Sweet Potato-Pesto Hash Stuffed Peppers with Cashew Cream

Sweet potato stuffed pepper with cashew cream - vegan, gluten-free - Fitcakery.com

When food catches me off guard by being extremely delicious, I find it much more gratifying than if I had been prepared for it to be that good.  That’s what makes seeking out new restaurants and constantly creating new recipes so appealing to me.  And it is what made my trip to Prasad an eye-opening and revitalizing experience, reminding me of how completely satisfying a well-prepared vegan meal can be.

Spoiler alert: the food I ate there inspired this recipe!

Sweet potato stuffed pepper with cashew cream - vegan, gluten-free - Fitcakery.com

Last week, I took my first solo vacation.  It was to somewhere I’d never been, but had always wanted to go – Portland, Oregon.  

I think my expectations of the city had just been accumulating over time, from friends who had visited some of the many epic breweries there, or whose aunts cultivated massive personal gardens in the area, from magazine articles touting the burgeoning culinary scene, and even quirky TV shows that poked fun at the laid-back hippy/hipster vibe Portland is reported to exude.

All of it made me want to go.  

Powell's Books, Portland

Hearing about my upcoming trip for one, my friends and family would ask, Do you know anyone there? Have you ever been?

I would reply, No. But I think I want to live there.

The first thing I did, after dropping off my things at my hotel, was go straight to the Pearl district downtown, a walkable Mecca for brew-yoga-people-foodphiles like myself.  (There has to be a better term for one who adores all those things.)  I was starving, but I refused to break into the Quest Bar stashed in my little backpack.  Anything and everything else I could eat here would be well worth the waiting and walking.

Eats at Deschutes Brewery, Portland

This is not when I ate at Prasad.  I did pass by the little café, joined with a chic yoga studio, pausing a moment to survey the menu. I made a mental note of the deliciously-healthy sounding dishes and kept walking.  I was on a mission for the Portland beer-and-pub-food-topia I had been dreaming of. 

Of course, I found it, seconds later, when I came across Deschutes Brewery.  (Dreams really can come true!)

Portland Deschutes Brewery

Alas, as it is after a night of beer flights and bar eats, I really needed a good restoration the next day.

So after a purifyingly sweaty yoga session at a studio I had come across the previous night, I made a beeline for Prasad.  The abundant vegan menu includes various teas, coffees and herb/spice concoctions in addition to a list of salads and bowls.  On this particular misty morning, a chili bowl was just the thing, with a Turmeric Toddy, a tea-like drink made with ginger, turmeric, honey, and lemon.

The dish was carefully constructed, with each ingredient highlighted by artful positioning within the bowl.  The smoky chipotle chili in one area, steamed kale next to it, and then red quinoa.  Smoky, spicy, and topped with cashew cream, sliced avocado, and fresh herbs, it was easy to forget that there were none of the animal products so standard in most restaurant food.

Prasad, Portland

If this were actually a restaurant review, I would go on and on about that chili bowl, and I definitely would have made a point to go back and try more menu items– despite my tendency to stick to new restaurants and the fact that I only had two and a half days in town! (But, seriously. It’s so worth a visit if you’re nearby!)

No, I actually wanted to lead up to my inspiration to create this dish.  Vegan comfort food, in a bowl.  An edible bowl, in this case, but made in such a way as to surprise you with overt deliciousness when you take the first bite.  You don’t ask where the meat or the cheese is – you just thoroughly enjoy your meal.  Like I did at Prasad.

Sweet potato stuffed pepper with cashew cream - vegan, gluten-free - Fitcakery.com

Sweet Potato-Pesto Hash Stuffed Peppers with Cashew Cream

Gluten-free, vegan {makes 3 whole or 6 half peppers}

This Sweet Potato-Pesto Hash Stuffed Peppers with Cashew Cream is perfect for all kinds of reasons.  Like making it through the cool-weather-cravings in a healthier way, cooking for any dietary need, having a pre-made dish in the fridge for weeknights, or soothing a hangry teenager/ husband/ roommate.

Ingredients:

Stuffed Peppers:

Sweet potato stuffed pepper with cashew cream - vegan, gluten-free - Fitcakery.com
  • 3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
  • One medium-large sweet potato
  • 1 shallot, minced, half reserved
  • 1 medium diced tomato
  • ½ c. cashews
  • ½ c. water
  • 2 cups packed basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp. each, salt and pepper

Cashew Cream:

  • ½ c. raw cashews
  • 2/3 c. non-dairy milk or water
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Directions:

To make the stuffed peppers: You have three options.  My favorite is, bake the peppers first, for 15-20 minutes and then make the filling and the cream.  When the peppers come out of the oven fill with the prepared filling and top with the cream.  This way, the basil can stay bright instead of browning in the oven.  Slightly easier alternatives include baking the filling with the stuffing inside of it, or preparing the whole thing and refrigerating to bake the next night.

If you’re not making the peppers ahead for another night, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut out the tops of the bell peppers and pull out all seeds and white interior of the peppers.  You can either leave the peppers whole or cut them down the center from top to bottom to make two halves. Either place in the oven now, or reserve to cook with the filling.

To make the hash: Wash and stab the sweet potato with a knife a few times and microwave until fairly soft, 6-7 minutes.  Allow to cool enough to handle before dicing.  Mix the sweet potato with the half minced shallot and diced tomato in a medium bowl.

Microwave the cashews and water in a small microwaveable bowl, about 2 minutes.  Allow to rest about 5 minutes.

To make the pesto: In a blender or food processor, blend basil, garlic, salt, and pepper with remaining shallot. Add the cashews and water and blend until no more large pieces remain. Add the pesto to the hash and mix in.

Fill the cooked or uncooked peppers.  If peppers are uncooked, place in the oven about 20 minutes or cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them.

To make the cashew cream: microwave the cashews in the milk or water for 1 ½ minutes.  Blend with salt in a blender or food processor until very smooth and creamy.  Use this to top the stuffed peppers, at room temperature or cold.  (Tip: I used a plastic sandwich bag with an edge cut off as a piping bag!) Store any extra cashew cream in a container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition per 1 stuffed pepper half with 1/6 cashew cream recipe each: 160 calories; 8 g fat; 18 g carbs; 3 g fiber; 5 g protein (Bonus: 71% DV vitamin A; 293% DV vitamin C; 11% DV iron)

Your turn!  What restaurants or restaurant foods have inspired you to create your own dishes?  You can link to a recipe in the comments, too!