Monday, April 30, 2012

Friends Without Carbs!

The other night, I invited a small crew of old friends to dinner.  By old, I mean some of us have known each other for going on 30 years.  The first guest I will mention we will call Mr. Linchpin, because I planned the dinner for and around him.  I met Mr. Linchpin in Young Democrats back when I was 24 years old.

The second and third guests are husband and wife.  The husband just happens to be pals with Mr. Linchpin.  I met him at 25, when his mom was scheming to undo his relationship with a shiksa.  She invited me to Passover seder hoping (unbeknownst to me) I'd interest him enough to throw over his then-girlfriend.  The ruse was a quick flop, because it turned out that I already knew his girlfriend.  That girlfriend became his wife, and she is guest number three.

The fourth old friend I've known probably since I was about 30, because she and I were both assisting the same nonprofit organization.  I was their lobbyist.  She provided pro bono legal advice.  And funny enough, by that time, the Mr. Linchpin happened to be the president of the organization's board and guest number three was an employee there.  It all makes you want to break out into Disney's "It's a small, small world."  

Fortunately, we didn't spend too much time fa-de-la'ing down memory lane.  The come-lately's at the dinner, Mr. Linchpin's lovely wife, my own boyfriend and a dear friend I met about two years ago who also just happens to know the Linchpins, were quite tolerant of the short little forays occasionally made.

Oh, gee.  I almost forgot to mention why I planned a party for the Linchpins.  They bought themselves a new 3G iPad for the holidays, and bequeathed their still-perfectly-working 2G iPad to me.  They decided I needed to enter the iGeneration.  I decided I needed to feed them.  How else to properly thank them?

Wow, sometimes I get way off track.  The original purpose of this blog was to share a recipe for low carb cupcakes - no processed sugar or flour at all - that were delicious.  The Linchpins are vegetarian and Mr. Linchpin is on a low carb diet.

Of course, so am I.  These days, if you pick your diet by reading everything out there, you'll be on one low carb diet or another.

Normally, I'd have simply made a carb-free sorbet in my awesome Cuisinart ice cream maker, but my freezer tub stopped freezing, and the replacement I purchased on, despite looking identical, is apparently for a larger model.

As it happens, it's a lucky thing the ice cream maker is down, because I settled on these cupcakes, and they were delicious.  What a far cry from the dry, Passover matzah meal dessert I was afraid they'd be!  To be safe, I drizzled them with low carb (but, I'm afraid, decidedly not low fat) lemon ricotta drizzle and garnished them with strawberry slices.  Yum.

It was all very comforting, to be hanging out, enjoying a meal and laughing hard with really good friends.

Vanilla Almond Flour Cake
3 eggs, separated
¼ c oil
½ c honey*
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 ½ c almond flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda

*Sub out the honey for estevia and add 1/2 cup of other liquid.  I used unsweetened almond milk.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 10 muffin tins.  Whisk egg yolks in large bowl till pale.  Whisk in oil, honey, vanilla & lemon juice.  Combine the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture.  In separate bowl, beat egg whites until siff peaks.  Fold whites into yolk mixture.  Scoop batter into muffin tins.  Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown, toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for half an hour.

Lemon Ricotta Drizzle
1 1/2 cups fresh, whole milk ricotta
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream

I worried that the lemon juice might curdle ricotta or cream, but in the interest of time and because I've never had an adequately developed aversion to risk, I put all the liquids together into a blender, including the eggs.  Then I creamed the cheeses together, and added them and the rest of the stuff very slowly.   It all worked beautifully and then I put it in the fridge and it firmed up enough to spoon over the muffins.  If you prefer the mixture firm up into custard, follow the directions below and reduce the lemon juice to just one teaspoon.  Frankly, I like the more lemony flavor better, but it won't firm to custard with that much liquid.  Maybe you could use the lemon juice in lieu of the heavy cream.  With the two cheeses, how rich does it have to be, really?  

Alternative recipe for custard:  Beat the ricotta and cream cheese together on low speed with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt and when it is incorporated add the eggs. Mix on low speed until smooth and mix in the cream.  Refrigerate until it firms up.

As usual, I got both of these recipes from cooking blogs and monkeyed with them so they're no longer the same recipes.  You can find the original almond meal cake recipe by clicking here, and you can find the lemon custard recipe by clicking here.

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