I didn’t discover goat cheese until after I had been a vegetarian for a couple of years. I first had it as an appetizer with pears and sugared walnuts or pecans on vacation at a restaurant in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The tart, tangy cheese and sweet fruit and nuts were a perfect combination. I first saw this vegan version in an old Vegetarian Times magazine, but blew it off as being too complicated. Then, I saw C’est la Vegan’s simplification of it (love her blog – http://www.cestlavegan.com/2009/10/peppered-cashew-goat-cheese/) and thought maybe I could do this! I don’t care for tahini any more than C’est la Vegan does (the original VT recipe calls for it), and never have it on hand, so it was very convenient to follow her altered version.
I especially like to eat this on a Triscuit with a dried apricot on top!
I didn’t know it, but it turns out that cashews, when soaked overnight in water, are a natural choice for a cheese substitute because they are so smooth and creamy.
I don’t have a food processor (can’t decide if I need one or not, and a VitaMix is not a luxury I can afford at the moment). But my 450-watt Hamilton Beach blender did a great job blending cashew cheese ingredients — and makes a mean margarita — and I realize I’m getting off topic here (ooh, a margarita would taste great with cashew cheese…)
Update: I killed my little old Hamilton Beach blender making too much cashew cheese! And then promptly bought a very nice Cuisinart one (my birthday gift to myself). Because if a blender can’t make cashew cheese, what good is it??
Cheesecloth was a totally new concept for me – I ended up buying it at a crafts store in the sewing section, then was confused about how much to use! The second package I picked up at the grocery store and have found that they’re pretty much the same thing. Although there are supposed to be different qualities of cheesecloth, I’ve never seen them, and just use 3-4 layers of the grocery store or craft store stuff and it works just fine.
3/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
Place cashews in large bowl; cover with 3 inches water. Soak overnight.
Drain liquid, rinse cashews under cold water, and drain again. Puree cashews, oil, lemon juice, salt and 2 tablespoons water in a food processor for 6 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. (Make sure to blend for 6 minutes for a firmer texture).
Place strainer over bowl, and line with a triple (I used a double and it works fine) layer of cheesecloth. Spoon cashew mixture into cheesecloth. Fold sides of cloth over cheese, and form into 6-inch-long oval loaf. Twist ends of cloth and secure with rubber bands. (I use clothes pins, as you can see above!) Set in strainer over bowl, and let stand 12 hours at room temperature. Discard excess liquid. (There won’t be much, if any – most of it seems to evaporate, at least in my kitchen).
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Unwrap cheese, and scrape into 7-inch-long log on cheesecloth. (I can’t get it to be a log, just a football-shaped blob, but it tastes the same!) Rewrap, and twist ends to secure. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes, or until cheese becomes set on outside but still soft, turning occasionally. Cool, and chill.