Root Vegetable Gratin (Vegan)
While I personally follow a omnivorous diet, I nonetheless believe in making it a plant-centric one. We do Meatless Mondays in my house, and on days we do eat meat of some kind, it’s limited to a single meal. With this type of eating pattern, I’m always on the lookout for some really delicious, family friendly plant-based recipes.
The latest winner I’ve found is this root vegetable “gratin,” whose recipe was given to me by a vegan chef named Manija Mayel. She works at my children’s former preschool, which provided warm, homemade, vegan lunches served family-style to the toddler and preschool set. I still visit the school once or twice a year to attend their tasting events, where parents get to taste some of the school’s winningest recipes–many of which were developed into a cookbook. When I tasted this creamy, comforting casserole of sweet, seasonal root vegetables, I knew I was going to make it for Thanksgiving this year.
The magic of the recipe lies in its cashew-based “bechamel” sauce, which is both gluten-free and dairy-free. Now that I’m the proud new owner of a Vitamix, whipping up a sauce like this is the absolute easiest thing ever, though a good blender or food processor should also do the trick. (Once you get the hang of the sauce, you can consider using it for other bechamel-based recipes that need to be dairy or gluten-free, moussakas or baked noodle/pasta dishes.) If you have a mandolin to slice the veggies with, this root vegetable gratin recipe will be an even bigger cinch.
Recipe: Root Vegetable Gratin
Recipe courtesy of Manija Mayel and the Scandinavian School of Jersey City
Ingredients (vegetables can be scaled up to cook multiple batches):
- One batch Cashew Cream Base (recipe below)
- 1-2 yukon gold potatoes
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1-2 red beets
- 1-2 yellow beets
- 1 turnip
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
- Heat the cashew cream, set aside. You may need to add a splash of water to thin it out when re-heating, as a too-thick cream may sit on the top of your gratin rather than seep down into the layers.
- Peel/skin the root vegetables
- Using a mandoline, slice the root vegetables into rounds. You can place them in separate prep bowls to layer them in a particular order or simply layer them as you work in a 9×13 casserole or baking dish.
- Once veggies layered in the dish, pour over about 2/3 of the batch of cashew cream, reserving the remaining 1/3. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on how deep your baking dish is. (Deeper dishes will need longer to cook. Check on the progress after 45 minutes by sticking a fork into the gratin. It’s done when the texture is totally soft and doesn’t have any resistance to the fork.)
- Remove from oven, remove foil. Pour the remaining cashew cream on the top of the gratin. Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top, and serve.
Cashew Cream base:
- 2.5 cups raw cashews
- 3 cups water
- 4-5 shallots, chopped
- Olive oil
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar or white wine
- Salt, to taste
- Saute shallots to medium brown in about 1 TBSP olive oil. Add minced garlic and herbs, and then set aside or turn heat to low.
- Blend 2.5 cups cashews with 3 cups water in blender, food processor or Vitamix. Once blended, you can add a little bit more water at a time until you achieve desired level of creaminess.
- Add shallot and garlic base to the cashew mixture in the blender, and add 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar. Blend until creamy and uniform texture. Salt to taste; 2 nice-sized pinches of kosher salt should do the trick.
- Set aside the cashew cream for use; it will last 3 days in the refrigerator, so may prepared up to 3 days in advance.