Party food for vegans

Published 9:19 am Thursday, May 8, 2014

In this week's column, Kat Barry provides a tasty treat for vegans. (Submitted photo)

In this week’s column, Kat Barry provides a tasty treat for vegans. (Submitted photo)

I’ve recently been invited to several parties where the spread was almost entirely vegan. This is such a breakthrough for my social circle, I can’t help but be supremely excited.

Many people struggle with how to prepare vegan or even vegetarian party food. That’s one reason I’m always so adamant about sharing my favorite entertaining recipes.

One of my favorite recipes to share with people looking for a simple, crowd pleasing vegan party supplement are variations of my cashew pesto spread. I learned how to use cashews to make rich, satisfying spreads years ago after taking a raw cooking class at The French Market in Chicago.

You can buy raw cashews in bulk at most health food stores. Simply soak them in water for a minimum of 30 minutes, then use the plump nuts to create cream sauces, dips, and cheeses without the heavy feeling of dairy based alternatives. Search my article archive at or visit for lots of recipe variations using raw cashews as a base.

The cashew spread I’m sharing with you this week is a Tuscan inspired sundried tomato pesto. You can spread it on crostini, dip crudite, or serve a scoop of it on the side of a dinner buffet plate.

In this recipe, I use Batti Becco seasoning salt, which is one of my essential pantry ingredients. It’s a really lovely Italian seasoning salt available at Caffe Tosi in downtown St. Joseph. I worked there through much of my teens and 20s, so their recipes still inspire me.

If you don’t live close enough to enjoy the Caffe, try another Italian inspired seasoning salt. Any fancy grocery or deli should have a suitable option.

Tuscan Sundried Tomato Pesto
Yield: about 2 cups pesto dip

1 cup raw cashews soaked for 30 minutes to 1 hour
4 cloves garlic
1 ½ cups sun dried tomatoes-chopped
1 cup Tuscan kale- cut from the stem and chopped
½ teaspoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon dried onion
1 teaspoon Batti Becco seasoning salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups fresh basil

1. Drain the water off the cashews. Place cashews, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, kale, sage, dried onion, and seasoning salt in the blow of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade. Blend for a couple minutes, stopping frequently to scrape the sides. Slowly add the olive oil.
2. When the mixture starts to become smooth, pulse in the fresh basil, scraping the sides of the bowl often with a rubber spatula.
3. Transfer to a bowl and serve. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Kat Barry, a St. Joseph, Michigan native, is owner of Kat’s Hot Cakes vegan catering, and co author of “The New Chicago Diner Cookbook: Meat Free Recipes from America’s Veggie Diner.” She also develops recipes for, where you can find over 30 of her vegan instructional cooking videos. She is also a certified yoga instructor. Kat currently resides in Chicago, and in her free time she enjoys practicing yoga, sampling local spirits, listening to live music, and getting outdoors. Follow @katshotcakes on twitter. Kat can be reached via email at: