Peppered Cashew Goat “Cheese”
I thought I’d kick off Vegan MoFo with some vegan cheese! If it weren’t for cheese, I think a lot of people could easily go vegan. I used to LOVE cheese. Who am I kidding – I still do! I just don’t let myself eat it anymore. Growing up in the Midwest, so close to that Wisconsin cheddar, I certainly had my share of it.
There are some good vegan cheese “substitutes” out there, like Follow Your Heart, Sheese, Tofutti, Teese and Daiya. For me, they work in a pinch, and some are better than others for different purposes. One thing I’ve yet to find though, is a great pre-packaged vegan cheese that you can just eat with crackers – and actually serve to non-vegans without them thinking it tastes weird.
Back in July I wrote about the Vegetarian Times Almond Feta recipe. There’s also a recipe for Cashew Goat Cheese in that issue, and I’ve been meaning to try for a while. Goat cheese was one of my favorites, so I had really high hopes for this recipe. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I actually liked this more than the almond feta!
I’ve made this recipe three times now – once for friends that we were having over for dinner, and then for a little get together for Ryan’s birthday. Everyone who’s eaten it has LOVED it – and that’s a bid deal since non of them are vegan! It doesn’t taste exactly like goat cheese, but it tastes so good that you won’t care. I can’t recommend this enough. I’m so happy that I have something to combat my cheese cravings with. Yes, it’s got fat in it, but so does real cheese! You shouldn’t be eating it all the time, but it’s a pretty awesome treat.
Before I get to the recipe I want to mention I’d read that some people who’d made this had problems with it firming up. The first time I made it I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of leaving out the tahini – I didn’t have any on hand, and I’m not a huge fan of it anyway. I didn’t have any problems with the firmness factor. For the next two batches I reduced the oil a bit. I blended one of the them for the full six minutes, and it was the perfect texture – creamy, but it held together. I didn’t blend the second batch for the full time, and it was much harder to work with. It never really firmed up, even with a longer baking time. So make sure to blend this for the full six minutes, unless you’re going to use it in another recipe. I ended up doing that, with great results. I’ll post about it tomorrow!
Here’s the version of the recipe that I made. Because of the soaking and draining times, you do need to plan ahead for this. Like the Almond Feta, it may seem complicated, but it’s actually really easy to make if you’re just patient.
Pepper-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese (adapted from Vegetarian Times)
makes 10 ounce log
3/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns or coarsely ground black pepper
Place cashews in large bowl; cover with 3 inches water. Soak overnight.
Drain liquid, rinse cashews under cold water, and drain again. Puree cashews, oil, lemon juice, salt and 2 tablespoons water in a food processor for 6 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. [Make sure to blend for 6 minutes for a firmer texture.]
Place strainer over bowl, and line with triple layer of cheesecloth. Spoon cashew mixture into cheesecloth. Fold sides of cloth over cheese, and form into 6-inch-long oval loaf. Twist ends of cloth and secure with rubber bands. [Don't worry if you can't get this into an oval loaf shape. Even if it's more round, it'll still work just fine.] Set in strainer over bowl, and let stand 12 hours at room temperature. Discard excess liquid. Chill.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap cheese, and scrape into 7-inch-long log on cheesecloth. Rewrap, and twist ends to secure. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes, or until cheese becomes set on outside but still soft, turning occasionally. Cool, and chill.
Unwrap cheese. Sprinke with peppercorns, pressing to adhere. [I just used fresh cracked pepper over the cheese. You could also roll this in herbs or paprika, like this.]