Cottage cheese somehow tasted best in Israel. As kids, we all grew up eating it for breakfast, on a slice of simple bread or with an omelette, or for dinner with some vegetables on the side. To this day, few meals are as Israeli to me as some cottage cheese with a sliced tomato. Thanks to the one and only Noa Shalev and her amazing vegan cheese course (which you absolutely must take), we now have fresh cottage cheese at home, made from tofu and a few other ingredients! Preparation can be very simple or multi-step, depending on whether you rely on homemade yogurt and mayo or purchased ones, but since I always have a batch of homemade yogurt and had Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo in the fridge, it was a cinch. This works best with pink Himalayan salt and a touch of lemon juice.
Check out our awesome Shavuot table! We just finished hosting our Shavuot party, which is apparently not a huge deal in the United States. I suspect there are two reasons: its lack of proximity to a heavily commercialized Christian holiday (this, after all, is how Hanukkah became such a big deal) and its strong ties to the land (it’s a harvest holiday.) In kibbutzim and moshavim there’s often a nice parade of first fruits of the year (including the babies born that year) and elsewhere in the country people celebrate with a dairy meal. Why dairy? Apparently, the word חלב״ chalav” (milk), in Jewish numerology, adds up to 40, and Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days.
I took the challenge seriously and put together a holiday party for our friends featuring a whole array of vegan cheeses, which I learned how to make in Noa Shalev’s awesome vegan cheese course (you should take it, so cough up the 350 NIS and do it.) A lot of improvisation went into this – my cheese flavors are original inventions, save for the spirulina one, and my raw cashew cheesecakes are variations on the lemon-lavender cake I made a couple of weeks ago following Noa’s recipe. This time I made mango-basil cake and strawberry-thyme cake. All I did was replace the flavoring. I glanced at one of my new books, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, to match fruit and herbs, but I find that I already have a pretty good gut feeling about combinations.
Anyway, from bottom to top: green salad with avocado, nectarines, and strawberries, dressed in quince vinegar from Nan at Vermont Quince; spiralized salad of cucumber, carrot, beet, and radish, dressed in a mix of good mustard and Nan’s quince salsa; cauliflower ceviche; “chevre” cheeseballs flavored with nigella, chimichurri, za’atar, zchug, and ras-el-hanout; leek-mushroom quiche with chickpea base; vegan lasagna with tofu ricotta: four hard cheeses, flavored with spirulina, turmeric-cumin, miso, and garlic-zchug; breads and crackers; and the aforementioned raw cakes.
A good time was had by all!
Flavored Macadamia Cheeses
You guys, I am beside myself with enthusiasm about Noa Shalev’s vegan cheese course. If you’re a Hebrew speaker, cough up the 350 NIS and join the course. It’s so worthwhile. Noa is a fountain of knowledge about fermentation and culturing and about nutrition in general, and her recipes rock!
I’m amidst the process of making hard cheeses, which Noa advises to make from macadamia nuts. I made two kinds: cheeses that I hope to age in the dehydrator and then in the fridge, so that they develop “body” and a rind, and slightly softer cheese balls rolled in spices.
I hesitate to reproduce the recipe, because I really want you all to take this course, but I’ll just mention that Noa ages her cheese with probiotic capsules, which is a convenient method, especially if you don’t have it in you to make rejuvelac or squeeze sauerkraut juices.
This bleu cheese is made with spirulina, and one of the things I’ve learned is that a little spirulina goes a very long way. That’s not a tiny cheese, and I put half a teaspoon of spirulina in it. It brings a bit of that moldy taste into the cheese and looks like the original. I’m quite thrilled with it!
This cheese is my effort at a yellow hue, which I achieved with turmeric. I also threw in some cumin and coriander, because I really like that combination. Next time I’ll do this with jalapeño bits, I think.
Once these cheeses harden in the fridge, I’ll put them in a dehydrator for 24-48 hours, and then I’ll age them further in the fridge. Delayed gratification.
These ones we can eat right away: cheese balls with all kinds of spices and flavorings. Here are my combinations:
Cashew “White Cheese”
Many Israelis’ childhoods include a classic culinary staple: gvinah levanah (“white cheese”), a soft and light cheese to spread over bread or eat with vegetables. It typically came in 5% and 10% fat variations, and there were numerous versions with herbs and spices.
With the help of Noa Shalev’s wonderful nondairy cheeses and milks course, I produced a cheese yesterday that tastes even better than the original. The key is to use probiotic capsules for the fermentation. I used two capsules (approximately 30 million microorganisms) for about a cup of soaked and blended cashews. I flavored the resulting cheese with salt, orange juice, nutritional yeast, and fresh marjoram.
Homemade Almond Milks
This month I’m happily taking Noa Shalev‘s terrific vegan cheese course. Just from the ingredient list I could tell that I’d learn a lot. And indeed, it’s a fantastic course, chock-full of nutritional knowledge and kitchen tricks, and of course marvelous recipes.
I won’t reveal the recipes themselves, because I want you to take the full course and learn for yourselves, but I did want to offer a sneak peak into the world of homemade almond milks. Noa recommends adding a bit of vegan lechitin to the blender, because lechitin binds both with the water and with the fat in the almonds. On the left: turmeric-goldenberry milk. On the right: hibiscus-vanilla milk. Both flavors are fantastic and unusual.
The organizers of a big potluck party I’m attending tonight divided the food assignments by birth month, and I was bummed out for half a second that the November people got beverages, as I love to cook (could you guess that? :D). But then I decided to bring creative, made-from-scratch drinks, and I hope people will dig these. The hibiscus flavor is especially delectable.
Vegetable-Based Mac ‘n’ Cheese
This vegan “cheese” sauce is very easy to make and absolutely delicious. And the surprising part is – no soy or cashew is involved!
The recipe comes verbatim from Brand New Vegan, where you can find many such delights. I simplified it a bit for you and upped the carrot content at the expense of the potatoes. This will have a fair amount of protein on account of the nutritional yeast, but if you’d like more protein you can make lentil pasta to go with it.
2 medium-sized potatoes
5-6 medium-sized carrots
1/2 water from cooking the potatoes and carrots
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp quince vinegar (the original recipe called for apple cider vinegar, but we ran out
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp brown mustard
1/4 tsp turmeric
Cut potatoes and carrots into cubes and boil in water for 10 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer potatoes and carrots to blender and add 1/2 cup water from the pot, and pulse to mix. Then, add all other ingredients and blend until smooth.
Cook pasta (I like lentil pasta for this – nutritious and yummy) and drain; return pasta to pot. Pour sauce over pasta and mix well.
Cooking food from countries affected by the travel ban gave me a wonderful feeling of inner peace–both as a private person with people of all nationalities who love to cook and eat good food, and as someone who tries to contribute a little bit to more compassion in the kitchen. Imagine my joy, therefore, when I heard about Kifah Duski’s new book Peace in the Kitchen, which features vegan Arab cooking.
Kifah is originally from the village of Faradis, which is very close to where my parents live; she moved to Tel Aviv for university and, from there, to Prague, where she currently lives. The book is divided into three parts, each for each transition in her life. The Faradis recipes are homey, the Tel Aviv recipes are quick and appropriate for a student kitchen, and the Prague recipes a bit more elaborate and haute-cuisine-ish.
Some of the recipes are not new to me, as I’ve been cooking Middle Eastern food for a long time. But some are completely new, and some feature new forms to make stuff I’ve been making forever. For example, Kifah’s version of shakshuka doesn’t feature thin tofu slices (which is how I’ve been making it) but “egg whites” made of soy and “egg yolks” made of chickpea flour, all layered to look like real eggs.
The book is written in both Hebrew and Arabic. I really wish it came in an English version, because many of my non-Middle-Eastern friends will find stuff there that will dramatically expand their horizons beyond what’s served here in Arab restaurants.
The most impressive recipe in the book, for me, is the labaneh, because I’ve been craving this sour, fermented soft cheese for a very long time. Here it is, in its vegan splendor:
1 cup blanched almonds, soaked overnight
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1/2 cup soy beans, soaked overnight
1/4 cup olive oil
juice from 2 large lemons
Place all ingredients except water and salt in food processor and process. Gradually add water until achieving the desired consistency (I like it kind of robust, like fromage blanc) and salt to taste. The original recipe calls for refrigeration, but I left my batch out of the fridge for the night to culture, and it greatly improved its taste and resemblance to the dairy original. Serve with a sprinkle of za’atar.
Herb Cashew Cheese Without Culturing
I was going to open this post with a pun about how, in the next four years, we’ll have learn to do without culture… (thanks, folks, I’ll be here all week) but the truth is that my almond feta efforts earlier this week backfired and I wanted to make a quick cashew cheese with no culturing period. Enter The Buddhist Chef, whose recipe videos are clear and wonderful, and his vegan cheese recipe.
Green Chai Latte
One of the perks and perils of San Francisco is the stream of culinary novelties. A few weeks ago I set aside my skepticism about our continuous chase after “the cool” and went with a colleague to the David Rio chai bar, where I had a lovely cup of steaming chai. Only one of their recipes is vegan (why, when easily all of them could be, and just as tasty?) but they do have a really nice assortment of nut milks, including soy, almond, hazelnut, and macadamia.
Last time I was there, they had some bottled chai for sale, including an intriguing blend of their green tea chai with chia seeds. I’ve been ruminating on how to make a homemade version, and today’s blended treat came out delicious.
I put all the following in the blender:
2 cups vegan milk (this time I used unsweetened Ripple, which has a very bland and forgiving taste, but any nut milk would work just fine)
1 heaping teaspoon Matcha green tea
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
a drizzle of maple syrup, or pitted dates to taste)
After blending and pouring into a tall glass, I mixed in a few chia seeds and waited a few moments for them to expand and absorb the liquid. It was delicious: a creamy-but-refreshing afternoon beverage.
Melty Cheddar and Mozzarella
I’m super happy to report that the two cheeses I made–the cheddar and the mozzarella–came out delicious. The recipes are both from Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry, which is an excellent book to have at home, and which is the source of my almond yogurt and almond feta recipes as well. The cheeses are great on bread (I served them for breakfast to a meat-eating guest and he dug them), and they also respond very well to cooking: we used the cheddar as gnocchi sauce and the mozzarella in little pizzetas.
The process for making these cheeses is almost identical; the only difference is a slight tweak in ingredients.
Step 1: Create Culturing Liquid
For either the cheddar or the mozz, you’ll need one cup of culturing liquid. For my feta, I used juice from sauerkraut, which was a nice time saver; this time, I decided to go all DIY and made my own rejuvelac. This is not a bad idea, seeing as it keeps in the fridge for 3-4 weeks, and also as it produces sprouted quinoa, which you can then use to bake this delightful little roll. Follow the instructions in the previous post to produce the sprouted grains and the rejuvelac; strain the grains out to use in the sprouted bread recipe; and measure one cup of the rejuvelac for use in the cheese.
Step 2: Mix and Culture
Blend into a smooth consistency:
1 cup cashews
1 cup rejuvelac/sauerkraut liquid
1 tsp seasalt
nutritional yeast (1 tbsp for mozz, 3 tbsp for cheddar)
light-colored miso (1 tbsp for mozz, 2 tbsp for cheddar)
an optional tbsp of dried onion for the mozz
Pour into a lidded container, place somewhere away from direct sunlight but in room temperature, and wait a day or two.
The mix is ready for the next step when you notice that it’s become a bit soufflé-like: puffy, risen, full of air pockets, thicker.
Step 3: Harden
For this you’ll need:
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water
1 tbsp agar flakes
2 tbsp tapioca starch
Place 1/2 cup water and agar flakes in a lidded pot and bring to a simmer over low heat. Keep lid on for about 3-4 minutes. Then, check to see whether the agar has liquified and is bubbling away. It’s important to wait a few minutes for this to happen. Once the agar has bubbled away, incorporate your cultured cheese mix into the pot and whisk to perfection. As this cooks a bit, mix the tapioca starch with 2 tbsp water until dissolved and add to the pot. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens some and becomes shiny and stretchy.
Pour cheese into container (I simply rinse the culturing container and use that; Miyoko recommends using glass) and let harden in the fridge for at least four hours before consuming.