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An exclusive recipe from The Brain Health Kitchen
For the love of strawberries
It is finally strawberry season and I’m excited to come to you this week with an exclusive recipe that I am absolutely obsessed with.
My friend,who writes , published a cookbook this January of the same name. An ob-gyn who retired from medicine to pursue a culinary career, Dr. Fenn became focused on cooking to help prevent cognitive decline when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015. She launched Brain Health Kitchen the same year and since then has specialized and instructed many in the MIND diet (a mashup of the Mediterranean and DASH diets). It identifies and encourages the consumption of the 10 food groups that that benefit brain function the most - berries, leafy, greens, vegetables, fish and seafood, whole grains, nuts and seeds, poultry, beans and legumes, and olive oil. Her cookbook follows the same framework.
I feel lucky to have made her acquaintance through Substack and even got to meet her during her book tour!
Between her solid research and passion for making incredible food, this cookbook is a no-brainer (sorry, had to!) for those of us who care about protecting our brains or might be caring for loved ones with dementia.
While there are dozens of recipes that I have bookmarked to cook through, Dr. Fenn kindly agreed to let me share this one with my audience. Strawberries and vanilla creme fraiche are my favorite dessert to have in the summer and this recipe takes it up several notches by roasting the strawberries first and bringing out a depth of flavor that’s enhanced by the balsamic vinegar. And for those of us that might be trying to eat a little less dairy, the cashew cream is indeed almost instant and impossibly delicious. I have made this several times and often just roast the strawberries in my air-fryer for 15 minutes at 325F when I don’t plan ahead for dinnertime and they turn out beautifully. I hope you try and enjoy it - it’s an excellent dessert for summer hosting outdoors as well. And please check out the cookbook - it is brilliant (and I’m giving away a copy - details at the bottom)!
Roasted Strawberries with Almost Instant Cashew Cream
Excerpted from The Brain Health Kitchen by Annie Fenn (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2023. Photographs by Alexandra Grablewski.
While peak-of-summer strawberries are best simply eaten out of hand, this recipe makes good use of fresh strawberries wherever you can buy them—at the farm stand, your grocery store, or larger big-box stores. Roasting strawberries concentrates their flavor—going from raw to jammy and complex. Paired with vanilla-flecked cashew cream, the strawberries become a fancy dessert thanks to the contrast of sticky fruit with rich cream.
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds (910 g) strawberries, quartered (about 4½ cups)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1¼ cups (300 ml) Almost Instant Cashew Cream (see below)
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unhulled sesame seeds, black, white, or a mix
1 heaping tablespoon slivered fresh mint leaves, plus any flowers from the plant (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Toss the strawberries, oil, vinegar, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the maple syrup in a large bowl. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the juices are syrupy and run only slightly when the pan is tilted. While still warm, scrape the roasted strawberries and their juices into a bowl.
3. Meanwhile, stir together the cashew cream, vanilla bean seeds, and the remaining 1 teaspoon maple syrup.
4. To serve, divide the strawberries and cashew cream between shallow bowls. Top with the sesame seeds and mint.
Tip: The tiny white flowers of a mint plant are not only edible, they are delicious. Use them to garnish the finished dish, if you like.
Almost Instant Cashew Cream
Excerpted from The Brain Health Kitchen by Annie Fenn (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2023.
Cashew cream is a delicious swap for any dish that calls for full-fat cream. Cashews provide mostly brain-friendly monounsaturated fats, but with just enough of the saturated ones to blend up rich and creamy. With my “almost instant” method, making cream from cashews is also quick. Most nut creams call for a long soak before blending, but this version requires only fifteen minutes after bringing the nuts and water to a boil.
Cashew cream is a true secret weapon in your brain-healthy cooking. Add savory ingredients, like garlic and herbs, for a pasta sauce or the base for a cheese-less pizza. Dollop on soups and grain bowls and spread on sandwiches. Or, as an alternative to sweetened whipped cream, fold in vanilla and pure maple syrup instead. Add tahini and it becomes an easy dip for fruit or a stand-in for frangipane in a pear or apple tart.
A powerful blender yields the creamiest result. You can still get good results with a food processor or a standard blender by adding a few minutes to the blending time.
Makes 1¼ cups (295 ml)
1½ cups (210 g) raw, unsalted cashews
1 cup (240 ml) fresh water, plus up to ¼ cup (60 ml) more, if needed
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Place the cashews in a small saucepan, add enough water to cover the nuts, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain, discarding the soaking water.
Transfer the cashews to a blender with the 1 cup (240 ml) fresh water and salt. Blend on low speed to make a thick paste. With the blender on medium speed, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until the cashew mixture is the consistency of heavy cream. Increase the power to high
and blend until very creamy, about 1 minute.
Transfer the cashew cream to a bowl and cover tightly. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Tip: If you want to soak the cashews instead of boiling them, combine them in a bowl with enough water to cover for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. Discard the soaking water and proceed with the recipe using fresh, room-temperature water.
v8well Good Things
There was an emergency meeting in Italy over a pasta crisis!
I’m so proud to say that The Vegetarian Reset was on another best cookbook list, this time, for beginners, from Tasting Table! To be featured on the same list as authors that I love and look up to such as Andrea Nguyen, Steven Satterfield and the late Raghavan Iyer (James Beard award winners no less!) is exhilarating and mighty humbling at the same time. Here's to delighting, enticing and inspiring more vegetable beginners in the times ahead! And yes, if you haven’t tried my paneer gnocchi, here’s another shout out :)
EVENT reminder! To celebrate AAPI month, I am hosting a cooking and tasting event with Maggie Zhu of the wildly popular blog Omnivore’s Cookbook on June 2nd! Maggie’s new cookbook, Chinese Homestyle, is a scrumptious plant-based take on Chinese home cooking. This event will be held in downtown Manhattan at the Yondu Culinary Studio, near the Brooklyn Bridge.
We will dish about our culinary journeys, Asian heritage, and what plant-based means to us. Most importantly, we will be cooking and serving bites from both cookbooks! What’s on the menu? I’ll be making my Avocado Toast with Vegan Zucchini Bread, Cucumber Papdi Chaat and Hazelnut Brownies. Maggie’s menu (fully vegan) will be posted soon. I hope this convinces you to come if you’re in the area. I’d love to meet you.
Get your copy of The Vegetarian Reset now!
If you already have my cookbook
Join my cookbook group here on Facebook and share your pictures as you cook along from the book! You can also ask questions about recipes and I will help in any way I can.
Write an honest review for The Vegetarian Reset on Amazon or Goodreads and I’ll send you a copy of The Brain Health Kitchen! (US/UK/AUS/CAN only - subject to availability). Reply to this email to send a screenshot of your submission and claim your book.