16 May 2012
Raw cashew cheese
So the other day, after months of saying "I should really make some cashew cheese one of these days..." I finally made a batch of Gena's sun-dried tomato and basil raw cashew cheese. I left out the miso, since we didn't have any, but otherwise made no changes whatever to the ingredient list.
I haven't done the cashew cheese thing before for a few reasons. First, I frequently eat all our cashews before I have the chance to use them in recipes that require two hours of soaking. Second, I don't have a food processor and have no plans to get one.
Wait, what? No food processor? No. I mean, we have an immersion blender that came with a tiny little processor-like attachment, but it is definitely not big enough to handle a full batch of cashew cheese. Instead, I used my blender, which was slightly problematic but worked out fine in the end. It really only meant that I added liquid at the beginning of processing instead of the end, and that I scraped and pulsed a lot more. Have you ever tried to get a thickish nut paste out of the bottom of your blender? Yeah. It was a little interesting.
But ultimately the whole experiment was a success. I soaked my cashews patiently without eating a single one in advance. I blended everything together with minimal drama. And then I had a beautiful big batch of delicious homemade cashew cheese to eat with dinner! Hooray!
Gena calls this "pizza cheese" due to the super Italian flavors of sun-dried tomato and basil. So I decided to combine it with some of my favorite vegetables to have on pizza--fresh spinach and red pepper--as well as a pile of baguette slices, for an ultra-simple, vegetable-focused dinner.
Crinkly spear-shaped spinach leaves don't exactly lend themselves to formal wraps, but that's ok. I just spread spoonfuls of cashew cheese down the middle of each leaf folded them in half, and ate them that way. Spinach tacos!
The red pepper provided a more solid boat on which to rest the cheese, but its strong flavor overwhelmed the more delicate cashews. Next time I'll probably go get a narrow head of radicchio or endive and fill a bunch of individual leaves with spoonfuls of cheese, shredded crispy carrot, radish, or cucumber, and maybe a sprinkling of sprouts or other fine greens.
John and I clearly couldn't eat an entire batch of cashew cheese in one meal, no matter how tasty. Maybe I can actually try it out in my tiny food processor attachment next time--I'll just halve or third the batch, and then we can eat it all in one go! Anyway, this meant I knew exactly how to garnish my dinner of angel hair with shallots, zucchini, green beans, and spinach the next day. The cashew cheese worked perfectly--tasty and fresh.
After this experience, I definitely think I will be making nut cheeses more often. Just imagine the hundred different ingredients I could add to the basic mix of soaked nuts, salt, and water. Scallions, ginger, smoked paprika, carrot, shallots--I want to try them all!