Artichoke Oysters with Tomato Béarnaise and Kelp Caviar

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
May 26, 2016 12:00 pm Last Updated: May 26, 2016 12:00 pm

Artichoke Oysters with Tomato Béarnaise and Kelp Caviar


Without question, artichoke oysters are the signature dish of Crossroads. This tongue-in-cheek dish evokes the appearance and flavor of oysters on the half shell. We incorporate the entire artichoke: The base of the dish is bright-green artichoke leaves, used in lieu of oyster shells, which are plated on a bed of rock salt to simulate the classic raw bar presentation. The leaves are dolloped with a whipped artichoke heart puree and topped with crispy nori-scented oyster mushrooms that stand in for the oysters. For complete decadence, the dish is bathed in yellow tomato béarnaise and garnished with jet-black seaweed caviar. Visually, texturally, and flavor-wise, this is definitely a conversation starter.

While there are several different components, the dish isn’t difficult to pull off, though it does take time to prepare. (The cashew cream needs to be prepared a day in advance, for example.) Your guests will be blown away.

Number Serves

4 to 6


  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 4 large artichokes (about 3 pounds), rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter stick
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup vegetable stock 
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup Cashew Cream 
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes 
  • Rock or ice cream salt, for serving
  • Fried Oyster Mushrooms (recipe follows)
  • Tomato Béarnaise (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons Cavi-art black seaweed caviar 
  • 1 ounce dried seaweed salad mix, such as SeaSnax, or a mix of wakame, agar, and suginori, reconstituted, for garnish


To prepare the artichoke hearts: Fill a large bowl halfway with water. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and toss the lemon halves into the water too. Remove and discard the small artichoke leaves at the base of each artichoke and then the tough outer leaves. Using a chef’s knife, cut off the top 1 inch of each artichoke crown. Then snap off or cut off all of the remaining large leaves with kitchen shears and put them in the lemon water. You should have 20 to 24 large leaves. These leaves are your “oyster shells.” Set aside.

Working with one artichoke at a time, use a vegetable peeler to trim off the tough outer part of the stem, to reveal the tender inside. Cut off the stem, coarsely chop it, and put in the lemon water. Run a paring knife around the base of the artichoke to remove any tough green parts or bits of leaves. Cut the artichoke in half. Using a sharp spoon or a melon baller, scoop out the spiky purple center leaves and fuzzy choke inside and discard. Transfer the prepared artichoke hearts to the lemon water as you work to keep them from oxidizing and turning brown.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the artichoke leaves and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, remove the prepared artichokes from the lemon water, pat dry, and coarsely chop.

Put a small pot over medium heat and add the butter substitute. When it has melted, add the chopped artichoke hearts and stems, shallot, and garlic and cook until tender but without any color, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the stock, wine, cashew cream, and nutritional yeast flakes and simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes.

Carefully transfer the artichoke mixture to a food processor and process until chunky-smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

To serve: Spread the rock salt on a serving platter. Arrange the artichoke leaves decoratively on the salt. Spoon a small dollop of the artichoke puree on the meaty end of each leaf, then set a fried oyster mushroom on the puree and pour some tomato béarnaise on top. Garnish each artichoke oyster with a small dollop of the caviar and some seaweed. Serve immediately.

Seaweed Caviar

Formulated to resemble Beluga caviar, Cavi-art, or seaweed caviar, is a seaweed-based delicacy that looks and tastes like the real thing. The tiny black beads burst with a clean, briny flavor and texture that “pops” in your mouth, much like fish eggs. Cavi-art is available online and in gourmet markets.

Fried Oyster Mushrooms

Makes about 2 cups

With a meaty texture like oysters, these little mushroom bites are also good for snacking. Serve with cocktail sauce for dipping. The cashew cream needs to be prepared a day in advance, so plan accordingly.


  • ½ cup cashew cream 
  • 2 tablespoons filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon toasted nori flakes, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces oyster mushrooms (about 28), stems trimmed, wiped of grit, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • Expeller-pressed canola oil, for deep-frying

To prepare the batter: Put the cashew cream in a bowl and add the water, ground nori, salt, and pepper. Stir the batter to combine; it should be smooth and not gloppy in the slightest. If you have time, set aside for 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Add the mushrooms to the batter, gently turning the pieces over with your hands until thoroughly coated. Set aside.

Put the cornmeal in a food processor and process to a fine powder. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the rice flour, salt, and pepper, and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Using a slotted spoon, working in batches, scoop the mushrooms from the batter, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, add to the cornmeal mixture, and toss with your hands until evenly coated on all sides. Transfer the breaded mushrooms to a strainer set over a bowl, or work over the sink, and shake off the excess cornmeal. This is a key step to ensure that the cornmeal crust is light and not clumpy whatsoever. (All of this can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance. Arrange the breaded mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered. Allow the mushrooms to come to room temperature before frying.)

Heat 2 inches of oil to 325°F in a deep cast-iron skillet or a heavy saucepan. Working in batches, add the mushrooms to the hot oil and fry, carefully turning with tongs, until golden brown and crispy on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove the cooked mushrooms to a paper towel–lined platter to drain. Season lightly with salt and pepper while still hot and serve.

Tomato Béarnaise

Makes 2 cups

“Don’t get saucy with me, Béarnaise” is one of my favorite lines from Mel Brooks’s History of the World. If you haven’t seen it, you must. The key to this “eggy” béarnaise is Indian Kala Namak salt, which is high in sulfur, so it smells and tastes curiously like eggs. The cashew cream needs to be prepared a day in advance.

  • 2 large yellow tomatoes, cored
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • ¼ cup cashew cream 
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon Kala Namak salt, such as Frontier
  • 2 tablespoons cold Earth Balance butter stick, cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the tomatoes in a small baking pan, drizzle with oil, and season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until soft. Set aside. (The roasted tomatoes can be prepared a couple of hours in advance, covered, and held at room temperature.)

Combine the wine, vinegar, shallot, tarragon, and peppercorns in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Pass the wine reduction through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the solids. You should have about ¼ cup.

Transfer the wine reduction to a blender and add the roasted tomatoes, cashew cream, nutritional yeast flakes, Kala Namak salt, 2 teaspoons oil, and the butter substitute. Blend on low speed to break down the tomatoes, then increase the speed to high and blend until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; add 1 teaspoon water if the sauce becomes too thick. Strain the sauce to remove any bits of tomatoes and give it a smooth texture. Season with kosher salt and pepper and serve, or set aside, covered, in a warm spot.

(Excerpted from Crossroads by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Lisa Romerein.)