When I first laid eyes on John Schlimm’s The Cheesy Vegan: More Than 125 Plant-Based Recipes for Indulging in the World’s Ultimate Comfort Food via an Amazon recommendation, I nearly fell out of my seat. It’s like they read my mind! An entire cookbook devoted to vegan cheese (pizza, pasta, tacos, macaroni and cheese!); could a more perfect thing exist? (A: No. No, it cannot.)
Luckily, the folks at Da Capo Press were kind enough to send me a copy for review. Yay! And in the interest of not burying the lede, let me just say that they also offered a second copy for me to give away. Yay for you! Head on over to fuck yeah vegan pizza for details and to enter.
Anyway, between Vegan MoFo and Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza (which I’m currently also reviewing), I haven’t had much chance to cook from it yet. BUT it does look quite promising. Wait, that’s an understatement. Amazing. It looks amazing.
In addition to cheesy sammies and cheesy pizzas and cheesy pasta dishes and cheesy soups and sides (and an entire chapter of mac & cheese! ONE WHOLE CHAPTER!), there are also a ton of recipes for homemade cheeses: Cheddar. Mozzarella. Brie. Swiss. Feta. Ricotta. Blue. Jack. Muenster. American. You name it! Better yet, they all look pretty easy to make: just blend and chill. I’ve been on the fence about whether I should give Artisan Vegan Cheese a try, since some of the recipes sound like alchemy or witchcraft or rocket science. (Take your pick!) But these actually look like recipes I can pull off! (*knock on wood*)
For those of you who fancy gorgeous, glossy, full-color photos, The Cheesy Vegan will not disappoint. Nearly every page is dripping and oozing with cheesy orange and white goodness. You might find yourself overcome with a sudden and powerful urge to lick the gourmet food photos. This is one handsome book.
Better still, few of the recipes require unusual or hard-to-find ingredients. The weirdest item I spotted was instant flour (Wondra), which Schlimm assures us is readily available in most grocery stores. That said, you will need plenty of agar flakes for the diy cheese recipes – and agar is rather pricey.
Some of the equipment is a bit non-standard, especially for my kitchen; I only own a few odd ramekins (for my wannabe-gourmet food photography!), and I’m not even sure what a jelly roll pan looks like. The Pizza Mountain Pie, in particular, requires a pie iron, which I don’t think even exists in my parents’ attic (and you can find one of nearly every countertop kitchen appliance there!). But, with the exception of the pie iron (and requisite campfire!), many of these items are easily improvised.
I especially appreciate the do-it-yourself cheese recipes, which is a nice way of keeping costs down. It’s also super-convenient for those of us who don’t have easy access to alternative/natural foods stores. Overall, I’d say that most of the recipes are moderately difficult at worst, but of course home cheesemaking complicates things a bit and will require additional planning. The good thing is that you don’t have to make the cheeses from scratch if you don’t want to – Schlimm allows for plenty of flexibility in the recipes.
Just see for yourself! Reprinted below (and with the publisher’s permission) is a recipe for Flying Buffalo Pizza (page 177, for those playing along at home).
Enjoy, and stay cheesy! And vegan!
flying buffalo pizza
Hot sauce, Tabasco sauce, and liquid smoke make this seitan pizza saucer a round-trip you’ll enjoy taking again and again. Also, Flying Buffalo Dip (page 144) and Blue Moon Dip (page 136) are a nice way to launch this sizzling pizza feast.
1⁄2 CUP VEGAN KETCHUP
1⁄4 TO 1⁄3 CUP FRANK’S RED HOT CAYENNE PEPPER SAUCE
1 TEASPOON LIQUID SMOKE
1 TABLESPOON EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1⁄2 CUP FINELY CHOPPED YELLOW ONION
8 OUNCES SEITAN, CUT INTO 1⁄2-INCH CUBES
2 CUPS QUARTERED SHIITAKE MUSHROOM CAPS
1 (12-INCH) PREPARED VEGAN PIZZA CRUST
1 CUP GRATED VEGAN MOZZARELLA CHEESE (PAGE 31, OR STORE-BOUGHT),
OR MORE IF NOT USING MUENSTER AND/OR BLUE CHEESE
1 CUP GRATED VEGAN MUENSTER CHEESE (PAGE 44, OR STORE-BOUGHT)
1 CUP CRUMBLY VEGAN BLUE CHEESE (PAGE 41, OR STORE-BOUGHT)
1 CUP WHOLE BABY ARUGULA OR REGULAR ARUGULA, SLICED THINLY
1⁄2 CUCUMBER, PEELED AND DICED
Preheat the oven to 450°F, placing a rack in the lower third of the oven. In a medium-size bowl, mix the ketchup with the hot sauce, Tabasco sauce, and liquid smoke.
In a medium-size skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often. Add the seitan cubes and mush-room quarters, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened. Turn off the heat and pour the ketchup mixture into the seitan mixture.
Place the pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spread the seitan mixture over the crust. Top with the cheese(s) of choice and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the seitan mixture is bubbling. Top the pizza with the arugula and cucumber, and serve.
yields 2 TO 4 SERVINGS
From the book The Cheesy Vegan by John Schlimm. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright (c) 2013. www.dacapopresscookbooks.com
Photo credit is: Amy Beadle Roth