Sunday, July 4, 2010


Kantens are really refreshing desserts that are easy as can be. They are also genuinely good for you, which cannot be said about most desserts. A kanten is a jelled dessert that is made with fruit and agar. Agar is a sea vegetable that comes in the form of clear flakes. Like gelatin, they can be dissolved into fruit juice and then it hardens as it cools. Agar, like other sea vegetables, has a high mineral content and has detoxifying powers. According to my Clean Foods cookbook, agar has a cooling and calming effect on the gastrointestinal tract, making it a perfect food to eat after a big meal. Agar is incredibly versatile because it is colorless and tasteless, so it can be added to any kind of juice/fruit combination. Had I added strawberries or raspberries to this dessert, it would have been perfect for the 4th of July.


This recipe was adapted from Clean Foods, a vegan and macrobiotic cookbook by Terry Walters. The original recipe asks for frozen blueberries, but I used fresh. It also instructs you to puree the entire kanten after it hardens to create a mousse-like dessert, but I wanted to keep mine in its hard form. Instead of serving it in parfait glasses, I poured the whole mixture into a 9x13 baking dish then cut it into squares. However, if I had parfait glasses, I think that would be a beautiful way to present it whether as a solid dessert with berries intact or as a mousse. The 1 tablespoon agar to 1 cup of juice is standard, so you can use that ratio to create a dessert with any combination of juice and fruit: grape juice and grapes, apple juice and watermelon, or peach berries. I've even made a vegan lemon pie by basically making a sweet lemon juice kanten and letting it firm up in a precooked pie crust. This kanten serves 6-8 and it keeps for a few days covered in the fridge.

3 cups apple or pear juice
3 tablespoons agar flakes
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring juice to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in agar flakes, salt, and lemon juice or cider vinegar. Continue stirring until flakes have dissolved. Remove from heat, add blueberries and transfer to 9x13-inch glass casserole dish. Refrigerate until firm (about 45 minutes). Optional: Remove from refrigerator and puree with handheld blender until texture is smooth.


2 cups apple juice
2 cups lightly toasted cashews
3 tablespoons maple syrup

In small pot over medium-high heat, bring apple juice to boil. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Place cashews and syrup in food processor and process 10-15 seconds. Whith the processor running, slowly add juice a little at a time until you have the desired texture (you may not need all the juice. I only used about 1.5 cups. Also, it firms up as it cools).

Saturday, July 3, 2010


This soup comes from some macrobiotic cookbook, but I've made it so many times that I don't need the recipe. It is very simple to make and guaranteed to be a hit. There are some macrobiotic ingredients that you may not have in your pantry, but in my opinion they are worth having around.

The first is kombu, which is a form of kelp or seaweed. Sea vegetables are extremely nutrient dense foods and are used in macrobiotic cooking to add vitamins and minerals to ones diet. I think of kombu as being like a multivitamin that you add to the cooking water of beans. Because the minerals are cooked into the food, they are more readily absorbed by your body. It also serves to add flavor, like a vegetable broth would. Believe me, it doesn't taste fishy at all like you may imagine seaweed broth might.

The second odd ingredient is umeboshi vinegar, which isn't really a vinegar but a brine. It is the salty liquid leftover from pickling umeboshi plums. Umeboshi plums are actually a form of apricot that grow in Japan. They are incredibly nutritious and really tasty when pickled. Umeboshi plums and vinegar are some of my secret weapons in cooking. They have such a unique, salty and sour flavor that goes well in so many dishes. I blend umeboshi plums into hummus and eat it in sushi rolls. I add the vinegar to guacamole, salad dressings, soups, and toss it with boiled vegetables.

This red lentil soup could probably be made without these ingredients. You may be able to make it just as flavorful substituting salt and a little apple cider or wine vinegar, but it wouldn't be as nutritious. This soup serves 4-5


1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, sorted,rinsed and drained
3 inch piece of kombu, wiped clean
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 1/2 cups water (I use 5 cups because I like it more soupy, but use less if you want it to be more dal-like)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 cup umeboshi vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Bring the lentils, kombu, garlic, and water to boil in a large pot, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Stirring occasionally, simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and have the texture of puree. Skim off and discard any foam (This practice helps make beans less gas-producing and should be done whenever you cook dried beans). Remove and discard the kombu.

2. Stir the curry powder, vinegar, and ginger juice into the pot, and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

3. Garnish with black pepper and cilantro before serving.


-Add any combination of finely chopped vegetables to create a red lentil vegetable soup.
-Add 1/2 cup of tomato paste to Step 2.
-Substitute a combination of cumin, coriander, and turmeric for the curry powder.

I served this soup for a some friends alongside long-grain brown rice, sauteed baby bok choy, and a salad of mixed greens and basil with a lemon vinaigrett
e, red onion, and sweet white radish.