Thursday, February 20, 2020

What a friend we have in cheeses : a vegan cheese experiment

First and foremost, I'm not vegan. I eat eggs and cheese nearly every day. I am vegetarian, however, and have a lot of respect for vegans.

I don't know why I decided I wanted to try to make five vegan cheeses as part of my 101 things in 1001 days project. I had seen an article in 2017 collecting then 10 recipes for different varieties in One Green Planet; by the time I got started a few weeks ago the recipe tally had grown to over 25. All but one of the recipes I used came from there.

I started with an easy one: Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese

Soak some cashews and blend with herbs and nooch -- easy peasy. I had a bunch of fresh basil that needed to be used, so I put TONS of basil in ... so mine was a lovely green. Would it fool anyone into thinking it was really cream cheese? Nope. But was it tasty? Yes -- I really enjoyed spreading this on toast in the morning. I would definitely make this again.

Next up was the only recipe not from One Green Planet: Instant Pot Vegan Cauliflower Queso from Epicurious

My pal Rebecca is a master of vegan queso, so I took her advice and doctored the recipe a bit, swapping out half of the weight of cauliflower for rutabega for extra creaminess. This took a bit longer, but was delicious. Would it fool someone into thinking it was dairy? Maybe if you eat it with enough chips. Would I make it again? Definitely.

My next recipe was probably the oddest one: Potato and Carrot Cheese

Made of potatoes, carrots, tahini, herbs, and spices, this was the first one that was firmed up with some agar agar powder and chilled for a few hours. Would it fool anyone into thinking it was dairy? Not a chance. Was it tasty? Yes. Essentially it's a soft pâté that was nice on crackers or toast. Would I make it again? Probably not.

Next up was one I was really unsure about: Aquafaba Mozzarella

Made with aquafaba -- the liquid you drain from garbanzo beans -- and cashews, plus spices, coconut oil, cornstarch, and agar agar, then poured into a mold to firm up. I had really mixed feelings about this; I didn't think it tasted like mozzarella at all, and I felt like I was very conscious of the coconut scent and flavor. However, when I layered it between guacamole on toast and a hot egg, it "melted", sorta. As the "melty" layer on a sandwich it was nice; I could see this being a good substitute on a caprese sandwich (especially if it's served hot). Would I make it again? Probably not, unless I needed to make a vegan caprese sandwich.

My final vegan cheese turned out to be the least interesting of the five: Herbed Soft Cashew Cheese

Cashews and herbs and nooch, plus agar agar to firm it up. Would anyone think it was dairy cheese? Not likely. Was it tasty? Yep -- nice on toast and on crackers. Again, it really feels like I made a nice soft pâté. Would I make it again? I don't think so. The potato and carrot version was more interesting.

Of the five, the vegan queso and the vegan herbed cream cheese were the winners -- and the ones I expect to make again. The other three? Meh.

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