I’ve been craving clam “chowdah” for weeks. The classic stuff is nowhere close to vegan, nor is it the least bit healthy (it usually involves bacon, butter and heavy cream). I prefer my arteries UN-clogged, thank you very much. Fortunately, if you google “vegan clam chowder” you’ll find out that the road has been paved. Many brave souls have experimented and created their best versions of plant-powered clam chowder. I narrowed down my choices and finally decided to test a recipe from Kathy Patalsky’s Healthy Happy Life blog. Admittedly, it was Kathy’s photos (which included yummy sourdough bread bowls) that reeled me in. And her use of king oyster mushrooms, which I had never tried before.
This is a really easy recipe to make, especially if you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix. Of course it doesn’t taste EXACTLY like clam chowder, but it’s pretty dang close. The creamy texture of the soup is a dead ringer and the chewy texture of the king oyster mushrooms very much resembles that of clams. The flavor of this recipe is sweeter and maybe a little richer than the real thing, but I really liked it a lot. So did Hubs.
If I were to make it again, I would try a few tweaks…
I would boil an extra potato, cut into cubes and add it to the soup (after the blender step).
I would add the juice from one lemon (to balance out the sweet flavor).
I would try using 1 to 1½ cups of cashews instead of 1¾ cups.
I would use ½ cup of soy creamer instead of a full cup.
I would add more water to thin the soup down (it was REALLY thick).
I would experiment with different spices/herbs.
YIELDS 4 SERVINGS
¾ cup water*
1 cup soy creamer, plain*
1 cup soy milk, plain
splash of truffle oil (white or black)*
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fine black pepper
spices of your choice*
⅓ cup nutritional yeast*
1 medium potato, peeled, boiled and cut into quarters*
⅓ cup white onion, cut into large chunks
1¾ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in salted water*
MUSHROOM “CLAM” SAUTÉ:
2 tsp safflower oil
3-4 king oyster mushrooms, cubed 1/4″ thick
1 cup celery, chopped
½ cup white onion, diced
(I also added a clove of garlic, minced)
splash of liquid smoke
splash of truffle oil*
a few dashes of salt (or seasoned salt)
These ingredients are listed as they are in Kathy’s original recipe. See my notes above in regards to tweaks I’ll try next time (this may change your ingredients list slightly). Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, which is sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal. You can find it at health food stores or you can order it online. It has kind of a cheesy flavor – I wouldn’t skip this ingredient. Truffle oil is really potent stuff. Start with a very tiny little splash – if you add too much, it’s hard to counteract it. (Btw, I’ve seen truffle oil at Costco and T.J.Maxx lately.) For spices, Kathy used Penzey’s seasoned salt, which I did not have. I used salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, marjoram and fresh sage. Later I added cayenne (for some heat). The king oyster mushrooms aren’t hard to find – they are typically sold at most grocery stores.
If you forgot or don’t have time to soak your cashews overnight, an alternate method is to simmer cashews over medium heat in salted water for 25 minutes. Either way, drain and rinse cashews. Add all of the ingredients (except the Mushroom “Clam” Sauté ingredients) to a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Add liquids first, then spices, then soft ingredients, then firm ingredients. If you don’t have a high-speed, heavy-duty blender, you may want to split the ingredients in half and do two batches. Start on low and slowly increase speed until the cashews are puréed and the mixture is creamy. You can add more liquid if you prefer a thinner soup. Taste soup and adjust seasonings as needed. Pour soup into a sauce pan over low heat.
Heat safflower oil over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion and mushrooms (and garlic, if you are using) to pan; sauté over high heat for about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Add a splash of truffle oil and liquid smoke halfway through the cooking process.
Add most of the mushroom mixture to the sauce pan with the soup. Reserve some of the mixture for garnish. Stir the soup and continue to heat until warmed through. Serve in soup bowls or in bread bowls, if you like. Garnish with reserved “clam” mixture.
Be forewarned, this stuff is FILLING! A little goes a long way.
Time permitting, I’m hoping to test several recipes for you this weekend, including a Walnut Pear Arugula Salad, Portobellos Stuffed with Hash Browns and Lemony Almond Cake with Almond Maple Sauce. Oh – and I almost forgot! – I tested the most delicious vegan lasagna recipe yesterday. I was in a hurry so I didn’t have time to photograph it, but I’ll be making it again. So, stay tuned!!