It was a lazy Saturday afternoon–well, at least it would have been if I could sit still for more than two minutes without wanting to cook, create, or do . I had most of the ingredients for this mushroom sauce and made a spur of the moment decision to finally photograph and blog this recipe, since it’s become one of the Mister and I’s favorites in our dinner rotation for the past few months. I just needed a couple things. No need to consult the recipe. Besides, it’s all in my head…Mind like a steel trap! I left, went to the store, came back. Oops, forgot the mushroom broth. Ummm, that’s okay, I’ll use the tiny amount of mushroom broth I have and fill in with veggie broth, which I always have on hand. Okay, we’re good!
Cooking, cooking, photographing, destroying the kitchen… I pulled up my recipe, and read through my notes. Oh yeah, I normally add cashew cream. Dang it! Cashews haven’t been soaked, because I don’t actually have any in the pantry. Oh no! It’s almost sunset! I have maybe another 45 minutes before this baby needs to be made, plated and photographed in the already waning light. You don’t have time to go to the store again, self! Wait self, you mean to say that you didn’t even read your own recipe before going to the store?! Hey, hey now self, I thought I had it all under control. Well next time, maybe you’ll –I know I know, I just thought it was all up here, in the brain! Steel trap, my–Okay, okay! Maybe next time! A sage word of advice: always read the recipe first. I think I secretly like flying by the seat of my pants. I love finding solutions for a problem when option one isn’t possible. Limitation inspires creativity.
These recent years have been an exercise in limitation. The last almost 8 years have been an improvisational dance of give and take with cancer. It has changed or taken many things important to me, giving some things back after a while, taking some things forever. If I thought I only had one option in life, that there was only one way to do things, I would be plumb out of options. Limitation inspired me to adapt and get creative when I felt like I was losing all the things I loved to do. At my worst point, and for about a year, I experienced constant debilitating spasms in my neck and back caused by radiation treatment to my spine. In addition, the chemo caused a chronic cough that sent zaps of pain throughout my back, so intense they eventually broke a rib. The medicines that made that spasms slightly bearable made my stomach extremely ill, taking away my enjoyment of many of the things I loved most, including food!
During those days, you could find me laying in a yoga class listening to the teacher and imagining the poses, doing the very few I could muster. Food and I had a precarious relationship, so I developed as many variations of broth and rice soup as I could think of, and dove into my favorite cookbooks and food blogs, trying to find things that would appetize me. I fell in love with writing and lettering in my journal, because it was something creative I could do with very little movement. I still live with cancer every day, but I’m grateful to say that my latest treatment regimen has been kinder on my body, and I’ve been climbing mountains in Thailand, gaining strength in my yoga practice, and am able to eat food that excites me again!
No matter your limits, let them inspire you to dream of all the things that are possible and not get bogged down chasing all the things you’ve lost. Know which things to pursue and work toward, which things to wait patiently in hope of a reunion, and which things to let go the best you can. There are things I will never get back, and every day is a balancing act, but I’m here now, each new day an opportunity to turn limitation into new possibilities.
The kitchen is a fun playground for this exercise. I’m the most creative when I have to find a way to create with what I have on-hand instead of running to the store for all new ingredients. Recipes are guidelines, and the recipes I post here are often snapshots in time of my latest version. They constantly undergo little tweaks and additions based on what I have, what I’m craving, or a wacky idea I think just might work. Don’t be afraid to make your own additions!
The Mister loves this recipe. My in-the-moment adaptations worked well, and the sauce kept the same character; creamy, rich, savory and chock full of mushrooms. We like to have it over gnocchi paired with something lighter and more nutrient-dense on the side like my brussels sprouts salad, since the gnocchi is pretty starchy and filling. This sauce would make a great mushroom gravy over mashed or roasted potatoes, whipped cauliflower, a cauliflower steak, salmon or piece of seared chicken for the non-vegetarians. It also makes a great pasta sauce. We have options, people!
Let’s let our limitations in the kitchen and beyond inspire creativity and possibility!
Creamy Vegan Mushroom Sauce
This sauce is extremely versatile, and can be served over gnocchi, pasta, or as a gravy.
makes 3-4 servings as a main dish sauce
- 3 tablespoon vegan butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 shallots, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, diced
- 3-4 cups mushroom broth
- ¾ cup white wine
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 3 tablespoons all purpose or gluten-free flour
- ¼ to ½ cup cashew cream (see below) or full fat coconut milk
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 24 oz gnocchi or pasta for serving, cooked according to package directions (Delallo makes a great gluten-free gnocchi)
Heat 2 TB of the butter and the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Saute shallots until they soften, 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes until softened but still retaining some firmness. Add the white wine and stir to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook the wine down for a couple minutes then add mushroom broth and thyme Bring to a high simmer to concentrate and thicken the broth for 6-8 minutes.
Melt remaining TB butter in another nonstick pan. Whisk in flour to form a roux. Whisk the roux into mushroom mixture. Whisk in the cashew cream or coconut milk to taste. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over the gnocchi or pasta, garnished with fresh thyme.
Process adapted from Beard and Bonnet. See their detailed tutorial here.
Cashew cream makes a great dairy-free substitution for heavy cream in recipes such as soups and sauces. This recipe makes more than you will need for the mushroom sauce, but is much easier to blend in a larger quantity. Leftovers can be drizzled on a soup, on Mexican dishes, or on a hearty quinoa bowl. Cashew cream can also be used as a base for a creamy salad dressing.
- 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 1/2 cup filtered water, plus more for soaking
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with the filtered water by an inch. Allow to soak overnight (or, if you forget to soak ahead of time, cover the cashews with boiling water and soak for 20 minutes). Drain and rinse the cashews.
Blend the cashews, water, lemon juice and salt in a high powered blender or food processor until very smooth, adding more water if needed, for 1-2 minutes. If using a regular blender, immersion blender, or food processor, you will need to blend it for longer.
Leftovers will keep in a sealed container for 3-4 days, or can be frozen up to 6 months. If you choose to freeze the cream, run it through the blender again once defrosted to smooth out the texture again.