|Tal stayed after his presentation to sign copies of his book.|
Tal Ronnen was the keynote speaker at VegFest this year. (See my previous post for more details on the event.) He is the author of The Conscious Cook and a developer of Gardein. I checked out his book from the library a year or so ago. Although the recipes are masterfully created and looked delectable, they all seemed rather involved, some with 3-4 recipes needed to create the dish. Nothing jumped out at me as something I wanted to eat badly enough that I’d spend a lot of time cooking it. If someone would cook his recipes for me, however, that would be a different story.
Tal came across as a really down-to-earth guy and explained that he’s more comfortable in the kitchen than talking in front of a crowd. He started out his presentation by explaining his philosophy on vegan cooking. Basically, his mission is to cook food that tastes good, is satisfying, and appeals to vegans and non-vegans alike. In fact, he prefers to cook for non-vegetarians to show them that they can have all the flavors and textures of meat in a completely plant-based meal. He talked about some of his experiences – cooking for Oprah, teaching at Le Cordon Bleu, helping create Gardein, opening a vegan restaurant in Akron, OH – and discussed plans for a vegan fast food chain.
After talking for a while he got down to doing what he does best – cooking. For the demonstration, he made “Celery Root Soup with Granny Smith Apples” from his book. As he cooked, he explained what he was doing and shared some tips and tricks he’s learned throughout his experience as a chef.
During this time Tal answered questions from the audience. Unfortunately, it was at this point that things began to take a turn for the worse. I quickly became frustrated with all the health-related questions that people insisted on asking, even though Tal clearly stated (again and again) that he wouldn’t be addressing those issues. If I was frustrated, I can only imagine how he felt! I actually left the demonstration early because I couldn’t take the audience members any longer, so I didn’t get to see him finish the soup. Thankfully Tal shared his recipe with VegMichigan, who in turn published it in the April edition of their newsletter. I haven’t made it yet but it sounds really good.
· Sea salt
· 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
· 2 medium celery roots, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
· 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 (recipe follows, make the night before)
· Freshly ground black pepper
· 1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, very finely diced
· Chive Oil (recipe follows)
1. Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for one 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 celery root, celery, and onion, and sauté for six to ten minutes, stirring often, until soft but not brown. 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 ten minutes.
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. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls. Place a spoonful of the diced apple in the center of each serving, drizzle the Chive Oil around the apple, and serve.
Makes 6 servings
Prep time: 1 hour, 10 minutes ______________________________________________________________________
· Two 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 ______________________________________________________________________
· One small bunch chives
· ½ cup canola oil
· Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Blanch the chives for 30 seconds in boiling water, then drain, and chill in an ice bath.
2. Drain, wrap the chives in a towel, and squeeze the moisture out. Place in a blender with the remaining ingredients and blend for two minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
3. Put the chive oil in a plastic squeeze bottle with a small opening or use a spoon for drizzling it on the soup.
Makes 1/2 cup