Category Archives: healthy french

The World Needs (Vegan) Crème Brûlée

A crème brûlée experience is like no other. You’re in New York. Eating at a lovely (and expensive), New American restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or an authentic (and not so expensive) French café in a converted brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

The appetizers and entrées were well done or barely cooked, whatever you prefer. Your friends and/or business associates are engaged in a deep conversation about politics. You’re interested and contributing to the conversation here and there, but you can’t help but wonder, ‘What’s on that dessert menu?’

Finally, you order the crème brûlée and it comes out beautiful, shiny, and appealing. You’ve never seen anything like it, have you? With hesitation to mess up its perfect, golden brown beauty, you break its candy crust, and soft Mozart violins start to play.

Tasting the burnt sugar candy is enough to make you grin like a child. But the sweet, silky vanilla cream is simply addictive. It’s a dessert of opposites. Hard and soft. Burnt and barely cooked. Deep and mild flavor. When you’re finished you ask yourself, who originated this loveliest of lovely desserts? And how am I the last one in the world to know about it?

According to my research, crème brûlée is derived from the Spanish Catalan cream, but the French has made it their own.

And, in turn, made me a fan of their cuisine for life! Crème brûlée one of the biggest reasons why I love French food. I may not be able to remember exactly the first time I had crème brûlée, but I’m sure that it was just like the amazing experience I described above, so much so that I had to have it if it was even an option.

Now I find myself missing fine dining and making crème brûlée at home. I made two versions: traditional and vegan.

My son craves a classic NY Times version—I’ve posted it on Frealthy. It’s a traditional recipe that is pretty much the same everywhere online: eggs, heavy cream, vanilla, sugar, and burnt sugar finish. 

Most of my family loves this vegan version—also posted on Frealthy—originally by namelymarly.com, which defies the need for eggs and heavy cream. It was easy to make but took a while to finish because the “cream” must set over night in the fridge to thicken. 

The vegan crème brûlée never really sets like the traditional recipe, at least mine did not—perhaps I should’ve used more cashews or arrowroot powder to make the “cream” a thicker and richer texture. But, nonetheless, it turned out fantastic in flavor and creaminess. 

Five Reasons to Fall for Carrots, Again

Lately, I’ve been craving carrots. They’re something I generally don’t crave or even think about, unless I’m having a dire, need-to-lose-five-pounds moment. (I have a carrot and celery temporary weight loss trick that works every time.) It’s surprising to me, that in the last two years, the healthiness and taste of carrots have been up for debate. Here are six reasons why I haven’t lost faith in one of the most underrated and versatile veggies of our time. 

1. It’s pure joy to watch and engineer the transformation of carrots into cakes, soufflés, fritters, salads and any other edible. There are so many fun ways to prepare them. 

Like at Olmsted, the carrot crepe that I woofed down in about five minutes was spectacular. Filled with other veggies and tiny seafood, it was a thing to be remembered and cherished. It was honestly one of the top seven dishes at a resto that I’ve ever eaten in my life. 

Or, like this carrot soup recipe, try it with or without the topping of caramelized onions, homemade bacon bits and scallions, for a creamy and satisfying start to a special occasion meal at home. Perfect for a birthday, anniversary or girlfriends’ brunch.

2. Carrot juice still gives the body a natural and powerful energy boost and a ravishing glow. 

3. The nutritional value of carrots—vitamins A, K, and C, calcium, beta carotene and fiber—promotes overall health and fights disease.

4. As they are one-third of a major French cuisine fundamental, the mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions), carrots have been a mainstay in fine and casual dining for centuries across the globe. Why give up on them now?  

5. They taste divine when you roast them with onions, garlic, fresh herbs and the protein of your choice. The smell that emanates when carrots are roasting is the ultimate ingredient that makes a home feel like a home. 

Parisian Potato Salad

Once upon a summer, my son—who was four at the time—and I traveled to the beautiful City of Light. Paris! 

It was magical by day. Jumping up and down on the second level of the Eiffel Tower as we tried to count the moving spots that were people, 115 meters down (377 feet). The panoramic view of Paris from Sacre Coeur. Fun kiddie rides at a makeshift amusement park in front of the Louvre. Macarons. Madeleines. Chocolate. Chocolate. And more chocolate!

It was magical by night. Dinner at a family restaurant with autographed pictures of Muhammad Ali. Champagne. Night views of the lit Eiffel Tower. Sweet French accents everywhere. 

But my goal of teaching my son why France and travel in general, is amazing and important is still and always will be a work in progress. 

He did fall for the food pretty hard though. We both loved the potato salad at a chicken shop in the food court of a shopping center. I know it probably sounds like a random thing to remember. But it was cheap, delicious, fresh and satisfied my craving for pickles. It was also very different from the American southern potato salad that I’ve eaten all my life. 

This Parisian potato salad was chock full of sweet onions, Dijon and grain mustard, and herbs and vinegar. I noticed that it was egg- and mayonnaise-less. But after two bites, I forgot about the missing eggs and mayo. I didn’t even miss the tangy and sweet—and ridiculously high in sodium—relish that I craved on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. 

I usually make potato salad the way my mom makes it, but I wanted to share this healthy French potato salad recipe because it’s a great tasting, low-calorie option. 

Try it as a satisfying and flavorful side dish for various summertime meals. BBQ. Fried chicken. Or, maybe just by itself with some grilled veggies.

Click here for my recipe for Parisian potato salad. Hope you enjoy it!

What We’ve Been Doing for the Last Five Months, Plus My Homage to Café Lafayette: Shrimp Fritters

For nearly five months of lock down, my family and I have enjoyed getting fat from eating too much soul food—not my mom because she eats like a bird and not my son because he loses weight as he gains it. He’s in the Ninja phase.

Also, on our list of quarantine activities are:

  • cleaning
  • fighting like Ninjas
  • completing online learning tasks (now the endless summer packet)
  • working from home
  • reading and watching the news
  • becoming addicted to the news
  • getting sick of the news
  • avoiding the news 
  • loving the videos and pictures of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests across the country

Of course, my all-time favorite activities are cooking, eating great food and hearing how wonderful my food tastes.

During the quarantine, I’ve made a bunch of new things. Among the best is a shrimp and sweet potato fritter. My love for the late, great, and quaint Café Lafayette’s shrimp fritters, inspired me to make it. 

Before the treasured Fort Greene spot, Café Lafayette, closed in 2017, my sister and I spent quite a few Sundays brunching in the living-room sized restaurant. Downing mimosas and Kir Royales. Listening to Nina Simone and other Blues notables. Regrettably sharing one chocolate lava cake, instead of ordering two. 

Café Lafayette was one of OUR places, which meant neither of us were allowed to bring anyone else there. We also agreed that the shrimp fritter—juicy morsels of shrimp laced with crispy shreds of sweet potatoes and carrots—was a remarkable, tasty and satisfying bite. 

My family loved my recreation of this shrimp fritter. Omitting the carrots, I added a bunch of other stuff to add flavor and to “French” it up a bit. It’s definitely lighter, moister and richer than I remember.

Try it and I think you’ll agree that it’s the kind of appetizer that takes the word “appetizer” to whole new level.

For the shrimp and sweet potato fritter recipe and more healthy, French cooking, check out Frealthy, a page for francophiles that love to cook.

Video by Melinda Wright.