Saturday, December 19, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Maneschewitz Fruit Crumble (Vegan!)

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

Cooking a lot on your own and shopping for your own groceries really allows you to go for flexibility. This is especially the case when you can find cheap, new ingredients that you've never thought about using before. For me, this came in the case of Asian pears and Maneschewitz wine, both interesting but exciting new ingredients to cook with!

I've always been a fan of eating Asian pears whole, similarly to apples. However, I had never actually cooked with them, but wanted to give it a try because of the sweet but dense flesh that can hold up well to baking. My cousin and his roommate actually introduced me to Maneschewitz. It's a cheap, Kosher dessert wine with incredible flavor without being super strong or alcoholic. I decided to bring these two ingredients together in one of my favorite old-school desserts - fruit crumble.

Similar to a cobbler, fruit crumble has a thinner topping that isn't as dense or rich. It's incredibly easy to make vegan, so I went for that route, using simply nuts and some binding agents like flour and agave to bring it together. Combined with the fruity, sweet filling, it's an amazing warm dessert for the holiday season! 

Recipe serves 12-16 people.

For the Crumble Topping:

1 1/2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups almonds, finely chopped
(Tip: Use a food processor or blender on the nuts; a few pulses is all you need). 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or brown rice flour for gluten-free folks)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground star anise

For the Filling:

2 medium Asian pears, peeled and roughly diced
3 medium tart cooking apples, peeled and roughly diced (Braeburns and Galas are the best option)
2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Maneschewitz wine
3 tablespoons lemon juice
(Tip: Add this to your apples/pears once chopped to keep from going brown)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg


1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

2) Combine the diced Asian pears, apples, raisins, sugar, wine, lemon juice (that you didn't use on the apples/pears initially), cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer to a baking/casserole dish (this recipe works on a 13x9 casserole dish).

3) Mix together the nuts, flour, cinnamon, and star anise. Work in the agave to get clusters within the topping mixture, then spread evenly over the top of your filling.

4) Bake for 35-40 minutes, then let cool slightly before serving!

This crumble has an amazing combination of textures and flavors. You get chewiness from the raisins, softness from the cooked apples and pears, and a crunch from the nuts on top. The pears and apples keep the dish from being too sweet, which is contributed by the sugar, wine, and raisins. The lemon juice also balances it out slightly, and the nuts on top bring a richness to the dish. The overall warmth of the dish makes it an ultimate comforting dessert! 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! enjoy! =) 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Spicy Spanish Shirataki

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

When I find a new ingredient to experiment with in stores, it usually ends up being a new flavoring, whether it be a spice like Szechuan pepper or a fruit like persimmon. However, when shopping a couple of weeks ago, a newer product came across my eye - shirataki - that is more of a base of a dish than a flavor. 

Shirataki is essentially pasta. It's got an interesting, pasta-like texture, warms through extremely quickly, and absorbs flavor extremely well - much like pasta. However, it is very low-calorie, at only 40 calories per pound! This is because the shirataki is actually made from a vegetable called Konnyaku, or "Devil's Tongue". It's got a special starch in it called glucomannan that humans can't digest, meaning we can't break it down into calories while it satiates our stomachs. The calories come from soy or other flavors that are usually placed into the shirataki (ie Tofu Shirataki has some soy in it). 

This is the perfect diet base food for anyone looking to enjoying pasta dishes at a lower calorie level. I went for a spicier Spanish-Meixcan style pasta for this dish, combining flavors like chili and toasted cumin with balsamic vinegar and fresh tomatoes for a bold but balanced low calorie dish! How low, do you ask? Using the My Fitness Pal recipe calculator, one serving of the dish below is under 50 calories, with 4 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and under 50 mg of sodium. Perfect for any type of diet! 

Recipe serves 4 people.


2 8-oz packages Shirataki, drained
1 leek, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced (remove the wet pulp from the inside first!)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Thai chile (or small chili with your preference of spice), finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper


1. Add your cumin seeds to a pan on medium high heat. Toast for about 2 minutes until you can smell the cumin flavor from the pan.

2. Add in the olive oil and smoked paprika, and combine to get a reddish oil. Saute the leeks, chili, and garlic in the paprika-infused oil for 2 minutes, until the leeks turn soft. Season at this stage with your salt and pepper.

3. Deglaze the dish with balsamic vinegar, and mix well. Toss in the shirataki and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the fresh tomatoes, and serve!

This dish is incredibly warming and tasty while maintaining a healthy profile. With very little extra fat or carbs being added in, the shirataki makes for a great low-calorie dish that is perfectly balanced with the smokiness of the paprika, acidity and freshness of tomato, richness of the balsamic, and creaminess of the leeks. The aromatic cumin seeds cut through all of it to provide a great background of flavor. This has to be one of my favorite healthy dishes I've ever made!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)