It’s that time of year again. Shavuot. A holiday that falls just seven weeks after Passover when the Jews are given the Torah. The Torah is compared to a “life of milk and honey”. That is why for this holiday it is all about dairy which means cheese cake.
Sounds wonderful. Who wouldn’t love cheesecake? But what about for those of us who can’t or choose not to have dairy? In comes the wonderful cashew. From a hard cheese platter or lasagna enjoyed at Pure Food and Wine, to pesto, spreads and desserts the cashew is an integral ingredient to replace cheese. This nut is delicious and fabulous for you too! All nuts are beneficial for you. They are a source for protein, fiber and minerals like potassium and calcium. And yes, cashews are high in fat which our bodies need – just not too much. You can read more about them at at one of my favorite resources: Worlds Healthiest Foods.
So why am I so stuck on cashews? Because they make a delicious ‘cheese cake’. Replace the typical graham cracker crust with almonds, and sweeten with maple syrup and you have a delicious vegan, gluten free option.
The version I make is raw and extremely easy to make. You blend the almonds with dates to make the crust. Then blend the cashews with coconut oil and dates. For variety I blended in mango and then lightly mixed in blueberries.
So now even the dairy free can enjoy this holiday.
The other day I bought these great Provencal olives that were pitted and sliced: ready to use in a recipe. It brought me back to the days when I ate dairy and really enjoyed cream cheese with olives. I haven’t had dairy in close to 20 years yet I still miss cheese at times. I know there are soy brands like Tofutti cream cheese, but I need to avoid sugar and soy so this isn’t the option for me.
I use cashews a lot as a cheese substitute when I make pesto and also to thicken up and richen soups. And I know it is a common cheese replacement for many raw recipes. Raw cashews just have a cheese type flavor. So I thought, let me see what recipes there are for me to try and make my own cheese at home.
I did a little search and found a great simple recipe on one of my favorite food blog sites, Chocolate&Zucchini. I didn’t do everything exactly to spec. I soaked the nuts for 8 hours (overnight is optimal) to release any toxins and all the great nutrients locked inside. Instead of measuring the lemon juice I just squeezed the juice of one and a half lemons into the mix. But everything else I followed as proscribed.
Once the cheese was ready I spread it on some toast, topped with sliced olives, and took a bite. It was not a replica but it gave me the savory essence to a snack I always enjoyed. The next time I made this cheese I mixed in sun dried tomatoes adding another delicious option to my ‘cheese’ cupboard. Cashews are a great base for creating vegan cheese.