Plant-based what?

penneIt’s easy to think of a plant-based red sauce; that is what tomato sauce is. But white sauce, not so much. After all, traditional white sauces consist of butter, flour, and milk or cream. In one of the assignments in Unit 13, we were asked to do just that. In this plant-based version, soaked cashews are used as a base combined with white wine and seasoning, but without the dairy or wheat.

I really enjoyed this assignment as it allowed me to play with new ways of introducing proteins into my diet without meat. I am not vegetarian, but spent 10+ years as a pescatarian. More…

It’s easy to think of a plant-based red sauce; that is what tomato sauce is. But white sauce, not so much. After all, traditional white sauces consist of butter, flour, and milk or cream. In one of the assignments in Unit 13, we were asked to do just that. In this plant-based version, soaked cashews are used as a base combined with white wine and seasoning, but without the dairy or wheat.

I really enjoyed this assignment as it allowed me to play with new ways of introducing proteins into my diet without meat. I am not vegetarian, but spent 10+ years as a pescatarian. I actually love the flavor meats bring to the table but am trying to use it more of a garnish much of the time. I believe this recipe will become part of my go-to sauces with only one small modification. I would either omit the onion crystals altogether and add more fresh onion, or cut down the amount of onion crystals. It may have been a case of the quality of my onion crystals not being up to par, but I think that some additional fresh onion would not adversely affect the recipe as it may just make the sauce a little thinner in the end; which would not be a bad thing as it thickens up upon sitting.

To produce the final dish, a Penne Carbonara,  I started the pasta. In the meantime, I brought a fry pan to medium–high heat; adding minced leeks and stirring until the leeks began to stick to the pan. I then deglazed with the white wine and continued to stir for about 2 minutes. I then added a cup of the white sauce to the sautéed leeks, stirring well. I did have to dilute the mixture as it had thickened up. At this point, I added some bacon that had been cut and cooked previously that I had in the fridge along with a 1/2 cup of peas. Yes, this did make the final dish no longer vegetarian, however it was in line with my focus on using meat as more of a garnish. I mixed thoroughly and brought the sauce to a simmer. I then added the penne and stirred to combine. After tasting, I added a bit of salt and pepper along with fresh parsley, stirred again, tasted one last time, and plated. The cashew white sauce was really smooth and satisfying; coating the penne perfectly.

plant_sauce

I think that I could and would use this sauce for a riff on chicken tetrazzini that highlights the mushrooms. I think that I could actually omit the chicken altogether as the cashew/mushroom combination would be quite satisfying on their own. I also think that if I added a few spices, caramelized the onions a bit, and allowed the sauce to thicken even more, it would make a really quick dip for naan or pita.

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