Why would I want to eat vegan cheese? Well, I guess you could say it's part empathy, part curiosity. In the past year or so, two of my friends visited Naturopathic Doctors and underwent detailed analyses with respect to the foods they eat and how those foods affect their health and well-being. As a result, they often had to cut certain foods out of their diets for weeks at a time in order for the doctor to properly diagnose them. One of those foods was cheese.
Can you imagine?
No cheese for 6 weeks or more? I literally can't stomach the thought.
But, just for fun I thought I'd see what it's like to feel like you're eating cheese, without actually eating it.
I do have to add a little disclaimer here, this post is not meant to offend any vegans or to take their choices and beliefs lightly. I am extremely interested in vegan foods and I want to learn more about how they might be healthy additions to my non-vegan lifestyle.
So, this is Part 1 of 2 in my vegan cheese adventure where I attempt to make something that resembles mac & cheese. The vegan cheese I'll be using is called Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella from a company called Earth Island. It melts!
I'm all about experimental cooking, so I decided to add some other ingredients to my mac & cheese. I decided on tomatoes for acidity, wild mushrooms for rich earthiness and I cheated by using a little butter (therefore, not a vegan dish, per se). I also realized I didn't actually have any macaroni, so I went with spaghetti noodles.
First, I had to reconstitute my wild mushroom mix from Forbes Wild Foods. Soaking them in warm water for about 15 minutes seemed to do the trick.
As I was boiling the water for the pasta, I cut up the vegan cheese (I used half of the block). As soon as I took it out of the package, it felt like tofu, which makes sense since it is a soy product. Because of this, I decided the grater probably wouldn't do the trick so I decided to cut it into small cubes.
While the pasta was cooking, I sauteed the tomatoes and mushrooms with some olive oil, a pat of butter and some salt and pepper.
When the pasta was ready, I added it to the sauteed tomatoes and mushrooms and mixed. Then it was time for the vegan cheese to join the party, so in it went. After quite a few vigorous stirs, the cheese melted about 85% and I had my very own dish using vegan cheese.
In the end, it tasted quite good and had the consistency of melted cheese. There was a slight aftertaste that you don't get with actual mozzarella, but it went away quickly. I think the success of the dish was due in large part to the mushrooms, however, so I can't completely say I took the plunge with vegan cheese (yet)!
This recipe made 2 servings. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I try to pair this vegan cheese with wine -- wish me luck!