From the Weekend: Vegan Cheese with Chef Acooba Scott

It is Saturday morning. I am in an Uber. Surfas Culinary has now reopened. A new location. I have registered to take a vegan cheese class with Chef Acooba Scott. Last night was long and I am half sleeping behind my sunglasses as the driver weaves in and out of surface street traffic in Los Angeles. I am fascinated by all cheese. Why are some makers use animal-derived rennet and others vegetable rennent, I think? Besides obvious reasons, of course. As for reasons, there are several reasons I am not vegan all the time. Cheese is one of those reasons. I do like many nut based cheeses (KITEHILL) but how are they really made. Something disguised as something else is not always my thing. I don’t need my IMPOSSILBLE burger to look like it is rare. It isn’t meat. I like a rare burger on occasion. If I want that, I will get that. Is sheep cheese really better than cow cheese? Some say yes. See my blog post below for more answers on that one. Should we even be eating cheese at all? And what I really really really want to know is if I can make fondue with vegan cheese. How many fillers and binders are needed to create a favorable replica of the loved by many ooey gooey animal product version? Chef Scott has the answers to many of these questions.

She is a mother (her children are vegan), chef and educator and teaching this class for me today. More about Acooba can be found on her website at Acooba.com


The class offers three recipes which you will see below. We don’t use thermometers. Acooba is so skilled she can tell by looking at the process. Her taste buds can detect the slightest imbalance. She most certainly knows what she is dong and this class exceeds my expectations and my thoughts on vegan cheese have shifted dramatically. I am not a complete convert yet, I could be on my way. Chef Scott uses the freshest ingredients and products containing the least amount of fillers. She makes her own nut milks for the process or almond meals and the like when she is short on time. I try to choose a favorite of the three recipes. I can’t. The recipes below are really outstanding. Lasagna anyone? Cannoli? Yes, to both. Could you tell the difference? I dare you to make it and find out.

(**The conversation about cheese started sometime ago for me. I interviews a couple of experts and make my own cheese several years ago. I also briefly explore the world of vegan cheese at the end of my very first blog post which can be found here-Say Cheese! Again, please keep in mind this Say Cheese! is my very first blog post.)

Acooba’s postcard reads EAT. PLAY. LEARN.

Ricotta

Ingredients:

2 cups almond meal

2 cups plain soy milk

4 cups water

2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)

1/4 c lemon juice

Blend all ingredients except the lemon juice together. Strain through a nutmilk bag or cheese cloth. Add milk to a saucepan and cook gently over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir lemon juice. Set aside for 30 minutes or more.

Pour curdled milk into nutlike bag or cheesecloth lined strainer. Drain well. Press if desired. Transfer to a cheese basket and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!

AF Mozarella (Lacey Simmons)

1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or boiled for 15 minute

1 cup of acquafaba (preferable chickpea or other light color beans)

2 tbsp of tapioca starch

2 tsp of kappa carrageenan

1 tsp lactic acid

(you could also use lemon juice instead of lactic acid depending on your desired tang)

1 tsp nutritional yeast

3/4 tsp salt*

6 teaspoons of refined coconut oil, liquid

*salt may need to adjust the salt level a bit lower if salted aquafaba

Directions:

Blend softened cashews and aquafaba in high speed blender until as smooth as possible. Strain through fine mesh sieve to remove any large particles and return to blender. You may find there are still a few cashew particles if you’re using a low quality blender or food processor, which I recommend straining.

Add tapioca starch, carrageenan, lactic acid, nutritional yeast, and salt and pulse in a blender to combine.

Add coconut oil and blend again very briefly. Mixture will be smooth and a little thick. Heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat wile stirring regularly. It will look quite lumpy as the tapioca starch activates. It will eventually turn glossy and smooth, like melted cheese. Pour into molds or scoop into ice water for Buffalo style mozzarella. Refrigerate for a few hours to fully firm up the cheese before slicing or grating.

Feta

1 14 oz package extra firm tofu

3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 T apple cider vinegar

1 T nutritional yeast

1 t onion powder

1 t Braggs liquid amino acid

1/2 t garlic powder

1/2 t ground dry mustard

pinch of dill

1 1/2 t salt, or more to taste

1/2 cup of melted refined coconut oil

Directions:

Add all of the ingredients except coconut oil to a food processor or a blender. Blend together, then while machine is still going, slowly add the coconut oil. Blend well.

Line an oven proof pan/dish with parchment paper. Scoop in the cheese mixture and pack and smooth down. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the top, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Remove plastic wrap and bake feta directly from the refrigerator for 35 minutes. Cool completely, then chill several hours until set. Cube and crumble and enjoy!

We taste other products and enjoy some fruits of our labor after instruction. Everything else comes home with me in a box. It is still in the refrigerator.

baked feta

Until Next Time…

in my Chef clogs waiting for an Uber
my screen.. I take so many pictures