Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cashew Mac & Cheese!

I've made many vegan mac & cheese dishes. I've made the ones where you melt Earth Balance + store-bought cheeses + soymilk and feel your arteries suffer for days. I've made the nasty Mac & Chreese boxed mixes. And I've made nooch sauces, in which broth + nutritional yeast + flour become the base of a disgusting paste that no one will come within 10 miles of.

And now, having finally invested in a 10-cup a food processor, I have made cashew-based mac & cheese. And it's good.

It's almost soul food good, as a matter of fact. My omni dad, vegetarian friends and I all fell in love with the nooch & mustard-heavy version at Soul Vegetarian Exodus in D.C. near Howard University. It is unbeatable. And difficult to replicate. And they won't tell me their recipe! I have been trying for years to figure out their secret. In a very lazy, inconsistent kind of attempt.

So, I turned to Vegan Dad. I've been loving his recipes for a while now (SOME DAY I will make vegan donuts using his recipe...but not yet), and seeing a cashew-based Kraft-esque recipe listed, I had to try it.

I've made some alterations. He uses a blender and so starts off pureeing the raw cashews with what seemed to me to be a lot of water (twice as much as the volume of cashews). My food processor didn't like this arrangement, and plus the sauce was too watery in the end. So, I've cut the water back from 1 1/2 Cups to 1/2 Cup - 3/4 Cup. I also didn't have any onion powder on hand, so I minced about a quarter of a large white onion instead, which I'm sure added liquid he didn't have to deal with. The recipe also made a lot of sauce -- so much that I had leftovers to drizzle on other foods like bread and veggies etc. And I am definitely going to use the leftovers to make my first vegan Grilled Cheese sandwich.

The "too much sauce" problem was probably because I used bowtie pasta, which is huge, so 3 Cups of it turns out to not be as much pasta as 3 Cups of, say, macaroni. I also only had around 2 1/2 Cups of it around, so you might not have the same problem I did. Or, if you do, you could just put the extra sauce on quinoa or go ahead and make some more pasta!

All told, it's not identical to my soul food favorite. I think the roasted red pepper adds a little bit of sweetness that I'm not used to, so next time I might try this recipe without that addition. I may also put it in a casserole pan, top it with bread crumbs, and bake it. We shall see.

It's delicious, though. And my omni dad said it was perfect.

Cashew Mac and Cheese

adapted from Vegan Dad

1 large red pepper
3 Cups pasta (or more, if pasta is a large shape)
3/4 Cup raw cashews*
1/2 - 3/4 Cup water
1/2 Cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (like Dijon)
1/4 of a large white onion, minced (around 1/2 Cup)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp flour

1/4 Cup Earth Balance
2 Tbsp or so soymilk (adjust to taste)

* Note: I actually used 1/2 Cup raw, unsalted cashews, and 1/4 Cup roasted, unsalted cashews. Your choice.

Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees F (230 C). Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, and place your washed red pepper in the pan. Once the oven's ready, put the pepper in to roast. After 10 - 15 minutes, turn the pepper once. After another 10 - 15 minutes, you can either take the pepper out, if it's looking sufficiently wrinkled and blackened, or you can broil the pepper for another 5 - 10 minutes. I baked the pepper for about 23 minutes and broiled for 7.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta and start on the sauce. Put your cashews and some water (you don't have to put it all immediately) and start pureeing. You're going to want your cashews to be blended until they're totally smooth, which will take a few minutes. Add water as you see fit, but don't put too much water in, or you'll have liquid seeping out the top of the processor, and a very watery mac and cheese. Add the nutritional yeast, mustard, spices, salt, and flour.

Once the red pepper is done roasting, take it out of the oven and wrap it up in the aluminum foil and let it sit for another 5 - 10 minutes. Once the pepper is done, unwrap it, and pull off the crispy outer skin and de-seed your pepper. Cut it up into large chunks, and throw the pepper into your food processor. Blend until smooth!
Now that your sauce is ready, drain your pasta. Using the same heated pan the pasta was once in, melt your Earth Balance and then slowly add the sauce. Cook until thickened, adding the soymilk as desired. (I suppose you could add none at all!). Add the pasta and mix.

Voila! At this point, you could transfer the pasta and sauce to a glass baking pan or casserole pan, top with vegan bread crumbs, and cook at 350 F (180 C) for 20 minutes. Or you could just eat it.

I think the most fun thing about this recipe is that it's actually good for you. It's not a gross thick combination of pre-processed foods with no protein or nutritional content at all. For instance, if we're just looking at protein, this recipe contains about 75 - 80 grams, not including the pasta. My pasta added another 17 grams or so of protein (92 - 97g total). I have no idea how many that is per serving, because it depends on how hungry you are.

Tomorrow night: Roasted Butternut Alfredo, a la the Post Punk Kitchen.


Pin It!

No comments:

Post a Comment