Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ricotta without the curdles.

Every once in a while (and by every once in a while, I mean far too often), I crave some cheesy gooey comfort food. And every once in a while, I indulge this craving. However, one weekend, I decided to play with this craving in a health(ier), vegan way. -- nut cheese!

I had made it once to put on some kale chips (not the previously posted ones), and although the kale chips were kind of soggy and weird-the nut cheese was tasty! So I figured this wasn't a completely impossible concept.

I played around with some different textures and flavors and liked the result quite a bit. I used a combination of cashews and tofu for a really crumbly, but also creamy texture.

This is what I came up with, feel free to tweak based on what you're using it for.
  • 1 cup cashews -- soaked in water (with a dash of salt) at least 2-3 hours
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • between 1/8-1/4 cup soy milk/creamer or a combination of both (use more or less depending on what you're using it for)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • basil - I used as much as I could pull off of my aerogarden plant without killing it - probably between 1tsp-1tb dried basil, or as much fresh basil as you like
  • 1/2 tablespoon agave
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
-Drain and pulse the soaked cashews in a food processor until well pureed -- kind of like a chunky butter
-Cut the firm tofu into cubes and add it to the food processor, pulse combining it with the cashews.
-Add all remaining ingredients, pulsing as you go, until you have a creamy, ricotta like texture
-Feel free to adjust the seasonings as you wish -- make it sweeter (more agave) for a spread/dessert, herb-ier (?) for an italian dish (more basil, oregano, or add parsley!)
-Taste and adjust! And taste and taste and taste! I couldn't stop eating it!

Note that the cheeze dries out a bit when you bake it, so you can make it a bit waterier/creamier if you're using it in a dish that will be baked.

I boiled some store-bought manicotti shells, stuffed 'em with the "cheeze", added some tasty (jarred) tomato sauce and baked for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

 Serve it up with some extra sauce and a yummy salad and feel quite a bit less guilty about indulging!

The cheezeee was also Deeeeelish on these little flatbread crackers/on some raw veggies/on a spoon. I'm sure it'd be excellent as a spread on a veggie wrap - perhaps with some eggplant and sundried tomatoes.

Aka -- make extra because you'll want to use it on everything!

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