Thursday, January 24, 2013

No-Egg Gnocchi with Roasted Garlic Cashew Nut "Cheese" {Vegan}

It's a new year, and the 5 Star Makeover group has undergone a transformation. We have a new logo and name:


As you can see, we're now the Creative Cooking Crew, helmed by Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks and Joan of Foodalogue. Rather than doing makeovers, our mission each month is to create original dishes inspired by a theme.

This month, the challenge was to create a vegan dish inspired by a meat or animal-product-heavy meal. I drew inspiration from one of my very favorite fattening things: gnocchi slathered with plenty of butter and Parmesan cheese.


To make this vegan, my gnocchi are eggless, and my "cheese" is made from a blend of raw cashew nuts and miso, flavored with roast garlic, white pepper, salt, and a bit of lemon juice. Does it taste like Parmesan? No, but it does have a rich, tangy, nutty flavor that Poppa Trix and I both enjoyed.

Doesn't look vegan, does it? But it is!
I had my first taste of cashew "cheese" many years ago on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, at a now-defunct vegetarian restaurant called Counter.  I have never had or seen it since, but as it turns out it's not hard to make. The basic version calls for raw cashews (I used 2 cups) soaked in salted water for several hours, then pureed with a bit of water, until the whole things is spreadable. Then for the fun part: adding things to it!

The yellow miso that I used gave it a tangy, cheese-y flavor, the roasted garlic (two whole bulbs!) imparted earthy umami, while the lemon juice brightened the whole thing up. A bit of white pepper and a pinch of salt and my "cheese" was ready for noshing.

Ah, but my no-egg gnocchi were not, alas, as drama-free. Now, I have successfully made gnocchi many times before, but I've always used egg. In theory, you make vegan ones the same way - Russet or Idaho potatoes put through a ricer, flour, salt - except you omit the egg.

In theory.

I am not sure if my potatoes had too much moisture, or if I didn't use enough flour, but the blasted things were turning to mush when I plopped them into boiling water. Unacceptable. I was ready to throw them all into the trash, when Poppa Trix suggested that I bypass the boiling part and just try to bake them.

Against my expectations, it actually kind of worked. I say kind of because they didn't end up with a soft, pillowy, gnocchi-like texture; instead, they crisped up on the outside and got fluffy on the inside. Sort of like a cross between a mini potato croquette and a Tater Tot.  Not a bad thing, to be sure.

To serve, I pan fried them in a bit of olive oil, tossed in some of the cashew "cheese," and topped it all with lemon zest and basil.

Leave it to me to make a vegan dish that's probably even more fattening than its cheesy counterpart.

Oh well - worth it. On January 28, Joan is going to post the round up on her blog - 24 delicious vegan recipes for you to try, so don't forget to check it out!





22 comments:

  1. I think I just died and went to heaven. The fact that they're crispy over pillowy just appeals to me more. I'm not gonna lie, if I make them, I'll probably sizzle them in butter but let's let that one slip. Amazing work!

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  2. Your "cheese" sounds amazing. I always add nutritional yeast to the cashew nut mixture which really makes it taste like cheese. Kind of amazing what you can do with nuts and yeast :)

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  3. You and Poppa Trix are pretty fabulous. I love how he suggested baking the gnocchi - I never would have thought of that, and it's absolutely brilliant. And I'm a big fan of cashew "cheese"...could definitely eat it with a spoon. Very nice job, Trix!

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  4. Just an awesome dish. What a clever cook you are. Congrats.

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  5. I once made something similar with almonds once but never spun it further into something so inspired. Incredible. And I think I would actually enjoy this more than actual meaty gnocci which I skip over on menus 'cause it always takes a day or two to recover. Beautiful photo too!

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  6. now this is something I would like - like the sound of it and the flavors... doesn't sound vegan at all...

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  7. The crispiness did it for me...Creativity to the max!

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  8. Well it looks like the gnocchi turned out to be a win - and the flavours in your cheese sound fabulous!

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  9. You were very creative for this challenge. For me, just the Vegan part was a challenge since I just don't think that way! Love the look of these babies and the fact you made a nut "cheese". Very creative!!

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  10. That is rather brilliant - you are brilliant and brave!

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  11. Yaaay for vegan Trixie! *Needless to say, I love this recipe.

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  12. Totally worth the effort. Love the cashew miso flavor combo!

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  13. This is cool! Definitely my kind of vegan dish. I especially love the cashew cheese. Great dish, Trix!

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  14. These look fabulous - What a great way to save the day!

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  15. This looks and sounds vegan-licious, Trix! You know what I usually use to bind things together in place of eggs? Ground flaxseed or flaxmeal, it offers a nutty taste too, which I love. Try it next time!

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  16. Such beautiful flavors...a must try :)

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  17. Great idea to plop them into the oven. They look very tasty, and I love replacing cheese with nuts and not fake vegan cheese (whatever that is.)

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  18. these are ingenius!! fabulous pics - I'm so hungry now!
    Mary x

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  19. such a fabulous dish! i wish i was eating this for dinner! awesome job on the challenge!

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  20. A lot of Italians say they're not real gnocchi unless you make them without eggs. But never mind, I always add egg. I actually like the slightly firmer texture they provide. And, yes, they're a whole lot easier to make!

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  21. What would Nonna say? Interestingly, just as Frank wrote she might well say leave the eggs to the chickens. It is not at all unusual to see eggless gnocchi. Yours sound pretty intriguing.

    I enjoy the occasional Tater Tot. Thus crispy on the outside, soft on the inside sits quite rightly with me. I applaud your creativity and your willingness to think and eat outside the Italian box. Brava!

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