Almost Instant Vegan Cheese for Pizza

browned-pizza-slice

When the urge for pizza strikes in our household, it’s usually a fair rush to get it cooked and on the table … but that’s really only possible if the cheese, and tomato sauce are already made! The second easiest option for making pizza (after opening a jar of ready made pizza sauce and a packet of store bought cheese), is to have both available as blender foods. This cheese goes well with my instant pizza sauce.

1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chickpea miso (or other light colored miso)

UNLESS you have a high speed blender, soak the cashews in water for about an hour before draining and continuing with the recipe.

Place all ingredients in a blender along with 12 fl oz (1 1/2 cups) water, and blend until completely smooth (~20 seconds).

Scrape the mix into a saucepan, and cook until bubbling, stirring frequently (especially as it starts to thicken) to prevent burning. Initially, the cheese will thicken where it touches the bottom of the pan, and will look a little lumpy, but just keep stirring and that will sort itself out.

Spoon dollops over the pizza as required, and brown the top under a grill/broiler.

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Crumbly, Tangy, Dairy Free Feta

Moist and tangy, this faux feta is very quick to make, and strongly flavored like the dairy cheese. I like it best on crackers and tortilla chips, though in a sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes is good, too.

The rationale behind this recipe is to simmer the tofu in liquid for at least 5 minutes, so that its texture firms up and the harsher vinegar notes are driven off, and to infuse the tofu with the flavorings in the process. It then needs to cool (and continue drying) to firm up.

My miso is a bit lumpy so I quickly blend it with the other ingredients to make a homogenous liquid before adding to the tofu, but if yours is smooth already, you can just whisk the flavoring ingredients together.

The miso I use has a light color, and a rich winey flavor. It isn’t particularly salty, so you may need to adjust the recipe to suit your miso.

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This quantity makes 1 – 2 servings of faux feta. If you have cause to increase the batch size, make sure to use a large frying pan so the juices have plenty of room to evaporate.

1 tbsp chickpea or other light colored miso
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp margarine (I use Earth Balance)
4 – 5 oz firm tofu

DSC_0001Blend the miso, salt, vinegar, and nutritional yeast together with 4 fl oz (1/2 cup) of water.

Heat the margarine in a small frying pan, then roughly mash the tofu with the back of a fork into the margarine.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, and simmer until the water evaporates and the tofu starts to sizzle in the fat. Drying FetaAvoid breaking up the tofu lumps too much.

Fry for a couple of minutes to drive off any excess water, stirring continuously, then turn off the heat.

Scoop all together to form a block, and leave in the pan to cool and solidify. (~1/2 hour) Pack into a small container and store in the fridge as necessary.

Cashew Mozzarella

Mild in flavor and close textured, this browns nicely in the oven, and tastes great with basil and fresh tomatoes in an almond bread sandwich.

You’ll note that I’ve used both xanthan gum and tapioca starch in this recipe. The xanthan gum is used to make it stiff, and the tapioca gives it a bit of wobble and that knife-clinginess that fresh mozzarella has. This recipe went though a fair number of revisions to get to this stage. I’ve had the taste pretty much where I wanted it for a while, but the texture hasn’t been right. The last two versions, however, have been very interesting! This current version with 3 tsps of agar, makes a sliceable cheese, somewhat softer than the partially dried stuff that comes in plastic wrap, but more manageable than fresh mozzarella. 2 tsps of agar makes something more akin to fresh mozzarella which sticks to the fingers a bit in a lick-able sort of fashion.

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1/2 cup raw cashews
3 tsps agar powder (use 2 tsps for fresh mozzarella, 3 for sliceable)
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chickpea miso
2 tsp nutritional yeast

Soak the cashews in water for at least 1 hour. (Not needed if you have a high speed blender.)

Put the agar in a medium size saucepan along with 1 1/2 cups (12 fl oz) of water, and bring slowly to a simmer over a medium high heat, stirring frequently, to dissolve the agar.

While the agar is dissolving, put the drained nuts, salt, starch, vinegar, lemon juice, miso, and yeast into a blender, along with 1/2 a cup (4 fl oz) of water, and blend until smooth.
molten mozzarella

Once the agar has come up to the boil and thickened, add the smooth contents of the blender, and stir vigorously until combined.

Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring or whisking to prevent sticking, and cook for about 2 minutes until the starch has cooked and thickened.

Lightly oil a 1 pint container, scrape the hot cheese into it, and refrigerate until cold and firm (~2 hours), or drizzle straight over your pizza which is waiting to go into the oven.

Gruyere Style Cheese Spread (and Pasta Sauce)

I had a flurry of enthusiasm for making faux cheese last week. My girls had reminded me that they liked the faux cheddar that I sometimes make (and not often enough, allegedly), and I’ve had a draft recipe for an appetizer requiring feta for about a year now, just waiting for me to figure the recipe for the feta before I post it. I’ve just about developed something that I like, but in the meantime, I had a go at something to replace Gruyere.

Pasta with Marinated Artichokes and Gruyere Sauce

A rich and delectable dish for entertaining. Pasta with marinated artichokes and rich ‘gruyere’ sauce (skip the cooking stage for the cheese).

The initial batch I made was with all water (too bland), so the second batch was made with all wine (too strongly flavored), but the next batch made with 1/2 water and 1/2 wine was great. I didn’t get as far as adjusting the texture to firm it up, as I couldn’t think of a use that I’d have for Gruyere where a spread wouldn’t work (and some where soft was preferable).

Gruyere cheez spread

GF baguette loaded up with vegan Gruyere cheese spread, cooked until thickened to a paste.

Like Gruyere, this is a moderately strong tasting cheese, and the initial flavor is very similar to the dairy variety. The aftertaste, however, has a bit of a tang due to the wine that isn’t present in regular Gruyere, but that can be driven off, to a certain extent, by cooking it. As an erstwhile lover of cheese fondue, I have to admit to liking the tang, and I’m not in a hurry to get rid of it!

Daughter #2 consumed quite a quantity of this stuff on crackers, so it’s been put through its paces! Personally, I like it on pasta. About 1 tbsp of cheese per ounce of dried pasta, stirred into the drained, cooked pasta for an almost instant supper. If you figure on any other ways to use this, do let me know.

8 oz (2 scant cups) blanched almonds
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a chardonnay)
1 tbsp dark colored miso (I used Sweet Tasting Brown Rice Miso)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) melted coconut oil

Put the almonds and dry white wine in a blender, along with 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) water, and leave to soak for at least a couple of hours.
Add remaining ingredients, and blend until completely smooth. This might take a couple of minutes or so, and if your blender can’t handle such a dry mixture, add a tablespoon or two of water, which you can then cook off.

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Texture of cooked cheese.

If your mixture is a bit thin, scrape it into a small saucepan, and heat, stirring frequently until the mixture turns stiff like cream cheese.

Adjust flavoring if necessary.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

 

Cheddar Cheez

Faux Cheez with grapes

Last year, I bought The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. The reviews on Amazon pretty much convinced me that it was a good idea, and I didn’t change my mind after it arrived. If you like cooking, and you can’t eat dairy, this book is a real eye-opener to new ingredients, and new uses for more familiar ones. I rushed around cooking as many of the recipes that I could source ingredients for. This one is based on one of my favorites from that book. Part of what’s so nice about it, is I don’t feel guilty eating it. Which sounds worse for your health? Cheese, or onions, carrots, and cashews?

The texture of this block cheez isn’t quite the same as dairy cheese (there is no crunch if you simmer for long enough), and it is well worth the effort to make it. The resulting cheez melts best when covered, as in quesadillas. This stuff rarely lasts more than a day in our household, so I usually double up the quantities; my kids eat it straight out of the fridge (and yes, ahem, so do I). A note to the wise, though: if you do double up the quantities, don’t try blending it all at the same time. You might be able to cook it all together, and you might be able to fit it in your blender, but it won’t blend properly with a double batch all together. If you use an immersion blender, however, there’s no problem at all.

You can also add an additional 1/2 cup of fried onions after blending if you want onion strands in your cheez.

2 tsps non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, then diced OR 1 large roasted red pepper, cleaned
1 1/2 cups (24 fl oz / 350 ml) water
5 tbsp agar flakes or 1 1/2 tbsp agar powder
1/2 cup (2 oz) raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (not the same as Brewer’s Yeast)
2 1/2 – 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice)
2 tbsp sesame tahini
2 tbsp chickpea miso
2 tsps onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp honey mustard (or strong made mustard for cheddar cheez)

Melt the margarine in a saucepan and fry the onion and carrot until softened (this adds flavor, and reduces ‘crunch’).
While the onions are cooking, measure out the water in a measuring jug, and then add the rest of the ingredients to the jug.
When the onions are cooked, add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan. Slowly bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often until the agar has dissolved (5-10 minutes).
Lightly oil a 2.5 cup container.
When the agar has dissolved, blend well with an immersion blender. (If you use a surface top blender rather than an immersion blender, the cheez will cool and congeal fairly quickly, so work quickly.)
Pour into the plastic container and refrigerate until solid (>hour).