Last weekend I experimented with cashew cheese. It looked so fresh and pretty in Tal Ronnen's cookbook, and I thought it sounded easy enough to make. However, it's not a process I'll attempt again, as it was a bit frustrating.
I tried to follow the recipe directions exactly, including wait times. The problem was, the whole process takes 2 days. I forgot to put the cashews in water to soak on Thursday night. So I put them in Friday at 10am when I remembered. But this meant that I had to wait 12-14 hours (that's 10pm or later) to grind them up and mix in the bacteria for culturing.
We finished up whatever dinner event we were involved in on Friday around 2am. OK, 5 minute project - blend the nights, mix the ingredients, wrap in cheesecloth.
Not so easy. I tried the blender, as the recipe instructed, to grind the nuts. Nothing worked - pulsing, chopping... just a spinning blade that refused to get the job done while the nuts stuck to the sides. So I tried the Bamix hand-blender.
It took some elbow grease and quite some time, but eventually the nuts were ground. I felt like the mixer was going to die drowning in the thick paste. 2am nut-grinding is not something I will do again, I was tired and kind of wanted to throw things and cry. It didn't even come out that smooth. I was following the instructions, so I mixed up the nuts and probiotics and set it aside to culture for the next 14-16 hours. I must admit I left the kitchen covered in nut-spatter and a sink full with nut-paste covered measuring and mixing tools.
Around 4pm on Saturday I mixed in the seasonings to the yeasty-smelling concoction. Nutritional yeast flakes, onion powder, white pepper, sea salt and nutmeg. Hmm. Interesting. I rolled it up in waxed paper and put it in the fridge to mingle for "several hours or overnight".
A couple hours later we decided to just try the cheese. Who wants cheese by the time it's ready on Sunday morning? We had it on a whole-wheat cracker and it tasted kind of wierd together. The cracker was a little sweet. The cheese tasted like vegan gravy. Alright, so this cheese is definitely boxed-in to being savory only.
The meaty flavor of the cheese reminded me of a classic party-platter combo: cheddar cheese, pepperoni and Ritz crackers. So I put the cashew cheese together with some vegan pepperoni slices on Ritz. The combo definitely worked. I don't think it replaces cheese, as it's more of a spread. And mine wasn't white and pretty like Tal's. And I might leave out the yeast flakes next time. But I did find out that vegan pepperoni is pretty darned good!
Have you had cashew cheese? What's your favorite way to make it or eat it?