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Homemade vegan “feta cheese”?! May 4, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I believe I’ve ranted on PRA before about the horrors of vegan so-called “cheese.” And when I say horrors, I mean horrors.

This is absolutely not true of other vegan substitutions. I’ve used Follow Your Heart’s grapeseed-oil Vegenaise in preference to real mayonnaise for years and think it’s great. After reading a rousing endorsement of Earth Balance “butter” in Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Life, I got brave and tried it. Our friend Ben and I are butter fanatics, and neither of us could tell the difference in vegetable dishes, sauces, or on toasted English muffins. (I haven’t tried it as-is, say, on a slice of crusty baguette with sliced French Breakfast radishes and salt. But after my good experiences with it so far, I’d at least be willing to try it.)

When I saw that Follow Your Heart had come out with vegan “sour cream,” I did a little experiment: I made two batches of my famous Mushroom-Cashew Stroganoff, one using real sour cream, one using the vegan version. The texture of the vegan version was a little saucier than the sour cream version, but the flavor hit the mark perfectly (and, admittedly, many of my friends prefer more sauce than I do, so that’s not a bad thing). I fed both versions to my friend Dolores, who loves my Mushroom-Cashew Stroganoff, and despite initial pre-sampling reservations (shared by me), she had to agree.

Then there are veggie burgers. I happen to like veggie burgers, sort of in the same way I like falafel, but nobody sane would ever mistake one for a hamburger. Unless it’s a Boca burger. I will never forget my embarrassment the one and only time I ordered a Boca burger in a restaurant and, after taking a bite, spit it out, thinking they’d given me a real burger by mistake. The poor server had quite a job convincing me that what I’d bitten into was the Boca burger I’d ordered. How humiliating!!! Not being into meat substitutions, that was the last time I had one of those, but vegetarians who miss your burgers, this is definitely the one to try. 

I confess that the various vegan milk and yogurt substitutions—soy, coconut, almond—have not yet darkened the door here at Hawk’s Haven. But, unfortunately, vegan “cheese” has. OFB and I love cheese, and eat (in his case) and ate (in my case) way too much of it. On two occasions, I’ve tried vegan “cheeses” that people absolutely rave about. On both occasions, I’ve given the horrid, grainy, cardboardy, tasteless, loathesome stuff to our chickens (who, I’m relieved to note, didn’t share my point of view). Blecchhh!!!

But oh, God, I love cheese, and I love Greek salad. So when I saw a recipe for homemade vegan “feta cheese” in the June 2012 issue of VegNews, I just had to try it. It was so easy, I figured I had nothing to lose. And if worse came to worst and it was inedible as a feta substitute, I could mash it and use it as a filling in lasagna or eggplant rollatini. Given the ingredients (as you’ll see), whatever the case for feta, it would be fine as a ricotta substitute.

Making it is simple: Rinse, drain, and cube a package of extra-firm tofu. (I used pre-cubed super-firm tofu, since I thought the texture would be closer to actual feta.) Combine the tofu cubes, 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 3 teaspoons salt, and 2 teaspoons each dried basil and dried oregano in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stir well, and simmer for 30 minutes. (I added fresh-ground black pepper as well.) Cool, and refrigerate overnight or longer before using (the longer the tofu cubes sit in the brine, the more feta-like the flavor).

The VegNews article used these “feta” cubes in Greek salad and in a yummy-sounding Layered Spinach Spanakopita. I made them last night, and haven’t used them in anything…yet. You can bet I’ll be leaving those little cubes in the brine and shaking them up regularly for at least a week to give them the best possible chance to somehow turn themselves into “feta.” Or at least into something I’d want to put in a salad or a spanakopita. I’ll let you know how it goes.

             ‘Til next time,

                         Silence

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