Remember a few days ago when I said I was pretty much not at all tempted to eat dairy because I know how bad it will make me feel? I totally stand by that but, even so, all weekend I was craving a big cheesy Italian mess. The kind of thing that’s just a heap of ricotta and parmesan and tomato sauce, like a really messy lasagna or something. The very kind of thing that I said I want no part of.
By the time I got home from work yesterday, I couldn’t stand it any longer. Thus, I set out to make something to satisfy the craving but not set me back physically or ethically. And I did it! You guys, I really, really accomplished something. I’m feeling even better about this vegan thing after the amazingness of my dinner last night.
Making “cheese” out of cashews is apparently pretty common in the vegan world. There are a ton of recipes out there and I based what I did on several of them, most especially the Italian Pizza Cheese* from Choosing Raw, which is my favorite website these days. I didn’t plan ahead, which means my cashews got soaked for about 30 minutes, rather than two hours, but it worked out just fine. My food processor does a pretty good job for me.
I apologize that there are no pictures. I was hungry and excited and the whole thing was so quick and easy to make that I really didn’t have time to stop and document it. Let’s consider ourselves lucky that I managed to measure a few things for you. Here we go:
Cheesy (vegan) Marinara
1 cup cashews, soaked (preferably for two hours but do what you can)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
1-2 teaspoons dried basil
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 1/2- 2 cups tomato **
1-2 teaspoons agave (or to taste)
1. Pour the water off the cashews
2. In a food processor, pulse a few times then blend together the cashews, lemon juice, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, and yeast.
3. Scrape sides of processor bowl and blend again briefly until everything seems well incorporated and you’ve got a fine, crumbly mixture.
4. Add about half the tomatoes and the agave and blend again.
5. Add the rest of the tomatoes and pulse a few times (you want this second addition to stay a little chunky).
6. Taste to make sure it’s seasoned and sweet enough for you. Adjust if necessary (you’re making this for your taste buds, not mine, so do what feels right to you).
7. Use it in whatever way you see fit. This might mean you stand there and eat it all cold, right out of the food processor. It’s that delicious!
You can use this stuff in a variety of ways. Mix it with more tomato sauce and put it over pasta. Layer it with veggies, sauce, and lasagna noodles and pop it in the oven. I sautéed slices of zucchini and polenta in olive oil (with a dash of crushed red pepper) then dumped my cheesy, saucy goodness in the pan and let it get warm. I topped it with a bit more nooch (nutritional yeast) and devoured it. I did manage to save half so that I could bring it for lunch today. My food is always a popular topic of conversation around the lunch table at work. Today when I sat down, my supervisor looked at my bowl and said, “that doesn’t look vegan!” I had to let everyone have a taste.
Gena at Choosing Raw talks about how the familiarity and comfort of our favorite foods have less to do with the most obvious ingredients and more with the way they’re seasoned and the way they make us feel. For instance, a good pumpkin pie depends less on pumpkin and more on pumpkin pie spices and the way it feels in your mouth. Likewise, my dinner last night depended on the garlic, basil and oregano, the tang of the lemon and yeast, and on the soft richness of the blended cashews . I got all the comfort of a ton of ricotta and parmesan, without actually eating any dairy products. It was exactly what I was in the mood for. I hope you’ll try it and tell me what you think!
*It can be found here: www.choosingraw.com/collard-wraps-with-italian-pizza-cheese. I am, for some reason, entirely incapable of making a hyperlink work today and I’d rather look technically clumsy than not give credit where credit is due.
**I used 1 1/2 cups of crushed tomatoes from a can because that’s what I had. You could use crushed, diced or whole canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, without their skins or seeds. The 1 1/2 cups makes a very thick sauce but you could definitely mix it into more plain marinara or just scoop some on as an additional topping to a pasta or vegetable dish.