Being the cheese lover that I am, when the April 2009 issue of the Vegetarian Times arrived I knew I had to make the nut cheeses. I started with the Almond Feta since Feta is a personal favorite, and I wanted to compare it to Bryanna Clark Grogan’s tofu feta with agar.
The almond feta has a crumbly texture that is very close to dairy feta. The Vegetarian Times original recipe had a little too much garlic flavor and needed a little more lemon (but I think that about everything). I also found the cheese to need a little more salt to get closer to the brined dairy original.
The directions on the original Vegetarian Times recipe were a little too lengthy. I made the recipe a couple of times and was able to simplify the instructions without harming the texture of the end product.
Almond based Feta Cheese modified from Vegetarian Times
1 cup of blanched almonds
3 cups of filtered water
Juice and zest of one lemon (approximately ¼ cup of juice)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 clove of raw garlic (if small clove use it all)
1 ¼ - 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt
¼ cup of filtered water, or more if necessary
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a jar with a lid, cover the blanched almonds with the three cups of filtered water and move to the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours hours. Then drain the nuts rinse them thoroughly and drain again. The longer soak seems to make the nuts process more completely.
Move the drained nuts and the remaining ingredients to a food processor and puree until the mixture is very smooth but has a very slightly crumbly texture. This took 8 minutes during which time I periodically stopped the processor and scraped the side of the container and restarted the machine. If after 10 minutes the consistency is not smooth you can add up to another ¼ cup of water to help the mixture to process.
If you used the extra water to process the nuts, then take the nut mixture and move it to a strainer lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Pull the cheesecloth into a ball and twist the ends and secure it closed with a rubber band. If you used only the ¼ cup of water to process the mixture there is no need to use the cheesecloth since no water will come out. You can leave this in the refrigerator in the covered bowl for a day or two before you are planning to serve it.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees when you are ready to proceed.
Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper. Take the nut cheese and remove it from the cheesecloth. Put the cheese onto the baking sheet and form it into a flat disk that is about ¾ of an inch thick. Bake the cheese until it begins to become slightly firm on the top. I baked mine for an hour and it was firm and slightly cracked on the top.
Alternately you can move the cheese mixture to small ramekins and fill them almost to the top, about an inch and a half. This mixture will fill 4 ramekins. Bake these at 200 degrees for about an hour and a half. Until the top is slightly firm.
Remove the cheese from the oven and allow it to cool to about room temperature before you move it to a serving platter if you made the freeform version. If you have a wide spatula and have cooked it long enough it will move in one piece. Be careful it is delicate. The cheese in the ramekins should be cooled in their container and then refrigerated.
Drizzle the nut cheese with the extra virgin olive oil and salt, freshly cracked pepper and thyme leaves. Serve with crusty bread, crackers or crudités.
The cheese is a very good approximation of dairy feta. I would happily eat this cheese instead of the dairy original. My only complaint is the calorie count of the cheese. I think I am going to work on a blend of the Tofu Feta on Bryanna Clark Grogan’s site and this one to reduce the fat and calorie count per serving.
We had this cheese on a crusty bread with a nice Brunello and the pairing was quite nice. I would suggest you try this with a big red wine.
I took this to cooking class on Wednesday. My friend Reiko (not a vegan) liked this so much she is making a batch to take to a gathering next week. In my opinion, vegan food gets no higher compliment than when an omnivore likes it enough to seek it out. I love it when healthy food is well received!