Monday, January 13, 2014

Cashew Cheese Love

In my quest to move ever-closer to a vegan diet, I have become utterly OBSESSED with cashew "cheese" spread. I made my first batch in November, and have been making at least one batch a week, often two, ever since. I have tried several different recipes from around the interwebs, searching for the perfect combination of ingredients. I haven't found any I really didn't like (except for one Cashew Walnut Cheese, which tasted great but was an unappealing greyish brown color.. bleh) I have done a lot of experimenting and tweaking things, to suit my tastes. This has brought me to the following recipe, my favorite so far:

You will need a food processor, or a high-speed blender to get this to the right consistency.

Cashew Cheese Spread

1-1/2 cups of raw cashews, soaked
3 cloves of garlic (I LOVE garlic, but if you prefer milder garlic flavor, only use 1 or 2 cloves)
Juice of one small lemon (see note below)
2-3 Tbsp white wine (This could be optional, but try not to skip it, as it gives it such a nice flavor!)
1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp white miso paste
salt and ground white pepper, to taste
water, as needed to make creamy

First thing, make sure you soak those cashews. Really, do not skip this step! If you don't soak them, the cheese will not come out as smooth and creamy as it should. If you can, soak them overnight in the fridge. If you're pressed for time, pour boiling water over them and let sit for an hour. Drain before continuing.

Place all the ingredients into the food processor. Process until very smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides and adding water a little at a time as needed. You want it to have a nice thick, spreadable texture, kind of like that Alouette cheese stuff. You can eat this right away, or store it in the fridge for up to a week.

*A NOTE ABOUT THE LEMON:  I found this works best with a small lemon. If your lemon is large, start with half the juice and add more to taste.

Feel free to experiment by adding different herbs and flavors! For one batch, I reduced the amount of garlic and added some dried dill. Soon, I plan to try adding some rosemary and chopped sundried tomatoes. Doesn't that sound awesome?!

So what do you do with this cheese, once it's made? Here are some serving suggestions:

  • On a Sandwich! My favorite is cashew cheese with lettuce, tomato, carmelized onions and avocado. YUM. 
  • On a baked potato, with broccoli! (for this, I usually thin some with a little almond milk to make it like a cheese sauce)
  • On crackers or crust of baguette with a nice glass of wine.
  • As a dip for veggies! Also, fill celery sticks with cashew cheese and dot with raisins. 
  • On pasta! Thin with almond milk as suggested above, to make it like a creamy cheese sauce for pasta. 

Now that I feel like I have mastered making spreadable cashew cheese, I plan to try my hand at other homemade "alternative" cheeses. Of course, I will keep you all updated on my progress.

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