This post is also available in: French
We really love cheese - hard and soft, aged and young, raw, smoked, goat and sheep, from France, Spain, Italy, or Greece, with berries and truffles or without, and the list goes on. Cheese-making has always fascinated me as an ancient craft. There are so many ways of going about it, and so many possibilities to be considered. To me, cheese is the hardest thing to give up if eliminating dairy from my diet.
I've been curious about making nut cheese for a while, but the thought of fermentation at room temperature scared me away, as things can go wrong easily. For the first try, I decided to make soft cheeses using acidophilus, in a process similar to coconut yogurt-making. This is quite a bit easier than making hard nut cheese, which we would love to post about eventually.
I read up on the art of the cheese plate, and many sources suggested offering all three of the most common cheese kinds - cow, goat, sheep. Our variety came from almonds, macadamia, and cashews, the three darlings of the nut world.
The (above) almond cheese was inspired by a variety we often enjoyed back in Russia. In the Caucasus mountain region, there is a strong tradition of adding herbs, salt, and pepper to a soft, homemade cheese. I added Cerignola olives for the saltiness, lots of fresh dill, and it tasted like coming home.
The cashew cheese was inspired by a heavenly fresh goat cheese that I couldn't get enough of in Paris. It was filled with figs and had an amazingly light texture. This one is a sort of dessert cheese, and the light fig jam gives it a whole new dimension.
And finally, the macadamia cheese with freeze dried cranberries. After letting this one sit for a while, the cranberries become re-hydrated and add nice tart notes to the slightly sweet flavour of macadamia.
Our cheese plate included the jewels of late summer - concord grapes and figs. I can't get enough of both this time of year and will share some more recipes with them soon. Plain flax crackers, sprouted pecans, olives, cranberries, red currants, and pears completed our cheese plate.
I was thrilled that it wasn't difficult or time consuming at all to make, but most enjoyable to share with friends.
Now I need to learn to make hard nut cheese, and if you happen to know good recipes or helpful techniques, please share them in the comments. Thank you so much, and enjoy this beautiful season.
1 cup nuts - cashews, almonds, or macadamia
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3-4 tablespoon non-dairy acidophilus
1 teaspoon raw honey
1 garlic clove
pinch of salt
Soak cashews and almonds overnight. For a better colour, remove the skins from almonds. In a high-speed blender, combine all of the ingredients separately for each type of nut until very smooth. Leave to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
1 cup fresh ripe figs
2 tablespoons raw honey or another sweetener of choice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Irish moss gel (thoroughly rinsed and soaked Irish moss, blended together with just enough water to rich a smooth gel consistency)
Combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender, let cool in the refrigerator before using.
Alternatively, you can use a dry fig puree.
Cashew and Fig cheese
On parchment paper, for easy transfer, mound some of the cashew cheese into a desired shape. Top with fig preserve, and carefully cover with more cheese. Carefully transfer into a container with a lid and refrigerate overnight.
Almond Cheese with Dill and Olives
In a medium bowl, mix almond cheese, chopped fresh dill and your favourite chopped olives, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix gently and transfer the cheese onto parchment paper. Form a desired shape, then refrigerate in a covered container or dehydrate overnight.
Macadamia Cranberry Cheese
Mix macadamia cheese with dried, or freeze dried cranberries, to taste. Transfer to parchment paper and form into a desired shape. Refrigerate in a covered container or dehydrate overnight.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Seems like the time has come to say goodbye to summer once again. And as much as I am looking forward to fall's lovely chill, I am a little bit sad. I've been known to complain about the heat here and there, but I love summer with all of its toasty carelessness, endless daylight, and bronzed shoulders.
Looking back, we can safely say that this summer turned out wonderfully. It started with an amazing trip to Paris, followed by this party, Paloma's easy switch from daycare to a school, lots of cooking and photographing, and a few other projects that we are excited to share with you very soon.
And what better way to say goodbye than with a cake. We tried to dress this one up to look as bright and summery as it can. And the flavours - spearmint and chocolate - those are classic.
I've always felt a little uneasy about the richness of cashew-based cheesecakes, but absolutely everyone else is always very impressed by them, so maybe I should bite my tongue. Here, I tried to offset the slight heaviness of nuts with the abundance of fresh spearmint, fruits, and fluffy icing.
I made a simple chocolate crust with a stripe of chocolate between two layers of mint. The deep taste of cacao combined with the subtle notes of spearmint perfectly. I know that this is a much loved flavour combination, so I really wanted to do a post on it.
Let's enjoy this one, and then say hello to autumn!
Spearmint and Chocolate Cheesecake
(For an 8 inch spring form)
1 3/4 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
1-2 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
3/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients until crumbly and sticky. Then evenly press the dough into the bottom of an 8 inch spring form.
Spearmint layers (1st and 3rd each)
2 cups raw cashews - soaked overnight
1/4 cup mint syrup (1 cup agave syrup, 2 cups fresh mint leaves blended together)
handful of fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup Artisana coconut butter
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients, except coconut butter, until smooth. Add the coconut butter and mix well. Pour into an 8-inch spring form, pressing with wet fingers, if needed to achieve an even layer. Repeat with the same amount for the third layer.
Same as first, just leave mint and mint syrup out and add 3/4 cup raw cacao powder instead.
After assembling all the layers, refrigerate the cheesecake overnight. Then remove the spring form.
1 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup cashews
3/4 cup meat of young Thai coconut
2 tablespoons each light agave syrup
2 tablespoons raw honey
3/4 cup coconut oil
In a high speed blender, combine all ingredients until very smooth. Refrigerate until thickened.
Spread the icing evenly on the top and sides of the cheesecake. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and fruits of your choice. Keep refrigerated and enjoy.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Let's talk about kitchen disasters. They happen to everyone. One just happened to me a few hours ago. I had to throw away a batch of donuts, for which I lovingly sprouted and dehydrated all kinds of grains and used all sorts of other wonderful ingredients. They went rancid the second I mixed all the components, probably due to the combination of oats and coconut (which is a common problem we talked about here).
But sometimes, those disasters are okay. They make us learn, use our creativity, or lead to a totally new and unplanned dish.
That was the case with these tartines. They were meant to make up a roulade, filled with that wonderfully thick coconut cream cheese and maybe even some avocado. I was so excited for this dish, maybe a little too much so, but it was not in the stars. The coriander bread, although soft and crumbly, would not roll without cracking or breaking - it was obvious that it wanted to stay flat.
The next logical step, after shedding a few tears, was to make an open face sandwich. I grew up eating tartines. They are a very common snack in Russia, and are often used as a solution to an empty fridge. You see, there is always some bread and butter in a Russian household, even when the refrigerator is cleaned out.
This coconut-cilantro cream cheese has a delightful texture, both thick and fluffy. The coriander bread thins have an earthy, bread-like taste and take to the cream cheese very well. Then, it's nice to offset the richness of both with some fresh, seasonal veggies. We topped our tartines with heirloom cherry tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers, radish, and a few sprinkles of green onion rings. A very special snack that made us forget all about the kitchen disaster.
As for that roulade, I will eventually conquer it. Just wait!
Coriander Bread Thins
2 cups raw cashews - soaked overnight
1 cup meat of fresh young Thai coconut
1/2 cup Irish moss - thoroughly washed and soaked in hot water for at least 10 minutes
1 cup water from fresh young Thai coconut or purified water
1 tablespoon honey or another sweetener of choice
3 garlic cloves - 2 whole, and 1 finely chopped
1 small chili - 1/2 of it finely chopped
2 teaspoons coriander seeds - ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds - ground
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup brown flax seeds - ground
1/8 cup ground almonds
1 cup chopped cilantro
In a high speed blender, combine all but the last three ingredients, 1/2 of the chopped chili, and one chopped garlic. Blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture in a large mixing bowl, add flax seeds, almonds, cilantro, chopped chili and garlic. Mix thoroughly and spread evenly on one Teflex-lined dehydrator tray(or two, for thinner bread). Dehydrate for about 20 hours at 115F, flip over, peel away Teflex sheet, and dehydrate on the screen only until dry to touch and ready to be cut. Cut into pieces of desired shape, dehydrate more if needed. Bread should be somewhat soft inside, but not too moist.
Coconut-Cilantro Cream Cheese
1 cup meat of fresh young Thai coconut
1/2 cup water of fresh young Thai coconut
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup Irish moss - thoroughly washed and soaked in hot water for at least 10 minutes
1/2 cup macadamia nuts- soaked overnight
1/2 cup cashews- soaked overnight
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
zest of 1 lime
freshly ground black pepper - to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves or other herbs of your choice - chopped
Put coconut meat, water and oil in a high-speed blender together with the Irish moss and blend until smooth.
In a food processor, mix the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of cilantro, until it reaches a ricotta cheese-like consistency. Transfer the mixture into a medium sized bowl and fold the coconut mixture in, mixing with a wooden spoon to combine everything together thoroughly. Mix in the cilantro.
You may want to double the bread recipe for this amount of cream cheese, or use the cream cheese access with other bread or crackers.