Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nutty Cheese


I've been on a mission, of sorts, to eat less hard cheese. If you are allergic to dairy, like Rosie, it's not a question of limiting a food as much as eliminating it completely. She has known nothing other than her beloved soy cheeses like Tofutti and Daiya since she began eating hard foods. I decided now that she can have certain nuts, it might be fun to stretch our vegan cheese wings and see what's out there.
Julie Platt's wonderfully photographed and very clearly written, This Cheese is Nuts!: Delicious Vegan Cheese at Home, has helped me on my quest.The book has some wonderful options for everything from cheddar to mozzarella and beyond. The ingredients are accessible (in my opinion) and the instructions are clear and achievable for most people. 

 I decided to start with an easy one, an ersatz pimiento cheese. Or, if you're from the South, "pimenta".  You might recall it as that orangy cheese spread in a crock that was ubiquitous at your parents cocktail parties in the '70's.  But it's actually a nice spread when made with real ingredients and not processed cheese like stuff.  The almond based spread in Platt's book combined a cheesiness from nutritional yeast flakes and the robust pimento flavor from a generous addition of the jarred peppers. I made a few adjustments, as I had to use jarred roasted peppers instead of pimentos. I added some smoked paprika to make up the flavor, and it did so in spades. It can be eaten immediately or refrigerated for about a week. After a few days I felt it took on the flavor (and it had the texture) of smoked salmon spread. Another treat I love, but could do with a health upgrade.  My neighbor tried some on nachos and thought it was a great option if you're cutting back on cholesterol.

I was thinking a crock of cheese spread with GF crackers would make a wonderful and tasty Mishloach Manot--the gifts of food for friends and family on the Jewish holiday of Purim, as described in the biblical Book of Esther. On Purim, we rejoice over G-d's hidden miracles and remember that even in a moment of crisis or danger, G-d's mercy is near at hand. What better way to share our holiday cheer than with fun costumes for the children (or fun loving adults) and creative gift packages of food. Have a happy Purim!

You can find canned pimentos or jarred peppers in the same section of your supermarket as olives and pickles. The amounts make a lot, so consider halving the recipe. I didn't have smoked sea salt, so I used 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika and regular sea salt, and it worked great! 

Smoked Almond Cheddar Spread

This Cheese is Nuts!: Delicious Vegan Cheese at Home by Julie Platt, p. 33

2 cups raw almonds, rinsed and placed in covered bowl with water to cover overnight
1/2 to 3/4 cup pimientos from a jar, with 1/2 to 3/4 cup packing liquid
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 3/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt (I preferred less salt)
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Drain the almonds. In the bowl of a food processor, place the first five ingredients with 1/4 cup of the pimiento liquid. Process until the ingredients are well incorporated.

Remove the lid and test the mixture for texture and salt content. If you want a smoother spread, add pimiento liquid in small increments and process again. Add more salt if needed.

Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Makes approximately 3 cups of spread.

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