Last fall a friend and I visited Savannah, a place on my bucket list and somewhere my friend wanted to explore as a possible new hometown. Savannah, Southern with a capital S, exceeded my expectations with all its charm and friendly, approachable folk.
We fine-dined and low-country cuisined it. We went coastal, fried, gravied and cheesed it. At the time I ate a mainly vegetarian diet and was not too strict about it. The crab cakes and fried green tomatoes were my favorite regional dishes.
So I was excited when I happened upon a vegan version at a local spot here in Nashville. Theirs used white beans which I must say was pretty good. With each bite I plotted my remix.
When I research recipes, I always start with the traditional recipe to see what ingredients are not vegan or which are unhealthy so I have a basic understanding of the flavor profile of the dish and what substitutes I need to dream up.
First I dug up a recipe from a cooking class I took while visiting New Orleans. Then I went in search of ingredients. I found several vegan white bean crab cakes and several that used palm hearts. I was intrigued by the palm hearts because the texture mimicked crab better than beans.
A quality crab cake must feature the crab and not be crowded out by fillers. So I kept to this tenet when making my faux crab cakes. Traditional recipes have some chopped veggies, a binder and spices in addition to the crab. Then the cake is dredged in a breading or flour. Keeping these in mind, I came up the easy to prepare recipe below that satisfies that crab craving.
Steal Your Heart Vegan Crab Cakes
½ c. Vegenaise
1 – 2 T. capers
3 dashes garlic powder
2 dashes onion powder
Dash of dill weed
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt and Ground pepper to taste
Almond milk to thin to sauce consistency
2 sheets of snack seaweed, crushed
Two 14-ounce cans hearts of palm
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
3 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 tsp spicy mustard
1/8 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce
3 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning – use 2 tsp in mixture and remaining 1 tsp for crumbs
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Coconut oil to sauté crab cakes of you decide to use this cooking method
To prepare the Tartar Sauce place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Refrigerate.
For the crab cakes begin by grinding the seaweed using a spice grinder to pulse until powdered or pulverize with a mortar and pestle.
Drain the hearts of palm and press in a towel to dry them. In a food processor, pulse gently until it looks like the consistency of crabmeat.
Place a small sauté pan on medium heat with water to cover bottom of pan. Water sauté the red pepper and onions.
In a large bowl, combine the hearts of palm, onion, bell pepper, Vegenaise, mustard, hot sauce, 2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, ground seaweed, nutritional yeast flakes, cornstarch, and pepper. Mix until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow flavors to marry.
Combine breadcrumbs with 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning. Form small patties and place into bowl. Coat the small cakes with breadcrumbs, slightly pressing into the patty. You can either sauté the cakes or oven bake them. You may also refrigerate the mixture and cook later.
To sauté: Place a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add some coconut oil to cover bottom of pan and heat for 2 minutes. Working in batches, sauté the cakes until browned on both sides and heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
To oven bake: Heat oven to 400 degrees, place crab cakes on cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and bake until browned, about 15 – 20 minutes.
Serve the crab cakes with the tartar sauce.