When people hear that I wrote a vegan book, or want to talk about vegan, one topic always comes up. Cheese is often the hardest food for people to imagine giving up. Or maybe it’s ice cream, or yogurt. I hear that alot- people who can’t imagine life without yogurt.
Well, if you are one of those people, I understand. Cheese is delicious, and dangit, it’s really easy to use. A slice of cheese or a schmear of cream cheese makes a simple sandwich or bagel into a meal, and cheese makes pizza and pasta into the most popular food in the world.
So, whether you want to kick it or just cut back, you can make it much easier to do. Of course, you can buy processed cheese substitutes. Plenty of people swear by them, and they are convenient. In a previous post I made nachos with the very popular shredded Daiya cheese, and it was certainly a big improvement on the ones I remember from 10 years ago. Still, if you were eating cheese for protein or calcium, these substitutes may not have them.
The truth is, if you are a DIY kind of whole foods person, you want to keep it home made. That’s why I decided to start keeping a pot of nut cheese in my fridge at all times. I realized that a big part of the way we all eat is to just open that refrigerator door and start looking for some food. If you have dairy based habits, like bagels and cream cheese, cheese sandwiches, or cheesy pizzas, having the nut cheese is step one to making a really great stand in.
Nuts, by the way, are some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Good fats, protein, all the good stuff, so you are boosting your nutrition with this move.
I did some experimenting to come up with a good recipe, and there are two in my new book, Big Vegan. But, if you haven’t got the book, you can certainly just improvise something. I’ll talk you through it.
First, just soak some cashews, almonds, or macadamias, or a combo of all three. Use skinless, raw nuts. You can try other nuts, like brazils, or even pistachios, but they will not be white and cheeselike. Just soak the nuts, drain them, reserving the water, and put them in a processor or blender. Blend, puree, and process, scraping down, adding just enough water to make a creamy smooth paste. Once it’s totally creamy, add some salt, lemon, or whatever you want to make it more savory. The nuts are basically sweet and rich, so to make it more cheesy you need an acid, salt, and some fermented flavors, like nutritional yeast or white miso. Or you can keep it simple and season it for each dish.
Once you have this tasty, nutritious spread, you are on your way to saying “nuts” to cheese. Go ahead, dollop it on a prebaked pizza crust, smeared with pesto or tomato sauce. Build a panini, or toss it in the pan with hot pasta and veggies, adding a little olive oil and non-dairy milk as needed. Or just dip veggies in it, spread it on bagels, or sprinkle it over nachos.
Once you have it made, you have it made.