Serving up creamy, rich vegan desserts since the beginning of ‘vegan desserts,’ and there’s still nothing better

Ramekin of chocolate mousse on top of The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, Vegan Pie in the Sky, Brooks Headley’s Fancy Desserts
Ramekin of chocolate mousse on top of The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, Vegan Pie in the Sky, Brooks Headley’s Fancy Desserts
Photo: Alicia Kennedy

Blending silken tofu up in order to create a creamy dessert is one of those things that sounds like only a vegan could love. Tofu, in my dessert? Yes, tofu in everyone’s dessert! It works perfectly, seamlessly every time.

I have long maintained that this is the absolute best, most fool-proof egg replacement in creamy applications. It brings bounce and density, tastes like only what you flavor your mixture with, and it is both cheap and easy, while the end result is incredibly impressive. Silken tofu has historically been my favorite way to make pumpkin pie, but this year I couldn’t find my package, as it was apparently buried in my fridge. …


And why an immersion blender is the tool I rely on for making creamy vegan dressings in my home kitchen

A photo of bright green spinach leaves coated in a creamy light brown balsamic dressing
A photo of bright green spinach leaves coated in a creamy light brown balsamic dressing
An unmixed salad to show the thickness! Photo: Alicia Kennedy

My personal favorite salad dressing is a very thick Balsamic served at Delfiore Pizza & Food Co. in my hometown of Patchogue, New York. I could never quite figure out how they did it, and my mother insisted eggs must have been involved to get it quite so viscous, but I was not convinced. This dressing had to be possible with just olive oil, vinegar, and some additional flavorings. It took me until the desperate homesickness of the pandemic to do it on a whim, but it worked — because I used my immersion blender.

Previously, I mostly used the stick blender for soups, my ketchup recipe, other purees, or just to make cashew cream with herbs blended in. In recent months, though, I’ve turned to it in order to make tahini-based dressings that are a pain to whisk because of how thick the sesame seed paste is, and it has changed my life. Because of the powerful emulsification that happens, these dressings will stay put together in the fridge for days, with no re-shaking or whisking necessary. And it’s easy to measure out if your immersion blender, like my Cuisinart, comes with its own perfectly sized measuring cup. (This isn’t an ad — it’s just super useful for this purpose!) …


A delicious way to preserve your extra fruit and feel a bit fancy, without too much effort

A yellow/orange passion fruit curd with flecks of black seeds and a jar full of the sweet stuff with a spoon dipped in it
A yellow/orange passion fruit curd with flecks of black seeds and a jar full of the sweet stuff with a spoon dipped in it
Photo: Alicia Kenendy

Asweet fruit curd is a versatile and delicious way to preserve citrus and other acidic ingredients. They are wonderful when filling up a shortbread tart, filling a layer cake, or simply topping a one-layer snacking cake. The great thing about making a vegan curd is that you don’t have to worry about tempering eggs, because here we use starch instead, meaning you spend very little time working over the stove and more time simply whisking it up.

I have made a passion fruit curd because my upstairs neighbor recently came home with a bucket full of them. The tree at his office had been sprouting fruit, so much that he didn’t know what to do with it. I eat passion fruit —or parcha, as it’s known in Puerto Rico — fresh all the time. I cut it in half and suck out the innards with my mouth, or if I am feeling dainty, with a small spoon. …


Romy Gill’s ‘Zaika: Vegan Recipes From India’ is all about creating big flavors with simple ingredients

A hand holding the book “Zaika” by Romy Gill, which has illustrations of various vegetables and fruits on a dark green cover
A hand holding the book “Zaika” by Romy Gill, which has illustrations of various vegetables and fruits on a dark green cover
Photo: Alicia Kennedy. `Zaika: Vegan Recipes from India` by Romy Gill © 2019 Orion Publishing Co.

“For me, to write this book was very, very important,” chef and writer Romy Gill tells me over the phone from her home in the United Kingdom. The book is Zaika: Vegan Recipes from India, and it is a homage to her mother and the way she grew up eating. She tells me that the idea that everyone in India cooks with ghee, butter, and other dairy products is a Western misconception. In her family, it was oil, and that’s why it was so important to her to make this a vegan book rather than vegetarian.

What she says is common throughout the many regions of India are the spices, though not necessarily how they are used. Something that is used whole in Bengali cuisine might be ground in Punjabi cuisine, and a spice used in cooking in one place will only be used in chutneys and pickles in another. In the recipe headnotes, she calls out the origins of the various dishes, and all of the recipes are easy, approachable and adaptable to what you have available. There’s equal attention to specificity and the ways in which these recipes can be applied to what’s in your kitchen, whether it’s noodles, rice, or the right flour to make roti. …


Vintage Veg

1981’s ‘World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking’ taught Western home cooks how to use spices other than salt and pepper

Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cookbook book cover is pictured, with an Asian-inspired font and illustration
Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cookbook book cover is pictured, with an Asian-inspired font and illustration
Photo: Alicia Kennedy

Madhur Jaffrey is the queen of Indian home cooking, a title she’s held for quite some time thanks to the numerous influential cookbooks she’s published. I have so many of her books that I’ve not actually used all of them, including World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. This is one that I just like to look at, especially for its kitschy illustrations that try to tackle the entire Western imaginary’s conception of the “East,” including the Middle East, South Asia, and onto Japan.

The book is a gigantic tome of 500 pages, first printed in 1981. By the time my copy, from 1998, was out, it was in its 18th printing. The illustrations are reminiscent of Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure, bringing to mind a utopian hippie picnic in which every flag of the world’s nations is represented. …


Why does it often feel so fraught and judgy?

Two .5 kg dumbbells, measuring tape, and a salad on a rustic wooden table.
Two .5 kg dumbbells, measuring tape, and a salad on a rustic wooden table.
Photo: boonchai wedmakawand/Moment/Getty Images

This was first posted as the October 5 “From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy” newsletter. You can sign up here.

The first time I saw the word “fat” used as a descriptor without a whiff of judgment was when the show Two Fat Ladies was playing on Food Network. It was a BBC show from the late ’90s, and the cartoon of them driving around in a motorcycle with a sidecar is burned in my brain. These were two broads who knew how to live, the introduction implied, and Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright did indeed do some living.

Their knowing, confident banter around travel and ingredients suggested extensive experience in the world; they would never use yogurt where cream would do. There is just so much humor and pleasure demonstrated on this show. …


Vintage Veg

A quirky, egg-free vegetarian cookbook from 1968 offers unexpected inspiration

A hand holding up a vintage cookbook with a quaint illustration of fruits and veggies on the front.
A hand holding up a vintage cookbook with a quaint illustration of fruits and veggies on the front.
Photo: Alicia Kennedy

When I bought Pegeen Fitzgerald’s Meatless Cooking: Pegeen’s Vegetarian Recipes, it was because it seemed quirky enough. Published in 1968, both the foreword and introduction are staunchly in favor of ethical vegetarianism. “As you know, I am a vegetarian,” she begins. “My belief comes not only from an innate reverence for life but from a love of animals.”

As I read a bit more about the author, I discovered she and her husband hosted a long-running radio show called “The Fitzgeralds” in New York. Their New York City apartment and Connecticut home were overrun by cats that their listeners had bequeathed to them upon passing. Apparently, their radio show acted as a means of finding homes for 3,000 animals per year, and in 1982, Pegeen founded a cat shelter called The Last Post that is still operational. She also worked with anti-vivisection organizations. This was a woman — who was born in 1904! …


This cake is elegant yet homey — perfect for a small (safe) celebration as temperatures drop to denim-jacket levels

A layered cake on a silver cake stand — the cake is golden brown with lightly applied white icing and strawberries.
A layered cake on a silver cake stand — the cake is golden brown with lightly applied white icing and strawberries.
Photo: Alicia Kennedy

Depending upon where you live, right now the air might be getting a bit cooler. It might seem like time to get cozy again, with the oven on, to roast some vegetables or bake a cake. For those who are indeed feeling a chill in the air, now’s the perfect occasion for a hazelnut cake. I first made this when I found some hazelnut meal on sale, because it can be quite pricey, but it is a versatile, flavorful, and worthwhile ingredient to have around, and it keeps well in the freezer.

Here, I amplify the cake’s inherent nuttiness with further nuttiness from almond buttercream. This flavor combination was inspired by my time working at Starbucks, where when someone wanted “French vanilla,” we would put squirts of hazelnut and almond syrup in their latte. The cinnamon and nutmeg are optional in the cake, but they can add an extra layer of warmth. I like to balance that warmth with a garnish of berries and lemon zest, which cut through the richness with a slight burst of acidity. If you’re not in the mood to make a full buttercream, though, I also recommend decorating this with a light coconut whipped cream. …


This tahini-or-cashew caesar dressing is a versatile food-brightener and mood-enhancer every vegan should have in their arsenal

Chickpeas and lettuce shimmering with a creamy caesar dressing, stuffed into a large tortilla folded wrap-style.
Chickpeas and lettuce shimmering with a creamy caesar dressing, stuffed into a large tortilla folded wrap-style.
Photo: Alicia Kennedy

Nothing brings me back to being a kid like a Caesar salad wrap. The creamy dressing enveloping all that romaine lettuce, contrasted against warm protein, wrapped in a tortilla that got a bit of grilling to crisp up? It felt grown-up and it felt healthy, despite the richness of Caesar dressing. At a little take-out spot called Tallulah’s next to my first adult job, they made a great one, and I would always pair it with their lemony French fries to create a contrast of fatty and acidic that I could’ve eaten every single day of my life. …


What makes an ingredient coveted? Colonization plays a role

A large basket overflowing with heirloom tomatoes of various sizes and colors.
A large basket overflowing with heirloom tomatoes of various sizes and colors.
Photo: Fun With Food/E+/Getty Images

This was first posted as the August 17 newsletter, “From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy.” You can sign up here.

August is the time of year when the tomato becomes a luxury item for many. Its ruby-red juiciness, its intensity of flavor — now is the moment at which the mundane becomes spectacular. Like spring for ramps in the U.S. northeast, summer for tomatoes is a thrilling time. Does a food have to bloom as its best self briefly and then disappear in order for it to be appreciated as a local, seasonal gem? A tomato, even in its best expression, is pretty accessible — so it’s not snobby, right? …

About

Alicia Kennedy

I’m a food writer from Long Island based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter on food issues: aliciakennedy.substack.com

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