Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegan "Parmesan" Cheese

Tonight in my on going quest to cook all the artichokes I impulse bought at the farmer's market I went super basic by steaming a handful of the baby ones.  Paired with some local caught salmon and dipped in some vegan butter substitute, it was a very happy making meal.

It also made me realize I don't miss dairy at all.  Considering I spent 28 years in the dairy state surrounded by some mind bogglingly delicious cheese, giving up milk products seemed like it would be a pretty big deal.  Turns out, not so much.  It takes an adjustment and strong will but there are so many decent ways to substitute the few dairy products I did enjoy that I don't feel like I'm missing out.

Earth Balance spread tastes and acts like butter so that one is easily covered.  There are so many great dairy free milk alternatives that you're bound to find one that tickles your taste buds.  For the most part I stick to making my own rice milk at home for basically free but Trader Joe's (on my side of town at least) sells gluten free hazelnut milk for about $2 that I'm also becoming a huge fan of.  Coconut yogurt isn't so bad if you need to fill that void.  Liquefied tofu or coconut milk make pretty great faux heavy cream.  And coconut ice cream is far better than even the best custard I've ever tasted, to the point that I wish I didn't know it existed seeing as it's awfully tempting to justify living on nothing but cookie dough coconut dream ice cream.

So far the only dairy free problem I have is cheese.  Soy cheese is creepy and it doesn't melt correctly.  Nut cheese has an odd texture.  And some dishes just aren't the same without cheese in some form.  I'm a big proponent of if you're eating vegetarian then eat food that is naturally vegetarian (no fake meat burgers or soy chicken nuggets for me...too creepy.)  But sometimes I stumble upon an easy and tasty alternative that allows me to pretend I'm eating the real thing and I'm all about that.

Surprisingly enough Parmesan cheese was one of those things I've been able to find a decent substitute for.  All it takes is a blender and a trip to the bulk bins at Whole Foods or New Season's and you have a vegan cheese creation that will fool you into thinking you're eating the real thing.  Nutritional yeast is actually a pretty good fake out for most of your vegan cheese needs so I always keep some on hand.

So blend some up and try it everywhere you've been missing Parmesan; in pesto, in risotto, on top of pasta, you name it and this recipe will work

Vegan "Parmesan" Cheese

1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 dash mustard seed

Put everything in a food processor or spice grinder and process until the texture of crumbled Parmesan.  I use my bullet style blender gizmo  to grind the ingredients which also allows me to leave the left overs in the same cup for storing. 

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