Search Results for: cashew cream

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Navigating Noel: Roasted Vegetables, Farro & Porcini-Cashew Cream

Roasted Winter Vegetables & Farro

Roasted Winter Vegetables & Farro

The holiday season can present it’s own set of challenges when either hosting or being invited to a holiday dinner or party. What to serve, what to bring. Who likes what, who’s allergic to this, that or the other thing. It’s enough to make you want to go away for the holidays. I’ve hosted some pretty big dinners in the past, so I understand the amount of preparation that goes into cooking for a crowd. Here’s how I navigate Noel festivities. Whether or not a host offers to make something special for me and Bruce, I happily volunteer to prepare a dish for everyone to enjoy. Bruce and I get to eat the food that makes us feel good and it’s a nice way to show others that a plant-based diet can be sumptuous and scrumptious. We were invited to my cousin’s home for Thanksgiving and I wanted to make a dish that met certain conditions.The dish should be in keeping with tradition, so it had to be made with autumnal ingredients. Since we were traveling to New Jersey, the dish had to be portable and able to fit in the car with three humans, one dog and a dog crate. Lastly, it had to make a hearty meal for me and Bruce, yet suitable as a side dish for others to enjoy. I decided to combine a few of my favorite recipes into one scaled-down feast — Sauteed Mushrooms, Shaved Brussel Sprouts, and Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower & Chickpeas served over farro and adorned with a Porcini-Cashew Cream. It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not any more difficult than making three side dishes for a holiday dinner. You can always opt to roast the mushrooms and Brussel sprouts with the broccoli and cauliflower. Or you could saute the mushrooms and Brussel sprouts and simply steam the other vegetables. If you have leftover porcini-cashew cream, you can use it as a condiment for bean burgers or grilled vegetable sandwiches.What’s especially nice about this recipe is that everything can be prepared ahead of time and re-warmed either in the microwave or oven just before everyone’s ready to sit down for dinner. Less time fussing over food means more time making merry with family and friends. Have a joyful holiday season and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Roasted Vegetables, Farro & Porcini-Cashew Cream

Porcini Cashew Cream (recipe follows)

1 cup farro
Vegetable broth
Fresh or dried herbs to taste (thyme, sage, rosemary, etc.)

1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets

1 lb. mushrooms, sliced

4 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. Brussel sprouts, shaved

1 can chickpeas, drained
Smoked paprika

¼ cup toasted pignoli nuts

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cook the farro according to package directions, using vegetable broth instead of water and adding your choice of herbs.

Place cauliflower and broccoli in steamer basket and steam until they start to get tender. Remove and place on prepared baking sheet. Place on lowest rack and roast until the florets brown on the edges. Remove from oven and place in a large oven-proof serving bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 200F and place bowl in oven to keep warm.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Add to broccoli and cauliflower and return bowl to oven.

Add shallots to skillet and saute until softened and browned, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add Brussel sprouts and continue to cook, tossing frequently. Add to the bowl with the other vegetables and return to oven.

If necessary, wipe out skillet to remove any burned vegetables. Heat skillet on medium-high and add chickpeas. Cook until chickpeas start to brown. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Add to the bowl with the other vegetables.

To serve: spoon farro onto a plate, then add roasted vegetables on top. Drizzle porcini-cashew cream on top of farro and vegetables.

Porcini Cashew Cream

½ oz. dried Porcini mushrooms
½ cup cashews, soaked and drained
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove (preferably roasted)
Ground sage, black pepper and salt to taste

Pour ½ cup of boiling water over porcini mushrooms and let sit about 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving water, and place in container of high-powered blender. Add remaining ingredients and process on high, adding reserved porcini liquid as needed to thin out.

12 Dec 2016

Living in Style: Raw Cashew Cream Cheese

Raw Cashew Cream Cheese

Raw Cashew Cream Cheese

One of the first posts I shared on Vegicurious was for Raw Cashew Cream Cheese. This recipe is one that I’ve been making consistently, with consistent results, since I adopted a whole food, plant-based style of living. “Style of living”. Hmmm, I like the way that sounds and it gives me a new perspective on the plant food movement. The definition of style is an elegant, fashionable, or luxurious mode of living. Once in a while I make a meal that I consider elegant. And with more people adopting healthy and compassionate food choices, it certainly is fashionable. Having healthy meals ranging from everyday comfort food to gourmet feasts feels like luxury to me. I’m living (and eating) in style. So, back to the cream cheese. This recipe has always been pretty simple, but since I purchased the twister jar for my Blendtec it’s gotten even easier as I no longer need to drain it overnight in cheesecloth. The addition of lactic acid adds a more “dairy-like” creaminess to the spread and gives it a less tangy taste. The lactic acid is optional and you’ll still get good results without it. You can enjoy it straight up on bagels or try one of these cream cheese blends: veggie cream cheese with minced scallions, carrots, red bell pepper; roasted red pepper cream; walnuts and raisins; or sun-dried tomato. This is no longer a whole food, plant based; it is our style of living. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pumpernickel Bagel & Cashew Veggie Cream Cheese

Pumpernickel Bagel & Cashew Veggie Cream Cheese

Vegan Cream Cheese (soy-free + lactic acid)

1 1/2 cups raw cashew halves, soaked for 12 hours
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lactic acid powder (optional)
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt (optional)
2-3 tablespoons water (if necessary to process cashews)

Note: If you have a high-powered blender that can process nuts efficiently (Vitamix or Blendtec Twister), you may not need as much water and will not need to drain the cream cheese.

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process on high. Begin with 2 tablespoons of water and work up to 3 tablespoons if needed. The water is in the recipe just to help the mixture get as smooth as possible in the blender. Blend for 2 minutes or so, until it’s as smooth as smooth can be.
Drape a shallow bowl with cheesecloth or butter muslin. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the cheesecloth. Pull up the sides of cheesecloth and tie with a piece of string or twine. Hang the bag on a kitchen utensil and rest it inside a vase or juice pitcher and cover the whole set-up with a plastic bag. It just has to be extended in the air so that the extra liquids can drain from it.
Leave in a warm place for at least 24 hours. Then, remove from the hanging setup you’ve created, remove cheesecloth and refrigerate before serving.

08 Sep 2016

“Dairy” Godmother (aka Cashew Cream)

Vegicurious 3.31.14 011I first tried cashew cream last summer when I made Tal Ronen’s recipe for Corn Chowder. This was one of those great culinary finds for me. I like to call this my “Dairy” Godmother because it allows me to still have a little cream fix every once in awhile without actually having dairy or a guilt trip. Corn Chowder usually contains heavy cream, but his recipe contains a cream made from raw cashews. Oh, I don’t mean to play down the corn, peppers, onions, potatoes and chipotles, but the cream is heavenly. You can find the Corn Chowder and other Meatless Monday recipes on the Humane Society’s website.  Be sure to sign up for their weekly email while you’re visiting.  So back to the cashew cream. It’s quite easy to make, but before I explain how it’s made, I’d like to talk about blenders. Some time ago I purchased a kick-a** Blend Tec blender specifically to process nuts for vegan cheeses, so this is what I use all the time now. (Sorry to report that I didn’t have much success with the vegan cheeses, but I will try them again at some point.) You can probably get away with a regular blender to make the cashew cream recipe below since there’s enough water to process the cashews smoothly. This is about the easiest recipes with only two ingredients: raw cashews and water. You are bound to have a delicious outcome!

Cashew Cream

2 cups of  raw cashews soaked overnight in water

Drain, rinse and place into blender. Add enough water to just about cover the cashews.

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Process on high until super creamy. This makes about 2 cups of cashew cream.

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Store in refrigerator in a covered container.

You can stir the cream into any soup that calls for heavy cream . . . cream of broccoli, mushroom and tomato are a few that come to mind. Tomorrow, I’ll be using some of my cashew cream to make the ultimate comfort food, macaroni and cheese. I included the photo in today’s post just to get your attention? Thanks for stopping by.

14 Apr 2014

Build a Better Taco Step 1: Yogurt Sour “Cream”

Sour "Cream"

Sour “Cream”

When I build a taco, it’s done from the bottom up: taco shell, taco filling, taco sauce, sour “cream”, tomatoes and lettuce. To get ready for Tacos I start from the top down to prep some of the toppings. I have two non-dairy alternatives for sour “cream”. The simplest version is a super thick soy or almond milk yogurt. A slightly less-simple version (yet still easy) is to mix the yogurt with an equal amount of cashew cream and some lemon juice. Since I haven’t had much luck finding a decent unsweetened non-dairy yogurt where I live, I make my own in an Instant Pot. At first my results were “hit-or-miss”, but I have the technique down to be confident enough to share it with you. The basic technique is to heat milk to180F to kill any bad bacteria, then cool it to 110F. This is very important since temperatures over 110F will kill the yogurt cultures. When the yogurt has achieved the thickness and sour taste you like you can refrigerate it as is. If you wish to use it as sour “cream”, you will need to strain it through butter muslin to get rid of the whey. It may seem like a daunting task to make your own yogurt, but once you’ve done it a few times it just becomes routine. Of course, you can always opt to purchase commercially-made non-dairy sour “cream”. In either case, stay tuned. I will be sharing my recipes for no-salt added Taco Seasoning, Taco Sauce and Mushroom Tacos. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Here’s a list of things you need to make the yogurt:

  • An Instant Pot with the yogurt function. If you don’t already own an Instant Pot, it’s worth looking into. It’s an electric pressure cooker and slow cooker all in one. If you’re thinking about getting one, I suggest you go all out and get the one with the yogurt function as it will maintain the temperature of the milk consistently at 110F.
  • Soy milk or Almond Milk. I found out the hard way that the key to making yogurt is that the milk has to be made with filtered water and no additives. If you use tap water, the chlorine will kill all that good bacteria in the yogurt culture and it will not thicken and get that sour taste. Sometimes I make my own almond milk with filtered water. Other times I buy Westsoy Organic Plain Soy milk. I will give instructions on making your own almond milk below.
  • Vegan Yogurt Culture. I’ve had success using Belle & Bella Yogurt starter, so I won’t recommend any other brand.
  • Nut milk bag, usually made from butter muslin, to strain the almond milk.

To Make Homemade Almond Milk

Measure 1 quart of filtered or bottled water into blender container. Add 7-1/2 oz. of raw, blanched almonds. Process on high until the almonds are very fine. Depending on your blender it might take two to three minutes.  Hold a nut milk bag over a large container. Pour milk into the bag and squeeze out the liquid. You should have one quart of milk.

To Make Homemade Almond or Soy Milk Yogurt

You can use home made almond or soy milk that’s been made with filtered or bottled water. You can also use 1 quart of Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk.

  • 1 quart soy or almond milk
  • 1 packet of Belle & Bella Yogurt Starter
  1. Pour one quart of milk into a two-quart glass Pyrex measuring cup. Heat in the microwave until the temperature of the milk reaches 180F. Pour into the Instant Pot insert and let the milk cool to 110F.
  2. Add yogurt starter (this is called “pitching”) and whisk just enough to dissolve. Cover the Instant Pot, leaving the vent to “open”. Press the yogurt button and adjust the timer to 12 hours. You can check the yogurt after 8 hours to see if it’s thick and tangy. The longer you leave it, the thicker and tangier it will get.
  3. If there is a lot of liquid (whey), you can strain it by lining a colander with a piece of butter muslin or cheese cloth and allowing the yogurt to drain. Spoon into covered containers and refrigerate. This yogurt lasts for about one week.

There is conflicting information about using your home made yogurt as the starter for subsequent batches. Some say that you must use a fresh packet of culture, meaning that you have to keep buying the commercial starter. I’ve had consistent success using 2 tablespoons of my existing batch of yogurt per quart of milk.

To Make Non-Dairy Yogurt and Cashew Sour “Cream”

Mix equal amounts of thick cashew cream and non-dairy yogurt.

Drained Yogurt & Whey

Drained Yogurt & Whey

 

 

 

31 Oct 2016

A Casserole for Every Season: Creamy Green Beans & Mushrooms

Green Beans & Mushrooms

Green Beans & Mushrooms

If you live in the US, you might be familiar with the green bean casserole that’s usually served around the winter holidays. It’s saved for special occasions because this decadent side dish made with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions is not something to be consumed on a regular basis. So why am I breaking with tradition and making it during the summer? Well, I happen to have mushrooms and a bag of green beans on hand. Besides, I don’t think the Pilgrims served it at their Thanksgiving banquet because green beans were not in season that late into the harvest. I decided to use my Instant Pot for this recipe. I started out making a mushroom gravy by sauteing onions and mushrooms in the Instant Pot, then added flour and a hearty vegetable stock. (I like the stock recipe from The Millenium Cookbook.) After adding the beans and pressure cooking for a few minutes, I stirred in a few dollops of cashew cream for another level of creaminess. A few shakes of truffle salt intensified the mushroom flavor. (Truffle salt may seem a bit extravagant, but a little goes a long way and is worth the indulgence.) I served the beans with corn on the cob and a baked potato, but they could be enjoyed as a complete meal or as a side to your favorite lentil loaf or seitan roast. These beans are healthy enough to be enjoyed any day of the year, yet decadent enough to serve as part of a holiday meal. Get to your local farm stand and pick up a bag of fresh green beans while they’re in season. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Green Bean & Mushrooms for Instant Pot

2 cups hearty vegetable broth
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 lb. green beans, stems removed
Salt and pepper to taste (truffle salt adds a deeper mushroom flavor)

Set instant pot to saute setting. Add 2 tablespoons of broth and onions and cook until onions begin to soften and brown. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until lightly browned, adding more broth as needed to prevent sticking. Add flour and stir to coat. Add remaining broth and continue cooking until thickened (should be the consistency of a thick gravy). Add green beans and ¼ cup of water and stir. Set instant pot to manual setting and pressure cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes, then quick release pressure. If the bottom of the insert has browned, simply scrape up with rubber scraper to incorporate with the beans and sauce.

 

26 Jul 2016

One Potato, Two Potato . . . Creamy Potato Salad

Creamy Potato Salad

Creamy Potato Salad

Sometimes life can be like a Mother Goose hand-clapping game.

One potato: We got a few red bliss potatoes in last week’s CSA share.

Two potato: eastern potatoes were on sale, so I bought a five pound bag.

Three potato: This week’s CSA box had a bunch of Yukon Gold’s in it.

Four: Better do something with all those potatoes.

With so many varieties of potatoes available these days, it’s hard to keep them straight. Some are good for baking, others make fluffy mashed potatoes and others are better suited for salads. Starchy Idaho and Russet potatoes make fluffy mashed potatoes and waxy potatoes like Red Bliss and Yukon Gold are good for salads. I decided to throw caution to the wind and combined starchy and waxy varieties to make this Creamy Potato Salad. Instead of boiling the potatoes I opted for steaming them with skins intact. (I think this is why the Russets didn’t fall apart.) My Aunt Gracie used to make a scrumptious potato salad with mayonnaise and sour cream and I wanted to capture that flavor in this recipe. I’ve been making a Ranch Dressing with cashew cream and almond milk yogurt as the base, so I went with this combination to dress the potatoes.  The dressing is seasoned with chives, parsley and scallions, but you can switch it up with any type of onion and a different herb like dill weed. Any leftover dressing can be used for green salads or as a dip for crudite. If you like the taste of hard-cooked egg you can sprinkle some black salt onto the salad. Be creative and toss in chopped bell peppers, celery or grated carrots. Served the potato salad alongside corn on the cob and marinated grilled vegetables and you have a summer supper worth clapping about. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Creamy Potato Salad

2 pounds of potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
Ranch dressing

Place whole, unskinned potatoes in steamer and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Remove from steamer, let cool and cut into 2” pieces. Add onions and enough ranch dressing to coat potatoes. Refrigerate.

Ranch Dressing

½ cup thick cashew cream
½ cup plain almond milk (or other non-dairy) yogurt
2 tablespoons minced chives
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced scallions or yellow onions
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
salt and black pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients well. Chill and use within a week.

19 Jul 2016

Rebuilding: Creamy Mushrooms & Leeks for Mashed Potatoes

Creamy Mushroom-Leek Saute

Creamy Mushroom-Leek Saute

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe for mushroom, leek and potato soup that looked very tasty. There were two problems, though. First, I really don’t care for soup all that much. Soup always leaves me wanting more  — and that something more is usually bread or dessert. When I do make soup, it’s more like stew — loaded with vegetables and grains and not much broth. Second, this recipe called for two cups of heavy cream. (Wow! I shutter to think that I probably would have made this in my previous life.) If I substituted cashew cream for the dairy cream, it would be rich-tasting, but it would also be too rich in fat and calories. Life can be full of compromises, but I don’t like to settle when it comes to food. So this recipe was on the back burner until I could come up with one that would satisfy my craving for creamy mushrooms and potatoes that’s rich in flavor, not in calories. What I cooked up was a “deconstructed” version of that soup. I rebuilt the recipe by sauteing leeks, garlic and mushrooms, added a splash of red wine and a healthy dollop of cashew cream, then spooned it over mashed potatoes. This dish is uncompromisingly creamy, savory and hearty and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Creamy Mushroom & Leeks for Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 large leeks, rinsed and sliced thinly
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (cremini, white button, shitakes, etc.)
  • ¼ cup red wine (optional)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth (or 1 cup if not using wine)
  • ½ cup cashew cream

Mashed potatoes

Coat a non-stick skillet with olive oil (or heat up 2 tablespoons of water) over medium-high heat. Saute leeks until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add mushrooms and saute until brown and most of liquid has cooked out. De-glaze pan with wine or ¼ cup of the broth. Add remaining broth and cashew cream and heat thoroughly. Remove from heat. Serve over mashed potatoes.

 

 

14 Apr 2016

Waste Not, Want Not: Creamy Carrot Puree with Roasted Garlic

Creamy Carrot Puree

Creamy Carrot Puree

Not one to waste food, I save vegetable trimmings to make cooking stock. I don’t get hung up on what goes into the pot since I use the stock to flavor other recipes. I’m also not a super-taster so my taste buds are not that discerning when it comes to subtleties in food. I was making some stock today and decided to add a few carrots to the pot. As I was straining the stock I thought it would be a waste to throw out the carrots. Then I recalled having a buttery carrot puree in a French restaurant many years ago and decided to come up with a recipe of my own. After pureeing the carrots, I had about 1-1/2 cups of puree. I added cashew cream for richness, roasted garlic and maple syrup for a savory-sweetness and a pinch of Chinese Five Spice for a little zest. It’s easy to adjust the ingredients to your liking. Super simple, super tasty. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

Carrot Puree with Roasted Garlic

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

  • About 4 large carrots, boiled
  • 2 tablespoons cashew cream
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 clove of roasted garlic
  • Chinese Five Spice to taste

Add all ingredients to container of food processor and process on high until smooth.

 

 

04 Feb 2016

Pick Your Pasta: Macaroni with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Sunday dinner in my family always meant “macaroni”, typically served with a gravy made from meatballs, sausage and bracciole. For as long as I can remember, we always called it “macaroni” not matter what size, shape or form it came in. With the advent of food TV and the evolution of gourmet dining, chefs were referring to my “macaroni” as pasta. So, what’s in a name? I don’t know, but maybe “pasta” sounds more sophisticated than “macaroni’. I checked Wikipedia and found out that “macaroni” is a cut, tubular-shaped pasta. Different in form from noodles and other flat pastas, “macaroni” is made from the same ingredients and should taste the same. So what’s the difference? For me, it comes down to the sauce, tradition and some pragmatism. I like to use certain types of pasta because, by design, their shape allows the sauce to get caught up in their nooks and crannies. For a creamy vodka sauce, something like penne or rigatoni works well. (I like this recipe from the Humane Society.) Our family tradition for Christmas Eve was a pasta dish called fra’ diavlo (spaghetti with a red sauce made with shellfish.) I pay homage to that tradition with my Linguini with Shitake Mushroom Sauce and will always use a flat pasta for this dish.  Flat pasta like fettucine or linguine is a good choice for a thick marinara or an Alfredo-type sauce since the sauce is able to coat the long strands of pasta. However, a pasta dish that calls for vegetables like leeks, mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant is better suited for a cut pasta because it’s easier to get the different ingredients onto your fork and neatly into your mouth. A recipe like Macaroni & Peas definitely needs a small, cut pasta (and a spoon). And yet, it all comes down to personal taste; you just might prefer the appearance or mouth-feel of one type of pasta over the other.  A few notes about this recipe. Depending on how saucy you want to like your pasta this recipe will cover from 8 to 12 ounces of pasta. For an alcohol-free version, replace the wine with more broth. If you don’t have leeks, you can substitute yellow onions. Call it what you like, this is one delicious and nutritious dish. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Macaroni Creamy Cashew Mushroom Leek Sauce

3 to 4 servings

  • ½ cup cashew cream (see recipe below)
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used white and cremini, but you could use exotic mushrooms as well)
  • 3 leeks
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ tsp Better Than Boullion No Chicken Base dissolved in 1 cup water
  •  8 – 12 oz. pasta, cooked according to directions

Thinly slice leeks, rinse thoroughly and drain. Saute in deep skillet or saucepan until soft, adding water a tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking. Remove and place in bowl. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until lightly browned, adding a little bit of water or oil to prevent sticking. Return leeks to pan, add thyme and sauté 2 minutes longer. Add wine and continue cooking until evaporated. Add broth and cashew cream and simmer until thickened. Toss with pasta.

Cashew Cream

Makes about 2¼ cups

  1. Rinse 2 cups whole raw cashews (not pieces, which are often dry) very well under cold water.
  2. Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water.
  4. Place nuts in a blender with enough fresh cold water to barely cover them. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. (If you’re not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix or Blend Tec, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.)

 

02 Feb 2016

Fix This: Shells Stuffed with Tofu-Cashew Ricotta, Spinach & Shitakes

Shells with Tofu-Cashew Ricotta, Spinach & Shitakes

Shells with Tofu-Cashew Ricotta, Spinach & Shitakes

“There are no mistakes in the kitchen; only new recipes to be discovered.” These may not be words to live by, but they sure are words to cook by. I heard this saying several years ago and I don’t recall who said them. I’ve always kept them in the back of my mind and they’ve been a motivating message for me as I explore the world of plant-based cooking. Well I had to rely on these words today as I experimented with a tofu-based ricotta cheese recipe that I found in a vegan cookbook. As an Italian from Brooklyn I had access to some of the best cheese stores in the country so it’s hard to sell me on non-dairy cheese. I wanted to use the ricotta straight up on toast. Well, it was pretty awful. What was I going to do with a pound of tofu “something”? “Fix this, Rose” echoed in my head. Instead of tossing what I already had I relied on my tried and true Tofu-Cashew Ricotta recipe to save the day. Wishfully, I added some raw cashews (didn’t even soak them) to the food processor, but sadly the cheese was still not tasty enough to eat as is. I decided to save it to make Stuffed Shells with Spinach–Tofu-Cashew Ricotta and placed it in the fridge overnight.

Day Two: As luck would have it, I only had a half bag of frozen spinach. (Really, I saved a half bag of spinach. Who does that?) Then I remembered a bag of shitake mushrooms hiding at the back of the fridge and decided to add them to the filling. I sauteed them with garlic and added the thawed and squeezed spinach, minced it in a food processor until coarse and folded it into the ricotta. (My tip for squeezing the liquid from spinach is to defrost it in the bag, then poke holes in the bag and squeeze. A tip for filling the shells is to use a pastry bag fitted with a large decorating tip.) My secret ingredient for the filling was to season it with truffle salt (totally not necessary, but definitely adds another layer of flavor.) A generous amount of marinara poured under and over the shells will keep them from drying out. Oh, boy, these are so creamy and delicious there’s no mistaking that this recipe will become one of my favorite plant-based baked pasta dishes. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Shells Stuffed with Tofu Ricotta, Spinach & Shitake Mushrooms

  • 6 oz. jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 8 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and excess water squeezed out
  • 8 oz. shitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 cups of Tofu-Cashew Ricotta (below) (make ahead of time)
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed
  • ½ teaspoon truffle salt (or regular salt)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute mushrooms in non-stick skillet until brown and liquid has evaporated. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook to dry out any extra liquid. Let cool.

In bowl of food processor, process spinach/mushroom mixture until coarse. Remove and place in large bowl with ricotta, truffle salt and pepper. Stir well. Using a small spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a large tip, stuff shells with filling. Cover the bottom of a baking pan with sauce. Arrange shells on top of sauce, then spoon additional sauce over the shells. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until thoroughly heated. You can remove the foil toward the end of baking to brown the top a bit.

Makes about 18 to 20 stuffed shells.

Tofu-Cashew Ricotta

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lactic acid powder (or and extra teaspoons cider vinegar)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt (if using for a filling that usually calls for eggs, you can use black salt instead of table salt)
  • 8 oz. firm tofu
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)

Place soaked cashews, cider vinegar lemon juice, sugar and salt in food processor. Process until smooth but slightly grainy.  Add tofu and nutritional yeast and process until incorporated with cashews. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: If you don’t want to bake the stuffed shells, simply place them on a baking sheet and freeze overnight then place in a zip-lock bag for future use.

30 Jan 2016

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