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Mains, Soups, Vegetarian

Vegan 'clam' chowder

Vegan 'clam' chowder
Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Tal Ronnen catered the vegan wedding for Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi. Casino mogul Steve Wynn tapped him to add vegan dishes to the menus at all 22 restaurants at the luxurious Wynn and Encore resorts in Vegas. ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour, 35 minutes, plus overnight soaking time for the cashews | Serves 12

Cashew cream

  • 4 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed under cold water

Step 1Put the cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to soak overnight.

Step 2Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place the cashews in a high-speed blender (this will need to be done in a couple of batches) and add enough water to cover by an inch. Puree until completely smooth. If needed, pass the cashew puree through a fine strainer to remove any coarse bits; the final "cream" should have the smooth, thick consistency of heavy dairy cream. This makes about 3 cups cream (consistency will depend on the amount of water added while blending, and can vary from just over 2 cups to about 3 1/2 cups; thin as desired).

Kombu broth

  • 4 pieces kombu seaweed (about 5 by 8 inches)
  • 2 quarts water

Step 1Combine the kombu and water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook 40 minutes. Strain. This makes about 5 cups kombu broth, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The broth will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 10 days.

Smoked mushrooms

  • 1 tablespoon small hickory chips
  • 1 heaping cup diced king trumpet mushrooms

Step 1Prepare the stovetop smoker: Spread the chips in the base of the smoker, directly over the burner. Place the drip pan (if using) over the chips, and a rack on top of the drip pan. Place the diced mushrooms on the rack (be sure to use a rack fine enough so the mushrooms don't fall through) indirectly over the chips (do not place the mushrooms directly over the chips, as this can cause them to oversmoke and turn bitter). Cover the smoker with the lid, leaving the smoker open only a couple of inches. (If you do not have a commercial stovetop smoker, you can substitute by using a heavy roasting pan, a cake rack and heavy-duty foil to cover the pan as a lid.)

Step 2Heat the smoker over medium heat just until you see smoke escaping through the opening. Close the smoker entirely and gently smoke just to infuse the mushrooms with smoke flavor, not to cook, 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to oversmoke, or the mushrooms will become bitter.

Chowder assembly

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup peeled and diced baking potato
  • 1 1/2 cups kombu broth
  • Cashew cream
  • Smoked king trumpet mushrooms
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce, more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, more to taste

Step 1Heat the oil in a medium-sized soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and potato and sweat, stirring frequently, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 2Add the broth, cashew cream and smoked mushrooms. Reduce the heat, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes to develop and marry the flavors. The cashew cream will thicken as it cooks, and you will need to add water from time to time to thin and adjust the consistency. We added about 3 cups water as the soup cooked.

Step 3Season with the lemon juice, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. This makes a generous 2 quarts soup.

Note: This recipe calls for a commercial stove-top smoker; a heavy-duty roasting pan with a rack and lid can be substituted. This recipe uses small hardwood hickory chips or shavings; the chips are available at select cooking stores and are widely available online. Kombu (dried seaweed) is available at Asian markets and well-stocked supermarkets.


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