Tag Archives: Vegetarian

New York City: Babbo and Otto

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I used to be such a naive person. I looked at Mario Batali in his ridiculous orange crocs, and I unfairly judged him on his appearance. That was a mistake. At this point we have eaten at every Molto Mario restaurant, and even seen the man (and crocs!) in person. I can say, without a doubt, that to me Mario is infallible and producing some of the best Italian food there is to eat in this country. This post is specifically about Babbo and Otto, where we ate this trip to NYC, but Del Posto is a beautiful gem sitting atop the fine dining scene in New York.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is the everyday accessible Eataly. The food here is as delicious, but it comes wrapped in a package of a market packed to the brim with imported and fresh goods. It honestly is a flurry of activity and takes some time to navigate. Let’s get down to the bones of it and start with Babbo.

Babbo and Otto in NYC are both located right by Washington square park, about a block from each other. Babbo is the stand-by Batali restaurant that has been around the longest (opened in 1998). It remains the hardest to get a table here. Even a month out, the only times for reservations are early around 5:30 or later around 10:30.  This suits us as we try to pretend we are still young when we travel and eat late at night. The place is still packed to the gills at 10:30 on a Friday. 80s rock like Guns and Roses is playing and drinks are flowing- everyone is having a good time. Our table-mates next to us may have too good a time: they gave a “whoop” each time a new course came, were pretty hammered, and I’m pretty sure wandered off at the end of the meal to have sex in a bathroom. Yuck!

At Babbo there is not a huge preponderance of vegetarian choices. Even the pasta courses and antipasti are meat focused. There are a few choices for each course. Some of the vegetable dishes have meat or meat broth in them, they are more than happy to prepare them vegetarian for you.  The choices that are available are all wonderful!

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The night we dined, there was a special appetizer- buffalo mozzarella with an arugula pesto. This came on bread, which I didn’t expect, but it was so good. I’ve never had a pesto from Mario that wasn’t fresh and delicious, and this one was no different.

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For my main pasta course I loved the pumpkin “lune” or ravioli. These are ubiquitous now, seemingly on fall menus everywhere, but eating here I’m reminded where they originated at here in the States. Seasoned with sage and a light dusting of amaretti cookies, each bite is perfection.

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We ordered several vegetable sides to go along with our meals. The beet farroto (at top) was absolutely beautiful and really highlighted the flavor of beets. Brussels sprouts (sans pancetta) were roasted to soft and supple goodness. The only bad note was the rapini- it hadn’t been sautéed quite enough and was still very bitter and sour.

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We saw another table order this beautiful desert and had to have it. It was a mix of gelato and sorbet. The standouts for me were the corn, olive oil, and coconut. It was just a lovely way to close out a lovely night.

At both Babbo and Otto the service was excellent: polite, attentive, and friendly. We went to Otto before going out to see Hamilton (the best musical ever!). Otto is more casual and easier to get a reservation, more family friendly. This was our first time eating here for dinner; we’ve had lunch before on several occasions. What I love about Otto is there are so many vegetarian choices. From appetizers, salads, vegetables, pastas, pizzas there are an abundance of options. I am like a kid in a candy store when I eat here.

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We started with a selection of two delicious salads. One thing we never skip at Otto is the seasonal caprese. This version was with creamy burrata cheese that was so luscious! Alongside this we had a fennel and apple salad with walnuts. Fennel really makes a wonderful fresh salad vehicle, and paired with apple it is tart.

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Choosing from the many verdura (vegetable) dishes was tough! We went with another farro dish, this one with squash and apple. Farro is really one of my favorite grains as it is so hearty and nutty. Broccoli rabe was the other choice, and I ate it with my pasta as it paired very nicely.

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This was actually the first time I’ve had pasta at Otto, usually just eating veggies, salad, maybe pizza. I just couldn’t resist getting the goat cheese agnolotti! They were amahhhhzing! Light and airy in a simple lightly lemony sauce.

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A lot of these dishes and others from Marios restaurants are in his cookbooks, and I look forward to tackling them. His simple but sophisticated favors stand the test of time. Molto Mario!

New York City: Dovetail vegetarian tasting menu

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A vegatarian tasting menu used to be an unheard of thing. It is now something less rare but still worthy of special acclaim. I have had the pleasure once before, at Gramercy Tavern last year here in NYC.  Honestly, there are few other places in the country, or world for that matter, where you will be able to find one. I have a few restaurants on my bucket list- the masterful and artistic Alinea, the over the top Eleven Madison, the revered French Laundry- but there are many more accessible places out there. I could not help but stumble upon Dovetail due to so many rave reviews and write-ups. My one sadness is that we are never in town on Monday nights. Dovetail has a vegetarian menu every single night, but Monday they pull out all the stops and devote every course to vegetables as idols. We made reservations for a Wednesday night and prepared for an adventure!

It starts with the locale- tucked away on the upper west side. Walking in the whitewashed brick walls and low lighting reek of good taste and old money. That being said- my fresh off the metaphorical Ohio farm hubby and I were made to feel right at home among the wealthy New York clientele. I have never had a very negative experience at a fancy restaurant, and I think it’s mostly about attitude. We are always falling over ourselves to be polite and express overwhelming interest in the restaurant, staff, and menu. This will win you a lot of favor and good service that is not rude or stuffy. The servers were all really wonderful and  this restaurant had numerous awesome female sommeliers; I loved to see that!  I had the wine pairings with my meal, which was a new experience and very cool. I had one wonderful wine that I loved and need to hunt down- Mamacita white sparking wine out of Oregon, so good and crisp, not sweet at all.

We already knew coming in we would be doing the tasting menus. Since I do not like mushrooms as the main component of a dish, they let me swap it out for another option of my choosing. Of course Rob had the meat tasting menu and there was some really horrible stuff on there (foie gras!). I will not even speak of those atrocities!

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The meal started with a trio of amuse bouchées. Pineapple drink with foam, fried potato cube, and a mini tart with parsnip purée. All were delicious!

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Next was my chosen course- an heirloom tomato salad. Pickled ramps really gave this a nice acidic bite.

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An haricot vert salad with apples followed. What blew my mind was that the black purée you see there is actually also made of haricot vert! It tasted so good and totally different, I had no idea and had to ask what the heck it was. Mind blown.

Next was the best dish of the meal- sweet corn polenta with blackberries and truffles (pictured at top). The polenta was out of this world in flavor and just paired so perfectly with the earthy truffles and sweetly sour blackberries. Thus was my first truffle experience. I loved them, who knew? Star of the night.

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Followed by another great dish- spinach and artichoke crostata. Creamy, rich, memorable.

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Continuing strong with grilled figs with radishes, stracciatella, and pistachios. Figs are another ingrediant recently discovered for me, and now I love them! Check out Fig and Olive also in NYC, Chicago, and DC.

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This gorgeous looking dish of miso marinated beets was where the meal nose-dived for me. I love, love, love beets. These beets soaked up all the salt of their miso marinade such that they were inedible. I literally could not eat them, and left them on my plate to be carried away. It made me very sad. Ending with this before desert almost ruined the whole dang meal.

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We had two little palate cleanser courses before desert. The last was a mango sorbet with ginger. Honestly that should have ended the meal, it was that good- so creamy with the ginger the perfect counterpoint. This pretty confection above was a blueberry pavlova. It was light and airy but eclipsed by its predecessor, and thus outshined and soon forgotten.

On the whole this meal was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in my life. I look forward to returning here, preferably on a Monday to see the veggie magic happen.  If you are ever in NYC and need somewhere to go for a very special occasion- I would recommend Dovetail for those true foodies out there! (For the less adventurous diners: always, always, always choose a Mario Batali restaurant. He is the best!)

New York City: Candle 79, Vegan Dining

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My husband Rob and I are fortunate to be able to travel. We have been traveling around the U.S. this last year, making our way to parts of the country we both haven’t seen before. Much of that has involved eating at absolutely incredible places.  I am a typical type A planner and I crazily research places for months before we go, all so that we can have that one perfect bite. I’ll usually book all our dinner reservations a month in advance. For lunches we tend to just pick whatever is near us at the time and wing it. I think we get the best of both worlds this way- wonderful fine dining and spur of the moment holes in the walls. That being said sometimes our best laid dinner plans fall through (thank you midtown traffic!) and we have also had some of our great finds from improvising this way- the now standard post theatre dinner at Toloache, for one.

We started off this NYC trip with my idea of heaven, and Robbie graciously played along. The vegan restaurant Candle 79 is one of my favorites. I also have their cookbook and it also is full of varied and impressive recipes. They will be gracing these pages in weeks to come, I’m sure. It’s on the fancy schmancy UES near all the museums, so we ate here before we went to the Frick.  It is on a nice wide street just off Lex- 79 street. The inside space is really cute. 2 stories and the top story is filled with light from a large window over looking the street . We have always eaten lunch here and it is always busy, many people have reservations, but you can get in without one.  When we are traveling, and especially if it is our first time eating somewhere, we tend to order lots of courses and variety to sample the menu (and in case something isn’t so good!).

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We started with some delicious fresh juices and smoothies, of which there are ample selection. Acai berry banana and carrot, beet, ginger- so yummy. The fresh ginger ale has its own cult following, that’s how good it is. All the freshly made cocktails are scrumptious, too.

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The appetizer course is the least inventive course here. We had a delicious guacamole timbale. It has a lot of cucumbers in it, so for my personal tastes it suffered a bit. Those plantain chips are the best! Absolutely light, grease-less perfection!

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The salad course is my favorite here. I could have eaten every last one!!! This beautiful little devil had brussels, apples, celeriac, pistachios, tofu, grapes. Ahhhhh. I need to figure out a version of this for my house!

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Again the entree course was overwhelming to me with options. When you are vegetarian you get used to having only a few options at most places, so my brain was on circuitry overload here!!!  They have a fresh pasta special everyday, which is always good. Today I was feeling a more protein driven choice, so I chose the seitan burrito.  I had to dismantle it a little as there was too much rice and tortilla for my liking, but the filling of seitan, greens, beans, onions then topped with salsa and guac was really homey and good.

Robbie through this all had a very hearty lentil soup and the seitan burger with polenta fries. Perplexingly his seitan burger did come on toasted bread not a bun- totally the wrong vehicle, I think. But the patty itself and the polenta fries were really good. He was a trooper but didn’t really care for it much, he kept insistenting it was “fine.” He made out better with his dinner, so it turns out ok!

Bottom line if you get to NYC and vegetarian food is one of your passions, you have to go to Candle 79 when you are in the city!

Spiralized Butternut Squash in Sage Brown Butter

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Spiralizers. Hugely trendy right now. I recently got on the bandwagon myself. Being vegetarian I am not a stranger to using vegetables as substitutes for other foods, including pasta. This handy little gadget makes it really easy to get beautiful, uniform sized cuts from all kinds of veggies. No more struggling with a knife and peeler!  This is my inaugural spiralized recipe.  It turned out pretty well, I think. It was fun to crank out the gorgeous noodles. The brown butter was the tricky part- I don’t think I let mine get quite brown enough, look below for some hints on this.

Serves 2. Takes 30 minutes.

Ingredients

One butternut squash

2 tablespoons butter

10 fresh sage leaves

Olive oil

Fresh grated Parmesan and fresh ground pepper

Directions

Set up you Spiralizer of choice. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Peel you squash and discard the big bulbous bottom part that has seeds. Place the long upper part into your Spiralizer and start cranking.

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When your squoodles are done, place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss lightly with olive oil. place into the oven to lightly roast for about 7-8 minutes.

While they are in the oven, get your brown butter going. Use a light color pot, not a dark skillet so you can see the color of it while it cooks (I did not do this, a mistake on my part). Medium heat. The butter will melt and then star to bubble and foam. It will turn tan then brown. Some sediment will form in the pan. When it starts to tan, place your sage leaves in the butter.

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When it gets a nice golden brown color, it’s done. Take your squoodles from the oven and toss them in the sauce.  Top with fresh pepper and Parmesan cheese.

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** Adapted from Boulder Locavore

http://boulderlocavore.com/butternut-squash-noodles-in-sage-brown-butter/

Fresh Corn Salsa and Black Bean Tacos

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Tacos! There are endless recipes and variations for tacos, which is what I love about them. These tacos are made bright with the corn salsa, the corn right off the the cob. I layered it with a traditional tomato salsa and fresh avocado as well for a balanced bite. As you can see by the pictures these were pretty overstuffed, and I would up eating a lot with a fork. They would be great without the tortillas in a bowl as well with rice or quinoa, like any taco fixings.

Serves 4. Takes 30 minutes plus garlic roasting time

Ingredients

2 15 ounce cans black beans

1 white onion- diced and split half/half

1 whole bulb garlic, roasted. To roast garlic, chop off the bottom quarter. Leave in the peel. Cover in olive oil and place in foil wrap. Put in oven at 400 degrees for an hour. Garlic will be soft and light golden brown and easily pop out of its peel.

1 separate clove garlic finely minced

2 stalks corn, all kernels cut off

6 radishes thinly sliced

2 handfuls cilantro, finely minced and divided in half

2 limes both juiced, one zested

1 lemon

1 jalapeño minced and seeded

2 Serrano peppers (or 3 more jalapeño peppers)

1/3 cup feta cheese

1 handful pickled carrots, diced. To pickle carrots: place 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar in pot with 1/2 cup water. Add a pinch salt, pinch of crushed red pepper, and several slices of fresh jalapeño to the pot. While coming to a boil, peel and chop up several carrots into inch size pieces. Place into pot, bring to boil then turn off heat. Let cool then jar.

1can fire roasted tomatoes (15 ounce)

1 bunch green onions (ok to leave out)

1 avocado, sliced

Sea salt

EVOO

Cumin

Smoked paprika

Chipotle

Crushed red pepper

Directions

Place a sauté pan on the stove at medium heat with a tablespoon olive oil. When hot, add half the white onion to the pan. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic to the pan and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the black beans with their juice to the pan. Season with about a teaspoon each: crushed red pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle. Turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 20 minutes to cook off the bean liquid, stir occasionally.

While the beans are cooking you can make the two salsas to go with the dish.

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My favorite quick salsa comes from Thug Kitchen. It uses canned tomatoes, but you would never know, it tastes so fresh. The only part that takes any time is roasting the garlic, the rest comes together in a few minutes in the food processor.  Add your roasted garlic, can of roasted tomatoes, half the white onion, a handful of the cilantro, the Serrano peppers, the green onion (if using), juice of one lime, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and pulse together. For both this and the salsa below, I add a splash of lemon juice as I really love the brightness of lemons compared to limes. Or according to my brother, I just like Sprite and its lemon-lime goodness.  You can use immediately and jar the rest.

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To make the corn salsa, place your fresh corn kernels in a bowl with the juice and zest of one lime, one tablespoon of lemon juice, one handful of minced cilantro, the feta cheese, the sliced radishes, the pickled carrots and add a teaspoon of salt. Mix together and set aside. This part of the recipe I found on Cookie and Kate. I added the pickled carrots for that extra punch of the vinegar.

Time to assemble your tacos! Heating up your tortillas on a skillet will give them a little extra edge. Start with a scoop of the black beans then layer the two salsas on top. Finish it off with fresh avocado.  One of the reason I like this taco recipe and similar ones to it, is because there is very little cheese. Just a little feta, which gives that nice salty punch. Cutting back on the cheese is good for us cheese-aholics!

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** As stated above the roasted tomato salsa recipe is adapted from Thug Kitchen. I have a terrible mouth, so I love their hilarious recipes.

http://www.thugkitchen.com

** Cookie and Kate is another great blog featuring wonderful whole food recipes and great photos (with a dog!)

Sweet Corn & Black Bean Tacos

Roasted Beet and Grain Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

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I had never eaten a beet until maybe two years ago.  Same with brussel sprouts.  Oh, what I was missing all my life!  I now eat both whenever I can.  I have only recently taken to tackling the beet at home, but I needn’t have worried. Roasting beets is just like roasting anything else- it is easy as pie.  And the end result is so so so delicious!  You can use the roasted beets for any recipe you like, or just eat them right out of the oven when they are cooled down.  In this absolutely delightful salad, they shine alongside all the other ingredients.  This salad is just a marvel of bright acidity, and I love it.  I only slightly tweaked this one from the original recipe, which comes from The Grocery Cafe at Deer Valley Resort.

Serves 4.  Takes 1 hour fifteen minutes (including roasting time on the beets).

Ingredients

For the salad itself:

4 cups of arugala

2 large beets (any color and variety will do just fine)

1/2 cup of goat cheese

3/4 cup of barley or farro or wheat berries

For the candied pecans:

3/4 cup raw pecans

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons sugar

For the citrus vinaigrette:

2 lemons juiced and zested

2 oranges juiced and zested

1 clove garlic finely minced

1/4 cup agave nector

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions

To roast the beets turn oven to 375 degrees.  Start a pot of water boiling now as well for your grains. Place each trimmed and washed beet in a packet of tin foil with olive oil and salt.  Place in the oven.  Leave about 45 minutes for smaller golden beets.  60 minutes for larger red beets.  Cook your grains according to directions of what you are using.  Barley takes quite a while to cook at least 30 minutes, so don’t forget to start it early. While the beets are roasting and your grain is cooking, you can continue with the other components, see below.

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When you remove your beets they will be soft and succulent.

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Let the beets cool.  Then peel them- wear gloves or you will get beet juice all over you!

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Give them a uniform small dice and set aside in a bowl.  Take pictures of them to show off to your friends, they are beautiful!

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You can get your nuts candied in the oven at the same time your beets are roasting in there.  Place them on a baking sheet, mix with the syrup and sugar and place into oven for about 20 minutes.

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While everything else is on the timer, do your vinaigrette.  Place all components above into food processor and blend until smooth.  Place into bottle and set into fridge.

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To plate: start with a bed of grains.  Top with arugula, which has been lightly coated with the dressing.  Next goes the beets, candied pecans, and goat cheese- crumble and evenly sprinkle over the salad.  Give the top an even drizzle of vinaigrette, and mwah!  So beautiful, lets look at it again.  And it tastes even better!

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I put my extra beets, nuts, and barley into jars and tupperware so I can continue to eat them into the next week.  Since I am the only vegetarian in my house, I am the only one eating this recipe, and I will eat it multiple times in the next few days.  I look forward to it greatly, this has to be one of my top salads I’ve eaten.

** Adapted from a dish served at Grocery Cafe at Deer Valley and recipe found at Love and Olive Oil

Roasted Beet and Farro Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Spicy Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower, Cashew Cheese, and Spinach

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This is a recipe my husband, Rob, and I have been tweaking for awhile. The original recipe was just a basic mac n cheese and we’ve been adding to it to make it healthier as time has gone on. It still has a good amount of regular ol cheese in it, but we have rounded it out with more nutritious ingredients. I haven’t been able to make the leap to the vegan only version of this recipe with no cheese, but this is a big improvement from the original heavy cream and cheese-only versions.

Serves 6-8. Takes about 2 hours.

Ingredients

1 package spiral shaped pasta- roughly 14-16 ounces. I like Barilla Protein Plus as it has an excellent protein content. This time we used trottole since it was what we had around.

1 head cauliflower chopped roughly

1 cup cashew cheese. To make this soak 2 cups cashews in water for at least 2 hours. Then put in food processor with juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, splash of olive oil, and one pinch each salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. You can make this ahead and keep in the fridge until you use it.

4 cups grated cheese. We use a mix of chipotle Gouda and extra sharp white cheddar

2 1/2 cups skim milk

4 large handfuls fresh spinach roughly chopped

EVOO- total a cup for whole recipe

1/4 cup flour

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

Spices: crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper

Directions

Place two large pots of water to boil on the stove. In one cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Take it off, rinse in cold water, and set aside. In the other pot cook the cauliflower until it is just softened.  While these are cooking, heat a sauté pan with a splash of olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add your chopped spinach and cook down until wilted, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside.

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When cauliflower can be easily pierced with a fork, remove from heat, drain, and place in food processor. Add a splash of skim milk, a splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Now add the cashew cheese to the food processor and again blend until smooth.  Place this mixture in a bowl, stir in your wilted spinach, and place bowl in the fridge until later.

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In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil to coat the crumbs. When well coated place mixture into the sauté pan you used before on medium heat. Toast these while stirring every few minutes, for 10-15 minutes until a nice light brown.  Turn your oven on to 375 to preheat.

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While those are toasting, start your bechamel sauce.  In a large sauce pot stir together 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. A whisk is the best tool to use here. Add your flour gradually while stirring constantly. Don’t leave it unattended.

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Next, slowly add 2 cups of skim milk, stirring continuously throughout. You should end up with a smooth and thick creamy sauce. Now add your cauliflower, cashew, and spinach mixture from the fridge and stir until smoothly blended. Your cheese goes in next, again stirring constantly. Add the spices to the mix- a teaspoon each cayenne, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper. Finally, add up to 1/2 cup milk to thin the sauce to desired consistency.

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Get your pasta and stir into the sauce, coating evenly. Then place in casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs.  Bake for roughly 20 minutes and you are ready to serve!

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This holds up extremely well for leftovers. Just add a touch of milk when you reheat in the microwave.

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