This week’s French Fridays with Dorie assignment was easy enough, it’s a concept more than it is a recipe of tomato and mozzarella (or goat) cheese slices arranged over puffed pastry rounds. The perfect dish for when you have an abundance of tomatoes and very little time or idea on how to use them up.
What’s interesting here is that the puff pastry discs aren’t supposed to be cooked to puff-fection but rather, are flattened during baking by weighing them down with another baking sheet on top. They result in heavier but still crisp and flaky rounds, with the flat base making it easier to spread a pesto paste or olive tapenade on them and place the tomato and cheese toppings.
For the spread, I made some fresh lemon basil pesto from my plant that was growing out of control in the garden. It seemed I had run out of ideas on ways to utilize that basil too lately, so what a relief to be able to store some of the leaves in a jar in the form of pesto.
I’m also slowly trying to give up dairy products (it’s damn hard, given my love for baking and desserts!) so this week, I used store-bought vegan puff pastry and also came up with a quick and easy version of mozzarella cheese. And what is quicker and easier when it comes to setting ingredients in a semi-solid form than agar agar? Yes, it seems odd, but the texture of the vegan cheese turned out very similar to soft mozzarella. Plus it crumbles and shreds too if the consistency is made a little thicker and it sets firmer. Think healthy pizza, yay!
I haven’t shared my own recipe with my FFWD posts in a long time, so I’m happy to share this cheese one with you. It’s basically a mix of silken tofu, agar powder (not flakes), ground cashews and almonds, rice vinegar and garlic. Blitz everything in a food processor, bring the mixture to a quick boil and pour into a mold, leaving it to cool down and then set in the fridge for several hours. If you have access to this non-dairy cream substitute, MimicCreme (I don’t), then just replace the nuts with a cup of this vegan cream and your ‘cheese’ texture will turn out smoother than mine looks here.
The blended 'cheese' mixture
This vegan tomato tartlet salad, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, tasted better way than I expected. Vegan food in general tends to get a bad rep, because we do expect it to taste bland and often look boring, and as you can see that’s clearly not the case here. In many of my future FFWD posts, I’m going to show you how to bring sexy into vegetarian or vegan cuisine. I’ve had so many successful experiments with substituting ingredients for the real deal that I need to put them down as solid recipes and share them with all of you out there - before I forget it all! The French may not approve of my cheese blasphemy this week, but hey, sometimes I feel we should do what we need to in order to align the outside world with our evolving inner selves. :)
Have a peaceful weekend, everyone!
Homemade Vegan Mozzarella
1 package extra soft silken tofu (about 340g)
1/2 cup ground raw almonds
1/2 cup ground raw cashew nuts
3/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 cloves garlic, finely grated (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
4 teaspoons agar agar powder
1. Place all ingredients except agar powder in a blender or food processor, and blend on high until it becomes a completely liquid consistency. Place the mixture in a small saucepan, stir in the agar powder, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
2. Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Be careful, as the hot mixture will sputter. Remove from heat and pour immediately into a baking dish or mold.
3. Smooth over the mixture as if you were making a batch of brownies, then place into the refrigerator for a few hours until completely set. Use as you would like any of your favorite cheeses. It shreds, slices, and even melts like real cheese under a hot grill!