Before going dairy-free, I think it’s safe to say that cheese was my favorite food… by a pretty significant margin. At the peak of my cheese-loving years, a day where I was simply could be with family and eat cheese and crackers the entire time was the most perfect day in my eyes. Needless to say, as my decision to work toward eating vegetarian and vegan started to form, there were strong hesitations for at least a year to give it up. Eventually I came to terms with not having it anymore because I was able to realize that the good absolutely outweighed the bad. I hate the way the dairy industry conducts itself, but more importantly, my body feels infinitely better without it.
All that being said, after almost a year since deciding to give up cheese and other dairy products, I can honestly say I barely notice any sacrifice most of the time. Packaged vegan dairy alternatives are continuously improving and more available, and recipes to make homemade vegan “cheese” are surfacing online more and more. While I was browsing homemade “cheese” recipes for the first time, I came across this lovely recipe by Cara from Fork & Beans. After making this and taking the first bite, I knew with absolute certainty I would never have to crave dairy cheese again. This is Cheese and Crackers taken to a greater and more innovative level. This recipe is as delicious as it is beautiful, and it is certainly a showstopper hors d’oeuvre to serve to guests. I absolutely plan on making this more in the future, as well as other variations.
- 1/2 Cup Whole Raw Cashews, soaked in Water for 2-3 hours
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 Tbs Coconut Oil
- 1 Tsp (Raw) Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- 1/3 Cup Pine Nuts, plus extra for garnish
- 2 Tsp Nutritional Yeast (Optional)
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, chopped
- 2-3 Tsp Salt
- Dried Basil for garnish
- Line two ramekins with plastic wrap for easier removal (Important)
- Drain the soaked cashews, but keep 1/3 cup of the water to blend in with the other nut cheese ingredients.
- Make the nut cheese: In a food processor, blend the cashews, cashew-soaked water, lemon juice, coconut oil, vinegar, and a generous pinch of salt until smooth. Put aside.
- Make the pesto: In a food processor, blend the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, a pinch of salt and optional nutritional yeast until as smooth as possible. Slowly add in the olive oil and blend until completely smooth. Put aside.
- If necessary, pat the sun-dried tomatoes with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Chop them to your texture preference. I just pulsed them in my food processor a few times.
- In the plastic-wrap-lined ramekins, pour in 2/3 of the cheese mixture in each. Over it evenly pour the pesto as the second layer in both ramekins, and then do the same when pouring in the sun-dried tomatoes as the third layer. Lastly, pour the last 1/3 of the nut cheese in each ramekin.
- Refrigerate for several hours. I put it in the fridge over night, and it worked well.
- After the time it takes to set, take it out of the fridge and place one of the ramekins upside down on a serving plate, and carefully lift the ramekin off of the plate while keep the plastic wrap-lined “cheese” intact. Then carefully remove the plastic wrap to reveal the finished product. It’s a beautiful moment.
- Garnish the top with dried basil and extra pine nuts, and serve with simple crackers to accompany but not overpower the flavors.