Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rainy but fun day in Asheville

I enjoyed the bread festival this morning at Greenlife (with class by Peter Reinhart to follow this afternoon) and a tempeh-lettuce-tomato bagel at Firestorm, the local anarchist, mostly-vegan cafe/bookstore/performance space. I'll have my anarchism with a big dollop of Vegenaise, please.

Cashew Cheese

Don't die of shock. I'm updating again. I really love fermented nut cheese. It has a complexity and depth of flavor that isn't found in most nondairy cheese. Living in Nashville, I can be lazy and buy the wonderful stuff made by Journey to Bliss - and I often do, especially the pistachio cheddar. However, it is easy to make. I learned from the amazing Laura Button, founder of Journey to Bliss. Here's how:

1. Make a grain-based rejuvelac: Put about 1/4 cup (I never measure this) of some whole grain (or grain-equivalent like quinoa) in a quart of water, cover loosely, and let it set on the counter for a couple of days, until it begins to bubble. I stir mine once or twice a day to help it along. This time, I used whole wheat, and left it three days. It gets stronger as it goes, so be mindful. Drain the liquid - this is your rejuvelac. The leftover grain will often sprout, or can be ground up to make crackers, or cooked as cereal, etc.

2. Grind up nuts or seeds. A coffee grinder does a good job. I used cashews, as they were on sale at the Indian grocery last week. You have to experiment to see what you like. Sunflower seeds are good, but will oxidize (so don't freak out that the cheese gets dark edges). Almonds can be grainy - so you may want to soak them really well before using. Mix the ground nuts with enough rejuvelac to get a texture close to what you want for your final result. It will lose some moisture while it hangs, but not a huge amount. You can add spices, salt, etc, at this point. I used some kosher salt, and 8th Wonder spice blend (which I discovered thanks to a high school friend who now does omni cooking videos - Ken Blevins).

3. Wrap in cheesecloth and hang over a bowl. I pass chopsticks through the knot - see photo. Leave this out at room temperature for a couple of days - again, it will get stronger with time, so you may want to sample as you go. When fermented enough for you, refrigerate and it will keep several weeks.
As you can see in the photo, my batch of cashew cheese is of the soft, spreadable sort. You can make a firmer block. I haven't tried to make a hard cheese like Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese - that's a project for another day!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dehydrator Fun

I haven't blogged in forever. I fail. Anyhow.... Susie and I agreed to update our neglected blogs, so here I go:

When my tax refund arrived, I headed right to EverydayDish, my favorite source for amazing cooking equipment. One of my purchases was an Excalibur food dehydrator, which I bought with a mind to use it for some raw food recipes. However, I am discovering that it makes a great incubator for soy yogurt, tempeh, salt rising bread starter, and other fermented projects that need a warm temperature below what the oven can offer.

My mother used to dehydrate lots of apples when I was a kid. (We had a bunch of trees.) Yesterday, I processed two big bags of apples in the dehydrator. Not only are they tasty on their own, but they can be used to make a delightfully unhealthy treat - fried pies. Around here, THE filling for fried pies is based on dried apples. This is my great-aunt's non-recipe:

Take 1 quart of dried apples, add just a little water, and cook in a saucepan till tender. You can add sugar, cinnamon, or whatever else you like. Mash the results until you have a fairly thick paste.

Make a double batch of your favorite pie crust. Take a ball of dough (golf ball size or bigger), and roll out into a flat circle. Cover one side with the apple mixture (leave space around the edges), then fold over and seal with a fork.

To cook: Heat vegetable shortening in a dutch oven - maybe an inch or so of melted fat. Fry the pies until brown on one side, then flip, and fry the other side. The second side goes a lot faster. If this is too terrifying, brush with melted margarine and bake at 400 until they look done.