With this vegan take on a classic charcuterie board, you'll never miss the meat

Food stylist Lisa Dawn Bolton shares recipes and tips for creating a plant-based spread that even carnivores can’t resist.

Lisa Dawn Bolton shares recipes and tips for creating a plant-based spread that even carnivores can’t resist

(Photo credit: Lisa Dawn Bolton)

When it comes to entertaining, it’s well documented that we’re partial to charcuterie boards here at CBC Life, mainly because they’re so easy to assemble and offer a wide range of flavours for guests to pick and choose from. That being said, we believe our plant-based pals should be presented with more options than the measly grapes that get left behind, and that’s exactly why we were drawn to this 100% vegan spread from food stylist Lisa Dawn Bolton’s new cookbook On Boards. With blistered tomatoes, spiralized carrots and a creamy homemade cashew ricotta, it proves that a platter doesn’t need meat or cheese to be perfectly decadent.

Now, if it’s your first time putting one of these things together, Bolton says to “start by placing the biggest elements... around the board and then alternate the smaller components... filling in all the holes.” And if you really want your spread to stand out? Top it with a fresh garnish. “This can be fresh herbs tucked into the spaces, a few edible flowers or even a small piece of whole fruit placed on the board,” Bolton adds. “Mother nature is a source of some beautiful ways to finish a board and really make it pop.”

Vegan Vibes with Cashew Ricotta Cheese

By Lisa Dawn Bolton

As a constant carnivore, I don’t cook a lot of vegan food, or at least not on purpose. However, with a rise in plant-based diets, everyone should have a simple go-to vegan recipe or two. The cashew ricotta on this board is creamy and rich, and when dolloped with a sweet preserve or fresh herb, it rivals any cow’s milk creamery. The cashews also don’t require an overnight soak, so if you have an hour, you can make vegan cheese. When you take away charcuterie from a board, you take away some of the salty, smoky and toothsome elements. I brought those elements back with the addition of a firm smoked tofu, blistered tomatoes and dried dates.

Ingredients

Cashew Ricotta Cheese:

  • 1 ½ cups raw, unsalted whole cashews
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp flaked sea salt
  • ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper

For the board:

  • 2 cups grapes, any colour
  • 24 green string beans
  • 16 baby potatoes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, on the vine
  • 2 large purple carrots
  • 2 small bunches baby bok choy
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 8 oz smoked firm tofu
  • 16 artisan rye crackers
  • ½ baguette
  • 12 Manzanilla olives
  • 8 dates
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ⅓ cup apricot preserve
  • Baby eggplants, for garnish
  • Fresh dill, for garnish
  • Pea sprouts, for garnish

Preparation

For the Cashew Ricotta Cheese:

Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 1 hour.

Drain the cashews, then place them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth. You may occasionally need to scrape down the sides of the processor.

Scoop the ricotta into an airtight container and place in the fridge for about 1 hour to set up before serving. Serve alongside the tomatoes (see below).

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

For the board:

Prepare the fruit and vegetables: Snip the grapes into clusters of 4 to 6.

Blanch the string beans, then plunge them into an ice bath. Pat dry before serving. Cook the potatoes, covered in 2” of simmering water for 10 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain, drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Preheat the oven broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place tomatoes on the sheet, still attached to the vine. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and place on the highest rack of the oven for 10 minutes. Keep a close watch. Tomatoes will be done when they have split or burst and have a char on the skin. Set aside and let cool.

Using a spiralizer or peeler, create ribbons with both carrots. Cut the bottom core off of the bok choy and separate each leaf.

Slice the baguette into ½” slices and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the bread and toast for an additional minute, keeping a close eye so the bread doesn’t burn. Use immediately or store in an airtight container until needed.

Serve the components in the style that works best for you, remembering the olives, dates, walnuts and apricot preserve, and arrange everything on and around your board. Top with additional garnishes.


Excerpted from On Boards: Simple & Inspiring Recipe Ideas to Share at Every Gathering by Lisa Dawn Bolton. Copyright © 2018 Lisa Dawn Bolton. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Servings: Makes an 8 serving board and 1 cup of ricotta

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