Platters overflowing with fruit, nuts, cheese ’n’ crackers or cured meats are festive choices for New Year’s get-togethers, be they during the final hours of 2018 or for college football bowl games on Jan. 1. Here are two parve suggestions that can be used with either dairy or meat-based platters, or go ahead and use vegan cheeses and/or plant-based meats if that’s the way you roll.
The fig cake makes a wonderful appetizer by itself, or as an accompaniment to cheese or charcuterie platters. I had little luck making my own crackers until I tried the recipe from the Miyoko Schinner cookbook, “The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples.” Her recipe below — adapted for space, style and to reflect my experience with it — is used with her permission.
Dried Fig Cake with Almonds
Serves 4 to 6
- Vegetable oil
- 4 oz. Smyrna or other dried figs
- Hot water, if needed
- About ½ cup blanched whole almonds, divided
- 1 oz. glacé orange peel, or 2 tsp. fresh grated orange zest
- 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, plus 1 to 2 tsp. more if needed
Heavily oil bottom and sides of an 8-oz. round or oval custard cup or similar mold. If figs are very hard, cover with hot water and let sit until just pliable (but not soft). Drain. Pat dry. Discard water. Totally cover bottom of the oiled mold with almonds. Measure out ¼ cup from the remainder (save leftover for another use) and chop those in food processor until the bits are about ¼ inch. Add figs and orange peel. Pulse until mixture is chopped into about ⅛-inch pieces. With processor running, pour in 1 Tbs. vinegar. Process until mixture forms a ball. If mixture is too dry to form a ball, process again with additional 1 to 2 tsp. vinegar. Pack into mold, pressing hard to embed whole almonds. Wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm. Can be made and kept refrigerated a few days ahead. An hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and run a knife along sides, turn mold upside-down over serving plate and unmold. Press any loose almonds back on.
Note: Use two 8-oz. molds if doubling recipe.
Miyoko Schinner’s As You Like It Crackers
Adapted from “The Homemade Vegan Pantry”
- Serves 8
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ cup water, plus more as needed
Have ready two large sheets of parchment paper and two baking trays or sheets (each about 13-by-18 inches. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and sea salt. Mix well. Drizzle in olive oil. Mix with sturdy spoon. Batter will look like cornmeal. Do not break up any lumps. Add water. Mix well. Dough will look a little rough. If there are patches of dry flour add up to 2 Tbs. more water. Do not overwork or try to make the batter smooth.
Gather batter into ball and divide in half. Pat each half into a rectangle about ½-inch thick. Place one rectangle between the two sheets of parchment paper. Roll out dough between paper as thin as possible until it is nearly the size of the pan. (Pressing hard and using a heavy rolling pin works best). Transfer to pan, removing parchment paper. Put second rectangle between parchment sheets. Repeat.
Leave crackers whole or use a sharp knife and cut dough into squares or rectangles.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Let cool. Break whole crackers into irregular pieces, if desired. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.
To make herb crackers, add 1 Tbs. of dried herbs (I used za’atar ) to flour mixture. If desired, also add ½ tsp. of garlic powder.