I was looking forward to making "my" vegan chocolate mousse for my friend's birthday dinner. I had discovered the recipe last winter when my niece was to be with us for Thanksgiving, and it had unanimously been declared to be better than the more traditional version. No animals were harmed in the process, and the richness and unctuosity of the coconut milk blended with the rich, dark cocoa had me close my eyes with every bite.
The recipe is easy and just quirky enough as it requires some fun manipulation of the can of coconut milk (yes, I will give you the recipe if you ask), but it does ask for a wee bit of planning. Specifically, that one place the coconut milk in the freezer the night before.
Or so I remembered.
From that moment on, it is all easy-peasy, and you can go from no-mousse to lovely cups of billowy mousse in a few minutes.
Except for the fact that the overnight stay has to be in the fridge, not in the freezer. Which turns out to be a massive difference. Who knew?
With two hours until our guests were to arrive, I wrestled that can of perfectly frozen coconut milk in more ways than I care to recount. I cajoled, I pried, I immersed, I begged, I scooped. I swore in French, and I laughed.
In return, it slipped, it sputtered, chunks of milky stuff alternately making a straight line for the floor and a fast burst to the ceiling.
Finally, I gave up.
With one hour till show time.
Cleaning up the scene of the madness (I always think/intuit better in a neutral environment), I went through my mental Rolodex of awesome-and-quick desserts. Nothing came up.
Finally, I just "asked" - the way I have learned to ask when I know that my own little mind is not going to be my best ally. I simply asked: "Ok. What should I make now?"
And as is usually the case when we ask with a calm and trusting mind, the answer was quasi-immediate. Albeit a tad surprising.
"Malhebi" was the answer.
As a start, the last time I had Malhebi was at least four decades ago. Then, there was the fact that I have never made it. All good reasons to second guess the situation.
Except that I could not. Because now, I was overtaken by the memory of the restaurant of my childhood, the special place where I spent many, many Sunday afternoons. "Les Diamantaires" was a Greek restaurant that belonged to friends of my grandpa and where I could never get enough of the food, the language, the energy, and Yaya - who seemed to be everyone's grandma. Very very young, I would delight in the food of my ancestors as my mom used to say: "ça, c'est l'atavisme," giving some sense to my cells who deeply recognized the nourishment they needed to thrive. Generational stuff. We can't mess with that.
And yes, for dessert, pretty much always a small jar of bright white, cold and exotically perfumed Malhebi. Which I had never made nor had any idea how to go about serving to my friends.
But when we are guided, the doors open.
Google came to the rescue, as did a willing trip to the grocery store from the man who likes to create in the kitchen with me, and off we went!
Two hours later, after a delicious Mexican feast, I walked out of the kitchen and onto the deck carrying a tray full of little cups of rosewater-enhanced white creamy delightfulness. A colorful paper umbrella in each one, I served my friends an intimate taste of my childhood.
And you know what? It was perfect. Not even a hint of the disappointment that can creep in when we try to recreate a long ago memory. Nope. PERFECT.
And even for me who adores all things chocolate, hands down a winner over chocolate mousse.
So today, I invite you to trust that when something is fighting us at all turns and very loudly saying "no!" - we can take a deep breath, start calmly cleaning up the mess even when we don't know what's coming next. And then, we can ask. Chances are we will end up with something we could never have guessed we were capable of creating. Something amazing.
Because while we know what we know, and we also know what we don't know, we sure don't know what we don't know. And that's often where the magic lives.
Finally, because the best things in life are often better shared, I invite you to join me in adding some exotic, easy delight to your life - and maybe your friends' lives - by preparing some lovely Malhebi.
4 cups milk (or cream, or coconut milk, or a combo)
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch, diluted in 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rosewater
4 ounces chopped nuts
Bon appetit! (and let me know how much you like it, ok?)