Here’s an experience I think my fellow vegetarians and vegans can relate to: you go around for years thinking some food is off limits, only to one day discover that it’s totally in line with your diet. This happened to me a number of times in my teens, most of those experiences involving fast food dishes that I’d rather not elaborate on. In any event, it’s always a nice surprise.
These days I’m usually making such pleasant discoveries about more grown up foods, like puff pastry. Not that puff pastry is super grown up, but it feels kind of fancy, at least more so than anything that comes from a drive through. For a long time I steered clear thinking it was made with something that was off limits, like butter or lard. As it turns out, most store-bought puff pastry falls into the “accidentally vegan” category. (Always read the label though, just in case!) The moral of the story? If you aren’t sure if something works with your diet, it pays to investigate. You could be missing out.
Since making that little discovery, I’m all about puff pastry, especially when it comes to holiday dishes. Like I said: fancy!
This tart is certainly fancy enough to grace your holiday table. It’s also totally vegan, but I suspect nobody who isn’t vegan will be able to tell.
I started with a puff pastry crust, and smothered it in creamy cashew cheese, which you may have noticed by now is a favorite of mine. This particular cashew cheese gives the tart lots of flavor, thanks to fresh herbs and roasted garlic blended right in. The nice part about the roasted garlic is that it actually gives the cheese a smoother texture, and you can roast it up in the oven while your crust bakes. Everything gets topped off with some savory sautéed mushrooms. I used a mix of shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms, simply because my store sells them as a blend and I love them all, but feel free to use any one of the three, or swap out your favorite type of mushrooms.
For the herbed cashew cheese:
- 1 bulb garlic
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water 4-8 hours, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup unflavored soy or almond milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
For the puff pastry tart:
- 1 sheet about 8 ounces vegan puff pastry, thawed if frozen
For the mushrooms:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 8 ounces mixed mushrooms see note, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Use a sharp knife to cut the top off of the garlic bulb, exposing the tops of the cloves. Place garlic on a sheet of foil, cut side up, and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat. Loosely wrap the garlic in foil and place into the oven. Bake until the cloves are lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, loosen the foil, and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- While the garlic roasts, begin preparing the tart. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll the puff pastry to a 10 x 14 inch rectangle, then carefully place it on the prepared baking sheet. Poke the top surface of the dough with a fork, leaving no more than an inch between punctures. Place it into the oven and bake until puffy and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Check the puff pastry every few minutes during baking, and if any large bubbles form, give them another poke with the fork. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
- While the garlic roasts and the puff pastry bakes, prepare the mushrooms. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add garlic and sauté until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms to the skillet in as even a layer as possible. Cook until lightly browned on bottoms, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook about 5 minutes more, until browned on opposite sides. Raise heat to medium-high and add wine to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, begin preparing the herbed cashew cheese. Place the roasted garlic, cashews, milk and lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S-blade. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add a splash more of milk if the mixture seems too thick. Add parsley, chives and thyme to the bowl and pulse until fully incorporated. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the puff pastry has cooled, spread the herbed cashew cheese mixture over the top in an even layer. Distribute the mushrooms evenly over the cheese layer. Cut into squares and serve.