We've had the best luck with our CSA this year! I'm constantly amazed at how incredibly flavorful local, in-season heirloom varieties of veggies can be - especially these tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini! It's truly some of the best stuff we've been able to find, anywhere, and thankfully lends itself well to kitchen play time! (Although, if I'm being honest, all of these organic veggies are so delicious on their own, they don't even need dressing up. I would be lying if I said I hadn't stood in the kitchen and just eaten an entire tomato, plain. DELICIOUS.)
This little recipe came as a result of checking back on a list of 'to make again' recipes I've been collecting in my phone since 2011. The one that inspired this I actually never made, but had tried in a restaurant in Ottawa when Michael was there on tour. It was such a simple - yet beautiful - compilation of some of my favorite foods, I catalogued it away so I'd remember to remake it. Eventually.
Well, here we are, three years later, and the Produce Gods dropped the ingredients into my lap. Or should I say my CSA bag. It was a well-timed turn of events, too, that brought this tree nut cheese into my world: I met the fine folks from Treeline Cheese - a glorious vegan cheese company based out of upstate New York - last week at The Seed, where I was exhibiting for From the Ground Up. I don't know that I've ever been so excited to eat cheese (it's been a long time, anyways) and this brand in particular is shockingly good. (If you've tried some other brands of gluey, rubbery vegan cheese, you'll understand my shock. And excitement.) I took home a couple of wee containers of the soft cheese, which Treeline makes from blended and cultured cashews, herbs, onions, garlic and scallions.
In compiling my ingredients for these Vegan Napoleons, it occurred to me that the creaminess of the cashew cheese would be a great middler layer, especially given the inherently Italian flavor it has going on. #ohwhoa, it's so good.
[If Treeline isn't available where you are, or you'd like to make your own simple vegan cheese substitute, check out this post for an easy recipe. It's not cultured like Treeline, but it accomplishes a similar cheesy taste in a pinch. Plus, it's also super yummy and packed with B Vitamins. Hurrah!]
I decided to blend the with a little sauteed onion and apple cider vinegar to thin it a bit, just to make it a tad more spreadable between the layers. Because this recipe requires you to chill out for a bit while your veggies roast, you can take advantage of the cook time to make your cashew cream.
Sautee the onions, then combine with the nut cheese, apple cider vinegar and basil. Blend until smooth - you want it to feel a little thick, kind of like a paste rather than a liquid - and set in the fridge.
A note on selecting your veggies: aim for eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes of similar diameter for best stacking. Ours were about 3" in diameter, which made for a solid portion each.
Once the veggies are done, you can start assembling! It's like building a little Lego house. If Lego was edible. And also a little squishy. Adding a dollop of cashew cream to the plate will help keep everything in one spot.
That second-to-top layer is chopped roasted mushrooms which you'll roast with a touch of balsamic. I pulsed them in the food processor for a few seconds, just to vary up the texture. I could also see these being used as a tapenade if you have leftover mushroom mix after assembling.
Give each plate a little love with some avocado or olive oil + balsamic, and top with olives and/or basil if you like.
Good luck, steady stacking hands! The finicky preparation for these is so worth it. ;)
Tah dah! Serve right away. These are great when just a tad warm, with the zucchini slices retaining a little bit of their crunch.
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/3” rounds
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/3” rounds
- 1 small-medium eggplant, sliced into 1/3” rounds
- 1 cup crimini mushrooms, washed and destemmed
- 1 small white onion, diced
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- 1/2 cup nut cheese (I like Treeline Tree Nut Cheese, but you can also make your own with this recipe: http://fromthegroundupwellness.com/recipes/cheesy-roasted-brussels-sprouts/)
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (plus extra for garnish, optional)
- chopped olives of choice for garnish (optional)
- avocado oil for garnish (optional)
- 1. Preheat oven to 325F.
- 2. Place sliced veggies and mushrooms on a baking tray and brush with oil. Mushrooms should be open-side up: you’ll pour about 1/2 tsp of balsamic into each one.
- 3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until mushrooms and tomatoes shrivel slightly and eggplant and zucchini become tender. You want them to retain a little shape, so don’t overcook: they need to be firm enough to stack.
- 4. While they cook, prepare your cashew cream filling: Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium, add onion and sautee 3-4 minutes until translucent. Combine your onions, nut cheese, apple cider vinegar and basil in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set in the fridge to rest. (This would be a good time to wash out the food processor: you’ll need it again in a minute.)
- 5. Once your veggies are done, remove the mushrooms from the tray and pop in the food processor. Pulse a few times until chunky.
- 6. Begin assembling! On each plate, place a small dollop of your cashew cream. Then layer: a piece of zucchini, a smear of cashew cheese, eggplant, a smear of cashew cheese, chopped mushrooms, a piece of tomato, and optional olives or basil for garnish.
- 7. Drizzle a little oil (we used avocado) and balsamic around each one and serve.
- Look for veggies of similar diameters for best stacking.