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Recipe of the Month: Shiitake Tornadoes in Cashew Cream Sauce

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October 31, 2012

by Zel Allen, author of Vegan for the Holidays

This sumptuous yuletide dish makes a showy presentation on the holiday table. It's a winning entree for those with an inquisitive palate because its deliciously complex flavors present a fun challenge to guess the hidden ingredients.

Yield: Makes 12 balls; 8 to 12 servings


  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps cut into quarters
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup black or regular sesame seeds
  • 12 long sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half, for garnish
  1. To make the tornadoes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the mushrooms, onion, tamari, and tarragon in a large, deep skillet. Add water and cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked and the onion is softened and transparent. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
  3. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor and add the olives. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl.
  4. Add the rice, oats, walnuts, salt, and pepper and mix well. Pour the black sesame seeds into a deep, medium bowl.
  5. Using your hands, form the mushroom mixture into balls about 1 1/ 2 inches in diameter. Roll each one in the sesame seeds to coat well. Place the coated balls on the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.
Cashew Cream Sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1/2 cup cashews, finely ground
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. To make the sauce, combine the vegetable broth, tomato paste, tamari, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, marjoram, and cayenne in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the cashews, whisk and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. The sauce will continue to thicken upon standing. Before serving, stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  3. To serve, spoon the sauce into a large, deep platter and arrange the tornadoes over the sauce. To garnish, poke a rosemary sprig into each tomato half and push them into the tops of the tornadoes, so they stand upright.
Note: If not serving immediately, refrigerate the tornadoes and sauce separately. Warm the tornadoes in a preheated 350-degree F. oven for 12 to 15 minutes before serving. Heat the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.

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