Smoky Vegan Cheddar Cheez
You can make this vegan cheese-y appetizer as a spread in no time, or let it set up into slices. I like it both ways and hope that you will, too. This is good with sliced fresh baguette, or serve it with whole-grain or gluten-free crackers or crispbreads. It’s also quite nice served with chunks of red bell pepper and peeled celery cut into short sections. Grapes served in small bunches on the side add a nice flavor balance. Recipe adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
Serves: 8 to 10
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup baby carrots
- 1 cup rice milk
- 1/4 cup agar flakes, optional
- 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
- 1 teaspoon prepared yellow or Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons mesquite seasoning*, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika,
or 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, any of these to taste
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of turmeric
Combine the cashews, carrots, and rice milk in a small saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then cover and simmer gently for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the carrots are tender-crisp. If you plan to make slices, stir in the agar flakes and continue to simmer for 5 minutes longer.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor along with the remaining ingredients and process until very smooth. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula from time to time. It takes a good few minutes to make this smooth.
If you skipped the agar and plan to serve as a spread, transfer to an attractive crock. Allow to cool to cool, then cover and let stand at room temperature until needed, or cover and chill.
If you used the agar, transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled loaf pan (or 2 mini-loaf pans). Pat in as smoothly as you can. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Before serving, run a knife around the edges of the loaf pan(s). Turn upside down onto a serving platter. If you’d like, sprinkle a little extra mesquite seasoning over the top. Slice 1/4 inch thick, arrange with slices of baguette and anything else you’re serving with this, like the suggested grapes, and dig in!
* Mesquite seasoning is easily found among the grilling and barbecue spice blends in supermarkets. In my opinion, this gives the cheez spread the most delicious flavor — complex but not spicy-hot.