Q&A: Healthy dessert is fancy enough for a fes­tive gath­er­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Th­ese are edited ex­cerpts from a re­cent on­line food chat.

Q: It seems more and more peo­ple are eat­ing a healthy diet. When some­one brings cake or cook­ies for a cel­e­bra­tion at work, half of the food goes un­eaten. Is there any­thing you can think of to bring for a farewell or birth­day party that feels fes­tive but won’t sab­o­tage peo­ple’s good eat­ing habits?

A: Try a twist on a tra­di­tional Moroc­can or­ange salad — just mar­i­nate peeled or­ange slices in or­ange blos­som water and a dust­ing of cin­na­mon and pow­dered sugar for a few hours. Then, for some­thing fes­tive, top with pome­gran­ate seeds, chopped pis­ta­chios and fresh mint. It’s re­fresh­ing and light when hol­i­day meals tend to be heavy, and it is very colour­ful and el­e­gant! You can re­ally top fresh or­ange slices with so many things: grated choco­late and chopped nuts with a driz­zle of hazel­nut oil, for ex­am­ple, for a more health­ful dessert op­tion.

Q: I bought some of the last peaches from the farm­ers’ mar­ket, but some un­ex­pected things have come up and I haven’t been able to do any­thing with them yet. As such, they’re de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rapidly. If I cut them up and freeze them now, can I still make a pie with them or will they be too mushy? Any other sug­ges­tions for frozen peaches? (No can­ning, please.)

A: You can ab­so­lutely freeze peaches and use them later for a pie — or smooth­ies, cob­blers or any­thing else that needs a punch of peach. I’d sug­gest peel­ing them first, es­pe­cially if they are al­most over­ripe, be­cause the skin gets re­ally fuzzy and isn’t so pleas­ant to eat, and then cut them into wedges. Then toss them in a lit­tle fresh lemon juice to help pre­serve the colour and spread them out on a bak­ing sheet and let them freeze solid. Af­ter they are frozen, place them into a zip-top freezer bag and they’ll stay frozen for a few months.

Q: What is a good tem­per­a­ture to bake cau­li­flower flo­rets?

A: Crank the oven to 475-500 F. Make sure to pre­heat the roast­ing pan and make sure to not crowd the cau­li­flower. If there’s not space between the flo­rets, they won’t brown as eas­ily, and will in­stead steam, which leads to mush. Just toss them with a good dose of olive oil, salt and the spice of your choice, if you’d like.

Q: My gar­den is giv­ing me lots of sage right now. I would like to use it up, or save it for fu­ture use. Any recipes that use a bunch of sage at once? Or, bet­ter yet, a way to save sage for the fu­ture? I have dried it be­fore, but maybe there are other ways to pre­serve?

A: Su­gared sage is a won­der­ful gar­nish for desserts. It’s ba­si­cally just sage leaves brushed lightly with a mix­ture of egg whites and water then sprin­kled with su­perfine sugar. They have a won­der­ful crunchy sweet and savoury flavour that’s great to top off the whipped cream on ap­ple or berry pies.

Q: I have a mess of pears and some cream cheese that I’d like to use up. Look­ing for a dessert ad­ven­ture here!

A: I see a pear tart in your fu­ture.

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