A few months ago, though, I was treated to a wonderful girl’s night out: a vegan wine and cheese!
A vegan cheese party in Texas.
An oxymoron like no other?
I don’t buy processed vegan cheeses and while I have tried my hand at simple homemade cheeses, I was blown over by all.the.vegan.cheeses. There was a complete spread from Door 86 (the cheese ball was my favourite), Heidi Ho, and a bunch of homemade cheeses from Artisan Vegan Cheese (the sun-dried tomato and garlic cream cheese was fabulous). I have been intimidated by recipes requiring room temperature fermentation. My biggest kitchen disasters have been sauerkraut and pineapple vinegar from Mastering Fermentation. No fun.
Enter The Cheesy Vegan. A bit more complex than cashew spreads, but recipes not as complex to require fermented rejuvelac. I started with this recipe for a vegan cheese log crusted in pecans and cranberries. Not hard to make, but with a few steps over the span of 2 days, you need a bit of advance preparation. Coconut and olive oil are blended with cashews, lemon juice, tahini and salt and then left to drain/ferment overnight. Instead of cheesecloth, my fine-mesh strainer worked like a charm. The following morning, a fair amount of liquid had dripped from my cashew spread.. and in case you were wondering, it looked mostly like oil. A bake in the oven at a low temperature is akin to a faster dehydration (I presume) and assists with getting the cheese to firm up. Refrigerate, top with the nuts and cranberries, and you are good to go. The salty/lemony spread paired really well with the buttery pecans and sweet cranberries.
I will confess that I did not bring any vegan cheeses to the original cheese party but was inspired to make the cheese log for a subsequent vegan potluck. It was a hit. With so many recipe requests, I knew I had to share it… and lucky for you, you can also win your own copy of the cookbook!
Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States (sorry to all my non-US readers). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite vegan cheese or cheese dish. If you haven’t made anything cheesy yet, have a look through the table of contents of The Cheesy Vegan on amazon and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 26, 2013. Good luck!
PS. Other recipes from The Cheesy Vegan spotted elsewhere:
PPS. My other vegan cheese/dairy recipes:
Pecan and Cranberry Cheese Log
Adapted, minimally, from The Cheesy Vegan (this is a half-recipe)
3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
zest from 1 lemon (1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 tbsp tahini
1.5 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I forgot to toast mine)
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
NOTE: This recipes takes 2 overnight preparations.
1. Soak the cashews overnight in water to cover. Drain and rinse once ready to begin. (I have a high-speed blender, so I skipped this step)
2. In a food processor (I used a high-speed blender), puree the soaked and drained cashews, olive oil, coconut oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini and salt and about 1 tbsp of water until smooth. You might need to add more water, but don’t add too much.
3. Line a strainer with layer of cheese cloth (I just used a fine-mesh strainer like this without the cheese cloth) and place it overtop a large bowl. With a rubber spatula, scrape the cashew blend out of the blender and onto the cheesecloth. Fold the cheesecloth over the cashew mixture, covering it completely and press to begin draining the cashew mixture. Let the mixture stand at room temperature overnight or for at least 12 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 200F. Discard the liquid from the bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I used a silpat). Unwrap the cashew mixture and place it on a fresh sheet of cheesecloth. Wrap the mixture and shape it into a log shape, twisting at both ends to retain its shape (I just free-formed mine without the cheesecloth). Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, turning every 10 minutes until the log is set on the outside but still soft (I did no such flipping). Let the log cool in its wrapping then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
5. In a medium-size bowl, stir together the pecans and cranberries. When the log has firmed up, unwrap it and gently roll it in the mixture until it’s covered, pressing to make the mixture adhere to the log while it retains its shape. Wrap the log in waxed paper or plastic wrap and transfer it to the refrigerator. Chill until you’re ready to serve, surrounded by your favourite crackers.
Makes 1 small loaf.