Sunday, March 28, 2010

A world without cheese

Although I called this blog "Garlic is love," if there's one food I couldn't live without, it would be cheese.

From feta to fontina, brie or baby swiss, its salty, tangy, rich mouthfeel is the ultimate comfort food.

Which of course, got me to thinking, what if I had to give it all up?

I don't think I'd want to have fake cheese substitutes. The quality's not the same, and it would only remind me what I was missing.

But there are other foods that have a similar mouthfeel, texture, or taste, that are enjoyable on their own. They don't try to be cheeese, but, if, God forbid, I could never have another piece of cheddar, I'd be eating these foods a lot more often to fill the gap.

1. Avocado.

The fatty, silky mouthfeel of avocado is delightful, and reminiscent of some soft cheeses. It's so smooth, in fact, that there are ice cream recipes that incorporate some avocado into them.

Like cheese, avocado can be eaten in slices, or cubes, and, like cheese, it can be turned into a spread. The flavor of avocado is subtle, so it's more like a cream cheese than a hard or aged cheese.

Recipe: Avocado Gelato(Gourmet magazine)

2. Olive oil

Olive oil, at least the very good ones, are complex like wines and cheeses. Like a thick, golden wine. I like a buttery olive oil as opposed to a grassy one, but both have their place. The nice thing about golden olive oil is that the color is similar to yellow cheese.

A simple snack of fresh bread drizzled with olive oil can help with a cheese fix.

ZeTune olive oil - amazing oil from a small family farm in Lebanon.

3. Hummus

Take the olive oil, add some chickpeas and perhaps some sesame paste, and you've got an extremely thick, creamy dip. Put in a little bit of lemon or garlic, and you could almost believe this was some kind of cheese dip.

Recipe: Carrie's Speedy hummus
1 can chickpeas
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
juice and zest from one lemon
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
salt and pepper to taste.

Place all ingredients except for olive oil in blender. Pulse until chickpeas disappear, then add the olive oil in a thin stream, keep processing. Taste and adjust seasoning. Put into small, pretty bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve, covering with plastic wrap. Drizzle a touch more olive oil on the top just before serving.

4. Eggs

Dilbert once famously said, "eggs are like cheese from chickens." He's not far off. Both eggs and cheese can be used in similar ways, to thicken, to add body. And both can be nice and creamy.

Dairy-free Lemon curd (adapted from Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook)
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
juice and zest from 2 lemons
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
a few tablespoons of coconut milk (optional)

Take about a tablespoon of the lemon juice and put it in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the small bit of lemon juice and let it absorb.

Fill a medium-sized saucepan halfway full of water. Find a stainless steel bowl that nests in the pan well, but doesn't touch the water. Nest the bowl in the pan.

Place everything except for the gelatin and coconut milk in the bowl, and whisk it all together. Turn the heat to high, and stir the mixture constantly for 5 to 10 minutes, until it starts to get quite thick.

Once it gets thick, add the gelatin in and stir until it's combined. Remove from the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes, then stir. Let cool another 5 minutes, then stir in a few tablespoons of coconut milk (optional).

Serve cold or at room temperature. Keeps for several days.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I shudder to consider a world without cheese. And no velveeta is NOT cheese, regardless of what my upbringing tried to convince me of. My favorites remain cheddar and muenster.

I really enjoyed your recipes/substitutions with the exception of eggs. I loathe eggs.

I have a feeling I will dleving into this blog when time permits.

The musishian said...

I'll see what I can do to put together a lemon curd recipe for you that does not include eggs.