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Hush-Hush: 5 Courses – swell

Hush-Hush: 5 Courses

Prepping the dining room
Micah with water accoutrement
Full view of the space
Place settings with menus
Nate plating tricolor hedgehog potatoes
Sweet pea and coconut milk soup
Stirring the pot and funny faces
Mushroom stroganoff
Layered Chocolate Cheesecake with Blueberry-Clementine Sauce and Citrus Shortbread

I’ve posted about another secret restaurant before; this weekend we had our fourth since beginning almost a year ago.  So many in attendance asked me to blog about the food that I’m doing it before I forget what I made!

Our amazing designer friend created a beautiful dining area for 24; three tables of 8, each including an ice sculpture centerpiece, and each crowned by a differently-shaped white paper parchment lamp.  He has made use of a great collection of thrift-store 70s era plates, bowls, and glasses that reflect, for him, an era when simple, local food was an important part of American culture (admittedly a rather white American culture), much like the food movements today.

Simple and local is the kind of food I like to make, although we also make it a little bit fancy sometimes for our guests.  Our menu began with an amuse bouche (that’s fancy-talk for appetizer) of tricolor hedgehog potatoes with a spicy dijon-rosemary dipping sauce, followed by a soup made from sweet green peas, onions, mushrooms, thyme, homemade vegetable stock and coconut milk.  Salad was inspired by Terry’s “Any Noche” Romaine and Fruit Salad with Candied Chile Peanuts (rumor has it, we won over a few people who had never even met a beet before!), though a moment’s panic over the amount of romaine we had meant I forgot to take a picture.  Our entree was a take on vegan mushroom stroganoff, with campanelle noodles in a sherry-thyme cashew cream sauce with cremini and portobella mushrooms, peas, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh parsley.  And last, but certainly not least, dessert: a pool of blueberry-clementine sauce topped with a layered vanilla and chocolate cashew cheesecake and a clementine-meyer lemon shortbread cookie.  Whew!  I’m full all over again just typing it all out.

I had many compliments for the dessert (specifically the cheesecake) and a few requests for the recipe.  My cooking cohost, actually, told me that his face exploded when he tried his first bite (that’s a good thing, by the way).  I originally made quite a giant batch of it to serve 24 people, and largely made it up as I went along, so this is my mental scaling-it-down-by-memory recipe.  Luckily, you can adjust the proportions to taste before chilling the cake to set up, so feel free to play around with it to your liking.  This is incredibly decadent and rich, so make sure you share it with friends :)

Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake
serves 6-8

for the crust:

1 cup coconut flakes
1/2-1 cup pitted dates

for the filling:

2 cups cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight
juice of 1-2 lemons
juice of 1 clementine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
pinch salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 ounce 100% chocolate (unsweetened), melted

Line a small springform pan (6″) or baking dish (a small loaf pan would do) with plastic wrap or wax paper; this will make it easier to remove the finished cake once set.  To make the crust, place the coconut flakes in a food processor and process to break up any clumps.  With the processor running, drop the dates into the feed chute until a sticky dough forms; when pinched between your fingers, it should hold together.  Press into the bottom of your pan.

To make the filling, drain your cashews and place in a blender or food processor (a high-speed blender will yield the smoothest and creamiest result) along with the lemon juice, clementine juice, vanilla extract, syrup, coconut oil, and salt and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the jar or bowl as needed.  If you need to add more liquid, you can add additional citrus juice or filtered water to help the mixture blend more easily.  When smooth, you can optionally pour a third of this mixture over the prepared crust and chill it in the freezer while you add chocolate to the remaining filling–this will create a layered cheesecake–or you can add the chocolate to the entire filling mixture if you want a chocolate-only result.  Add the cocoa powder and melted chocolate and blend again until incorporated.  Pour onto prepared crust and chill in the fridge for a few hours (or about 30-45 minutes in the freezer) until firm.

To serve, remove the cake from the pan and slice with a hot knife (I like to run my knife under hot running water for a few seconds) for a clean cut.  Keeps for several days in the refrigerator, or a few months, covered, in the freezer.

21 Responses to “Hush-Hush: 5 Courses”

  1. VeggieAmanda says:

    I can’t seem to view your photos, but the description gave sounds wonderful. I am salivating over the chocolate cashew cheescake!

  2. Lexi says:

    You are so cool. I love the photos. I feel so proud to know you!

  3. RachelBethany says:

    This looks amazing. If you ever have room for one more PLEASE invite me! I would be more than happy to help with the dishes afterward =)

  4. veganlisa says:

    a-k, I am completely inspired and in awe of what you made for 24 very lucky diners.

    If only every restaurant was created with so much love.

    • A-K says:

      Thanks, Lisa! I’d imagine your approach to such an event would be filled with an equal amount of love and attention. You inspire me with your own family and friend gatherings!

  5. jd says:

    Christ. Could you BE any cooler?!

    Seriously, I’m jealous of myself for “knowing” you :)

    This is awesome…

  6. kittee says:

    so cool, how did you keep it together? whenever i have folks over for dinner, i think i try to pick something simple, but always it involves hours and hours and hours of cooking.


    • A-K says:

      Well, a lot of careful planning, a lot of prep ahead of time, and some experience up our sleeves. I know what you mean about getting too elaborate…that most often happens to me after deciding I’m gonna take it easy and make “nothing” for company.

  7. [...] seasons to me (although I do a fair amount of soup making in spring and summer, too).  This soup, a similar version of which was made at our secret restaurant a few weeks ago, was begging to be made again.  It’s a recipe by way of my cohost’s San Francisco [...]

  8. andrea devon says:

    a-k! your menu is amazing, the photos are stunning, and your passion is inspiring. i’ve been toying with the idea of doing secret dinners/supper clubs, or as i have hosted before, ‘ladydinners,’ here on maui, but have not yet found the time (nor, the friends, honestly) to make it happen. i always look to swell for lots of beautiful food ideas… i am so going to make that pea soup. lovelovelove, andrea

  9. Mo says:

    This is so damn cool! Seriously awesome!

  10. 81kia says:

    Hi! I love your photos!!! I discover your website right now and I like it!!! I’m Vegan and I have a blog equoecoevegan.blogspot.com…come in and leave me your review about it! Bye ^__^

  11. Sarahjane says:

    I’d love to come to one of these one day. I’ve been waiting to see signs of this elusive Minnesota nice…

  12. Mandee says:

    A.K this dinner sounds fantastic so I’m not surprised that you had so many positive comments & requests for the recipes!

    The only cheesecake I’ve made was cashew based so I can’t wait to try your version :)

  13. Jojo says:

    Oh my goodness what an awesome event, everything looks amazing & I’m super impressed that you made food for that many people. I’ve once made brunch for 7 people & it was crazy!

  14. allularpunk says:

    I’m so impressed! I can barely cook dinner for a couple of close friends, let alone 24 people I don’t know! How inspiring :)

  15. [...] using farro, but it turns out that was just a big grain salad that was featured in our first secret restaurant. Diggin’ on my rediscovered love for the nutty, soft little quinoa pearls, I thought [...]

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