California’s crunchiest cafe, Cafe Gratitude released a cookbook this winter and we’ve been poring over it’s pages. Devotees of the cafes’ clean and thoughtfully-made dishes will fall in love with Love is Served: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes from Southern California full of inventive and delicious recipes.
This grilled vegetable bruschetta recipe is the kind of food we live for. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe — the ket to making this easy is to buy the nut-based cheese instead of making it from scratch. That simplifies this recipe down to roasting and grilling all these divine veggies!
I Am Present:
Caramelized Red Onion, Roasted Butternut Squash
+ Grilled Treviso Radicchio Bruschetta
This is another dish was inspired my time in Venice. It is a variation of the classic Venetian ‘Saor’, a traditional pickle made with caramelized onions, raisins and pine nuts used for centuries to preserve fish and vegetables. The elements are prepared separately to highlight their best qualities and the ‘Saor’ brings them together in a savory sweet and sour marinade. The bitterness of the radicchio and the acidic pickling juice of the onion are the perfect contrast to the sweetness of the butternut squash. For best results, allow the pickle to marinate in the fridge for at 24 hours to 48 hours and bring it to room temperature before serving. In the cafés, you will find this delicious pickle mounded on warm bruschetta that has been smeared with cashew mozzarella and served with an arugula side salad but it is also very good served at room temperature over warm soft or grilled polenta.
For The Roasted Butternut Squash And Radicchio:
2 pounds butternut squash to make
½ pound Treviso Radicchio
extra virgin olive oil, salt, as needed
For The Carmelized Red Onion:
1½ pound red onions
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup coconut sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup raisins
For The Pickle:
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
For The Cashew Mozzarella (or store bought):
1 ounce Irish moss, cleaned and soaked for 8 hours or overnight
¼-cup of filtered water, or as needed
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unscented or lightly scented coconut oil, melted
½ cup raw cashews, soaked for 8 hours
Yield: 3 cups (original recipe divided by 4)
For The Balsamic Reduction:
1 cup balsamic or golden balsamic vinegar
¼ cup coconut nectar
Yield: 1/3 cup
Olive oil, as needed
Pink peppercorns for garnish (optional)
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To Prepare the Roasted Butternut Squash:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Peel and seed the butternut squash and cut it into ½” cubes.
Toss the cubes of butternut squash in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lightly salt.
Transfer the butternut squash to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until you can pierce easily with a knife. Do not overcook. You want the cubes to hold their shape.
Remove the butternut squash from the oven and let cool before use.
To Prepare the Grilled Treviso Radicchio:
If you have a charcoal or gas grill, prepare them for medium hot grilling. If not, you can use a stovetop grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium high heat.
Trim any excess stem from the bottom of the radicchio head making sure to leave enough stem to hold the leaves together.
Cut the radicchio heads in half lengthwise and brush each half with olive oil.
Lightly oil the grill or pan that you are using, then lay the radicchio on the grill, cut side down and cook 4 to 6 minutes until the radicchio is charred and soft on the outside and tender on the inside.
Brush oil on the top layer of the radicchio and turn over to cook for an additional 4 minutes or until you can easily pierce the core of the radicchio with a fork.
Lightly salt the radicchio and set aside to cool. When cooled, cut the radicchio into 1” strips and set aside until you are ready to make the pickle.
Make The Carmelized Red Onion:
Peel the onions, cut them in half and soak them in cold water for 30 minutes.
Drain the onions and slice them into thin half-moons.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions.
Add the salt, cover the pan and cook on very low heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
When the onions are very soft and translucent, remove the lid, raise the temperature to medium high and add the white wine, apple cider vinegar, the coconut sugar and the raisins. Cook uncovered for an additional 3 minutes or until the wine and vinegar are cooked off and reduced.
Adjust for salt and let cool for 10 minutes before preparing the pickle.
Make The Pickle:
Divide each of your three pickle elements into thirds.
Layer the bottom of a small terrine (6×9) with the first 1/3 portion of the caramelized red onion. On top of the caramelized red onion, distribute 1/3 portion of the grilled Treviso radicchio then follow with 1/3 portion of the roasted butternut squash.
Sprinkle 1/3rd of the toasted pine nuts on top of the butternut squash and repeat this layering two more times until all of the caramelized onion, Treviso radicchio, roasted butternut squash and toasted pine nuts are finished.
Let sit for 24 hours before serving
Make The Cashew Cheese Mozzarella (storebought is also an option)
This is a very easy nut cheese to make that requires a little forethought as you will need to soak both the Irish Moss and cashews at least 8 hours in advance. You will also need a high-speed blender to properly break down the Irish moss and fully blend the cheese.
Irish moss is seaweed most often used as a vegan gelatin or thickener in recipes and is purported to have many health benefits. We have used Irish moss since we opened Café Gratitude primarily in our raw cakes, creams and cheeses because it is versatile and does not require heat to activate its gelling properties.
While it might be difficult to source in your local supermarket, Irish moss can be easily sourced online. For this recipe, you will need to purchase the whole seaweed, not the flakes.
To prepare your Irish moss, you will need to carefully wash it, as it can often be very sandy from the harvest. Once clean, cover the Irish Moss with abundant cold water and let it soak in the fridge for at least 8 hours. Allow extra room in your soaking container, as the Irish moss will expand with water as it soaks. Don’t rinse the Irish moss after the soaking process is complete and don’t drain or replace the soaking water. You can keep soaked Irish moss covered in the fridge for up to one month.
To begin making the cheese, measure your Irish moss using a digital scale making sure that you carefully shake off any extra water prior to weighing it.
Rough chop the Irish moss and add to the blender along with the water and salt. Blend on medium speed until the moss begins to create a thick jelly. Small bits of Irish moss may accumulate on the sides of the blender or under the lid. Stop occasionally to scrape them down using a spatula and continue blending until you have a smooth gelatin. You can add a small amount of water, if necessary for the mixture to come together. Do not move on to the next step until the mixture is completely smooth otherwise you will have small bits of Irish moss in your cheese that will be impossible to eliminate.
Drain and rinse the soaked cashews and add them to the blender with the melted coconut oil.
Blend the cashew mixture on medium high speed using the blender plunger, working the mixture pretty aggressively so that it becomes smooth and creamy. I’m not going to lie, you will have to work this cheese and you can add a small amount if the going gets too tough but don’t give up until you have a smooth mixture. It will be worth it.
Pour the cashew mozzarella into a low flat dish and transfer it to the fridge to set up for at least 4 hours.
Make The Balsamic Reduction:
Stir 1 cup of balsamic vinegar and ¼ cup of coconut nectar together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until vinegar mixture as reduced to 1/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. The reduction will thicken as it cools.
To prepare your warm bruschetta, brush olive oil onto both side of your favorite crusty sourdough bread and toast the bread in a pre-heated 400-degree oven. When the bruschetta are golden, turn them over and toast them on the other side until they crispy. Keep an eye on it so the bruschetta don’t burn or dry out.
Spread an abundant smear of cashew mozzarella on the warm crostini and spoon the Butternut squash and Radicchio pickle on top of the cheese.
Pink peppercorns make a really nice garnish on the pickle but they are optional.
Serve the Bruschetta on a platter with arugula salad that has been tossed with a little olive oil and lightly salted.
Finish the plate with a drizzle of Balsamic reduction.