The Perfect Summer Starter

Summertime…and the livin’ is easy.  Especially if you can imagine being in Italy and feasting under a grape-covered arbor filtering the Mediterranean sun.  The table would be graced with all of summer’s bounty, including the signature summer salad, insalata di Carprese, made with slices of succulently ripe tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil, drizzled with just enough fragrant olive oil to make the going down even easier. Alas, these are those rare instances when even I have wished I could just have a bite of those tomatoes with the creamy cheese…
I don’t know about you, but I have found few vegan cheese substitutes that truly satisfy. Daiya comes the closest for grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza, but their two flavors, cheddar and mozzarella, come only shredded, and still have that funny aftertaste.  I did have a Caprese salad featuring a raw nut mozzarella at Cafe Gratitude once that was excellent, but while the cheese was delicious, it really didn’t look nor have the texture of  Mozzarella. Overall, my preference for vegan cheeses is for ones made of nuts, not only because of the richness and flavor, but because of the probiotic content. But aside from the cheeses at Cafe Gratitude and the all-too short-lived Roxanne’, most raw nut cheeses I’ve experienced are all too reminiscent of incense and hippiedom.  Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen in my quest to create truly divine vegan cheeses, and recently tested three varieties on unsuspecting guests– “Gruyere,” “Brie'” and “Boursin”.  Next on my list was buffalo mozzarella, especially at the prodding of my 14-year-old, who kept mentioning that she’d like to have some Caprese salad.  In fact, she was instrumental in helping me analyze the difference between dairy cheeses and some recipes for vegan alternatives by pointing out that the real thing has a bite or sharpness, not a tangy-ness that comes from the lemon juice that is so often used in vegan cheese recipes.
What I came up with is the following. It is indeed a raw nut cheese, but the finishing touches are what make it look and taste so remarkably close to the real thing.  I’ve served it as part of a Caprese salad now to several people and they say they can’t tell the difference. Probably a real connoisseur would be able to tell, but it’s pretty damn close.  It works well in a panini or a sandwich with roasted vegetables and pesto.  On a pizza, you’ll want to add a quarter cup of oil to the mixture to help soften it – it doesn’t get stretchy and gooey, but it does have that melted consistency.
 
Fresh Mozarrella di Buffalo a la Cashews
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for several hours in water
½ cup Rejuvelac
pinch of sea salt
½ – ¾ tsp. Xanthan gum
optional: 4 Tablespoons canola or refined coconut oil (for meltability purposes – not needed if using for Caprese salad or otherwise serving cold)
2 Tbs. Agar agar flakes
2/3 cup water
Step 1. In the morning (or the day before):
Drain the cashews and place in a blender with the Rejuvelac and salt. Blend, stopping to push down and scrape as necessary, until absolutely creamy and smooth. Add ½ teaspoon of the xanthan gum and reprocess until it thickens and looks gooey. Place in a bowl, cover, and allow to sit at room temperature for 8 – 24 hours, depending on the temperature of your room. Mozzarella has a mild flavor, so be careful not to let it sit out too long lest it develop a tang. You want it to develop some flavor and depth, but still be mild.
Step 2. In the evening or the next day:
Place the cheese back in the blender. Dissolve the agar agar flakes by mixing with the water in a small pot and bringing to a boil; allow to simmer, stirring with a whisk, for several minutes until completely dissolved. Pour the agar agar into the blender and blend until completely incorporated. To achieve a “stretchier” consistency, add an additional quarter to half teaspoon of xanthan gum.
Step 3. Forming the Balls:
Have ready a bowl filled with a quart or so of cold water and a teaspoon of salt. Using a small ice cream scooper, form little balls of the soft cheese immediately after Step 2. Drop into the water. They will harden almost instantaneously. Refrigerate for up to one week.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    This looks lovely, cant wait to try it.

  2. Hi! I saw this recipe posted on vegansaurus and I was wondering if you can replace the rejuvelac with New Chapter probiotic powder? I don’t know how to make the rejuvelac and there isn’t anywhere around here that sells it pre-made. I am very interested in your new cheese book you have mentioned. When is it going to be out?

  3. You can use 1 teaspoon – the culturing effect is a little different but works.

  4. You can also make Rejuvelac from many grains. Here’s a link. http://www.ehow.com/how_2320602_make-rejuvelac.html

  5. I let my cashews soak too long, (overnight) and they developed black spots, do you know if these are harmful? The “cheese” is currently fermenting, and tastes fine, so I’m not sure if I ruined it or not? Thanks for sharing the recipes, I can’t wait to try the Gateau de Crepes from your cookbook!

  6. The cheese should be fine. Cashews can discolor if soaked too long, but it usually doesn’t affect the flavor.

  7. Xanthan Gum is a processed chemical – not a naturally occurring food. May be guar gum is a better option??

  8. You can use guar gum. Xanthan is made from fermenting glucose derived from corn. No, it’s not a naturally occurring food – it’s more of a processed food by-product.

  9. Do you have any tips (or tools) for getting sticky, gooey recipes out of a vita mix blender? I always feel like I’m wasting because I can’t get it all out! Thank you!

    • I use a scraper! Indeed, the Vitamix container has all those funny folds and crevices – sort of unnecessary. I’ve been using Blendtec more – it has clean, straight sides and is easier to scrape out.

  10. Hey Miyoko – thanks so much for this recipe. We love the taste and the texture. Regarding storage – do you store this in the cold water? Do you have any experience storing / marinating it with any other favors added to the water?

    • Mrs. Q, yes, you do have to keep them in water to keep them fresh and not get squished. I actually add a little salt to it so that it is a brine. You could definitely marinate them in some sort of salad dressing, or olive oil, herbs, vinegar, as buffalo mozzarella sometimes is. I make them very small sometimes, using the smallest scooper, and then skewer them with cherry tomatoes. Marinated mozzarella would be great that way!

  11. Thank you for this recipe! Just made it and it’s delicious. It does make a boatload of cheese, so I was wondering, can I freeze it if I’m not going to use it all within a week or so?

    • Yes, you can freeze it. You can also keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks. If it gets too tangy, you can turn it into a delicious cheese spread by throwing it into your food processor and adding herbs, garlic, nutritional yeast, sundried tomatoes, etc. It has several lives! In your fridge, if kept in water, it will not get moldy but it will get tangier as it continues to ferment.

  12. Hi Miyoko, I tried making this and I wasn’t sure if I got it right. It was quite soft after an hour in the ice water bath. Not really the texture I remember fresh mozza having. I was wondering what you might think I did incorrectly? I did end up adding some seasonings to it and it made a lovely dip but didn’t work the way I was hoping. Thanks!

    • Kelly, the outside should firm up in the ice bath almost immediately if made properly, and the whole thing firm enough to slice within a 15 minutes or so in the bath. I am guessing it has to do with the agar. Was it fully dissolved? It can help to soak the flakes first, and then it has to be boiled for a few minutes to dissolve or it won’t gel. You might try using agar powder instead (use 2 teaspoons) which dissolves more easily. I should also mention that I have a cheese article in VegNews coming out this fall, and that has yet another mozzarella recipe that I think is even better than this (always working to improve on my own stuff!).

  13. I made this with great success! http://gwencooks.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/caprese-salad-w-vegan-buffalo-mozzarella/

    It had the taste and texture of buffalo mozzarella, except it was just a little bit softer. I might try adding some more agar next time or just wait till your VegNews article comes out.

    I bought rejuvelac from amazon to save on time, but will def. try making it on my own next time to save money.

  14. Anonymous says:

    When do you add the oil if using?

  15. Hi Miyoko! You are just a wonder!! I am excited to try this, we cant buy Rejuvelac in New Zealand so im looking for grains to make some myself. I can only find organic hard wheat though, im wondering if this will still work ok. Ill keep researching and see if any recipes use hard wheat instead, its a bit hard getting some ingredients over here :S

    • Hard wheat should work. I usually use quinoa (can you get that?). Hard wheat is what the commercial rejuvelac here uses. I’ve used brown rice and oat groats as well, although quiona is fastest.

    • Ah yes I have quinoa in the fridge! I’m a bit nervous about making rejuvelac for some reason, never had experience with fermenting so I’m worried I’m going to do something wrong and make myself sick! I guess I have a food refrigeration thing engrained! Do you have a recipe for rejuvelac with quinoa in your book? I might have to buy it, although it takes a few weeks to get to me I don’t know if I can wait that long lol.

  16. I have the book and did have the VegNews Mag with the cheese making recipes. In the book you do not use yogurt in the mozzarella but I swear I recall the recipe in the magazine has yogurt drained in a cheese cloth. I can’t find it in the book so I will try that recipe but please, am I confusing two recipes. Just to keep me from going crazy 🙂 All cheeses have turned out GREAT, Thanks!

    • You are not crazy – the recipe in VegNews did in fact contain yogurt! I continued to work on the recipe until the texture really replicated mozzarella. Maybe you can find your copy?

  17. Has anybody tried making mozzarella sticks with this recipe? It’s one of my favorite snacks and I would love a vegan version of it.

Trackbacks

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