There’s something about a creamy sauce or dressing that feels a lot like comfort food to me.
Whether it’s a good ranch dressing on a salad, a decadent Alfredo sauce on pasta, a glob of sour cream on a baked potato, or a spoonful of mayo on a sandwich, let’s face it, it’s simply delicious.
But here’s the problem. They are all made with dairy products—not something a vegan would welcome into their diet.
Any of us who have been eating a plant-based diet for a while knows that we can make creamy sauces by using cashews and nutritional yeast, but, really, doesn’t that get kind of old?
Well, you can thank me right now because I’m going to teach you how to make a versatile, over-the-top-delicious, creamy spread (which can also be a dressing or a dip) out of only three ingredients: tahini, Umeboshi paste, and water.
Most of us know tahini, that savory, nutty paste made from sesame seeds, but, “What is Umeboshi paste?” you ask.
Umeboshi paste is a Japanese condiment made of fermented ume fruit that has been pureed.
Ume is a type of plum—really, more like an apricot. The ripened ume are covered with salt and left to ferment for about two weeks.
The leaves of a flavorful Asian herb, called red shiso, are then added, and the ume are dried in the sun for several days, put back in their fermenting liquid, then left to age for several months, and even up to 100 years.
Umeboshi paste has a very unique taste. It is tart, slightly salty, a bit sour, and a little astringent. Some say it’s like parmesan cheese. (Not me!)
How does one describe a breathtaking sunrise? It can’t be described. It has to be experienced, right?
So, go out and get some Umeboshi paste and experience it for yourself. You can find Umeboshi paste in most health food stores these days. If you are lucky enough to have any Asian markets in your hometown, you’ll find it there as well.
Umeboshi can be blended into a pesto, used as a dressing for roasted vegetables, put into curries, smeared on toast. The possibilities for this little condiment are endless. I suggest you Google a few recipes and make friends with it.
But, let’s get back to that promise I made you—a delicious, creamy sauce that you can no longer live without.
First, I want to tell you a little story.
A few years ago, I was asked to be the chef for an intimate women’s retreat. Eight women gathering for the weekend to dive deep into yoga, meditation, writing, art, and hikes in the mountains. They wanted hearty vegan meals to sustain them, and I was hired to provide them.
I did not disappoint. I fed them steel-cut oats with chopped apples, dates, and cinnamon for breakfast. They got homemade raspberry muffins and banana bread. I made delicious soups prepared with fresh organic ingredients and salads with a variety of interesting greens, delicately chopped vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
The pièce de résistance was my vegetarian lasagna with homemade sourdough bread. And the desserts? Heaven, I tell you. They were sent from the angels. I made homemade vegan chocolate and vegan lemon squares that melted in the mouth.
Everyone raved about my meals. They loved every delectable bite. But the thing that blew everyone out of the water was the dressing I made for the salads that, when left really thick, became the spread for the warm sourdough bread and a dip for the herbal crackers. They couldn’t get enough of that creamy deliciousness.
I ended up sharing this simple recipe around that weekend so that all the women could make it at home.
Here it is:
Creamy Umeboshi Tahini Dressing
>> 1 heaping teaspoon Umeboshi paste
>> 1/2 cup tahini
>> 4 tablespoons water
Blend it up.
Place all ingredients in a mini blender and blend until creamy.
If you don’t have a blender, you could use a blending wand or maybe an egg beater. Or just get old school—put everything in a bowl and vigorously stir the heck out of it until it thickens and becomes the creaminess you crave.
You can add more water for a thinner dressing for salads or to spruce up your steamed or sautéed vegetables. It’s great as a sauce for asparagus, instead of Hollandaise.
You can use the thick version to dollop on your baked potato, spread on toast, or use it as a dip for vegetables or crackers.
Confession: I sometimes just eat it by the spoonful. It’s that good.