Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Oven-roasted banana rum cheesecake with spiced pecan crust and maple rum sauce!  »

We’ve just about done it, friends: we’ve finished the dinner menu by chef Tal Ronnen + Gardein. Thanksgiving is done! Now it’s time for dessert, a little sweet something in our tums after so much tasty savory. But no pumpkin? No pumpkin! This is a vegan menu; it’s not for shrinking-violet traditionalists. BE BOLD! Make a vegan cheesecake, with bananas and rum and pecans and maple syrup! Judge the quality based on chef Ronnen’s recommendation of grade-B maple syrup, the tastier and healthier grade of syrup. Of course one can rarely go wrong cooking with booze—perhaps have a nice proper daquiri before baking? Considering you’ll be making five other courses, you’ll need a nice tidy drink to get through it all. Happy Thanksgiving!

Oven-roasted banana rum cheesecake with spiced pecan crust and maple rum sauce
6 to 8 servings
2 hrs prep (plus 3 hrs chilling)
45 min cook

4 very ripe bananas

1 cup grade-B organic maple syrup
4 Tbsp. Earth Balance
Sea salt
1 Tbsp. dark rum

1 cup pecan nut flour
½ cup spelt flour (white or whole)
1 Tbsp. firmly packed light
brown sugar
4 Tbsp. Earth Balance, partially melted
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of sea salt

16 ounces nondairy cream cheese
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dark rum
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt

Toasted pecan halves

Step 1, Roast bananas:
 Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place 4 large, very ripe, unpeeled bananas on a roasting pan and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until bananas are soft and skin turns dark brown. let bananas cool to room temperature in the pan in their skins. Set aside. Increase oven temp to 400 F.

Step 2, Spiced pecan crust:
 Combine 1 cup pecan nut flour,* ½ cup spelt flour, 1 Tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar, 4 Tbsp. partially melted nondairy butter, ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom, ½ tsp. ground ginger, and a pinch of sea salt in a bowl, and stir until well incorporated. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and put in freezer for 5 minutes. Bake at 400 for 8 to 10 minutes, until crust is a little dry and edges are light golden. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
*To make pecan nut flour, freeze the nuts overnight, then place in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Freezing the nuts prevents them from turning into nut butter when you process them.

Step 3, Cheesecake filling: 
Peel the roasted bananas and remove any obvious strings. Purée bananas in a food processor until very smooth. Add 16 oz. nondairy cream cheese, ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar, ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ cup dark rum, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, and ¼ tsp. salt, then pulse until smooth, scraping sides of bowl periodically. Do not overprocess or cream cheese will separate and curdle.

Step 4, Bake cheesecake: 
Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 400 F for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F and bake another 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is the color of light brown sugar and center is set. A toothpick inserted in center should come out clean. Let cheesecake cool to room temperature on a rack for at least 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Step 5, Maple rum sauce: 
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup maple syrup, 4 Tbsp. nondairy butter, and sea salt to taste and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. dark rum, stirring carefully, as sauce will bubble up a bit. Let cool for a few minutes then taste and add more salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a squeeze bottle. if not using immediately, the sauce can be warmed by putting the bottle in a pan of hot water off the heat.

Serve: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup maple syrup, 4 Tbsp. nondairy butter, and sea salt to taste and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.


Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Sweet potato biscuits!  »

More mashed potatoes? No problem at all, chef Tal Ronnen. Possibly we love nothing more than a double-carb-punch of mashed root + biscuit. Picture soaking up the mingled sauces on your Thanksgiving plate with a piece of warm biscuit, then scooping up a bit of cashewy mashed potatoes, and adding a wee slice of your Gardein on top: perfect bite, y/y?

Fun fact to tell small children (which they can and will later repeat to everyone they know, including many other small children, thus ensuring that The Truth will be spread throughout the world): the tuberous root we in North American call the “sweet potato” is just a variety of the tuber we call a “yam”—much like differentiating between types of apples. Those rusty-skinned, orange-fleshed roots labeled “yams” are legally required to also be labeled “sweet potatoes” within the U.S. because there is a proper vegetable called a yam, of which the starchy tuber is eaten. Yams and yams aren’t related at all! You are now the hero/bane of Thanksgiving.

Sweet potato biscuits
8 biscuits
20 min prep
20 min cook

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance, chilled
1 tsp. agave nectar
 ¾ cup mashed sweet potatoes, cooled
¼ cup unsweetened soy milk

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the margarine until well incorporated. Add the agave nectar, sweet potatoes, and soy milk and combine, forming a soft dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured work surface to ½-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits of desired size. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven on a greased baking sheet for 12 to 15 mins.

Tomorrow is the last recipe! Yes, it’s dessert, but it doesn’t use pumpkin. So that’s something to look forward to.


Chef Tal Ronnen’s Thanksgiving menu: Creamy mashed potatoes with chives!  »

Your Vegansaurus loves a mashed potato. We have before made dishes based on the amount of mashed potatoes in the recipe. Freshly mashed, several days old and spread on bread for a sandwich, baked to golden-brown-crusted perfection: O mashed potatoes, our affection for you has always been, and always will be.

This recipe by chef Tal Ronnen doesn’t mess around: instead of non-dairy milk, it calls for cashew cream. That would make for a rich mashed potato, and cut with the fresh chives, it sounds really amazing. Thank you again, Gardein, for sending us this menu!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives
6 servings
20 min prep
20 min cook

Pre-prep tip: Soak raw cashews overnight!
(If you’re short on time, substitute soy milk.)

6 large potatoes, diced
1 cup cashew cream (recipe follows)
3 Tbsp. Earth Balance
¼ cup fresh chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cashew cream
Soak 2 cups of raw cashews overnight.
Add the soaked cashews to a blender and fill with water sufficient to cover the cashews by 1 inch. Blend on high for 2 minutes. Tip: if not using a professional high-speed blender, you might need to strain the cream through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. May substitute soy milk for cashew cream, if needed.

Mashed potatoes
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, and mix until smooth. Serve hot.

Easy-peasy lemon sqeezey. This one I would—WILL make ahead of time, you know, as a taste-test. Or supper. You know.

[photo of Tuscan roasted garlic white bean mashed potatoes at Vegiterranean by Flickr user steev-o]

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