On Sunday I hosted a leisurely Easter brunch with my dear friends B and D. I really got into the idea of hosting brunch. I was a woman possessed. Saturday night I found myself creating centerpieces out of old flower pots, Easter grass, and some of my funny ceramic birds from around my apartment while my tart shell baked and my candy set. As I was lamenting my lack of light colored, springy napkins, and yearning for the perfect table setting, I thought of my aunt's dining room cabinet, which boasts beautiful dishes and has two drawers dedicated entirely to table linens. I remembered my mom's story from last week of her city-wide quest to find my grandmother the perfect pink paper napkins for her Easter party. I thought of all the times I dashed out of the way as the matriarchs of our family busy-bodied around, creating table centerpieces and choosing tablecloths and pulling out the special plates. Oh. My. God. It's happened. I've turned into my mother and aunt and grandmother.
I promptly call my mom to tell her the news.
Then I just kept cooking more and more food and decorating my apartment until I finally became too tired to go on anymore. Then I went to bed. I'm not exactly Martha Stewart, but I have certainly have been bitten by the same bug, along with all the other women in my family...
As regular readers may recall, my friend B recently found out she has a number of food allergies, including dairy, eggs, wheat, rice, legumes, and most seeds and nuts. Her fiancé D can eat anything (lucky guy). We often cook meals together since we share many restrictions and all love healthy, homemade food. We really outdid ourselves on Sunday, and shared in a beautiful Spring feast. It took place over the course of 2 1/2 hours; we slowly ate, cooked, ate, cooked, and ate our way through the morning and afternoon. We felt French.
What lovely foods graced our brunch table?
Drink: Iced Hibiscus & Hawthorne Berry Tea
First course: spinach & fennel soup and buckwheat-quinoa crackerbread
Entree: Salmon Quinoa Burgers from Whole Life Nutrition, homemade mustard-caper sauce, roasted carrots with dill, and baby greens salad with cucumbers, radishes, and scallions
Dessert: Dandy Blend lattés, custard tart with oatmeal lavender crust, carob-coconut eggs with sea salt, and cashew carob cups
The meal was fresh, light, and absolutely delicious. I whipped up a wonderfully garlicky soup of fresh fennel and spinach to start off our meal, accompanied by a tasty buckwheat crackerbread recipe I'm working on. Our salad was absolutely delicious, and the roasted carrots B brought were perfect. The Quinoa-Salmon Burgers were amazing, another awesome recipe from Ali at Whole Life Nutrition, especially served with a sauce of my homemade mustard (this recipe, minus the buckwheat honey, turmeric, and allspice), capers, and dill. I am making those burgers frequently from now on - if you eat salmon, you must try those burgers! I was especially pleased with our dessert; I made a wonderful tart.
I love lavender in baked goods, and decided I wanted to make oatmeal crust kissed with lavender flowers. For the filling, I made a rich custard from coconut milk and cashews, scented with vanilla and just a little vitamin C powder. To finish it off, I made a blueberry sauce to drizzle over the top. Yeah, yeah, I know, the blueberry sauce is not exactly on the ACD. I've thrown care to the wind the last few days and cheated.
The tart looked beautiful. It was creamy and rich, without being too heavy, and had a wonderful, complex flavor. The crust is crisp, yet tender. And the leftovers are just as delicious! If I could, I would have included a healthy grating of lemon zest in the crust; it would have added a lovely balance to the lavender. I could have probably tried it, but I just had some lemon on Friday (another cheat!) and didn't want to push my whole allergy situation.
I hope that if you spent the day with loved ones that you had a joyous and warm time, and enjoyed yourself as much as we did! We laughed a lot, talked about the significance of Spring, gushed over the food, and they put up with me putting down my fork and taking photos of our meal. We discussed the plans for their wedding in August and talked about flower arrangements. I am the florist for their wedding (gulp!) and can't wait. I am hoping to grow some of the flowers myself...we'll see what I can do!
In the meantime, here's the recipe for the custard tart and the blueberry sauce. Make it and share it with those you love.
Vegan Custard Tart with Oatmeal Lavender Crust
YIELD: 1 8-INCH TART
Make sure to get food-grade, edible lavender. Look for it in the bulk section of your local co-op or natural foods store. The filling is just a little tart from vitamin C crystals, reminiscent of lemon custard. If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to sweeten up the custard filling more less. Serve the tart with blueberry sauce, or without, or simply top with fresh blueberries. Feel free to omit the lavender from the crust for a basic, adaptable tart recipe that would go well with any number of different sauces or fillings.
1 cup GF oats
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/8 tsp stevia extract powder
1 Tbsp edible lavender flowers
optional: 2 tsp lemon zest (if you tolerate citrus, this would be awesome)
3 Tbsp melted coconut oil, chilled until solid then cut into small chunks
3 Tbsp cold water
Preheat oven to 350º F and get out an 8-inch tart pan.
Pulse cashews in a food processor until coarsely ground, then add oats, pulse a few times, then process until ground (not as fine as oat flour, but not chunky). Add arrowroot, salt, and lavender flowers, pulse to mix, then add coconut oil and pulse until grainy and moist. Add water by the tablespoon until a cohesive dough forms.
Place dough on a sheet of saran wrap and pat into a large circle. Then top with more saran wrap and roll out into a 10" square. Flip into tart pan and pat down, fixing any areas where it has cracked or broken. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crisp. It will not darken, so do not keep baking it expecting it to turn brown! Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
2/3 cup cashews (soaked 4-6 hours if possible)
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp vitamin C crystals (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
1/4 tsp stevia liquid + more to taste
optional: 1 tsp-1 Tbsp maple syrup, agave, or brown rice syrup, to taste
2 Tbsp arrowroot starch
1/4 tsp agar agar powder
While crust is cooling, place cashews and water in a high powered blender and blend until totally smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend on high until well-mixed. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat on medium-high until bubbling, whisking constantly and ocassionally scraping bottom. Once chunks form and it starts to thicken considerably, remove from heat and whisk vigorously for 1-2 minutes until thickened and totally smooth. Pour into cooled tart crust, and sprinkle with lavender flowers.
Place in refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours. Serve chilled for best texture. Can be served alone, or with a drizzle of blueberry sauce. Leftovers will keep for 3-4 days.
YIELD: 2 CUPS
2 pint blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp vitamin C crystals
20 drops stevia
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stir, and cook on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened and blueberries are soft and broken down. If you want a chunky sauce, use as is, or blend until smooth using an immersion blender or regular blender. Serve warm or chilled. Store leftovers in the fridge for 5-6 days, or freeze for longer storage.