Friday, April 19, 2013

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Shake: Have it your way

I thought that this week's cooking lesson was going to be a throw-away, basically a week off, but it ended up being fantastically instructive, a chance to teach Henry both how to follow a recipe and how to tweak a recipe, and a chance for the two of us to spend a little time at the feet of food writer Mark Bittman - alway time well spent.

It started a couple of weeks ago with Bittman's feature in the New York Times Magazine, Yes, Healthful Fast Food Is Possible. But Edible? A great article that asked if conditions are finally ripe for affordable, healthy, fast-food. He was after my heart with this topic. When I was an actively touring musician, a vegetarian trying in vain to eat well on the road in 1991, I used to sit in the van and dream about walking into a Burger King and ordering a veggie burger with sweet potato fries. But my heart really jumped when I reached Bittman's sidebar, "Welcome to McBitty's," a collection of three recipes right out of my road dreams: Bean Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries, and a Mexican Chocolate Shake.

"Henry," I said, "LOOK at THIS."

"Let's make that," he said. "All of it."

Everybody knows that student-led learning is the best of all, so it was settled; Henry had determined the curriculum for our next lesson, not to mention the menu for our Saturday family lunch. I had modest expectations for the cooking lesson, but high expectations for the burger and fries.

I should have had high expectations all around. I hadn't realized how valuable it would be for Henry to follow a published recipe carefully, to see how spectacular the results can be when you do, particularly when it happens to be a well-tested one from someone who knows his stuff. Henry tends to be minimally interested in recipes, much more interested in technique, so this was eye-opening. We followed the recipe for sweet potato fries to a T and they were perfect. We did the same with the bean burgers, except we substituted parsley for the cilantro since Henry is one of those mutant cilantro-haters, and again, amazing results.

But we took some liberties with the milkshake, opting for a deeper, darker chocolate treat, in keeping with our family's taste, and adding a homemade coconut whipped topping. In the end Henry gained new respect for good recipes as well as the confidence to take a good recipe and have it his way.

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Shake
adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe, see link above
Serves 4-6

2 cups almond milk
1 lb silken tofu
12 ounces dark chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Blend ingredients well and chill in freezer for 30 minutes or so. Top with whipped coconut cream and chocolate shavings or chunks, optional.

Whipped Coconut Cream
serves 4-6, depending on how much you eat with a spoon out of the food processor

2 cans coconut milk (not light)
1-2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put unopened cans of coconut milk in the freezer for 2 or 3 hours. It takes this long for the cream to separate from the water. Scoop the cream out and into a food processor, add sugar and vanilla, and process for a few minutes until it's whipped and light.