A Vegan Dinner Party and Cherry Berry Crumble
I love butter, preferably salted, melted into the nooks and crannies of a piece of toasted brioche.
Then there’s cheese: cow milk, goat, or sheep—I don’t discriminate. If forced to choose between butter and cheese when I’m packing my bags for exile to an uninhabited island, it’s hard to say which I’d choose to live without. For now, I’m grateful that such a conundrum is pure fiction. In fact, as awareness of food allergies and intolerances grows at a record pace, there’s much, much more that I’m grateful for when it comes to my food: I can, and gleefully do, eat just about anything except for green peppers and Jello.
So why am I checking in with a vegan dessert? It’s not because I ran out of butter or eggs. That, I can assure you, never happens around here. The first and perhaps most important reason is that it’s darn tasty. In fact, if I hadn’t mentioned the “V” word, you might reach the bottom of your bowl of Cherry Berry Crumble without even realizing that you’d just fallen hard for a vegan dessert. The second reason that rivals the first in importance is that one of my favorite oh-so-omnivore clients recently embarked on a vegan journey, and this week she’s hosting her first all vegan dinner party.
The dinner is an annual event. Last year it was creamy asparagus soup, lemon herb chicken thighs, and potato gratin. And please don’t forget the cheese course. I know I won’t–triple cream St. Andre, smooth Ossau-iraty, nom, nom, nom. This year, hold the meat and fish, the butter, the cream, the eggs, and the cheese. Vegetables are more interesting to me than meat especially chicken on any given day. The hard part is doing without eggs and dairy accompaniments. There are a lot of vegan friendly products that mimic foods like butter and cheese, but I can hardly tout the benefits of “real” food, while I’m cooking with a butter “spread” made from eleven ingredients one of which is pea protein. What is that?
Then I started leafing through my favorite vegetarian dinner menus and realized how many of them included vegan dishes or ones that were darn near it and would require only minimal tweaking. There will be a spinach and roasted garlic soup, zucchini fritters with avocado cream and red pepper coulis, wild mushroom and asparagus risotto, cauliflower steaks with gremolata panko, and haricot vert with basil pistou and roasted tomatoes. All made without pea protein. Whew!
Dessert posed the biggest challenge. Did I mention that pie, apple pie with a perfect, flaky crust, is the signature dessert of this favorite client? She pulled it from a warm oven for last year’s dinner. The guests swooned at the sight of it and left nary a crumb on their plates. The experiments started in earnest ten days ago with avocado chocolate mousse and olive oil cake. They proved to be solid contenders, but this fruit forward crumble was the clear winner. If you like your crisps, crumbles, and cobblers served a la mode and you’re not following a vegan diet, a vanilla bean ice cream sidecar is a no-brainer here. And if you are following a vegan regimen, hang tight until my next post, which will include the recipe for an equally satisfying coconut milk ice cream.
Just So Happens to Be Vegan Cherry Berry Crumble
(You can use fresh or frozen fruit.*)
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups blackberries
1 1/2 cups sweet black cherries
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, combine the berries, cherries, flour, and maple syrup.
- In a small bowl whisk together the oil, brown sugar, and vanilla. Combine the remaining topping ingredients in a larger bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and blend with a fork.
- Spoon the fruit into an 8×8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the oat mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 35 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. (*Increase the baking time if you’re using frozen fruit.)