This is my ninth VeganMoFo post for 2014. For more information on this month’s theme, see my Cook from Books description here.
Good food always makes me happy, but good food that’s also pretty makes my heart skip a beat. Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook made my heart flutter the first time I cracked it open, and continues to delight and inspire each time I use it.
By applying traditional French cooking techniques to vegan cuisine, Chef Tal has created something spectacular in his first cookbook: he’s brought fat (mainly via cashew-based creams) into vibrantly fresh vegetable and plant-based dishes, rounding them out with gorgeous acidic components and insanely precise knife cuts.
The Conscious Cook was the first place I read about cashew cream. Although it’s just soaked cashews blended with water, discovering this ingredient completely changed the way I cook. I now use it in homemade ravioli, cream-based soups, risotto, caramel corn and sauces. I add agave to it for sweet dishes and coconut vinegar for savory applications. It’s an indispensable and amazing ingredient.
In this recipe, Chef Tal uses cashew cream and other complimentary components that paper-thin slices of beets are wrapped around before it’s dunked in tempura batter and given a quick fry.
Served with a balsamic gastrique, biting into these rollatini provides the perfect crunch, followed by the earthy tones of fresh beets and a gorgeously rich cashew cream inside. The gastrique balances everything out with a sharp acidity and mellow sweetness, and dragging these rollatini through the sauce is kind of fun. Small and decadent, this is a fantastic appetizer that tastes as beautiful as it looks.
Next up to try: Chef Tal’s Heirloom Tomato Salad with Crisped Capers, Bibb Lettuce, Shaved Fennel, and Grapefruit Salad with Pickled Onion; Lemongrass Consommé with Pea Shoot and Mushroom Dumplings; Peppercorn-Encrusted Portobello Fillets with Yellow Tomato Béarnaise and Mashed Potatoes; Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms with Polenta, Roasted Japanese Eggplant, and Smoked-Paprika Crème; Asian Tacos with Kinpira and Spinach-Sesame Salad; Artichoke Ricotta Tortellini with Saffron Cream Sauce and Oven-Roasted Banana Rum Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Crust and Maple Rum Sauce.