Now that V-Day is another check-mark off my list, I wanted to share something rather romantic, because in this day and age of culinary veganism, aged nut cheese = love.
There I was, doing the vegan thing: pureeing soaked cashews (I heart you, Vitamix), wrapping the mixture in cheesecloth, setting the whole shebang up with a wooden spoon over a bowl, then letting everything make peace overnight in my fridge, and then baking it at freaking 225F (an infuriating temperature that had my partner, the object of my affection and soon-to-be recipient, wondering fearfully, if I was doing something ‘raw’) before one last step in the refrigerator again.
All the while, trying to make peace with my inner demons aka balancing my treenut-allergies with my culinary drive, so this whole thing was obviously out of DIY madness and adoration.
And lovely it was when everything was said and done (DONE!), served with some complimentary organic red and a helping of hummus, sliced baguette and assortment of fine olives for yours truly.
Flavor and presentation-wise, it was one of my biggest homemade vegan cheese success stories, and that’s saying something.
Ridiculously, but non-surprisingly as someone obsessed with making things from scratch* and the ways of Artisan Vegan Cheese-making, I did sneak a taste or two of the pureed mixture right off the bat, adding a generous spoonful of nutritional yeast and the tiniest bit of a particularly dark red miso into the affair, subbing half the water for some homemade amaranth-based rejuvelac to really push things along (you know, pretending I knew what I was doing), swooning over the smoothness of the cashews and grumbling over my dang woes (again) as I moved on. I followed the rest of the recipe for Vegan Cashew Cheese over at LunchBoxLunch (which is a similar recipe seen all over the cashew-loving place) as per instructed, multi-layered cheesecloth and all. The promised herb crust happens, but I wouldn’t call the texture “velvelty”. Delivering a rich, almost sultry tang, however? Totally.
While I love me some nooch sauce any day of the week, that tang and those miraculous, creamed treenuts are why I’m so obsessed with nut cheese creations. I’ve tried my hand at yogurt and rejuvelac starts with varying degrees of success, and countless recipes that are all team nooch, but it’s really no comparison — that ‘aged’ flavor is what gourmet vegan cheeses aspire to be. They hope, dream, and culture.
Basically, the whole process here seems more complicated than it is. I brought extra cheese over to a friend’s apartment a few nights ago, and seemed to scare off a curious party once I started mentioned the cheesecloth and overnight activity. Really, it was just a bunch of worthwhile steps.
Here’s the basic breakdown on this cultured & baked cashew cheese:
- Soak the cashews. I did a quick soak because hello, Vitamix. 2 hours minimum is the recommended soak time for those with slightly less fabulous blenders or food processors.
- Puree the cashews, plus some of the soaking water OR a mix with rejuvelac, as per the recipe, PLUS sea salt, nooch and miso, if you like. I don’t see how you could resist.
- Taste the mixture. Adjust as desired. Remember, it’s gonna get tangy tomorrow.
- Spoon the mixture into a double layer of cheesecloth and set up over a bowl or pitcher to drain. Visit the link I’m gonna reference and link to yet again, to see how to hang it across with spoon or whatnot. You know, let it drip.
- Let the cheese dry for 2-4 hours at room temperature. Easy enough.
- Refrigerate overnight/minimum of 8 hours. I kept mine in its crafty little setup, or you can drain, and wrap in cheesecloth or place in a bowl.
- Move into a small oven-safe dish and top with dried herbs. I used a small ramekin and a combination of hot paprika, freshly ground black peppercorn and crumbled, dried thyme.
- Bake at an intriguingly low temperature. I did just over one hour at 225F.
- Cool before serving/refrigerate for an hour. Top with fresh herbs, if desired (I went with basil), and serve with sliced baguette, gluten-free crackers, or whatever else you like. Most importantly, red wine.
The original recipe and pictorial can be found over at Lunch Box Lunch.
It’s times like these when you realize that, of course, you should serve organic red wine in the flower glasses recently acquired from the free box in your apartment complex’s laundry room.
As for the pairing, I was making room for my very first wine review, thanks to Our Daily Red. As a longtime blogger, I receive a lot of free sample requests and rarely accept them, and even more rarely enjoy, and/or actually feature the goods on my little internet space. But organic, vegan wine? Now we’re talking the way to my b-l-o-g and my heart (especially when rent is due).
This was the second cheese pairing we did with Our Daily Red, the first being an early test run of the Speakeasy Smoked Yukon Gouda (which I’ll get around to sharing one day, as I’m seemingly enjoying the parenthesis action here) and both were lovely occasions.
Our Daily Red is a vegan-friendly wine maker who “are committed to producing wine conscientiously, yet unpretentiously. Seriously.”
Thoughts on Our Daily Red’s 2012 Organic California Table Wine:
- Simply put: it’s a pleasant & mellow red, especially for a wine with a higher ACV than most.
- It’s sulfite-free, which gives it a lighter sip and makes it seem less alcoholic in a way (not sure if I’d call this a good or a bad thing). Interestingly, sulfite-free wines are rumored to put off hangovers, if one is worried about such a thing.
- Pairings. Of course, I think nice red wine and I think vegan cheese plate, so there you go. Because it’s a mellow, mildly fruity red, it struck me as a little less spaghetti & meatballs appropriate and a little more Caesar salad or stir fry accompaniment.
- Flavor hues of fresh summer blackberries, which make me think ‘Let’s pair this with berry-topped vegan cheesecake’. I like where this is going.
- Most importantly, it’s normally found for less than $10, certified organic and vegan, which is always a big plus in my book of wine curiosity.
- Bonus: it has a screw top and is now also available in ascetic packages for those on the go needs. I’ve had some interesting times trying to open a cork in hotel rooms, and those are both ways to avoid awkwardly calling the front desk or playing wino McGuyver with a plastic knife in desperation.
You can find Our Daily Red in the Portland area at Peoples’ Co-op, New Seasons Market, Fred Meyer and Whole Foods. More here.
*Okay, as much as I like to support new and existing vegan companies, I’m no longer one realistically interested in shelling out $8-15 for something I can make at home. That said, put in on a v. cheeseplate at a restaurant, and I’m down to sneak a sliver.
The full disclosure: When Our Daily Red emailed me about trying out their red variety, my response was an immediate, enthusiastic yes. All those years of food blogging finally paid off: someone sent me wine! Organic wine! You should also know that I only say yes to product sample I have an actual interest in, and never guarantee any type of blog or social media coverage.
If you have a vegan-friendly wine you’re a big fan of, do tell.