“A verrine? What’s a verrine?” the conversation would always start, furrowed foreheads and confused, half-squinting eyes included.
Handing out a glass to each member of the family, each piece of dinnerware mismatched and slightly different from the last, it was a bold move to present something like this. It would have taken just a plain old slice of chocolate cake to please this crowd, but oh no, going the easy route for a family gathering just wouldn’t do. Such a great opportunity to
test feed my recipes to a large, more varied audience was simply too tempting to pass up!
“Okay, well you could also call it a parfait…” That’s less intimidating, right? Faces all around seemed to relax a bit and approach with less trepidation, but still, this blood-red custard topped with a fluffy white cloud lacked a name.
Chilled and refreshing, pureed raspberries cooked with a touch of agave conceal a handful of diced crystallized ginger at the very bottom, making for a spicy surprise. Crunchy, chocolate-coated rice cereal is sprinkled on top, lending a crispy contrast to the previous smooth layer. Finally, my standard coconut whipped cream tops things off, and a few shreds of lightly toasted, fancy flaked coconut crown the whole piece. In short, it’s delicious, easy to eat and enjoy, but complicated to explain.
But some of the best things are seemingly inexplicable like that. Just the other day, I got some equally inexplicable and astonishing news: It seems I’ve been nominated for 3 different categories of the 2009 Veggie Awards! Vying for the title of Favorite Blog, Favorite Cookbook Author, and Favorite VegNews Column, I’m still struggling to find appropriate words, but for now at least, let’s start with… Wow, and of course, THANK YOU! I know I’m up against some stiff competition in all arenas here, so I need your help: Please, please, go vote for me!
And then once you do that, make sure you hop right on back here, and get the recipe for my equally puzzling, but gratifying parfait. Maybe you’ll even have the creativity to think of an appropriate name when you serve it!
4 Cups Raspberries, Fresh or Frozen
1/3 Cup Light Agave Nectar
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 1/2 Teaspoon Agar Powder
1/2 Cup Finely Diced Crystallized Ginger
3 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
2 1/2 Cups Crispy Brown Rice Cereal
1/2 Teaspoon Instant Coffee Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Coconut Whipped Creme:
1 25.5-Ounce Can Coconut Milk, Chilled
1/4 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Using a blender or food processor, thoroughly puree the raspberries so that the mixture is as smooth as possible. Pass it through a fine mesh strainer, and discard the solids. You should be left with about 2 2/3 cup of seedless raspberry puree; if you end up with less, add apple juice until you reach that amount.
In a medium sauce pan, whisk together the seedless puree, agave, orange juice, cornstarch, and agar vigorously to prevent any of the dry ingredients from clumping. Once homogeneous, set the sauce pan over medium heat, and stir occasionally. Meanwhile, distribute about 1 tablespoon of the diced ginger into the bottom of each of your (8 – 12) parfait glasses.
When the mixture just begins to boil, quickly turn of the heat, and pour an equal amount into each glass. Allow the raspberry layer to cool at room temperature until solidified (about 1 hour) before transferring all of the glasses into the refrigerator to chill.
To make the chocolate crunch, place the chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe dish, and heat them for about 1 minute, checking at 30 seconds to ensure that the mixture doesn’t burn. Stir well until completely smooth and all the pieces of chocolate have melted.
In a large bowl, combine the brown rice cereal, coffee powder, and salt. Pour the chocolate mixture in, and mix well with a large spatula, being careful not to crush the cereal. Once well coated, pour the cereal out onto a silpat, and spread it out into as thin a layer as possible. Place this in the refrigerator to solidify (about 30 minutes.)
For the coconut whipped cream, do NOT shake the can of coconut milk. Simply open the can and use a large spoon to skim off all of the thick cream on top. You will be left with some thin coconut milk in the bottom of the can, but you can use that in another recipe. Place the coconut cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla in your stand mixer, and whip on high for about 5 minutes, until thick and fluffy like whipped cream.
To assemble your parfaits, crumble pieces of the chocolate crunch into each glass to form an even layer. Spoon the coconut whipped creme on top, and garnish with lightly toasted coconut flakes and/or additional fresh raspberries if desired.
Serves 8 – 12