It feels like winter here right now, but the daffodils and hyacinths and tulips pushing their way out of the earth are beautiful reminders that spring is here, and it’s nearly time to plant that vegetable garden. This year, in addition to the usual staples like eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes, I hope to plant some delicious seeds for some difficult-to-find Indian veggies: a gift from my friend Roshani.
Roshani’s green thumb is quite an inspiration to a clumsy but eager gardener like me. She grows a variety of vegetables and herbs each year in her postage-stamp backyard and even has a raspberry bush and a fig tree crammed in there. What’s more, she’s made room for a rain barrel.
Me, my backyard is mostly the domain of my adventure-seeking two, Opie and Lucy. They rampage through it at will, trying to seek and sniff out every little bit of trouble they can get their noses into. The vegetable garden is out of their reach because it’s fenced off, although they do spend a lot of time looking at it and then me with soulful eyes, trying no doubt to hatch a plan to get in.
My recipe today is for a really simple but really special pasta dish that uses cashew cream. Cashew cream, popularized by the great vegan chef Tal Ronnen, is nothing but a very creamy, very delicious paste of soaked cashews. It makes a great substitute for cream in any dish–and a healthier one as well.
To make this dish, I add a little zip to my cashew cream with a chipotle chilli pepper. You can buy chipotle chillis in adobo sauce at any supermarket, in the South American foods aisle. It is usually available in little cans and, when refrigerated in an airtight box, it lasts forever. In my kitchen it’s an indispensable ingredient: I use it to add some smoky, sassy chutzpah to anything from curries to quesadillas to pasta.
Here’s the recipe.
Pasta with Chipotle Cashew Cream
For the chipotle cashew cream:
1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked overnight or at least 8 hours.
1 chipotle chili with 1 tbsp of the adobo sauce (use more or less per your taste)
Drain the cashews, then grind them up into a really smooth paste with the chipotle chili and adobo sauce and water. Set aside.
1 16-ounce box of any pasta (I used whole-wheat fusilli, but you can use any small pasta or even a ribbony one like fettuccine.) Cook al-dente according to package directions.
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 8-oz package of button mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on their size
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil and add the onions. Sprinkle some salt and saute them for a few minutes until they are soft and transclucent but not brown.
Add the garlic, stir, and then add the tomatoes and the mushrooms. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and have broken down.
Add the cashew cream, mix together, and immediately add the pasta.
Stir well to coat the pasta with the sauce. If the pasta is too dry, add a cup or so of the pasta cooking water. Add salt to taste. Mix in the parsley.
You can add other veggies to this along with the tomatoes. Asparagus, broccoli and peas would all be great, and so would some scallions or green onions. You could saute leeks for an extra-special dish.