By Chris Carmichael
“What the hell is cashew cream?” I have to admit that was my first thought when I first saw it listed as an ingredient in the Corn Chowder Recipe described below from Tal Ronnen’s cookbook, “The Conscious Cook”. It’s a vegan cookbook, and although I’m neither a vegan nor a vegetarian, I am always interested in adding more plants to my diet. Cashew cream, it turns out, is a nice alternative to using dairy cream in traditionally cream-based soups. It can also be used in place of dairy cream in desserts, and apparently it can be whipped (although I haven’t tried that yet).
Alone, cashew cream has little to no taste but it has the correct texture. And, like dairy cream, it adds a source of fat and richness to the recipes in which it’s used. It’s also remarkably easy to make. The cashew cream in Ronnen’s book calls for just raw cashews and water:
- Put 2 cups of well-rinsed, whole, raw cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place in a blender with enough cold water to just cover them. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth.
The big question is whether there’s any compelling reason for non-vegans like me – and possibly you – to bother with cashew cream? From a nutrition standpoint it is a high-calorie and high-fat food, just like dairy cream. But most of the fat in cashew cream is the heart-healthier unsaturated type, and dairy cream is a significant source of saturated fat. By weight, cashews are a source of more complete nutrition, with significant energy coming from protein, carbohydrate and fat. In contrast, the vast majority of the calories in dairy cream come from fat. In my view, cashew cream wins the nutritional contest.
I like the idea of cashew cream as an alternative to dairy cream. It’s a raw food, and although it’s certainly processed (liquefied in a blender), it retains the vast majority of the nutrients originally present in the cashews. And nutrients and calories aside, for athletes who are lactose intolerant or just prefer to avoid dairy products, cashew cream also provides an alternative that’s not soy-based.
And there’s something else that makes cashew cream appealing, but it’s more difficult to pin down. It’s just seems clever. Anyway, check out the Corn Chowder recipe from “The Conscious Cook” below. It’s really good after a long, cold winter workout.
Corn Chowder from The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups diced Vidalia onions
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, de-ribbed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 dried chipotle pepper
5 cups faux chicken stock (try Better Than Bouillon brand)
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 fresh thyme sprig
Kernels from 6 ears of corn, plus 2 ears roasted or grilled corn
1 1/2 cups thick Cashew Cream (see below for recipe)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives
1/2 cup diced tomato
- 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.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, and chipotle pepper. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the stock, potatoes, and thyme, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
- With the back of a spoon, smash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot and stir to thicken the soup. Add the raw corn and Cashew Cream, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the chipotle pepper and thyme sprigs. Garnish with the chives, tomato, and roasted corn kernels.