Maryland Crab’less Cakes

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Maryland Crab’less Cakes have an amazing crab-like texture and authentic seafood flavor, which makes them an impressive seafood appetizer or first course. The cakes are baked rather than fried, which ensures that they are cooked through evenly, and with less fat. This recipe yields 8 large to 12 standard-size crab’less cakes.

Crab’less cake ingredients:
• 1 can (14 oz.) hearts of palm*
• ½ cup chopped green onions, including some of the green
• ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 2 T olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 block (14 oz.) firm or extra-firm water-packed tofu (do not use silken tofu)
• ½ sheet toasted nori seaweed, torn into pieces
• ½ cup vegan mayonnaise
• ¼ cup unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 2 tsp Chesapeake Bay™ or Old Bay™ seasoning
• 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire Sauce (pg. ) or similar
• ½ tsp fine sea salt of kosher salt
• ⅓ cup panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs) or gluten-free bread or cracker crumbs

For the breading, you will need:
• 1 cup very fine, dry breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs of your choice
• 2 tsp Chesapeake Bay™ or Old Bay™ seasoning
• cooking oil spray for misting

*Canned hearts of palm can be found in most supermarkets. Hearts of palm, when flaked, bear a resemblance to crabmeat. Hearts of palm are commercially grown and harvested in Central America and Hawaii and have absolutely no relation to the palm species from which palm oil is derived.

Technique:
Drain the liquid from the canned hearts of palm and rinse the hearts thoroughly in a colander; drain well. Cut the hearts into chunks.
Place the green onions and bell pepper into the food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the hearts of palm to the vegetables and pulse a few times until flaked. Do not purée!

Sauté the minced vegetables with the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until the excess moisture is evaporated and the onion is lightly golden but not browned. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Drain the excess water from the tofu container and cut the tofu into quarters. Wrap the quarters in a lint-free kitchen towel, twist the top closed and squeeze the water from the tofu. Place the dry tofu in the food processor with the torn nori seaweed. Add the mayonnaise, starch, Chesapeake Bay™ or Old Bay™ seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Process the mixture briefly until the tofu has a crumbly texture. Do not process until smooth!

Transfer the seasoned tofu to the mixing bowl with the sautéed vegetables and add the panko crumbs. Stir well until the mixture begins to hold together.

Form 12 patties from the mixture, about 2 and ½-inches in diameter and ½-inch thick and set on a work surface. At this point, you will want to bread and bake only what you will be serving immediately. Store any extra patties in an airtight container between layers of wax paper and freeze until ready to use.

Baking the crab’less cakes:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a bowl, combine the fine breadcrumbs with the Bay seasoning. Gently press each patty into the breadcrumbs and place onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Mist the breaded patties lightly with cooking oil spray and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully flip the patties over. Continue to bake for 20 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven and let the patties cool for 10 minutes to set. Serve immediately with a sauce of your choice.

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Rose Ice Cream (Cashew Base)

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The heavenly floral fragrance and flavor of roses is perfectly captured in this rather unusual frozen confection. In Persian cuisine, this ice cream treat, called “Bastani”, also contains saffron and toasted chopped pistachios. However, I’ve kept the recipe simple and affordable, as saffron is very expensive; but the option is provided if you choose to be traditional. I’ve also added beet powder to produce the lovely pastel rose color, but this is purely optional and should be omitted when preparing Bastani. An ice cream maker is required for this recipe.

A word of caution! Floral flavors in food are exotic and unfamiliar to most Westerners. I recommend adding ½ tsp of rosewater to 4 oz. of non-dairy milk and tasting it to see if you find it agreeable before making an entire quart of ice cream. When blending the mixture for the ice cream, begin with 1 tablespoon of rosewater, taste it and then add more to your liking.

Ingredients:
• 1 and ½ cup (7.5 oz.) whole raw cashews
• 3 cups filtered water
• 1 and ¼ cup organic sugar
• 1 to 2 T rosewater (available where Middle Eastern foods are sold)
• ½ tsp guar gum
• optional: ½ tsp beet powder for color (omit for Bastani and use a few saffron threads instead)
• optional: ½ cup unsalted, toasted and chopped pistachios

Technique:
Soak the cashews in water for a minimum of 8 hours. Drain and discard the water and add the cashews to a high-powered blender. Add the filtered water and process on high speed for 2 full minutes.

Thoroughly strain the cream through a nut milk bag or through a strainer lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth. Gently massage the bag to help the cream pass through or stir the cream in the strainer with a spoon.

Add the cashew cream back to the blender with the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT for the optional pistachios, and process briefly until combined. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and is heated through. Do not boil.

Note: If you’re making traditional Persian Bastani, add the saffron threads while the mixture is cooking. After cooking, pass the mixture through a strainer to remove the threads and proceed with the recipe as usual.

Remove from the heat and let cool until warm (stir the mixture occasionally to discourage a “skin” from forming on the surface).

Once cooled, pour the mixture into a container with a lid and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. When well chilled, pour the cream mixture into your ice cream maker and process the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. If using pistachios, add the pistachios at this time (or simply top the prepared ice cream with them). The ice cream will freeze hard when stored in the freezer.

To serve, thaw briefly until it reaches the desired texture for scooping.

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