I spotted this recipe in the latest edition of Vegetarian Times magazine. The recipe is part of a funny article inviting loving couples to come spend their time and money at the Stanford Inn by the Sea for Valentine’s Day. The Inn’s renowned vegetarian restaurant, Raven’s, is run by Chefs Sally Owens and Merlyn Alvarado. I’ve checked both the hotel and restaurant (on-line) and they look sublime! These two local “celebrity” chefs have paired together to create vegetarian recipes with aphrodisiac properties just for the holiday. Everything uses locally and organically grown vegetables from Mendocino.
Among the several recipes, I was particularly excited by the creamy fettuccine with raw cashew nut sauce. It is completely vegan: no dairy at all! However, the name of the recipe in Vegetarian Times (“Black pepper fettuccine with chardonnay sauce and grilled asparagus”) omits the cashews, which is a major component here. I wonder why? We all know that black pepper for the most part comes from India and it’s been part of our culinary experience for so long that we don’t even think of it as a foreign ingredient. So why mention it and leave out the somewhat more exotic cashew? In Indian cooking cashew nuts have been used to thicken soups forever, or at least since the cashew plant made its journey from South America to India a few hundred years ago… And why praise the grilled asparagus over the more commonplace red bell pepper and humble baby spinach? Hmmm. Certainly it isn’t because the name becomes crazy long, as they’ve plenty of room for that in VT. So to prevent hard feelings among the lovely ingredients, I have renamed this dish accordingly. lol
VT has adapted the recipe from the original and I have done the same, readapting it to my tastes. The proportion of each ingredient didn’t seem right to me so I modified them a bit. I have made dishes from VT in the past and have found that sometimes things are a bit off. I wonder if they have a test-kitchen? VT here’s a suggestion from me: test before you publish, like we do.
fettuccine in black pepper chardonnay cashew nut sauce with asparagus, red bell pepper and spinach
2 cups raw cashew nuts
2 cups chardonnay
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Juice of a large lemon (~ 3 tbsp)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb fettuccine cooked per package instructions
2 cups baby spinach
1 bunch asparagus bottom tips peeled
½ red bell pepper cut into fine strips
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
Add enough water to cashews to barely cover them in a small bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes. Remove and let rest a bit. Transfer cashew nuts and water to food processor and whiz until nuts have turned into a smooth paste. Do not skip the microwaving part otherwise the paste will not become smooth and glossy.
Place the wine in a saucepan and bring to near boil, turn temperature to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add cashew nut paste, lemon juice, black pepper, kosher salt and whisk to combine, taste and adjust flavors. It should be creamy, tangy and a bit peppery. Add more warm water if too thick.
Place asparagus and red bell pepper on two different baking trays, sprinkle with a tiny amount of salt and black pepper and tiny drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and keep warm.
Meanwhile cook pasta following cooking instructions from package, put spinach leaves in toward the last 30 seconds. Drain.
Transfer pasta with spinach to a bowl. Toss with half of the sauce, scatter asparagus spears and red pepper slices over and serve.