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