentine artist Botticelli’s egg tempera painting Allegory of Spring or La Primavera. In the Renaissance Italian painting, flowers are strewn everywhere. Aphrodite is elegantly standing beneath the umbrella of orange trees while her cupid flutters above with his bow and arrow, about to penetrate a lover with that springtime fever. Flora, the Roman Goddess of Spring, flowers and fertility, scatters flowers upon the grass. Zephyr, the wind, impregnates Flora with his breath, and she begins fertilizing the spring season with her flowers of love.

Since edible flowers are rarely found in supermarkets, I suggest going to your local farmers’ market and asking a greens purveyor if they have any. Occasionally here in Los Angeles I find that a few farmers carry borage flowers, along with chive flowers and other edibles like nasturtiums, marigolds and violets. Once I discovered, while photographing a breakfast bowl under my flowering orange tree, that orange blossoms taste as beautiful as they smell. The petals fell into the coconut yogurt I was photographing the bowlful and it mingled perfectly with the blueberries and honey.

Adding edible flowers to salads, breakfast bowls and other dishes can inspire your senses. I made a salad using my homemade strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. It tasted so lively and juicy! The sweetness of balsamic awakens my senses.

strawberries-farmers-market

Creating salads feels a lot like painting to me because the plate becomes the palette. Blending colors, textures, flavors—- there’s a variety of ways to make a harmony of beautiful lettuces, greens, and anything else you desire, into your salad bowl.

I made this salad using mixed greens and these beautiful leaves of kale I found at the farmers’ market, then added steamed French lentils, chopped snap peas and juicy slivers of strawberries. Since balsamic loves strawberry, it makes a beautiful vinaigrette dressing. When you put this strawberry balsamic into your salad mixing bowl with your greens you get the most glorious celebration of springtime. Then scatter your edible flowers like Flora and experience the beauty.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS

1 cup fresh strawberries, tops cut

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic creme (crema di balsamico)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (I strain the strawberry balsamic through a mesh sieve to catch the seeds, but it’s up to you.) Drizzle and toss your salad the vinaigrette. You can keep the rest in a sealed container in the fridge.

 

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Quinoa + Veggie Salad: Healthy Eating Made To Go

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When I’m hungry and want a quick bite, I take a look in the fridge and pantry to see what I can put together quickly. Easily done when at home, but most of the time I’m driving around the city, finding the quickest shortcut to avoid traffic while running errands, fitting in a workout in the gym, picking up kids from school. Oh, and that day job. Somewhere in the day I do have to work too. I’ve troubled over how to eat something delicious and pleasurable rather than just eating to eat. In case you haven’t noticed, sensuality and eating is my thing. I’ve never been a fast food junkie. Slow food on the go is my solution.

As I scarf down a take-out burrito like a labrador retriever while driving from work to picking up kids from school, my lap is covered in beans and rice. Not good if I’m wearing white pants! Letting myself get to this rabid-hungry point isn’t the best way to treat my body. As the quote goes the body is our temple, I’ve just been throwing chips and guacamole at the altar and calling it a day. So I’ve created this post on how to make something delicious to go. All it takes is some planning and a few Mason jars full of good nourishing food. It’s so easy, right?

Sensual-Foodie-Quinoa-Jars-Tray

Quinoa is an excellent staple and a superfood grain. Using quinoa as my salad base, I’ve added crunchy bites of cucumber and sugar snap peas, sweet juicy orange bell pepper, and earthy cannellini beans. It’s a bright, colorful salad that is healthy and nutritious with lots of texture and flavor, perfect for putting in a Mason jar to go. It satiates my hunger and sustains me so that when I do sit down at a table (rather than behind the wheel of my minivan) I’m able to enjoy everything I’m eating like a real person rather than a drooling cross-eyed beast that devours bean burritos.

Making this vegetarian style is my preference, but if you so choose to add your own ingredients to this recipe, you can quite easily add a protein such as peeled shrimp, roast chicken, or ham.

Sensual-Foodie-Quinoa-Mise-En-Place

Quinoa + Veggie Salad

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups red quinoa, cooked as directed

1 orange or red bell pepper, washed and cut into ¼-inch pieces

1/2 cucumber, unpeeled (skin has extra minerals + looks pretty), washed and cut into ¼-inch cubes

1 cup sugar snap peas, washed and sliced on the diagonal into slivers

1 cup cooked cannelini beans

1 bunch of basil, chopped

3 sprigs of mint, chopped (garnish)

 

For the dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lemon, squeezed juice

2 tablespoons tahini paste

2 tablespoons miso paste

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

 

¼ tsp cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

lemon zest, season and garnish

sea salt + fresh ground pepper, to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cook two cups of well rinsed quinoa in a saucepan with four cups of water (or veggie broth for more flavor) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all the water and can easily be fluffed with a fork. About 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool off completely before salad assembly.

Pour olive oil, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add miso and tahini pastes, garlic and tamari soy sauce and beat with fork or small whisk to incorporate. Sprinkle in spices and sea salt.

Scoop the quinoa into the bowl of dressing and mix lightly, adding the vegetables— add the cucumber, bell pepper, sugar snap peas, basil, mint, cannellini beans (and your choice of protein if you’d like). Grate lemon zest and sprinkle seasonings (I like spice blends such as Ras el Hanout which is a North African spice blendor a piquant cayenne/chili/paprika blend of your own).

Mix the quinoa salad gently, adding less or more quinoa to the veggies as you please. This salad will get watery from the cucumbers and bell pepper. Adding more quinoa will keep better for a day in the fridge.

If you are taking this salad to-go, prepare them to keep in sealed Mason jars for your busy day out. Et voila! Bye bye messy bean burritos in the car, hello healthy quinoa veggie goodness. Enjoy!

 

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Long Life Noodles with Garlic, Ginger & Sesame

Sensual-Foodie-Garlic-Sesame-Ginger-Long-Life-Noodles

Chinese noodles are symbolic of a long life during the Lunar New Year celebration. This inspired me to make garlic noodles with some fresh Asian veggies. I used Melissa’s brand fresh Chinese noodles and Asian vegetables to make this special recipe. I love a rich, creamy sesame sauce mingled with lots of finely chopped garlic sticking to the long noodles. I want it gingery, garlicky and loaded with flavor. The pan-wilted bok choy and broccolini add greens to this Chinese vegetarian-style dish. Just a pinch of chili flakes give these noodles some heat, with a salty dash of tamari, garnished with sticky caramelized minced garlic, scallions, toasted sesame seeds and fresh slivers of ginger. Kumquats and oranges look pretty and inviting with their color, as the juice and zest give a squeeze of citrus to the noodles, if you please.

Sensual-Foodie-Chinese-Long-Life-Noodles-Melissas

 Sensual-Foodie-Chinese-Noodles

 Long Life Noodles with Garlic, Ginger & Sesame

  • ½ pound (8 oz.) Melissa’s Fresh Chinese Noodles, cooked

 

  • ½ cup Melissa’s Napa cabbage, sliced
  • 3 Melissa’s bok choy
  • 5 stalks Melissa’s Chinese broccolini, ends trimmed, chopped

 

  • 12 cloves garlic, minced and caramelized (use a cast iron pan)
  • 1/2 bunch scallions (green onions), chopped on the diagonal
  • ½ red onion, half slivers, chopped

 

  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons mirin (rice cooking wine)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, thin matchstick slivers
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated (for sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 6 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon yuzu juice

 

  • 1 teaspoon (pinch) red chili flakes, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, garnish
  • kumquats, sliced thin, garnish

 

INSTRUCTIONS

NOODLES

Bring a large pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and cook the noodles for 3 minutes, or according to package directions (do not overcook). Drain and rinse. Toss gently and quickly with one tablespoon of Earth Balance vegan butter and a drizzle of sesame oil. Set aside.

 

SAUTE

Dry roast sesame seeds in a hot pan for 4-6 minutes or until toasted. Set aside.

In a medium pan, saute the red onion on medium heat using a small amount of sesame oil, about 1 tablespoon, for 6 minutes. Splash in some mirin rice cooking wine and allow the onion to caramelize, another 6 minutes.

In a separate pan (preferably a small cast iron) caramelize the garlic in half sesame oil and half grapeseed oil, about 12 minutes or until golden. This will make your garlic oil for seasoning as well as the pieces of garlic in the noodles.

Add the whites of the green onions, bok choy and broccolini. Saute until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Dash in the vegetable stock to steam the greens, along with half of the minced ginger, and cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Save the rest of the fresh ginger to garnish the noodles.

SAUCE

Make the sauce: mix tahini, miso, tamari, rice vinegar, orange juice, yuzu, grated ginger, sesame oil and a little vegetable stock to blend. Whisk the ingredients or use a food processor until well combined. Taste your sauce with a small tasting spoon. It may be fairly salty due to the miso paste and tamari, but once you’ve mixed it into the noodles the saltiness will balance out. If you want it creamier or nutty, add more tahini.

Mix the noodles in wide bowl with the sauce, then add the garlic oil with all the pieces of garlic and combine gently. Toss the noodles gently again. Add the bok choy and broccolini.

Garnish with shredded Napa cabbage, fresh ginger, scallions, toasted sesame seeds, kumquat slices and red chili flakes to taste. If you prefer more garlicky scallion noodles, just top the noodles with the garlic topping, garnish with scallions and sesame seeds, then serve the veggies on the side. Enjoy!

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