Cream of asparagus soup

When I lived in Virginia, asparagus was one of the only locally fresh vegetables you could find in spring. This recipe is versatile: If you can’t find nice asparagus, use broccoli to make cream of broccoli instead. As in a lot of my recipes, cashew cream stands in for dairy here and makes for an equally rich, delicious dish.

  • Sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 quarts faux chicken or vegetable stock (try Better Than Bouillon brand)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup thick Cashew Cream, plus more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • Microgreens for garnish
  1. Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke. This will create a nonstick effect.
  2. Add the asparagus, celery, and onion and sauté for 6 to 10 minutes, until the celery is just soft. Add the stock and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the Cashew Cream and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Working in batches, pour the soup into a blender, cover the lid with a towel (the hot liquid tends to erupt), and blend on high. Add the spinach to the last batch and continue blending until smooth. Pour the soup into a large bowl and stir to incorporate the spinach batch. Ladle into bowls. Garnish each bowl with microgreens and drops of Cashew Cream.

Makes 6 servings
Prep time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cashew Cream

The magic ingredient that makes it easy to live without dairy

If you’ve thumbed through the recipes in The Conscious Cook, you’ve seen the ingredient “cashew cream” a few times. It’s a vegan-chef staple that stands in for dairy in a variety of ways. In the raw-food world, where it originated, it’s used in lots of desserts. When you cook with it, though, it can be so much more—from cheese filling in ravioli to heavy cream in soups. It can be stored 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 6 months (although after it’s defrosted it can be a bit lumpy, so it’s good to give it a spin in the blender to smooth it out before using it).

The trick when making cashew cream is to use raw cashews. They have no flavor of their own; they’re just a vessel for fat and creaminess. (It’s the roasting that brings out the familiar sweetness in cashews.) Because it has a nice fat content, cashew cream reduces in a pan even faster than heavy cream. (Soy milk, which some people use in vegan cooking, has no fat, so it doesn’t reduce into a thick sauce—it’s really not an alternative.)

For different applications, there are different consistencies—thick and regular. (I’ve also included a recipe for Whipped Cashew Cream, which is a great accompaniment to desserts.) Both are easy to make but not quick, because the cashews need to soak overnight. A shortcut is to put the cashews in a pot with water, bring them to a boil, then shut off the heat and let them soak for an hour. But this starts to leach out the sweetness, so you’re better off with the overnight method. Also, there’s at least one decent brand of store-bought nut cream, called Mimic Cream, which combines cashews and almonds; you can usually find it on the shelves or in the refrigerated section near the soy milk. Of course, nothing compares to homemade, and once you get used to it, there may be no turning back.

regular and thick cashew cream

  • 2 cups whole raw cashews (not pieces, which are often dry), rinsed very well under cold water
  1. Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place them in a blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. (If you’re not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.)
  3. To make thick cashew cream, which some of the recipes in this book call for, simply reduce the amount of water when they are placed in the blender, so that the water just slightly covers the cashews.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups thick cream or 3 1/2 cups regular cream
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus soaking overnight.

Who We Are

About Tal

The Conscious Cook

Chef Tal Ronnen used to love steak, overstuffed pastrami sandwiches, veal scaloppini, paella with spicy sausage, and all kinds of rich, scrumptious, satisfying food. When he became a vegetarian and then a vegan, he took his taste buds with him.

In fact, he took them further. “I became obsessed with the idea of creating vegan food that was just as mouth-watering and delicious as anything I’d ever had as a meat-eater,” he attests in The Conscious Cook; Delicious Meatless Recipes that will Change the Way you Eat.

Chef Tal Ronnen is one of the most celebrated vegan chefs working today. In the spring of 2008, he became known nationwide as the chef who prepared vegan meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day vegan cleanse. He has since catapulted to
fame, catering Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s vegan wedding, Arianna Huffington’s party at the Democratic National Convention, and the first vegan dinner at the U.S. Senate.

A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, Chef Tal has worked at the top vegan restaurants in the United States, including Sublime in Fort Lauderdale, Madeleine Bistro in Los Angeles, and Candle 79 in New York City. He also assisted Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders in opening her restaurant, VegiTerranean in Akron, Ohio, in 2007. Additionally, Chef Tal conducts master vegetarian workshops for students and staff at Le Cordon Bleu College campuses nationwide.

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