Beaches. Good for sun and sand and myriad other fun subjects. My personal favorite is a daily (or more) walk and wave ion fix. In South Padre Island this April, I joined a 5K “fun run” that started at 8:30 pm at night. Headlamps and flashlights required. I felt so positive loping down the beach with thousands of little lights glowing, mine being one of them, shining extra bright I am sure from the negative wave ion energy.
When I visit my brother and sister-in-law in Newport Beach California, not only do I get my wave ion fix, I get a food fix. My sister-in-law Leslie is a very good cook and a self-described “foodie.” In the last few years she’s been leaning to vegetarian and vegan, and both she and my brother appear slimmer and all the more healthy as a result.
On my most recent trip, we stopped at her plot in the community garden. There we gathered young squash along with enough squash blossoms to make what is possibly my favorite appetizer–pan-sauteed blossoms with tangy cheese stuffing. But that is another story.
When I left their house the next day, Leslie sent me on my way with a loan–one of her new cookbooks, The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat. This week I tested the ‘cashew cream’ that author/Chef Ronnen calls his vegan staple, his stand-in for dairy in many of the book’s recipes.
I wanted to make whipped cashew cream for a cupcake filling. Warning: don’t put too much fresh cold water in the blender, or you’ll get cashew milk/cream–not thick enough to whip. Another note: the recipe specifies whole raw cashews, not pieces, which are often dry, quote, unquote. I cheaped out and bought cashew pieces. However, that didn’t prove to be the forewarned problem, because my cashew pieces soaked in water 5 days, versus the overnight refrigeration called for; it took that long for me to finally get around to making the cashew cream. Which worked in my favor because even though the recipe said I would have to strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sleeve if using a regular blender versus a Vita-Mix, a minute or so in my trusty Braun blends very well-soaked cashew pieces into rich, smooth cream. (If you want to buy me a Vita-Mix for Christmas, start saving. The one I want is $400—and that is the refurbished one.)
I went back to the cookbook to see what Chef Ronnen makes with his regular, thinner cashew cream, like mine. How about using it for the “milk” in mashed potatoes, or “Twice-baked Fingerlings?” Or reducing the thinner version into stunning cream sauce—a vegan beurre blanc? Cream soups anyone? Whichever recipe you choose, plan ahead, because the cashews do need to soak overnight, or 5 nights….
And that is how “Tomato Bisque” from The Conscious Cook became my inspiration for this post.
For the Cashew Cream:
Rinse 2 cups of whole raw cashews in cold water several times. Put them in a bowl and cover with cold water. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Drain the cashews and rinse again. Place in a blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Blend on high speed for several minutes, until very smooth. Strain if the cream is not completely smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the bisque:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
7 bulbs and tender parts of green garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut in ¼-inch dice
1 stalk celery, cut in ¼-inch dice
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
5 to 6 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 large garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in ¾-inch chunks
2 cups Cashew Cream (separate recipe)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Chive blossom petals
Make the bisque: In a soup pot, in medium flame, heat the oil briefly. Before it gets too hot, stir in the minced garlic. Cook and stir a minute or so, then add the diced carrots and celery. Cook and stir 5 to 8 minutes, until the garlic is translucent and the carrots and celery have softened.
Add the paprika, stirring it in until the vegetables are well coated. Add 5 cups of the vegetable broth, the bay leaf and the diced yams.
Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the yams are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Puree with an immersion blender—my first choice. Or, working in batches, pour the soup onto a blender and blend until smooth. (Beware, hot soup tries to burst the blender lid off, creating a huge kitchen counter mess and potential personal burns.)
With the pureed soup in the pot, stir in the Cashew Cream. If you prefer a thinner soup, stir in the last cup of vegetable broth. Heat through. Season with lemon juice, cayenne, and if needed, Real Salt.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with the green chives and purple blossoms.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
- The cashew cream can be made up to one week ahead. That way it will be ready when you are.
- Green garlic is young spring garlic before the bulbs separates into cloves. You can also use garlic scapes, maybe ¼ cup diced, or fully developed garlic, one or 2 cloves at the most.
- Choose sweet potatoes with the darkest copper orange skin. Those will be the ones with the brightest flesh.
- Be sure to remove the bay leaf. I once pureed a soup with the bay leaf in it and I had to strain 8 quarts of thick soup through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of the unpleasant texture in every spoonful. Dinner took more time than I had planned before it was ready to serve!