Last night at the Restaurant School in Philadelphia, I was among 22 new members inducted into the Philadelphia Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International chapter by president Natayna DiBona and First Vice President Lynn Buono. I was honored and excited, inspired, and well-fed.
Around tables of eight, current and new members introduced ourselves before the delicious multicourse dinner was served. Ordering a vegetarian or vegan dinner was an option, and beautifully done at that.
Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) was founded in 1976, in New York City in honor of Auguste Escoffier, whom Les Dames’ mission statement credits with having “single-handedly brought the culinary art into the modern era.” Today, LDEI is a philanthropic organization of women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. The by-invitation international membership is composed of over 2,300 members in 40 chapters in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico, and highly diversified, reflecting the multifaceted fields of contemporary gastronomy and hospitality.
Last night’s induction was warm, festive, and exciting. There were so many interesting stories, and in talking with new member Angelina Branch, James Beard Finalist best chef and chef and owner of Sate Kamar, it turns out we live around the corner from each other. She drove me home.
First VP Lynn Buono of Feast Your Eyes Catering had catered the Diner En Blanc event I attended, and I’d swooned over her vegan dinner. DEB, as it is known, is President Natayna’s event.
Last night, Dame Lynn Buono recounted a story of interconnectedness, one I was happy to hear, all the more after the sad events of the last few weeks. It was about cookies she’d made for the evening. The recipe comes from Dame Joan Nathan’s cookbook King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.
These absolutely meltingly tender shortbread type cookies are made with tahini, and Lyn noted using Soom Tahini from new member Shelby Zitelman’s company Soom Foods. After eating two cookies, I spoke with Lyn who said that veganizing was unneeded, as made with oil, these cookies are vegan. This morning I found the recipe on Eater.com, as I do not yet have Joan’s cookbook. I made a half batch as a test, and ate more than one or two. No resisiting these melt-in-your-mouth cookies, even the ones that were slightly overbaked.
Try these cookies! You’ll thank me I promise. Add a comment to this blog. I’ll thank you. Share the blog too, please.
Now here you are! Cookies. Easy, scrumptious and happen to be vegan!
Tahina/tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds, and sesame seeds are rich in calcium. Still, not the best choice for breakfast, but I was testing. I plated the cookies on my Grandma Ida’s dish, thinking that Grandpa Joe, who loved halvah. He would have flipped for these, and Grandma would’ve said, “You’re all right kid! Enjoy.”
I made just a few changes to the recipe posted on Eater.
- I added a few more tablespoons of flour.
- I refrigerated the dough 15 minutes, until it was firmer and easier to shape.
- I dusted the balls of dough in sugar.
Joan Nathan’s Tahina Cookies
These are pure melt in your mouth cookies! You could say these are accidentally vegan, I say these are intentionally, irresistibly delectable cookies that everyone can enjoy.
- 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup organic cane sugar, lightly ground plus a bit more for shaping
- 13 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup tahini, stirred
- blanched and peeled almonds, 1 for each cookie
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the oil and sugar. Mix in the flour, salt, and baking powder, and then the vanilla and the tahini.
- Refrigerate the dough 15 minutes, or until it is firm enough to shape. It will remain a soft dough.
- Drop half teaspoons of dough into a bowl of sugar, roll about the size of a large marble and put on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Press slightly to flatten with your hand lightly and press an almond in the center of each.
- Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until very lightly golden, not browned, and beginning to crisp.
- Let cookies cool completely before removing from the baking sheet.
- Do not attempt to remove them from the sheet pan until they have cooled. They are fragile.
- The original recipe calls for butter or oil. Oil makes the cookies parve, but so does vegan butter. I used sunflower oil.
- I made the cookies in an electric stand mixer but think they can be made in a bowl with a heavy spoon and good beating.