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MoFo #18: Absinthe shortbread

Over the summer, I assisted an editorial photoshoot at a bar in Chicago with one of the largest absinthe collections in the US. While adjusting lights, wiping up stray ice water, and sampling absinthe prepared the traditional French method, I also listened to anecdotes and history lessons as colorful as the spirit. Modern day absinthe consumption alludes to 19th and 20th century Europe, where the drink became wildly popular, notably among French writers and artists. The name comes from the Latin name for wormwood, artemisia absinthium. The three necessary ingredients in absinthe are anise, fennel, and wormwood, but the variations, additions, and methods can be as diverse as wine making.

To serve, a slotted spoon with a single sugar cube is placed on top of a glass containing the bright green liquid. Ice water is slowly dripped into the glass, dissolving the sugar cube, diluting the absinthe, and creating a chemical reaction that turns the concoction into a milky green color.

This shortbread contains no absinthe or alcohol at all. Instead, the flavor is alluded to with star anise and fennel, and the mint green color courtesy of food coloring.

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MoFo #16: Milwaukee Monday

Ian’s Pizza has vegan lasagna pizza, mac n cheese pizza, bbq pizza, burrito, cheeseburger, and many other crazy pizza selections. They’re right across the street from Whole Foods and hold vegan slice nights at least once a week, a tradition that’s been going strong since early this year. Whether meeting up with a group of Milwaukee vegan ladies or getting pizza to-go, Ian’s is one of my favorite vegan-friendly places in Milwaukee to dine in or get take out.

Vegan mac n cheese and Smokey the Bandit slices:

I also have a pizza eating reputation to uphold. It’s very serious business:

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MoFo #13: Milwaukee Monday

I walk over to Glorioso’s Italian Market several times per week. It’s my go-to destination for weeknight meal ingredients, produce, olives, and pasta. Unless I’m following a recipe or planning a meal, I make Italian food pretty much 90% of the time in day to day life. Italian desserts, however, are heavily dairy-based: mascarpone, ricotta, cannoli, and tiramisu come to mind. These aren’t the simplest recipes to veganize on the fly, so I haven’t delved too deeply. Still, every time I pass the wall of kitchen gadgets at Glorioso’s, I covet the the utensils, pasta makers, and dessert contraptions. Despite the fact they were only a few dollars, I never had a legitimate reason to buy cannoli tubes besides creating a collection of random unused kitchen toys. Then a few weeks ago, I decided I’d buy some, make cannoli, and write about it for MoFo.

I had cannoli all the time as a child, but don’t remember really caring for it. The same is true with cheesecake and other non-vegan cheese-based desserts. But since I enjoy vegan cheesecake, perhaps the same would be true for vegan cannoli. When I think cannoli, pistachio and chocolate chip come to mind, so I decided to make cannoli with a basic filling and chopped pistachios. The thought of dessert ricotta makes me barfy, as does raw tofu in desserts, so I preferred the cannoli made with some of the mascarpone from last week’s tiramisu. For that, and few other reasons, I’m still working out some kinks in the recipe. But the cannoli were tasty! A crispy deep fried shell with a sweet and creamy filling and salty chocolate garnish.

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MoFo #12: Two sets of truffles

Truffles are such a simple dessert to put together, but they never fail to impress. Plus, a basic truffle recipe can be altered to include almost any flavors. They’re a perfect accompaniment to an array of desserts, providing a cocoa or chocolate-coated silky finish to a meal.

Mexican Coffee
Chocolate and coconut-based, this truffle is infused with cinnamon, coffee, coffee liquor, and tequila. While it would be a nice finish to a meal of enchiladas, chips, and guacamole, I’d be inclined to include them with breakfast.

Orange Chocolate
A healthy dose of Grand Marnier and orange zest livens up a simple chocolate truffle for a citrus undertone. Coated in powdered sugar, these flavors remind me of winter, hot cocoa, and holidays.

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Vegan MoFo #11: Poached pears

The wine chapter in my upcoming book was coming up a little short, so I decided to make a very classic dessert: poached pears.

There are dozens of ways to make poached pears, from choosing the type of wine, to the spices, citrus, and serving method. I decided on Merlot, lemon, and a mix of cinnamon, star anise, and cloves.

After poaching the pears, the whole spices are strained out of the liquid. Then it can be boiled down to a sweet, brightly colored syrup for serving.

I made these the day after tiramisu, so the idea of mascarpone was still fresh in my head. I whipped up a small batch to serve the pears with while they were poaching.

The brilliant magenta color stole the show, and the lightly sweet and spicy pears were simply dreamy eaten with mascarpone.

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Vegan MoFo #10: A simple salami sandwich

I was browsing the vegan and vegetarian section of Whole Foods a little while back and noticed all the Yves products were on sale. Lunch meats and other packaged meatless products are not something I buy regularly, but I like to try new things if I hear good reviews, a product looks really interesting, or if it’s on sale. The Yves meatless salami caught my eye that day and I decided it was so weird that I had to try it. As a kid, salami was one of my favorite foods. I’d eat it on sandwiches with veggies and mustard, with pickles, or straight out of the package. Sometimes I’d eat it with chocolate…I know, gross! But isn’t that kind of the idea of the current bacon and chocolate craze? Another method of consumption is the salami and peanut butter sandwich. I haven’t had the (dis?)pleasure, but Dawn Summers made one on Buffy (a quick Google search reveals she’s apparently not alone).

The sandwiches I made with the meatless version are a bit more conventional. Y’know, salami, lettuce, mustard, vegenaise, and tomato on toasted bread:

The verdict? The Yves people made sure to add the creepy speckles of fat throughout the slices, so I suppose that’s in the plus column for authenticity. The flavor was good and quite reminiscent of the real thing. Initially, there was a little burst of flavor, then a couple seconds later, the flavor really mellowed and it seemed a bit bland. That’s okay on a sandwich, but I won’t be eating it out of the package. Overall, it was tasty and made an easy lunch, but the flavors could be much sharper.