Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 13: Behold, the Power of Casomorphins!

I really am not having a difficult time forgoing meat or even eggs. Milk? Eh. I'm good with the vanilla soymilk in my coffee, and the Earth Balance vegan butter substitute is pretty damned good.

But cheese, oh my good, how I miss cheese!

One of my fervent beliefs is that a life without pizza is not a life worth living, so I am doing my best to make tasty, vegan adaptations of this staple. Thus far, I have tried a soy-and-gluten-free, rice-based faux-mozzarella from Galaxy Foods called Rice shreds. It tasted pretty good, and melted better than other brands of non-dairy, vegan cheeses, but it still did not come close to the gooey, melty heaven of real mozzarella.

For last night's pizza night, I tried out a recipe for cashew cheese for my own pizza; the girls got the real mozz because right before I made this switch to veganism, I had bought a huge 5-lb block of the stuff. At $20 a pop, I am not about to throw it out. Not only is that a waste of money, but I abhor throwing out perfectly good food. My goal is to not buy any more animal products, but as for the ones that I still have hanging about my fridge and my lingering in my shelves, I plan on using them up or donating them to a food pantry.

But back to the cashew cheese.

I typed "cashew cheese on pizza" into Google and found this: Vegan Cashew Cheese.

Vegan Cashew Cheese


  • 2/3 cup cashews (raw is best, roasted is still great, and try flavored cashews too)
  • 1/2 cup water (or slightly more)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper (raw or roasted)
  • 1/4 small red onion (if you're cooking for a date, or more otherwise!)
  • 1/4 cup yeast flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves (see "red onion")
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos (on the health food isle everywhere, or use lite soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt (optional) if the cashews are unsalted

Put everything in a food processor and blend it until it's creamy. If it's too thick, add more water. If it's too watery, add more cashews. It should have a Cream of Wheat-like consistency, or just a bit thicker. For a pizza, spread it thinly over pizza sauce (it's very rich, so a little bit goes a long way), top it off with your favorite vegetables, and pop it in the oven. If the cashew cheese becomes golden-brown more than a few minutes before the pizza crust is done, cover the top of the pizza with foil.

My analysis:
  • I had to add more cashews (about another 1/3 of a cup) because the mixture as it resulted was just too soupy for me.
  • The addition of the nutritional yeast adds a somewhat cheese-like flavor, which leads me to wonder what role yeasts and fermentation play in standard cheese-making.
  • When baked in a pretty hot oven, it didn't soften, melt and spread on the pizza like mozzarella does, but it didn't burn to a crisp either.
  • The texture was quite pleasing on the tongue: smooth, rather creamy. It'd have been even creamier if I blended the nuts even more, I think.
  • The garlic, onion and lemon juice added a nice sharpness of flavor.
  • Perhaps next time I'll add my "pizza herbs" right to the cheese.
  • It'll be interesting to see how sitting in the fridge overnight has affected the texture: did it consolidate, did it separate etc?

All told, it made a delicious, healthy pizza.

Still, I have found several other vegan cashew cheese recipes, some of them using agar-agar (similar to gelatin but made from seaweed instead of collagen from animals) to "set" the cheese. I imagine I'll try them all at some point.

The perfect vegan cheese is like a new Holy Grail for me.

I know that a lot of people would read this and say, "Just eat the damned cheese already, Babs! Jesus!" I've already had people say, "Oh I could never live without cheese!"

Trust me, I know. (soapbox time)

I am motivated to cut out all dairy because by doing so, I'm eliminating a huge source of pretty unhealthy fats. For all the dairy industry tries to tout dairy products as a great source of protein, really, they're a larger source of saturated fat than anythng else. Legumes and grains provide better-quality protein than cheese and butter do, sorry folks.

That's just one health aspect. There are also reputable reports of how water contaminated with ammonium perchlorate (solid rocket propellant, aka jet fuel) has found its way not only into general drinking water supplies, but also the milk supply. If we are what we eat, then we are also what they ate. If they feed cattle crap, what does that make us?

Then there are the ethical reasons. Looking into the practices of agribusiness, which include many dairies, it's difficult to argue that the way our milk is produced is humane. If you want some real shockers, look into how dairy cows are treated and what end they come to. If you have illusions of happy, placid, retired milkers grazing on a sunny hillside, then I have a few books you could read.

For all of you hard-core, I-could-never-give-up-my-cheese, lovers of all things dairy, those of us lucky enough to live in dairy country dotted with mom-and-pop dairy farms ought to take advantage of fresh home deliveries. Supporting small farms is one of the ways we consumers can begin to take down the insane, unethical and corrupt agribusiness industry. (end soapbox)


Liesl said...

I don't know if I could break up with cheese. I mean, I could, but I don't know if I'd ever truly love another.

Babs said...

I try to think of it like a bad love.

You may love him like you'll never love another, but deep down in your heart you just know that he's bad for you and will only cause pain.

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