"This is my first restaurant that has a theme. It really doesn't deviate from that," says Ronnen, explaining that he's made a concerted effort to keep the Crossroads menu focused on Mediterranean cuisine. He wanted to avoid overextending the restaurant's culinary reach.
It's meant that Ronnen has had to set aside other styles of cooking. "I started to miss the other cuisines I used to cook. I've worked with so many good chefs over the years in Las Vegas, Chicago, everywhere," he says. "I thought it'd be fun to bring them in, especially ones who are not known for cooking vegan, but a particular type of cuisine, and invite them to cook vegan with me for a night."
For the series, Ronnen invited Ricardo Zarate, Art Smith, Theo Schoenegger and Crossroads' executive chef Scot Jones to collaborate with him on their respective specialties. "It gives us a chance to bring in other talent and it gives them a chance to show that they can cook plant-based," says Ronnen.
Next Sunday, Dec. 15, Ronnen and Smith will offer a night of Southern food, featuring sweet potato biscuits, a fried green tomato salad, creamy grits with wild mushrooms and a fried "chicken" plate with mashed potatoes, gravy and spicy green beans.
The chef shared the recipe for an adaptation of Smith's creamy grits that the two had collaborated on for the dinner. "We've worked on making it healthier. Art usually uses heavy cream, chicken stock and butter," says Ronnen.
Creamy Grits with Roasted Mushrooms
From: Tal Ronnen and Art Smith
2 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed very well under cold water
1. Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
2. Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place them in a blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by an inch. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. To make a thicker cashew cream, simply reduce the amount of water, so that it slightly covers the cashews in the blender. The recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups of regular cream or 2 1/4 cups of thick cream.
Note: If you're not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.
1 pound porcini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced thin (you can substitute with other mushrooms, i.e. crimini, portobello, shiitake, or a mix)
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive
1 Tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat to 475˚F. Place rack in the center of the oven. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, toss the mushrooms with enough olive oil to coat, then add in vinegar, salt and black pepper. Spread them out evenly in a single layer onto the baking sheet.
3. Roast the mushrooms for 20-25 minutes, or until brown and crispy. Be careful to not burn them.
4. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
1 cup stone ground, or regular, grits
5 cups cold vegetable stock (or vegetable broth, if stock can't be found)
8 Tablespoons Earth Balance dairy-free butter
1 cup cashew cream
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Start cooking grits in the cold stock. Skim the surface of the stock to remove any skins or debris from the grits.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the grits from scorching and from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Simmer for about an hour. The grits should be plump but have a slight bite.
3. Add the Earth Balance and stir until melted; then add cashew cream and simmer for another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, top the grits with warm mushrooms.
See also: 3 Great L.A. Vegan Comfort Foods