Caramelized Onion Dip & Vegan Casseroles

Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonI have been a fan of Julie Hasson’s work for a long time now. If I were to make a top ten list of favorite cookbooks, her comfort food tome, Vegan Diner, would definitely have a place. (The reuben, Smoky Soy Curls, Chicken-style Seitan, and Creamy Sage & Pepper Gravy are just a few of my top picks. My full reviews are here and here.) Now Julie is back again with a cookbook that’s just in time for fall and winter gatherings with a slew of cozy meals in the form of casseroles.  It is chockfull of gorgeous photos and tempting recipes.

Vegan Casseroles has recipes that span from appetizers through desserts. There are cheesy indulgences like Nacho Tots Casserole, old standards like Very Veggie Pot Pie, and classics like Green Bean Casserole. (To my mind, it’s not Thanksgiving without green bean casserole. I’ll be giving her recipe a whirl this year.) Unlike casseroles of yore, these recipes don’t use a base of condensed soups that come out of a can with a squishy plop. Instead, the sauces are homemade, often using a base of cashews for creaminess.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonOne of the most well-known and beloved one-dish meals is lasagna. Truth be told, I’d never made lasagna before. I’m usually just cooking for two, and most lasagna recipes are designed with a small army in mind. Plus, David has always been in the anti-lasagna camp, saying that it was too gooey. (He’s averse to that texture in food.) David is also lukewarm about zucchini, and so he surprised me when he said he was up for trying the Zucchini Basil Lasagna.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan CasserolesThe nice thing about the Zucchini Basil Lasagna recipe is that it makes enough for 4 to 6. That’s the perfect amount for our family of two, guaranteeing leftovers for the next day. The lasagna noodles don’t have to be cooked ahead of time and instead soften right in the sauce, erasing concerns over torn noodles. I used handmade lasagna noodles from my favorite local pasta maker.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonJulie gives the option of making the sauce from scratch or buying jarred. I made it from scratch with the recipe, Quick Tomato Basil Sauce. I made just one change. I prefer spaghetti sauces not to be sweet, and so I omitted the sugar and added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to round it out instead. It worked beautifully.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna - Vegan CasserolesThe tofu cheese inside was addictively good right out of the food processor, and I could see myself making it alone simply for the purpose of spreading it on crackers.  We had some Upton’s Italian seitan sausage on hand, and so I added a couple handfuls of that too to the layers of noodles.

Zucchini Basil Lasagna in Vegan CasserolesRoasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized OnionsThe lasagna baked for an hour and came out beautifully. I needn’t have worried about David’s past dislike of lasagna. He not only finished his first helping but went back for seconds. It was an absolutely delicious dish that would be dinner party-worthy, but is easy enough to be weeknight-friendly (especially if one used jarred pasta sauce). I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts.

Baked Tapenade & Caramelized Onion DipAs I mentioned earlier this week, I took a couple of dishes from Vegan Casseroles to a pumpkin-carving gathering. I brought Baked Tapenade with a crusty baguette and Caramelized Onion Dip with potato chips.

Baked Tapenade - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonWith just 5 ingredients, the Baked Tapenade comes together quickly with ingredients that I always have in my pantry. I liked its inclusion of both olives and capers for their briny flavor. The tapenade is then baked for 15 to 20 minutes and served warm.

After the party, I used leftover tapenade on crackers as a snack and then later added dollops of it to a pizza, which was fantastic. The tapenade was fast and tasty, and would be a great dish to have on hand all the time for slathering on sandwiches, adding interest to wraps, or tossing with pasta.

Caramelized Onion Dip - Vegan Casseroles by Julie HassonThe Caramelized Onion Dip is like an adult version of the onion dip you grew up eating. It is made with a base of cashews for creamy sweetness, seasoned with onion granules and dried onion, and topped with caramelized onions. The dip is made with white wine, and so there are undertones of wine. (If you’re not a wine fan, I bet it would also be good with vegetable broth instead.)

There are still loads of recipes left that I want to try, and now that the weather is turning colder, I have a feeling this book is going to be seeing a lot of use.

The publisher, Running Press, has allowed me to share the onion dip recipe with you today, and you can try it for yourself. Get your potato chips ready!

Caramelized Onion Dip - great with potato chips!

Caramelized Onion Dip

Serving Size: 8

This dip is adapted from a recipe by Dan and Annie Shannon in Betty Goes Vegan. No one will ever guess that it’s not full of sour cream, but heart-healthy creamy cashews instead. I doubled the onion-y goodness with dried chopped onion, which will totally remind you of the quintessential French onion dip. Serve this old-school style, with ruffled potato chips on the side. Prepare to be wowed!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Bragg liquid aminos or low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 jumbo or 2 small sweet onions, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
  • Few pinches granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. In a powerful blender, combine the cashews, wine, water, lemon juice, garlic, granulated onion, and Bragg liquid aminos. Blend until the mixture is super-smooth and creamy, and there are no traces of graininess from the nuts. This will take a couple of minutes, and you will need to stop to scrape down the blender jar. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt if needed.
  2. Scoop the cashew mixture into a small glass or ceramic baking dish, such as an 8 x 5 or 81/2 x 6 (or you can use a standard loaf pan). Stir in the dried onions and smooth the top. Cover and chill for several hours.
  3. While the cashew mixture is chilling, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, coating the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring as needed, until the onions are caramelized. You may need to lower the heat so that the onions don’t burn. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the onions with a few pinches of sugar and a pinch of salt to help them caramelize. When the onions are soft and nicely browned, remove them from the heat and let cool completely.
  4. When the dip has chilled and thickened for several hours, top with the caramelized onions and serve.

Notes

Tip: If you’re using a high-speed blender, you can skip the soaking step for the cashews and just use them dry. Add a little extra water to blend if needed.

Variation: To add an extra onion flavor to the dip, and a little splash of color, sprinkle a handful of thinly sliced scallions over the caramelized onions.

Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free tamari or gluten-free soy sauce.

Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

http://cadryskitchen.com/2014/10/29/onion-dip-vegan-casseroles/

In conjunction with the release of Vegan Casseroles, the publisher is having a giveaway with a grand prize of 1 Breville Smart Oven.  Five runners up with receive a copy of Vegan Casseroles.  The giveaway ends on November 12th and is open to U.S. residents only.

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Disclaimer: I received this cookbook from the publisher, Running Press, but the thoughts and opinions are my own.  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Miyoko’s Kitchen: Nut-Based Vegan Cheeses

Miyoko's Kitchen: Vegan cheesesA curious thing happened one day last week. I arrived at the grocery store and noticed that David had added to our shared grocery list with all of the usual suspects for one of our nibbly nights. On the list – crackers, cornichons, dolmas, grapes, and a bottle of wine. I picked up the items in question and arrived home to see the star of the evening waiting on the doorstep.

Unbeknownst to me, David had ordered the Traditional Collection of cheeses from Miyoko’s Kitchen as a wonderful surprise. Miyoko Schinner is the goddess of vegan cheeses, and her book, Artisan Vegan Cheese, is beloved in our house as well as in the houses of so many other vegans. I’ve made several cheeses from the book, but I still haven’t made any of the slow aged variety, because I’ve been intimidated by the waiting time. Instead I’ve gone for cheeses with more instant gratification (or at least within a few days or so).

I have tried some of the more labor-intensive cheeses, though. Miyoko made some of her nut-based cheeses for the Vida Vegan Con gala last year. The platter was very well loved by the time I got there with just bits and pieces left.

Miyoko's Kitchen: Vegan cheeses made from nutsSince that time Miyoko has opened a cheese-making facility of her own based out of Fairfax, California.   At some point in the future, the facility will house a retail store with their own cheeses and a variety of other artisanal vegan products. They also plan on hosting events, including cooking demonstrations and movie nights. (So fun!)

However, for right now their cheeses are just beginning to show up in stores. Currently their products are available at Good Earth in Fairfax and Republic of V in Berkeley, California. Starting in November, they’ll be available in natural food stores (like Whole Foods) in Northern California. From there, they’ll branch out to smaller stores and restaurants. For the rest of us in the United States, Miyoko’s cheeses are now available online. (At this time, they’re not shipping out of the U.S.)

The Traditional Collection that David ordered included three cheeses: Aged English Sharp Farmhouse, Aged English Smoked Farmhouse, and High Sierra Rustic Alpine. However, only two cheeses were in the box – both varieties of the Farmhouse cheeses. Since the cheeses require aging and the demand has been high, there was more interest than there was supply on some of the cheeses that take time to age properly. So they ran out of the alpine. In exchange, they took that amount off of our total and gave us a coupon to use towards a future shipment, which is great because I’m very excited about ordering more.

Miyoko's Kitchen: Nut-based vegan cheesesWith crackers and other nibblies laid out, I unwrapped the cheeses. They are in sweet, well-designed boxes, and the cheeses themselves are in glossy wax paper, wrapped up like presents with a seal. It felt like Christmas unwrapping the neatly folded packages.

The first thing I noticed was the size of the cheeses. I was afraid they might be small like the Doctor Cow cheeses, which come in at 2.6 ounces. (I think the Doctor Cow cheeses are very tasty, but at $10.99 for a small round of it, it doesn’t last long.) However, the cheeses from Miyoko were 6.5 ounces, which is considerably larger. There was plenty for our dinner that evening, along with enough for a European-style breakfast a couple days later with cheese, crackers, and fruit. After some additional random snacking, there’s now the tiniest wedge of cheese left.

Vegan cheeses from Miyoko's KitchenAnd how did they taste? Heavenly. Both of the cheeses had very strong, sharp flavors that were tangy and exploded on the tongue. In the same way that dark chocolate has a much bolder flavor than milk chocolate, I loved how these cheeses had the same dominating pop of flavor. I was satisfied with less cheese on the cracker, because each sliver had so much richness of taste.

The Aged English Sharp Farmhouse is vaguely reminiscent of a sharp cheddar.  There is also a bit of nutritional yeast taste to it. (That is totally good by me. I love nutritional yeast.) The cheese is firm but still spreadable, and I loved the crackly dry exterior of it. The ingredients are simple: organic cashews, water, organic chickpea miso, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and cultures.

Vegan cheeses made from nuts - Miyoko's KitchenThe Aged English Smoked Farmhouse had a dominating smoky flavor that reminded me of the smoked cheeses I used to enjoy in my vegetarian days. Because of the smokiness, it was less neutral than the Sharp Farmhouse. I am a big fan of smoky flavors, and especially in the fall and winter, there’s something very warming about those tastes. It had a lovely bite to it that was noticeable but not overwhelming. The ingredients were the same as for the Sharp Farmhouse.

What to try next? The ones I’m most interested in ordering next time are the Double Cream Chive, which has been receiving raves all over the internet, the Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf, because it looks so beautiful and eating the leaf is part of the taste experience, and the Limited Edition Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash, because it looks so unique and eye-catching. However, I have a strong feeling that whatever I order, I won’t be able to make a wrong decision. Just from this one go, I can already say that Miyoko’s cheeses are easily my favorite vegan cheeses on the market.