Whipped Cashew Dip with Roasted Red Pepper, Grilled Valencia Orange and Chipotle Chile
By Heidi Allison
Creating a smooth, rich, non-dairy dip that can be enjoyed by both omnivores and vegans can be tough— whipped tofu, the “go-to” ingredient for many vegan appetizers, lacks the creamy “mouthfeel” and “rich” flavor sour cream provides—qualities taking this vegan ingredient off the board for a mixed crowd. Nut cheeses are a good foundation, but not all nuts are equal. Soaked almonds have a slightly gritty texture and subtle bitter taste—not the best choice. Hydrated macadamia nuts, a better alternative, are expensive and lack the neutral flavor this dish requires.
What does work is soaked, whipped cashews. This nut has a flavor that closely mimics the taste of full-fat dairy— the sweet, rich flavor of heavy cream, and, the creamy, thick texture of sour cream. The winner—hands down! The trick for getting the right texture is soak time: hydrate the cashews for at least 14 hours—any longer than 24 hours and it goes downhill. Use reserved, strained nut soaking water in this dish—it enhances the dips sweet taste without diluting flavor, while a tablespoon of water thins the nut paste to just the right consistency.
The flavor profile of this whipped nut dip is regional Mexican— a mix of slightly spicy and sweet citrus. Searing the fresh Valencia orange tempers the acid and concentrates the orange flavor— the perfect complement to the smoky heat of the chipotle chile. An unique and exquisite flavor pairing!
Makes: 1 cup
1 cup raw cashews
3 cups water
2 Valencia oranges, cut in half, and seared; reserve 2 Tbs. juice
1 red bell pepper
2 Tbs. orange- flavored extra virgin olive oil
1 clove roasted garlic
2 Tbs. reserved cashew soaking liquid
1 Tbs. water
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 small chipotle chile in adobo sauce
Place raw cashews in a bowl and add room temperature water, then cover and keep in a cool dark place on kitchen counter. Allow to soak for 14-24 hours. Drain and rinse cashew several times, then set aside. Reserve 2 Tbs. cashew soaking liquid, strained several times through a fine mesh strainer.
Place red bell pepper on the grate of a gas stove trivet and roast, turning with tongs, till lightly charred on all sides. Remove and place in a damp kitchen towel to steam until cool. Peel off skin by rubbing your fingers over charred skin, remove seeds and set aside. Rough chop into 4-inch pieces.
Heat a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat till hot. Place 1 tsp. orange flavored olive oil into skillet to film and add cut orange halves. Sear till lightly charred—about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and allow to cool. Squeeze juice from orange halves—makes about 1/3 cup. Reserve 2 tablespoons for the recipe.
Place soaked cashews, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, orange-flavored olive oil, grilled orange juice, nut soaking water, water, and chipotle chile in a food processor or Vitamix and puree till smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add cilantro and puree till incorporated and small green pieces of cilantro appear.
Place whipped nut puree into a bowl and cover. Place on counter to allow the flavors to “marry”—about 40 minutes.
Place in a serving bowl and surround with vegan crackers or crudités.