Note: This post is the second in a series on eco-friendly comfort foods. What are your favorite comfort foods? Let me know in the comments!
Mac and Cheese, one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, was something I learned to live without when I went vegan. That was until this recipe came into my life, in an issue of VegNews magazine.
I’m not entirely sure what to call it… Mac and Cheez? Mac and “Cheese?” Serve it with Broccoli and call it Mac and Trees? Call it whatever you want; I just call it delicious. Even if you’re not vegan, this sure is more comforting than the bizarre orange powdery stuff that came out of a box when we were kids.
But while my vegan husband and I gobbled it up, I wondered if it would stand up to the omnivore test. So we had some friends over this weekend to test it out. We also made things a little interesting by comparing it to a very different recipe from Veganomicon. Keep reading for the results of our taste-off…
Unfortunately I was only able to get permission to post the VegNews recipe. You’ll have to buy the book to check out the Veganomicon recipe, but I can say that it was based largely on tofu and nutritional yeast. The VegNews recipe, as you’ll see below, was a surprising blend of cashews and veggies.
Both took a while to prepare, so I’ll cut to the chase: how did it taste?
The Omnis: They preferred the texture of the Veganomicon recipe, what with the crumbled tofu. But they thought the VegNews recipe had a better crunchy topping after being baked. They thought both needed some added salt, and though they were too kind to admit it, I don’t think we were fooling anyone with the cheese substitute. But they were still satisfied.
The Vegans: My husband liked the Veganomicon recipe better than I did. I usually try to hide the taste of nutritional yeast, and it was just a little overpowering. We both love the VegNews recipe though — I think because it relies more on veggies than on tofu.
Want to find out for yourself? Give this recipe a shot:
4 quarts water
1 tbsp salt
8 ounces macaroni
4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
2 tbsps + 1/3 cup margarine
2 tbsps shallots, peeled and chopped
1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 tsps sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
1. In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tbsps margarine to a medium fine texture. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
4. In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup of margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.
5. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9×12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared bread crumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.
This recipe was originally published in the January+February 2008 issue of VegNews Magazine. To subscribe, visit VegNews.com. (Incidentally, the recipe was created by Allison Rivers Samson, the owner of Allison’s Gourmet — a great online bakery!)