Tal Ronnen is the owner and chef of Crossroads Kitchen, a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles. Crossroads stands out among the many vegan restaurants because it is an elegant place to dine. A restaurant where one could take anyone to celebrate a special occasion without feeling as though they were eating from a plant-based menu. Most of the vegan restaurants market themselves as bohemian or garden fresh. Ronnen realized a niche in the market that was neglected and met that need. When one walks into Crossroads Kitchen, the atmosphere immediately sets the stage. One begins to indulge their senses from the white tablecloths to the intimate feeling of being pampered. The food is the star, and the artistry illuminates from the visual to the taste. When one visits Crossroads, they will understand that plant-based cooking is a creation. The delicacies at Crossroad Kitchen are refined and not just a bunch of sides. As unique as it is to dine at Crossroads, taking the time to create their dishes is not something one could accomplish without lots of experience. Nonetheless, it is like going to a museum and visualizing great works of art for the artist. The paintings, or in this case the food art is inspirational for my home cooking.
It warms my heart when I can share some of my favorite vegan recipes. Laura still talks about how delicious my mushroom lasagna tasted. Many of my recipes I create, but some are from different sites, books, etc. The mushroom lasagna recipe below came from Holy Cow Vegan Recipes by Vaishali. Her recipes are always amazing! This wild mushroom lasagna is perfect for a cold day or a main holiday dish. Be sure to check the ingredients in the pasta most are vegan but a few contain egg. Cuddle-up with some warm comfort food.
An elegant and delicious vegan Wild Mushroom Lasagna has an assortment of wild mushrooms layered with a creamy white bechamel sauce and jewel-green leeks. A vegan, soy-free recipe. Can be nut-free.
Cuisine:Italian, Soy-free, Vegan
9sheets of oven-ready, no-boillasagna
1 1/2cupsdry wild mushrooms(Soak the dry mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes)
6clovesgarlic, finely sliced
3cups, choppedcrimini or portobello mushrooms or a mix of both
2leeks, cleaned of all grit and finely sliced
2tbspextra virgin olive oil
1/4cupall purpose flour
3cupscashew milkAlmond milk would be fine, or use rice or soy or hemp milk for nut-free versions
14 ozvegan mozzarella shreds
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4cupvegan cashew parmesan (recipe Below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet. Add half the garlic and as it begins to turn golden, add the oregano and the fresh mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Saute, stirring frequently, for five minutes or until the mushrooms start to brown. Drain the reconstituted mushrooms and add to the skillet. Reserve the mushroom stock. Add the wine.
Continue cooking for another five minutes until the wine has evaporated, then add the leeks. Continue cooking another five minutes or until the leeks are just tender. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Make the bechamel. In a saucepan, heat the remaining oil. Add the shallot and the remaining garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the shallots start to turn translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the flour begins to brown.
Slowly, stir in the cashew milk, using a whisk to beat out any lumps of flour, until you have smooth sauce. Add the reserved mushroom sauce. Add nutmeg, check seasoning and add more salt and ground black pepper if needed.
Let the sauce come to a boil and thicken. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and add the rest of it to the mushroom and leek mixture and stir well.
Coat the bottom of a 12 X 8 inch baking pan with the reserved bechamel sauce. Layer lasagna noodles side by side on top. In the pan I used, three noodles fitted side by side in each layer.
Pour one-third of the mushroom-leek mixture on top of the lasagna noodles in an even layer. Sprinkle on one-third of the vegan mozzarella
Arrange three more noodles on top and again layer on one-third of the mushrooms and leeks and the mozzarella. Repeat one more time, and finish off by layering mushrooms and leeks, mozzarella, and the vegan parmesan on the top layer.
Cover the lasagna pan with tinfoil and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, take off the foil and let the lasagna cook another 15 minutes.
Let the lasagna stand 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.
Recipe for vegan cashew parmesan
1cupraw cashews or cashew pieces
1/4 to 1/2 tspgarlic powder (add less to begin with and add more if you like a greater kick to your parm)
1tsporegano (doesn’t sound like it belongs in parm, I know, but it adds that extra something without screaming, I’m here!)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz until powdered. Check the texture every few seconds to ensure it is where you want.
The vegan lifestyle will surround one with creative opportunities by finding delicious omnivore recipes and transforming them into plant-based creations. It takes some effort, but the results are exciting. The initial step is to get away from the myopic view of food. The object is to work in concert with nature by cooking food that is seasonal and keeping the flavors and taste from being repetitive. New and fresh ideas in recipes require some substitutions. The process is a continuation of finding new plant-based products while uncovering the hidden meat and dairy ingredients in processed foods. In the omnivore’s diet, it is rare to make a new food discovery. There is a sameness that invades the food landscape. When one comes upon something that is new and different in food, there is a sense of genuine exhilaration.
My perfect storm occurred, when my actions and awareness merged. Several things happened to me at approximately the same time. Six years ago, as I was eating my omelets, burgers, and a lot of cheese, I would have never imagined myself as a vegan. Today as I write, I am not only vegan but trying hard to find food that is free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). My journey began as part of a process to live a healthier life.
My adventure into the food world began at Southern Methodist University as a Master of Liberal Studies student. I had the privilege of attending a question and answer session with Michael Pollan. Pollan has written many books including The Omnivores Dilemma. Michael Pollan is a guru on agriculture, gardening, and food on our plates. I am not a Nutritionist or biology major. I just wanted to live healthier, especially with all the cancer deaths in my family (mother, father, and sister). It was important for me to stop or prevent cancer in myself. I wanted to be around a while for my children and grandchildren. After listening to Pollan, my curiosity emerged as a passion. I started watching documentaries and read anything I could get my hands on about the food movement in the United States.
“I personally chose to go vegan because I educated myself on factory farming and cruelty to animals, and I suddenly realized that what was on my plate were living things, with feelings. And I just couldn’t disconnect myself from it any longer.” -Ellen DeGeneres
When acquaintances think of me, they think of my paintings or my poetry. Nonetheless, the most creative aspect of my life is a pure plant-based lifestyle. One may wonder how eating vegan can result in creativity. Studies on the plant-based lifestyle, including health benefits, caused me to go vegan six years ago and since then my creativity has flourished.
The vegan lifestyle is new historically as the word vegan was coined by an activist, Donald Watson in 1944. His frustration originated with the name “vegetarian” because the selection of food included forms of animal by-products such as dairy and eggs. The difference between vegans and vegetarians is that vegans do not eat eggs or dairy products.
Veganism is not only a dietary lifestyle but includes a nonviolence aspect to all living creatures. It is a philosophy of compassion that is in no way 100 percent pure because the world is too imperfect. A plant-based lifestyle is an attempt to make each choice from a place of sincerity and love.
For almost seven years I have lived the vegan lifestyle. It all began with a curiosity to see if I could give up meat products, dairy, cheese, and eggs. Since then, I have spoken at Rice University on the art of living vegan, completed numerous research papers on a plant-based lifestyle and on milk. It is with pleasure that I share some of the tips, tricks, recipes, and philosophies of what it is like to go vegan. Thank you for stopping by my blog, and it is with much hope and love that I begin.