OK, first things first…full disclosure: I was recently gifted Vegan with a Vengeance, the 10 year anniversary edition, with the promise that I would try a couple of recipes and review them on this blog. Free cookbook? Yeah! Free Isa Chandra Moskowitz cookbook? Hell yeah! I have spent countless hours pouring over my copy of Veganomicon, which is kick ass by the way, so I jumped at the chance to find some new favorites in Vegan with a Vengeance.
I go bonkers for cookbooks with great big colorful photos, and this one does not disappoint. I’m always pleased when I take a stab at a recipe and it even remotely resembles the beautiful glossy photo that got my mouth-watering in the first place. If enough of the recipes with photos turn out tasty I’ll then try the recipes that are quietly hanging out on those unassuming pages hoping to be noticed by name alone. So for the purpose of reviewing this cookbook, I selected a recipe with a sexy glam shot and one without. I’ll follow up with the second recipe in a separate post, so keep an eye out for Black-eyed Pea Curry with Collards and Potatoes. Coming soon!
Predictably, I was seduced by “BLT Mac & Cheeze”, the creamy, cheezy, garden fresh beauty staring back at me from about midway through Isa’s book. I can honestly say my very first recipe from this book has quickly jumped to the top of my favorites list.
There was absolutely nothing difficult about preparing this dish. The longest part of the process involved putting the cashews in warm water and letting them sit for a couple of hours. Fortunately, this was the perfect excuse to go hang by the pool and flip through my new cookbook on a hot summer day.
So, toweled off, slightly toasted and more than a little big hungry, I was able to throw together this amazing comfort food in not much more time than it takes to make the eggplant bacon, which I loved by the way. For me, the eggplant was meaty and smokey and blended perfectly with the rest of the ingredients, but I wouldn’t really call it a bacon flavor. It is tasty though, and I’m sure I will use it in other dishes besides this one.
The addition of garden fresh cherry tomatoes and bright peppery argula really make this mac and cheeze come to life. The final result is oh so creamy, cheezy, smokey and delicious. My omni husband was impressed and called this one a keeper. This is the kind of dish I would definitely make for my non-vegan friends and family, since it has such a satisfying flavor and texture. I highly recommend you give this one a try.
The full recipe and photo can be found on pages 150 – 152, and I’ve included the ingredients and an abbreviated version of the cooking instructions below.
FOR THE CHEEZE:
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight
1 cup vegan vegetable broth
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flake
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons onion powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE BLT MAC:
8 ounces small shell pasta or macaroni (gluten-free, whole wheat, or any type)
4 cups baby arugula
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes (or chopped regular tomatoes)
1 recipe Eggplant Bacon
FOR THE EGGPLANT BACON:
1 pound eggplant
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
To make the eggplant bacon:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prep the eggplant while the oven is preheating. I used one large eggplant, cut in half and then sliced into half moons about 1/8” thick. Spray the parchment paper lightly with cooking spray, arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer and lightly spray again. Bake in the oven for about 8 -10 minutes rotating the pans about halfway through (I actually had to bake for a few minutes longer, but that is most likely just due to differences between my oven and Isa’s). Let the eggplant get browned and even slightly burnt in some places and remove from the oven and set aside.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Mix soy sauce or tamari (I used tamari) and liquid smoke in a large bowl. Dip the eggplant slices in the mixture to coat and return to the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 3 minutes (again, I left in a couple more minutes, you may have to adjust the baking time depending upon your oven as well). Set aside.
I actually whipped up the cheeze sauce and boiled the water for the pasta while the eggplant was cooking.
To make the cheeze:
Drain the cashews and place with all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend away until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Depending on the strength of your blender, this could take from 1 to 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, keeping in mind that you want it just a little saltier than you think because it’s going to be poured over all of the other ingredients.
To make the BLT mac:
Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. (I used medium shells) When the pasta is tender, drain it in a colander. Immediately place it back in the pot you boiled it in and stir in the sauce. Place the pot on low heat and stir for 3 minutes or so, until the sauce is thickened a bit and everything is deliciously creamy. Taste for salt again.
Now toss in the arugula, tomatoes, and eggplant bacon, leaving a little extra aside to garnish, if you like.
There you have it! BLT Mac & Cheeze. Give it a try and I’m sure this dish is going to become a favorite in your home as well.
From Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2015