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Vegan Macaroni and (No) Cheese
I don't think it's any kind of exaggeration to call macaroni and cheese the ultimate childhood comfort food. This reputation developed over decades of serving as the cheesy companion to multiple generations of kids sitting in front of cartoon-playing televisions in many, if not most, living rooms of the western world. Whether it comes from a box or is made from scratch, mac and cheese generates almost universal excitement among the youngsters who grew up eating it.
Of course, palettes change with the years, and what was undeniably comfort food when your jammies had feet in them, can seem a tad ho-hum in adulthood. Still, it's hard to ignore the nostalgic tug every once in a while for elbow macaroni in a creamy, cheesy sauce. That's why I'm always on the lookout for jazzed up variations on this theme that can satisfy my inner seven year old while offering my adult mouth something a little more interesting. One such variation presented itself to me via social media and I decided to indulge. The original recipe came from One Green Planet. People familiar with Oregon Yumm sauce will see similarities I think. Instead of cheese, we have a base of nuts combined with a mix of harmonious flavours and textures that perfectly complement the elbow macaroni.
Nutritionally, even though this recipe is vegan and chock full of essential amino acids, I think it's safe to say that it fits squarely into the comfort food category, probably best as an occasional indulgence on days with miserable weather. On the plus side, we have lots of protein coming to us by way of the nutritional yeast, cashews and soy milk. On the minus side, the macaroni and cashews join together to form a caloric double whammy. (I left out the tahini from the original recipe just because it seemed rich enough already.) Nonetheless, it can be tough to find protein-rich vegan recipes that make you crave a second helping, and this definitely does that for me.
500 g pasta elbows
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 cups raw cashews (not roasted)
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbl dijon mustard
3 Tbl lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
Boil a large pot of generously salted water for the macaroni.
Peel the garlic. If you have a mortar and pestle, coarsely chop the garlic and then pound it to pulp with a little salt. (If you don't have one, just mince the garlic with the salt.)
In a large, deep skillet, warm the olive oil on medium-low heat and add the smashed garlic and let cook a few minutes so the garlic mellows a bit and the flavour blends into the olive oil.
Grind the cashews into crumbs in a food processor.
Then, with the processor still running, slowly pour in the soy milk.
Process for half a minute or so.
Add the cashew/soy milk mixture to the skillet.
Add the nutritional yeast into the skillet and mix well.
By now, the pasta water should be boiling. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package (although with elbow pasta, I find it always takes way less time than what the package says—be careful that you don't get mush).
Add remaining ingredients to skillet.
And mix well into a creamy sauce.
After the pasta is cooked, strain it and add it to the skillet (or back to the pot if your skillet isn't quite big enough). Mix the pasta and the sauce well.
For a little extra kick, top with Sriracha or similar hot sauce.
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Posted: Monday, October 6, 2014