Raw Vegan Monday: Macadamia Caprese

I had to make another raw vegan recipe from The Conscious Cook this week: Macadamia Caprese. While the author of The Conscious Cook, Tal Ronnen, is not strictly raw, he invited a guest raw vegan, chef Chad Sarno, to contribute this recipe. It is visually stunning; at a glance you would never know that it was vegan, and it really is easy to prepare..

The "cheese" is made by culturing macadamia nuts with probiotic culture, much the same way as the cashew cheese I made earlier this summer. I can't say that the flavor was all that different using the macadamia nuts than it was with cashews (and cashews are far less expensive), but the cheese was much more firm due to the way I cultured it.

I weighted it down with my sophisticate pie weights (white beans in a canning jar) and left it in my oven overnight with the light on. That trick keeps your oven mildly warm without using too much electricity, and when my a/c (even with the house set at like 75 f...) has barely stopped running for the past week, I needed to be sure it was warmish and draft free. You may also recall I use this trick for culturing buttermilk and sour cream, and it always yields great results.

The cheese firmed up nicely, and had the same base flavor as the cashew cheese that was cultured the same way, but lacked a little of cashew's sweetness. Vegan cheese is strange, because you kind of want to believe that it will taste like cheve or whatever varietal it appears it should approximate, and it just does not. It is it's own thing. I believe that I can appreciate it for what it is, while also noting that it is nothing like actual dairy cheese. This one was rolled in crushed black pepper, tarragon and chives from my garden, and I did think that it was beautiful to look at, probably why my Husband even tried a slice with a spicy tomato, and thought it was all right, I noted however that he did not ask for seconds...

It's funny, too, that I'm posting this cheese directly after a grilled cheese post!

I would have to say that the star of this appetizer had to be the tomato. They are semi-dried, and spicy with Cajun seasoning. Since raw vegan cooking prohibits the use of boiling water, very hot water is used to cover the tomatoes (bottoms pierced in an "x") for 10 minutes, stems in tact. Then, remove them to an ice water bath for 5 minutes or so, and carefully peel them. I didn't think that it was going to work, but it did! Sprinkled with Cajun spice (I used Penzey's Hot Cajun) and a bit of sea salt, they rest on a screen at room temp for several hours - I left them for about 8. They form a little bit of a dried crust on the outside, and retain all of their lovely tomato-ness inside.

I really do love The Conscious Cook cookbook. It's well designed and executed, and offers many interesting things for the adventurous vegan cook. Since I was unable to find the macadamia cheese anywhere else online, and Chad Sarno was gracious in publishing his recipe through another chef's book, I will suggest that you find a copy! I first saw and became acquainted with the book at my library, and it is now in my ever-bottomless Amazon cart for future purchasing. Meanwhile, if you'd like to try another of his similarly styled vegan cheeses, you can have a look here at the rawchef website.

It is so true that the stipulations of being raw and vegan do so much to spark kitchen creativity. It's not just raw carrot sticks and a handful of nuts to these pioneering chefs. While personally I enjoy a wide range of foods, I continue to gain a deeper appreciation for those with strict diets - for either social or food allergy reasons.

I am frequently reminded of a fortune cookie I once opened: "One hundred people, One hundred minds". It's easy to read that and dismiss it, but it is so true. Every one of us feels and thinks passionately about something, and it may or may not be the same opinion as our closest friend, a parent, or even a spouse. I'm not saying that there aren't things that are inherently right or wrong, but that surface opinion varies from person to person - and doesn't that make for the spice of life!

I like to think "food people" tend to be kindred spirits, exploratory folk who will try anything at least once, but that is not always the case. 100 minds... If you have never thought about eating or preparing something vegan, I'd urge you to give it a go. You may just find that you can't stop! See you next week on Vegan Monday!