Ok, so I may have spoken too fast. Summer hasn’t arrived yet. It looks like the seasons have shifted a whole month forward. April showers are now May showers and the temperatures aren’t exactly summer like these days. Apparently with the various large earthquakes and tsunamis, the earth’s axis has shifted more than one degree. So warm dishes are really nice until the sun decides to make an extended appearance!
Every now and then, we have a craving for pasta but we wanted something a little more rich with a creamy sauce. Living in the pacific Northwest, we have a great selection of wild mushroom available at regular grocery stores. So I combined a vegan cream sauce my friend and chef Miyoko Schinner showed me a few years ago with these tender and full of flavors mushrooms. Yum!
And to balance cooked food with something fresh, I prepared my signature wilted spinach salad dish. The challenge with these 2 dishes is the timing. Got to work fast and get things lined up correctly. In real estate, it is location, location, location. When it comes to cooking, it is preparation, preparation, preparation!
1. Cook the pasta
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
The trick is that when it is almost completely done (taste to be sure but don’t burn your fingers or your tongue in the process!), pour out the water and rinse under cold water until the noodles are warm to the touch. Pour 1/2 Tbl of oil and mix with hands to prevent from sticking. Put aside and get started on the sauce.
2. Prepare the mushroom sauce
First the cream:
Blend 1 cup of cashew nuts with 2 cups of broth in a blender (or you can use plain water too).
Add some salt if you are using water. Add some black pepper and garlic powder. Make sure that the liquid is smooth (no small pieces of nuts should be left) Pour into a small pan.
- Gently wash the mushrooms. Any type will do (porcini, portobellos, white caps etc.) and cut in half if they are small or slice the shrooms, as we call them at home.
- In a frying pan, put 1 Tbl vegetable oil, 1-2 cloves of minced garlic over medium heat. Make sure that it doesn’t burn.
- Add the mushrooms making sure that they are not too crowded.
- Add 2 Tbl balsamic vinegar and quickly mix into the mushrooms to make them sweat and caramelize. Don’t overcook, they are full of water and only need a little tenderizing.
- Taste, add some salt if you need it. Remove from heat and put aside.
Putting it all together
- Heat up the cashew cream sauce over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the sauce until it thickens a little. As soon as you see that it does, remove from heat.
- Place the pasta in a large frying pan, mix the caramelized mushrooms, then pour the sauce over and gently mix for a minute or so. Immediately serve. Save some cream sauce and mushrooms because you will be asked for seconds. Guaranteed!
4. Wilted Spinach salad
Looks and tastes fancy but it is so easy to make and preserves most of the nutrient in the spinach.
The trick is to heat 2-3 Tbl of extra virgin olive oil (regular olive oil will also do, but treat yourself to good things from time to time). I know, virgin olive oil should be consumed cold, but it is also nice now and then heated.
- Place the washed and dried spinach in a large bowl
- Slice some red onion thinly if you like raw onions
- Sprinkle some pine nuts and some nutritional yeast (1-2 Tbl)
- Heat up the oil in your smallest pan, on high heat for less than a minute depending on how quickly your stove heats up. Watch it because it happens very quickly. Don’t let it smoke. It is all in the timing.
- Pour it immediately over the spinach and quickly mix it until all the leaves are coated and shinny.
- Sprinkle with a little lemon juice (optional) and serve.