Dairy-free Chocolate Orange Ice Cream

When I was thirteen or so I spent a few sunny Saturdays at Golden Gate Park.  A typical Bay Area weekend destination, right?  I’d agree, except my days weren’t spent riding the carousel, climbing the beautiful Strawberry Hill, or watching the buffalo graze.  Instead, I was at the casting pond with my dad, learning how to fly fish (or, more accurately, f*&king around with a rod and fishing line and biding my time until we could drive past the buffalo again.)

I remember going back to the casting pond at least a handful of times, though.  No, it wasn’t because I developed a passion for the sport.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any thirteen year old girl eager to fly fish.  My return to the pond was built upon the promise of post-casting visits to Swensen’s, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.  Apart from the kitschy atmosphere, Swensen’s offered one thing that you wouldn’t find elsewhere: the coveted Swiss Orange Chip flavor, reminiscent of those foil-wrapped chocolate oranges you find during the holidays.  So, while my dad never instilled in me a passion for fishing, he did pass on his good taste in ice cream flavors.

Though there’s no ice cream maker involved, this simple dessert sets up beautifully.  The bit of fat from the coconut milk allows it to retain its creaminess in the freezer.

If the chocolate orange flavor profile isn’t your thing, change it up!  Leave out the orange and/or chocolate, add a different type of fruit, or drop in a few spoonfuls of peanut butter for my favorite classic variation.  I know banana ice cream has been featured just about everywhere, so there’s no lack of ideas around the internet.
Chocolate Orange Banana “Ice Cream”

  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 3 or 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/4 cup full fat canned coconut milk
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: chocolate chips and sweetener – sugar, agave, stevia (Depending on your tastebuds and the ripeness of the bananas)

1.  Place all ingredients in food processor and grind until smooth and creamy.

2. If too thick, add more coconut milk.

3. Taste and adjust sweetener to your liking

This can be eaten immediately or stored in the freezer.  After freezing, allow the ice cream to sit out for 5-10 minutes to thaw out a bit, as it will be difficult to scoop straight out of the freezer.

Baked Ziti with Tofu Basil ‘Ricotta’

I have an incredibly detail-oriented memory, especially for food.   I could tell you exactly what I ordered in a restaurant six years ago, or the first time I ever tasted a certain food, but I’m strapped to remember what day of the week it is right now.

The first time I remember having baked ziti was in 2007.  My parents were religiously devoted to The Sopranos and wanted to make a night of the much-anticipated series finale.  And what better way to celebrate the end of the uber-italian mob classic than with a classic baked ziti?  So, I cooked some pasta, mixed it with mounds of mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, and tomato sauce, threw it in the oven and awaited the formation of a gooey, bubbly, golden brown top.  It was absolutely delicious, and became one of our regular meals until I moved out for school.

It’s been a few years since I cooked that dish for my parents and I wanted to reinvent it this week.  I probably single-handedly caused every Italian grandmother to roll over in her grave when I decided to get rid of the cheese altogether, all for the sake of experimentation.  This ziti is a far cry from the original, but still really delicious

BAKED ZITI WITH TOFU RICOTTA AND GRILLED EGGPLANT (makes 6 servings)

3/4 box rigatoni or ziti

1.5 to 2 cups tomato sauce of choice

1 16 ounce container firm tofu

3-4 tablespoons  nutritional yeast

8 leaves basil

2 cloves garlic (optional)

1 large japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds

Olive oil, for grilling

(Preheat oven to 375)
1.  Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente

2.  Toss eggplant slices with about a tablespoon of oil and a couple pinches of salt.  Grill until tender

optional: if using garlic, saute for 2 minutes in a teaspoon of oil at this point

3. Blend tofu, nutritional yeast, basil, and garlic (if using) in a food processor or mash tofu by hand with a fork and add nutritional yeast and finely chopped basil and garlic.

4. Combine about 1/4 of the tofu “ricotta” mixture to the tomato sauce.

5. Drain pasta and add to tomato sauce; stir until coated

6. Pour pasta into a greased baking pan

7. Top pasta with remaining “ricotta” and grilled eggplant

8.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until top starts to brown