I tend to miss the boat when it comes to holidays. Most bloggers will plan their Easter or Passover posts way in advance, but I always seem to come up with recipes days (or even weeks) after. Doesn’t do much good, does it? No, not really. Which is why this year, I’m jumpin’ the gun.
Now, I didn’t plan on having this recipe relate to Passover. That just kind of happened. What really brought on this vegan treat was the Marx Food Ridiculously Delicious Challenge that I’ve been involved with these past two months. If you don’t remember, this contest consists of four rounds. The first was fairly basic (we had to pick what items from their store we would want to win and, if successful, what we’d do with them), but since then they have gotten progressively more complicated.
The second and third rounds required us to use ingredients that they provided to prepare a recipe (one original and one that we had to “remake” from another contestant’s site). The Marx Food box of mystery ingredients consisted of a variety of sugars and spices, which were a blast to work with. The first recipe I made was a Chocolate-Cherry Scone with Saffron and the second recipe was for Chermoula Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa, both turned out to be quite a hit among family and friends.
Which now brings us to the last, and final, round of the competition.
Last week, those of us who were still standing were shipped a secret “perishable” ingredient that we were going to have to use in an original recipe. We chatted anxiously about what it could be. Meat seemed to be out, as there were too many of us who were veggie-friendly. We then thought cheese! Oh, how wonderful that would be!
What arrived was something that none of us expected: fresh wasabi root. That’s right. Fresh wasabi.
Now, I’ve always been a huge fan of wasabi, but I have never worked with the fresh varietal. And let me tell you, it is a pleasure. I’m really not sure how I could go back to the oozy paste that you buy at the store (the price may scare me away).
As soon as it arrived, my brain went into high gear coming up with concepts for what to make. I sat at my desk and began jotting down notes… and soon, the idea was formed. The inspiration comes from two places: a magnificent vegan “cheesecake” that I had at the Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco that completely changed the way I thought about tofu. And the other was a Kosher for Passover cheesecake that is served at Craigie on Main in Cambridge. The first blew my mind… as I thought it was actually cheesecake that I was eating (and you know how I feel about cheesecake). The one from Craigie was all about the crust, which consisted of pine nuts and matzo meal. One bite of each of these, and I was slouched in my chair, with a big dumb grin on my face.
So, why not mix the two together? And, do you know what, this really works. In fact, it was such a success that I was able to serve it at my mother-in-law’s birthday party and everyone finished their plates (which means that they either liked it, or didn’t want to make me feel bad… but let’s just say that they enjoyed it).
*Amendment to the original post: Apparently I neglected to tell you all how it actually tastes. And now why would you care about something as silly as that? Ok, I’ll tell you. This particular type of wasabi (daruma) had a subtle heat that progressed the longer you have it in your mouth. But it was also slightly sweet, which created wonderful balance. In fact, I was nibbling on chunks of it throughout the process. Think I’m crazy? Maybe I am. If you’re a fan of fresh ginger, then you’ll love fresh wasabi. And if you’ve ever had the wonderful pairing of ginger and chocolate, then you have an idea of what to expect.
Before leaving you with the recipe, I wanted to share one last thing. In addition to submitting this recipe to the Marx Food challenge, it will also be included in a calendar that a bunch of food bloggers have banded together to create in support of Japan. When the calendar is released, it will be available for purchase, the proceeds going to an organization that is still being determined.
This is the wonderful thing about the food blogger community. It is incredibly supportive, thoughtful, and proactive. And I am so proud to be a part of it.
Note: If you don’t eat tofu on Passover, this can always be adapted to include cream cheese.
2 lbs firm tofu
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
1.75 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1.5 tbsp wasabi (fresh, if possible, or paste)
2 pieces of matzo, broken into large chunks
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tbsp sugar
Drain the tofu between a couple towels (or multiple paper towels, which you will need to replace after about 15 minutes) and place a weight on top for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place all of the crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarse. Pour into a 9 inch springform pan and spread across the bottom. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, take out and let cool.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend the tofu and sugar until it has become fully incorporated. Add the vanilla, almond, and wasabi and blend until incorporated. In a double boiler, melt 3 oz of the chocolate and then add to the tofu mixture. Blend until it is mixed in.
Pour the “cheesecake” batter over the crust and, using a spatula, smooth out across. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it has set. It will continue to set once it starts to cool, so it shouldn’t need much longer than this time.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining chocolate in the double boiler. Once it is smooth and pourable, spread across the top of the cake. Smooth out using a spatula.
Cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Before serving, grate some fresh wasabi (ginger would be nice too) over the cake.