I have been dying to visit Crossroads in Los Angeles ever since it came on the scene in 2013. It was opened by Tal Ronnen along with executive chef, Scot Jones, and master vegan baker, Serafina Magnussen. You may have seen Tal on Oprah or heard about the vegan menus he created at the Wynn Hotels. (That may be the only reason I would ever feel the desire to return to Vegas again.)
The Mediterranean restaurant offers a fine dining experience that is 100% vegan. Visiting vegan restaurants is often a casual affair. No reservations needed, come as you are. That makes a vegan fine dining experience like they offer at Crossroads in LA that much more inviting. On birthdays and anniversaries it’s a pleasure to have a restaurant where you can wear a nice dress, order a fancy cocktail, and start the evening with an amuse bouche.
Until I’m able to book my next trip to sunny Southern California, I can get a taste of what’s in store for me through the Crossroads cookbook. Crossroads is stunning and would do just as well on the coffee table as it would in the cookbook holder.
This Mediterranean cookbook puts vegetables in the forefront, preparing them in new and unusual ways that highlight and accentuate their innate flavors. There are snacks and spreads, salads, and flatbreads, soups, small plates, pastas, cocktails, and more.
In addition to the recipes themselves, I like it when cookbook authors transport me to another place or time in their introduction to each recipe. I want to know about the little café where they had something similar or the trip where they discovered an ingredient they couldn’t live without. In this cookbook, there’s plenty of that, and I could enjoy it simply as reading material if I didn’t long to cook from it too.
Speaking of which, I have a number of restaurant cookbooks in my collection, and admittedly, most of them don’t get a ton of use. Because restaurant dishes are often quite laborious, it’s not always what I’m looking for on a Tuesday night. Refreshingly, Crossroads has plenty of less arduous options, along with involved recipes for when you feel like more of a project.
Here are the recipes I tried:
Marinated Mediterranean Olives with Rosemary-Fried Almonds
If I could have only one type of olive for always and forever, I would easily choose Castelvetrano. They are buttery and mild, and no matter how many times I have them, they always feel like a treat. This recipe for marinated Mediterranean olives takes my already sizable love and moves it up a notch.
First, extra virgin olive oil, fresh thyme, garlic, lemon zest, shallots, and seasonings are sautéed in a skillet until their aromas fill the air. Then the mixture is poured over olives and marinated for at least an hour. (The longer they marinate, the better the flavor.) Just before serving, the oil mixture and olives are heated gently on the stove, and served warm to the table.
The aromatics add a wonderful savory dimension to the olives, and I found myself hunting through the oil to find little slivers of sautéed garlic slices and shallots to enjoy by themselves. The only change I’d make for next time is to omit the salt. I felt the olives were salty enough on their own without adding a ½ teaspoon more.
The recipe calls for the olives to be topped with rosemary-fried Marcona almonds. However, I already had rosemary Marcona almonds from Trader Joe’s in the cupboard. So I cheated and used a handful of those instead of making more from scratch.
We had the olives this weekend for a nibbly night with vegan pepperoni from The Homemade Vegan Pantry, Treeline cashew cheese, baby peppers, jalapeño peppers, blackberries, and crackers. All of the flavors went together so beautifully.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Za’atar, Lemon & Pine Nuts
I make Brussels sprouts often, but I tend to give them a char either by roasting or in a skillet under a high heat. So I was intrigued by the idea of shredding the raw Brussels sprouts and using them for a salad instead. The salad also includes thinly sliced carrots and toasted pine nuts. I served it with hemp-crusted tofu.
The sprouts are tossed in the juice of two lemons plus the zest as well. I was a bit dubious about adding that much lemon juice since the sizes of lemons can vary. (It would have been handy if the book also listed the amount of lemon juice in tablespoons.) My lemons were pretty standard-sized. So I followed the directions as written since Brussels can be on the bitter side. I should have listened to my instincts, though, because the lemon juice overwhelmed to the point that I had to pour quite a bit of it off, and even then it was way too strong. I’d definitely halve the lemon juice or even quarter it if I were to make it again in the future.
Cauliflower Bisque with Fried Capers
This cauliflower soup is velvety smooth and silky, because of its cashew cream base. It’s made with roasted cauliflower, garlic, leeks, and onions. The roasting adds extra dimension and depth to the soup. Finally, it’s finished with briny fried capers. The capers add a bolt of unexpected interest to the soup, giving an intense burst of flavor.
This soup is dinner-party worthy and would surely impress any guests. I made the full recipe for the soup with the intention of freezing it, but that never came to pass. I happily ate it over a few days until the soup vanished.
Because I knew I’d be eating the cauliflower soup on my own, I made a few changes to pare down the calories. I reduced the extra-virgin olive oil & Earth Balance to one Tablespoon each. The soup was still plenty rich and full-bodied without them. I also used bouillon and water instead of vegetable stock, because that’s what I had on hand.
Thanks to the book’s publisher, Artisan Books, I’m able to share the recipe for this cauliflower soup with you today. I know you’ll enjoy it.