Monday, September 16, 2013

Macadamia-Coconut-Lime Tartlets

It's official: I have tartlet fever.

If you read my recent Chocolate, Pistachio, and Mascarpone Tartlets post, you saw my attempt at a semi-healthy dessert, perfectly portioned for those who crave moderation, and rich and delicious for those who crave decadence. 

In addition to moderation and decadence, Hoosband and I have been craving desserts we actually feel good about sharing with our two-year-old. These particular tartlets are made from nuts, coconut, coconut oil, lime juice, and a modest combo of unrefined sweeteners. I feel pretty good about that. 

Their coconut-lime flavor profile is inspired by a frozen drink Hoosband and I had years ago on our honeymoon in Mexico called a white sand--something else I've been craving. 

Macadamia nuts pair well with the flavors of coconut and lime, while adding creaminess and body to the filling and structure and crunch to the crust. 

Like the chocolate-pistachio tartlets, today's tartlets are no-bake and grain/gluten free. With the subtraction of the mascarpone, however, these tartlets are also dairy-free, though still not technically raw or vegan, due to the coconut palm sugar in the crust and the honey in the filling, respectively.

It is important to use virgin coconut oil in this recipe, as refined coconut oil lacks the essential coconut flavor and aroma. 

Due to their high coconut-oil content, these tartlets require at least 8 hours in the fridge to set up and should be stored in the fridge right up until consumption for best results. When the filling is set, the texture should be like a cross between lime curd and custard, similar to a key lime pie, and firm enough to slice if desired.

The tartlets can also be frozen overnight, resulting in a much firmer, more ice-cream-like texture.

Macadamia-Coconut-Lime Tartlets

for the crust
2/3 cups grated coconut (raw and unsweetened)
3 T coconut palm sugar (substitute with brown sugar if desired)
1/4 tsp fine salt
2/3 cups raw macadamia nuts
2 T virgin coconut oil

for the filling
2/3 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp freshly grated lime zest (try to avoid using any of the white pith)
3 T honey (I used Texas brush honey)
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil

Place muffin liners in each of six large muffin cups. I use regular-sized muffin liners in large cups--the larger cups just allow the liners to lay out a little wider. If you do not have a large-cup muffin pan, just use six cups in a standard-size muffin pan.

Place 1/3 cup grated coconut, the coconut palm sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process till very finely ground. Add 2/3 cup macadamia nuts, the coconut oil, and remaining grated coconut, and process just until the nuts are ground to very small pieces and the mixture looks like very coarse, damp sand. 

Be sure not to over-process the mixture, as it will become nut butter and be too goopy to work with. If this does happen accidentally, add a an extra 3-4 tablespoons of grated coconut and pulse just enough to combine. The coconut will absorb some of the excess liquid and add more structure.

Divide the mixture evenly among the six prepared cups (1 1/2-2 T per cup). 

Use your fingers to press the mixture firmly into the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of each cup.

Chill while you prepare the filling. 

Rinse and dry the food processor bowl, blade, and lid. Place 2/3 cup macadamia nuts in the processor and process until very smooth, the consistency of freshly ground peanut butter. 

Add the remaining filling ingredients and process until completely smooth. 

Pour the filling into the tart shells, dividing it evenly among the six cups. 

Place the muffin tin in the refrigerator and chill for at least 8 hours or till set. 

Store the set tartlets in airtight containers in the fridge until ready to serve, up to one week. 

If desired, garnish with some finely chopped macadamia nuts and fresh lime zest, or try a dollop of Whipped Coconut Cream.

Makes 6 tartlets.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Toasted Hot-Sauce Popcorn

Hoosband and I love to make our own popcorn. We can make it as healthy or fat-drenched as we like and customize the flavor profile to our daily whims.

Our favorite way to eat it? Doused in hot sauce.

We are hot-sauce junkies around here, so we don't mind if a few of the puffs of popped corn become a bit soggy in the process. Thinking about sharing our favorite flavor with others, however, I wanted to come up with a way to deliver a more crowd-pleasing, evenly dispersed, slightly heat-tamed, non-soggy hot-sauce experience.

The kernels start completely naked in the microwave (thank you, Pinterest) and are then transferred to a baking sheet, where they receive an even misting of a hot sauce and oil mixture before getting a quick toast in a 325-degree-Fahrenheit oven--sayonara, Sogginess.

Toasted Hot-Sauce Popcorn
3 T cooking oil (if using coconut oil, make sure it is warm enough to be free-flowing)
4 T hot sauce
3 T popcorn kernels
fine-grain salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Use a funnel or spouted measuring cup to add the cooking oil and hot sauce to a clean, food-grade spray bottle. Set aside. You will not use all of this mixture, but the spray-feature will work better with a little extra in the bottle. Excess mixture can be used for another purpose--try tossing with sweet potato spears, salt, and pepper before roasting for a yummy side dish!

Place the popcorn kernels in a large, microwave-safe bowl and cover with a microwave-safe plate.

Microwave for three minutes or until there are 30 seconds between audible "pop"s. Transfer the popped corn to the prepared baking sheet. Any un-popped kernels may be microwaved again if necessary.

Spread the popcorn out in an even layer on the baking sheet.

Make sure the top is tightly screwed onto the spray bottle and shake very well to emulsify the hot-sauce mixture. Do a few test-sprays into the sink, adjusting the spray nozzle as necessary to achieve an even mist. Shake once more if necessary, and evenly spray the mixture over the popcorn, coating lightly. Sprinkle evenly with fine salt.

Toast the popcorn at 325 degrees F for 4 minutes. Repeat the spraying and toasting once more for greater flavor, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes about 3 cups of popped corn.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chocolate, Pistachio, and Mascarpone Tartlets

The inspiration for this recipe was threefold:

1) We haven't been eating a lot of dessert lately, and Hoosband asked if we could try making some small tarts-- nothing too out-of-control on the healthometer, but something that would still seem like an indulgence.

2) On a recent trip to Central Market (a fabulous, Whole-Foods-esque, Texas chain), I picked up a Chocolate Almond Butter Hail Merry Miracle Tart (a heavenly, raw, vegan, and gluten-free tartlet) that was too good not to borrow from.

3) I had some raw pistachios on hand and a little mascarpone leftover from my Goat-Cheese-Stuffed Cherries that were just begging to be turned into something scrumptious.

Like the incredible Hail Merry tarts, my creation is miraculously gluten free. It is also is raw in the sense that no baking is required.* With the addition of the mascarpone, however, I clearly departed from the truly raw (as in none of the components have ever been exposed to high heat) and vegan aspects.

While I typically prefer to use natural cocoa, I used dutch-process cocoa (which has been treated with alkali) in the crust here to achieve a deeper chocolate color and slightly less-acidic flavor.

Pistachios can be a pain to shell, and raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios can be hard to find. Mine were labeled "raw pistachio meats" and found in the bulk section.

As for the sweeteners, I have just begun to experiment with coconut palm sugar, and I love it. With a production method somewhat similar to that of maple syrup, coconut palm sugar is minimally processed and has a rich, caramel color, scent, and flavor. Not surprisingly, it can be pretty pricey, so I always look for it on sale. Substitute with brown sugar if desired.

In the filling I turn to honey, which, enlivened with a sprinkle of cinnamon, is a perfect pairing for pistachios, reminiscent of baklava and a myriad of Mediterranean confections.

Don't go overboard with the cinnamon, but definitely don't leave it out. You don't want the tarts to taste like Christmas, you just want to compliment the other flavors.

Because of the pistachios, the filling will be green. If left ungarnished, the surface of the filling will darken and become glossy, which can look a little unappetizing--so don't skip that garnish!

Chocolate, Pistachio, and Mascarpone Tartlets
for the crust:
1/3 cup raw, shelled pistachios
1/3 cup dutch-process cocoa
3 T coconut palm sugar
2 T coconut oil at warm room temperature (liquid but not hot)
dash ground cinnamon

for the filling:
1/2 cup raw, shelled pistachios
2 oz mascarpone cheese
2 T honey

for the garnish:
1/4 cup raw, shelled pistachios, finely chopped
2 T finely chopped dark chocolate

*Note: If you plan to keep the tartlets out of refrigeration for more than 10 minutes before/during serving, or if you plan on serving them in a very hot environment (such as outdoors in the summer), you may want to bake the crusts prior to filling them. If desired, bake the crusts at 350 degrees F for 6 minutes and allow them to cool completely before filling. Baked crusts may be stored in their liners in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days before being filled. Filled tartlets should be refrigerated until ready to serve.

Place muffin liners in each of six large muffin cups. I use regular-sized muffin liners in large cups--the larger cups just allow the liners to lay out a little wider. If you do not have a large-cup muffin pan, just use six cups in a standard-size muffin pan.

Place the crust ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles wet, black, sand.

Deposit a tablespoon of the mixture into each prepared muffin cup.

Use clean fingers to firmly press the mixture evenly across the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of each muffin liner, creating little tart shells.

Chill (or bake--see above note) the shells in the muffin tin while you prepare the filling.

Rinse and dry the food processor bowl, and add the filling ingredients.

Process until the mixture is very smooth, almost like a dense mousse, pausing to scrape down the bowl every 45 seconds or so. It will take a few minutes to get to the right consistency, so keep at it and taste as you go. Evenly divide the mixture between the six prepared crusts, using a piping bag if desired.

Cover the tops completely with the chopped pistachios and chocolate.

For the best flavor, let the tarts rest in the fridge for at least 6 hours. The flavors will intensify even more overnight.

Store tartlets in airtight containers in the fridge until ready to serve (up to five days).

Makes six tartlets.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.