Mise en Place & A Recipe from Rouxbe: Cashew Béchamel (Basic White Sauce)

small_IMG_3786This most important thing I learned in my cooking course was “mise en place.” Mise en place is a French culinary term which means “putting in place” as in set up. It is the way professional kitchens organize and arrange ingredients that are required for whatever is about to be cooked.

Usually I don’t prep, I just go. I chop and drop and sort of clean up the scraps as I go. This technique changed my cooking. It feels more organized now and it is really efficient. By the time I am actually ready to make the sauce or cook the meal, the measuring cups/spoons are in the sink, the peels are in the vegetable stock container, and the counter is clean. Then the cooking commences and dinner is served. When I go back to the kitchen now, there is minimal clean up.

Now to the recipe. On the Monday that Rouxbe.com launched the plant-based certification course, an article was written in Huffington Post featuring a great Meatless Monday recipes by our head chef Chad Sarno for Penne Carbonara with Cashew Béchamel. Here is my adapted version of the sauce. Check out both!

1 cup raw cashews, soaked 3 to 4 hours or overnight
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove of garlic
1 cup water
The juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoon onion granules
Pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of salt

Organize the mise en place! Remember to drain the cashew soaking water.

Add the onions and garlic into a small pan with 1/4 cup of the water and cook until the onions soften. Drop them into the Vitamix (or blender) and then add the cashews, the remaining water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and onion granules. Grate the nutmeg on the microplane over the top of the container and then add the white pepper and salt. Blend on high speed until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavor.

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The sauce will last in the refrigerator for about a week. Mix into the carbonara recipe, with your favorite pasta and vegetables (my personal favorite is sautéed leeks with green peas), or with your favorite red sauce for a pink sauce. Enjoy!

Macadamia Nut Cheese

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Are you thinking, “There is no way I would ever be able to make cheese out of macadamia nuts. That looks like it would be too hard. I will never be able to make that. There are just some things I will never be able to make. Why does vegan cooking have to be so hard?!”

Okay, maybe you are not thinking that but it is what I was thinking before I made this delightfully easy and incredibly delicious vegan macadamia nut cheese.

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while you know that I am a self taught cook. So that means, if I can make it, so can you. True, my confidence in the kitchen has increased over the years, and so has my equipment, but with a little practice and an open mind, I have learned that vegan cooking is just like anything else. Remember, there was a time where you didn’t know how __ _____ (fill in the blank: to sail, to do yoga poses, to be in a healthy relationship…).

So, there is hope. If you are willing to put a little time and effort into it, you can completely change your cooking style. I am proof. And remember, if you want some advice and assistance, I am here for you. I am almost done with my course at Rouxbe which will make me a certified plant-based professional! That means I can consult and teach plant-based cooking! Contact me at l i s a s p r o j e c t v e g a n @ g m a i l . c o m.

To the recipe! The key is the probiotic powder. It gives this cheese that cheese-y zing. FYI, I used my Vitamix. A blender or food processor will do it, but the texture probably won’t be as smooth.

Basic Macadamia Nut Cheese
1 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 teaspoon probiotic powder
Filtered water
Small nut milk bag
Strainer
Big bowl (that will fit the strainer)
Small plate
Heavy can (I used a 28oz can of tomatoes)
Kitchen towel
Parchment paper

Soak the macadamia nuts overnight.

Drain the nuts and add to the Vitamix. Add the probiotic powder and a small amount of filtered water. You may need to add more water, depending on what machine you are using. It doesn’t matter because the cheese will be strained and pressed after.  

Add the probiotic and blend. Use the Vitamix tamper to press down the mixture, if using. Either way, stop blending every once in a while to scrape the sides. Blend until the consistency is as smooth as possible.

Place the strainer in the big bowl.

Place the mixture into a nut milk bag. I like these More Than a Nut Milk Bags. Pull the drawstring and twist the bag. Press out the water. Place onto the strainer and then place a small plate on top of the bag. Place the heavy can on top and then cover the whole thing with a kitchen towel. Let sit on the counter for about 12 hours to press!

Turn the cheese out onto a piece of parchment paper and form a log with your hands. Pull one side of the parchment over to the other and roll like you were playing with play dough. Once the log is together, you have cheese! From here, you can roll in freshly chopped herbs or nuts. I like it plain. You can also take a step back and mix the herbs or even nutritional yeast or onion powder into the cheese before rolling.

Serve on a platter with crackers, with a nice salad of arugula, alongside roasted beets or any way you want. Enjoy!

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Caprese Salad

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I said I would make a caprese salad when we had this one at Christopher’s Kitchen in Florida. And here it is with gorgeous tomatoes from the CSA.

Fresh tomatoes *
Cashew cheese
Fresh basil
Aged balsamic vinegar

Cashew Cheese
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup water, or more depending on consistency you like
Dash of lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Place the cashews and water into the Vitamix. If you don’t have a Vitamix, soak the cashews for at least 8 hours. Process until completely combined. Add more water if too thick. Add a dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, if desired. Taste and adjust but keep the salt to a pinch!

Slice the tomatoes. Place a slice on a plate. Add a dollop of cheese. Alternate with tomatoes and cheese until you have made a beautiful plate. Decorate with fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

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* CSA 2013 Week #12

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Roasted Squash & Eggplant Napoleons with Artichoke Pine Nut Pâté

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I love this little appetizer. It is pretty to serve and delicious to eat. I can’t get enough of the pâté and I am secretly eating it as I am assembling.

1 eggplant (not a big fat one) *
1 zephyr squash *

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. Cut the eggplant and squash into thin rounds, about the same size. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until soft. Let cool enough to handle.

Pine Nut Cheese Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
4 oz. pine nuts
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (nooch)
2 cloves of garlic *
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place everything in the Vitamix or blender and process until thick and creamy.

I like to make the pine nut sauce first and let it sit for a while to let the flavors combine. It is also good on its own and in pasta or anything that calls for creamy cheese. And there will leftovers after you make the pâté.

Artichoke Pine Nut Pâté
8 artichoke hearts
1/4 cup pine nut cheese sauce

Process the artichoke hearts in the food processor until shredded and then mix with the pine nut cheese.

To make the napoleons, stack the squash on the bottom of a plate. Drop a spoonful of pâté on top and layer with a piece of eggplant. Continue until you have a little tower. Make as many as you can with what you have. Enjoy!

* CSA 3012 Week #8

(pâté / pate)